You know what? I was wrong. I really did think that the ship had sailed on Roman Reigns turning heel at this point, at least for the time being. But lo and behold here were are. This past Friday stood in the ring flanked by Paul Heyman, who made it clear what the deal was. So now that there is no doubt it looks like we’re in for a whole different kind of ride here. No more getting beat down by hired goons from King Corbin or sneak attacks from guys like Sheamus. No more scenes like last year when he speared Cesaro and tagged in Mustafa Ali so he could get the pin; now we get backhanded compliments to his cousin Jey Uso that maybe he’ll get something on his own now. No more unselfishness to a fault, now it’s about looking out for number one and taking what’s his. I expect that over the next few weeks that the good guys in the Smackdown locker room are gonna find out the hard way just what this all means.
But while we seemingly have one answer, there are still a few questions:
Is it justified?
From a character standpoint, hell yes. As Paul Heyman stated on Smackdown Roman has gone above and beyond the call of duty in every circumstance. And his reward has been fans turning on him for the stupidest of reasons, getting cashed in on three times with the Money in the Bank briefcase, Bray Wyatt interfering to keep him from winning the briefcase, having the Authority stack the odds against him over and over, various bad guys breaking rules and getting over on him (Sheamus, Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho, Shane McMahon, Erik Rowan, Baron Corbin), and Braun Strowman making a name off of him by trying to cripple him. His most reliable allies, the Usos, are often physically not available because they’ve been on different shows or have been injured. The only other regular allies of his have been his Shield mates, and of them Dean Ambrose is gone and Seth Rollins is……how shall we say it…….often putting himself first? Doing things the right way has backfired more than it’s paid off, and in the big moments it’s rarely been worth it. And a vocal section of the people who are supposed to appreciate this suffering the most, the fans, continue to move the goalposts for him to finally earn their support. So even though it goes against the character of Roman Reigns in the eyes of all of us who’ve actually been paying attention all these years, if you’re in his shoes then maybe it’s time to make sure your needs are taken care of no matter what.
Was it time?
After five years of being booked as a face, was it time for a heel turn? That’s where it gets a little complicated. Five years as a face or a heel is a long time in today’s world, and I can’t think of anyone on the roster who has stayed as either that long. So from that standpoint it’s fine to go with it now, especially if it’s true that Roman wanted it himself. But the other part of the argument, that he should be turned heel because he just hasn’t worked as a face, is one that I still do not agree with. Let’s be real here. The people screaming the loudest to turn him heel in 2020 have been screaming that since 2015. Quite frankly, they’ve never given it a chance so I don’t see why we should heed their take now. And look, in the grand scheme of things it did work. Roman has sold a ton of merchandise and has been a big hit with everyone outside that vocal group of guys – women, children, fans outside the US. He’s also been a hit with guys who didn’t decide to get weird about him because he didn’t come from the indies or because they heard Vince preferred him or because they were insistent that they just can’t have another superhero character or because they couldn’t stand to see him in the main event.
And to be honest, it’s because of those guys that I’ve been defiant about turning him. I’ve always seen it as capitulating to the worst parts of the fandom and all the clickbait media out there, the people who said the same thing about John Cena for years, and did not want to see those guys rewarded for largely being jerks. But after seeing him with Paul Heyman and taking action over the past week I can say that I’m on board. There’s a new and different energy to him and the whole show now since this started. This doesn’t feel like it was done to appease anyone and feels like it was spearheaded by the man himself. It feels natural and real in a way that’s not real easy to explain right now. But as far as the timing, I’d say that with Roman coming back from a smart break to keep his family safe from catching COVID and the new Thunderdome opening up that bringing him back with a new persona was the right move. It makes him stand out even more from the rest of roster and has recharged Friday nights more than had he returned the way he was when he left.
So what’s next?
Well we know now that he’ll be facing his cousin Jey Uso at Clash of the Champions. There’s a date ahead with Otis and the Money in the Bank briefcase. And from there, we’ll see. I’m looking forward to it, though, because there are a lot of potential matchups from Daniel Bryan to Jeff Hardy to Big E to maybe even someone called up from NXT. And that’s not even considering potential matchups with guys currently on Raw like Drew Mcintyre, Edge, or Keith Lee. While I think we could have gotten some of this persona without the full heel turn it looks like we’re getting I’ll take this. It’s time to run some people over, and not be concerned with making other guys look good. Now from all indications the loudest, most performative Roman haters are not standing down. Which is what I expected because quite frankly those guys are full of crap and always have been. But having been enlisted in the Roman Empire for the last five years I’m happy to get on with the next leg of the journey, this time behind the Tribal Chief of Reigns Island. And as always the haters can go jump in the lake.