Roman Reigns is the most disrespected man in wrestling. In the 30 years I have been watching this sport I have never seen a performer draw a reaction quite like he does. It defies all logic. It baffles even the most intelligent wrestling minds, especially this one. The WWE has a major league problem on their hands. A supreme talent, a marketable look, a desperate search for the next “big star”, and fans want no part of it. The WWE has can not get people to buy in to Roman Reigns. Worst of all, the evidence points to a frightening truth: They have no idea how to do it.
To further examine this we must go back to the beginning, to the exact moment the WWE Universe turned its back to the Roman Reigns experience. January 25, 2015. Philadelphia, PA. Daniel Bryan enters the Royal Rumble at #10, after nearly a year off due to injury. The rabid fans in Philly are salivating at the fact that their hero will once again shock the world, and main event WrestleMania for the 2nd year in a row. Less than 11 minutes later that dream would die, when Bryan was eliminated by Bray Wyatt. The crowd lost all interest in the match from here on out, and got all Philadelphia. They focused their anger and disappointment towards hijacking the match. They chanted and booed, deciding then and there that whoever would be the last man standing at the end of the night, would not be worthy of their adoration. That man just happened to be Roman Reigns. Since then, this phenomenon has snowballed into unrelenting hatred toward a man that has done nothing over the last 5 years except show up for work.
Injuries are a part of all sports. You can’t predict them, and you can only hope to be able to adapt without your best players being healthy. Over the last few years, there have been a slew of injuries that have plagued the main event scene in the WWE. The names on the list are a who’s who of top flight stars: Seth Rollins, John Cena, Daniel Bryan, Samoa Joe, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Finn Balor, etc. Every single one of those guys has missed a WrestleMania over the last 3 years. One of the big reasons why we always see Roman Reigns in a main event, is because he has managed to stay healthy throughout his run. He is not being “shoved down our throats.”
While we are on it, lets talk about those 4 straight WrestleMania main events that everyone loves to complain about. In 2015, following the aforementioned Royal Rumble, he faced Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. We all know how that turned out. That match fantastic, but the night belonged to Seth Rollins. The year after Reigns faced Triple H, once again for the championship, and this time he would stand victorious. Yet I can’t help but wonder that if Rollins’ were healthy, would Reigns have even been in that match? I can buy the argument that he was the wrong guy to take on the Undertaker last year. What I can’t buy is the blame that Reigns gets for the match being bad. The match was hard to watch, but it was at no fault to Reigns. He worked so hard to get a good match out of 52 year old man with broken down everything. Not to mention the enormous pressure of being put in a spot where, at least at the time, we thought it was the Undertaker’s swan song. Which brings us to this year. The fans had put the WWE in a lose/lose situation. With Brock Lesnar’s contract status locked up for a while longer, and the immense hatred towards Reigns, the WWE made the smart play by keeping the title on Lesnar. They really had no choice.
So a 2-2 record in WrestleMania main events, and he’s considered the chosen one? Please. There are other interesting stats, that when examined, poke holes into the theory that Reigns is the top guy, and nobody else is given a fair shot. Out of his three WWE Championship runs, he has held the title for a total of 118 days. That puts him tied for 29th on the All-Time list for number of days as champion. To put that into perspective, