And where does he ultimately end up?
So here we are, with WrestleMania 34 and the Greatest Royal Rumble in the books, and instead of some of us celebrating a new Universal Champion while others complain about him, we sit here with Brock Lesnar still as champion and Roman Reigns in limbo. It really seems like the events of April succeeded in pissing almost everyone off. Reigns fans are upset that a year long story ended in defeat while those who hate him are upset that they had to go through the torture of watching someone have good matches on TV every week and getting Braun Strowman over. So now we’re at a real crossroads where no one outside of Vince McMahon has a clue whether there is some kind of championship future for Reigns or if he will go down in history alongside the likes of Lex Luger, and to be honest the picture looks really perplexing right now.
So how did we get here? Is there something in the ring that should have been done better? Is it the vague, all encompassing issue of bad booking? Did the fanbases’ overall schizophrenia play a role here? And is there any path forward that will make somebody happy? I don’t think anyone is clean here and nobody is completely dirty here but there are a few culprits for sure. Like who, you ask? Here’s what I think.
One of the most legit and bogus complaints about Reigns has been towards his booking. Now I’m not a ‘blame the bookers’ guy in general. My stance on bookers is that they’re human like everyone else, they’re going to come up with good and bad stuff, and that it’s the wrestlers obligation to make the most out of what they’re given and take some ownership of their characters and material to get things changed (and then own the results of whatever their creative input is). And in the case of Reigns’ booking it mostly comes down to whatever prism you’re viewing it through. If you’re a big fan of his and you want him to get what you feel he should get then the last Year or so has been a test of your patience. If you look at it like I do, that they’ve been trying to win over a stubborn block of fans by putting him in a prominent position but leveraging it to get other guys over, then you might be more understanding. If you’re a Reigns hater then ‘I don’t like his booking’ is just another dopey argument that isn’t supported by facts.
All that being said the last month has been a horror show for everyone and has even me wondering just what the hell Vince is trying to do here, while causing a real reexamination of everything they’ve done with him in the past. Should he have won at WrestleMania 31? Should they have just done the Daniel Bryan sequel that year and given Roman a year to fight over the Intercontinental and/or US title instead? Should he have won the Universal Title before WrestleMania 34? What was the point of him beating the Undertaker at WrestleMania 33? And for all of that you have to put at least some blame on Vince. Here you have a guy who is consistently a top merchandise seller, whose TV show clips consistently get a high number of views, who has good matches on TV every week when asked, etc. And yet you keep waffling between jumping in 100 percent and backing off to appease one block of fans. Unless you have some other master plan at work, it’s long past time to do your business or get off the pot.
You gave Seth Rollins a seven month run where he got 15 minute monologues, backstage segments, and a match (sometimes more than one) every week. He got to main event all but two pay per views during that run. Roman has never gotten more than two and a half months with the top title. At some point if he’s your guy, or even just one of your top guys, he needs more than that. If you need to send him to Smackdown and let him hold that title then fine, but he’s given enough to put other guys over and he’s popular enough outside of one block of people to give him a real title run for a change.
How’s he to blame here? He doesn’t book himself like Dusty Rhodes used to. He’s not out there messing up matches with people or injuring people or what have you. He does his job, and as far as we know doesn’t complain much. And therein lies the problem. Sometimes you got to look out for number one. None other than Steve Austin has even said Roman is too unselfish out there. Sometimes you have to take control of your own destiny backstage and say no. Every top guy does it at some point, and even some who aren’t. Nia Jax last year reportedly said no to doing a job to Sasha Banks on a pay per view and sat the show out. Now I don’t know if that’s true, it is dirtsheet stuff after all, but if so then good for her. You’re a cog in the machine until either you refuse that role or the fans make it too hard to treat you that way. Right now that block of unmovable fans has more sway over Vince than you do. Time to change that up.
I’m not saying take your ball and go home. No, that would only validate every bad take that’s been put there about you for three years. But if you’re not already doing it, then it’s time to go into a little business for yourself. Stop being the ‘put over other guys’ guy for a bit. If you’re not already doing it, talk to some folks who maybe can give you some character tweaks that can lend themselves to a feud that doesn’t revolve around losing to Brock Lesnar. Or at the very least say ‘ok, let some other guys go feed Brock for a few months and y’all can see how that works’. Something. Right now, what you’re doing or not doing backstage is putting you in some real career jeopardy. Sometimes being the good soldier can get you sent to the front lines when you should be somewhere less dangerous. You can fight for yourself without going all Hulk Hogan backstage.
