Wrestling Rant: Why I’m Still Not Convinced By Roman Reigns
It hasn’t been an easy road for Roman Reigns. The climb to the WWE summit has been littered with setbacks, injuries and a fan base seemingly intent on pushing back against his rising star. Somewhere between his elimination in 2014 Royal Rumble and his victory in 2015 the former Shield member became the figurehead for fan dissatisfaction with the WWE product. Roman has struggled to shake off this indifference and even as we approach Wrestlemania 32, find ourselves in a bizarre situation where the face of the main event feud is being outright booed and the intended heel is garnering the fan cheers. Lord only knows what the outcome will be if Reigns wins in the main event or what kind of reaction he faces on Raw the following evening. But is it justified?
I’ll be upfront here; I don’t like Reigns. It’s not for lack of trying – I loved The Shield. Ambrose and Rollins feature very heavily in my best “current” wrestlers lists. I didn’t even mind that it was Reigns who got to keep The Shield attire, theme song and entrance from the crowd (Even though it seemed like a weird choice at the time to not repackage him). What irks about captain Reigns is that he feels like a created superstar from one of the WWE games. The one you make and slam all the attributes up to 99 on so you can beat your friends when they try to roll up as John Cena. The kind of thing that you don’t ever believe would work on WWE TV but have fun with in small doses. Except Reigns is real and WWE Creative are determined that THEIR superstar will be the THE superstar, even if it breaks the game for everyone else. Except this isn’t a game; it’s 2016 and Reigns is still getting the kind of awkward reactions that would sink ships.
But why hate him? Past WWE Superstars have been given unfair advantages and we didn’t moan then (At least that’s the biggest response I get when I say I don’t Reigns). Without super-pushes there wouldn’t Hogan, Austin, Rock, Triple H, Cena, Orton or any of the stars that WWE have created over the past few decades and yes; all of those guys got mega pushes that you can poke holes in. But then again at no time during Austin’s mega push (1997 – 1999) did the audience ever openly revolt against it. Nor Rocks. Nor Hogan’s. Nor Cena’s really (Only when he’d carried the belt for a year did the critiques start really pouring out the walls and even then the fans were chuffed to the ceiling when he won the Royal Rumble in 2008). Somewhere Roman Reigns mega push has gone awfully wrong.
My biggest gripe with Roman Reigns is that he doesn’t convey good stories. The whole fun of wrestling is that we’re supposed to buy into the hatred between two people. For Reigns this almost always culminates in him shrugging off whatever he’s facing and overcoming it. When Reigns won the WWE Championship at Survivor Series – he held it for all of five minutes before Sheamus interrupted and took it for himself. What did Reigns do the following night on Raw? Did he attack Sheamus in a fit of anger or go for Triple H? No, he just showed up an hour into the show and was kind of cool with it all. I mean don’t get me wrong – he probably wanted the WWE Championship back – but if you’d skipped the previous nights events and were tuning in you’d have been hard pressed to guess that Reign’s first championship reign as a singles competitor had been unfairly stolen from him.
I remember an era where getting robbed of the WWE Championship led to Austin hunting down Vince McMahon. Led to Rock going out the night after Wrestlemania and demanding a rematch in the face of overwhelming odds. When Triple H lost the title to Jericho on a random Raw in early 2000, he bullied Earl Hebner to reverse the decision and had it rubbed from history. Heck when Brock Lesnar lost the title after last years Wrestlemania he unleashed a fury of hell on everything in the ringside area. The point I’m making here is that Reigns looked like a mug for just taking it and not doing anything to get what was his back. He might as well have sent an angry email to Triple H for all the good we saw on TV. Blame the writers? Sure we can do that, but you can’t say the fans are wrong for not getting behind a guy who doesn’t look bothered when the odds keep turning against him.
This irks me so much because there are guys in mid card who can do this so much better. Guys who can cut effortless promos, put on great matches week after week and do all this without the padding and protection of WWE’s creative arm. Kevin Owens, Dolph Ziggler, Bray Wyatt, Dean Ambrose and even AJ Styles; a man who’s noted for his inability to cut great promos has managed to get himself over by having consistently good matches. And it’s only going to get worse as NXT keeps pumping out genuine talent. Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Apollo Crews and more will eventually end up in the WWE mid card waiting for their opportunity because they’re being cock-blocked by Reigns. All of these guys could occupy the exact same spot as Reigns and probably do it better. So why should anyone get behind Reigns when we can support other Superstars who we feel should be given a better opportunity?
WWE’s gone some way to cover these issues. They no longer stick Reigns in front of the live audience with a mic (Something that if you watch Raw on a regular basis you’ll have noticed) – instead keeping his promos to pre-taped backstage segments. Instead they let his actions do the talking. The one thing Reigns has going for him is that he can work an insanely rugged style – and when he’s brawling he does shine. But this is few and far between for me. When it comes to Reigns in ring performances – nothing makes me cringe more than the phrase “Superman punch” which might as well be an exclamation point to how little effort has gone into the finer aspects of his gimmick.
I understand why some people might like Reigns – he looks great and when he performs he can put on good matches. But there’s a difference between good and great and for me when the main event of Wrestlemania 32 is destined to be the starting point of what I suspect will be a long reign for Reigns – I can’t help but feel Reigns is going to end up occupying the exact same space Cena does – except Cena has the skills to answer his critics. Reigns just looks out of his depth.