Yes, blame the media! Who doesn’t, after all? Like with any other subject matter the media is quick to build narratives, make ordinary stuff sound outrageous and downplay truly outrageous stuff as if it’s normal. I think all three of those things happened here. For one, taking what is a standard top guy push and treating like it was something unprecedented was completely disingenuous. Roman main evented WrestleMania at about the same point in his career as Batista and The Rock did (and Rock did so as the defending champion, not the challenger). Rock, Batista, John Cena, Randy Orton, Kurt Angle, and Sheamus all won world titles faster than Roman after hitting the main roster. So to act like this was some never heard before kind of push up the roster was playing into the hands of all the people who think 10 years in bingo halls are necessary to deserve a world title run (unless you’re Braun Strowman of course).
The other thing is constantly regurgitating the whole ‘WWE is trying to get people to like Roman Reigns’ story again and again. While it’s true that Vince has been trying to win over that stubborn block of fans that refuses to budge, presenting the situation as if the man has no fans at all is just wrong. This isn’t the Lex Express in 1993 or Rocky Maivia in 1997. Roman has plenty of fans outside of the people who get loud at televised events. Vince would not spend three years putting a guy in main events who had not already achieved some level of popularity. And you can go back and watch any of his matches prior to January of 2015 and listen to the crowd reactions yourself if you doubt that he was being cheered already. While some outlets do mention this not enough do, and it adds fuel to those who engage in revisionist history to suit their narratives.
Yeah, I’m pointing the finger at some of you. The ones who can’t make an argument against Roman that holds up to any real scrutiny, then hide behind ‘I bought a ticket, I can say what I want!’. It’s fine to not be a fan of his; no one is demanding that of you. But for the love of God either find a reason that isn’t hypocritical, or just shut up and let other people enjoy the show. Chanting ‘f you Roman!’ in a building where children are present because he was booked to win a wrestling match the night before is unacceptable. Hijacking a show where you knew for a year what the main event was going to be and you went anyway is some bs crybaby nonsense of the highest order. You can chant ‘Roman sucks!’ if you want, that’s fine. But smuggling in beach balls, chanting for CM Punk (who thinks you’re a bunch of busters, by the way) and all for a match you knew about for a year and could have just not come to town for (or even left the building if so inclined) is bush league, entitled garbage. You want to come at me for that…….don’t bother, cause I don’t have the time for you idiots.
Beyond that, if you’re out here demanding Braun Strowman be given the title while you’re crapping on Roman….delete your account. I like Braun a lot and I enjoy his act, but he’s literally guilty of everything you accuse Roman of. Spent zero time in the indies, is a Vince guy, got thrust to the main roster after not even a handful of dark matches in NXT, was protected in six-man and eight-man tag matches for a year so he wouldn’t be exposed, got fed guys while he was learning how to work one on one matches, and when it was time to put him a real spotlight they put him with one of the best workers in the company who sold hard for him most of the year. He works hard, but he’s literally been given every break you can ask for along the way. And oh yeah, y’all didn’t really like him that much before he started mixing it up with Roman. Don’t get it twisted, plenty of us remember.
And if you’re out here wanting Seth and Finn Balor to fight for and eventually fight over the Universal Title…..then how about you support them more than you currently do? I got no beef with them being in a main event with Brock or against each other. But when their matches get less attention than a damn promo face off between Brock and Roman, you’re playing yourselves. There is nothing stopping you from watching their stuff on YouTube later on in the week, or viewing their features on the Network, or buying their merchandise ( I have a Rollins Kingslayer T-shirt myself! It isn’t that hard to get one!) Until you show you care about them as much as you care about complaining about Roman Reigns what you got is what you’re gonna get. You want somebody else to get what you think Roman has been given too much of? Get behind them like you mean it or STFU.
So what to do about it?
That’s the million dollar question. Right now the answer I hear the most is turn him heel. At this point I’m willing to accept that, even though the thought of people who booed him for three years starting to cheer him when he’s supposed to be booed is enough to make me want to throw up. Booing a man because you don’t like how he is being booked is like booing Tom Brady because you don’t like the plays Bill Belichek is running; it’s flat out nonsensical. But this is the world we live in now. The other short term prescription I’ve heard is to get him back on TV in matches. That’s the biggest olive branch that can be extended to Roman Reigns fans; if he’s not going to be champ then at least we can get a return to good weekly matches instead of whatever is occupying that space now. Doesn’t have to be the show main event either.
Long term I don’t know. If he settles into the kind of space that Edge and Randy Orton once occupied, constantly feuding with guys and having good matches while mixing in a title reign here or there I think all will be fine. I think it’s safe to say the he’s not going to be on that level as the Rock, Austin, Cena, etc. were at their peak. And that’s not the end of the world. I think that while most Roman fans do want him to get the Universal Title, we’d be fine with him having a Randy Orton level of career in terms of title victories and main events. And I’m pretty sure that’s more than doable at this point. But if there’s going to be more than that then some things are going to have go down differently and everyone I mentioned above has a role to play.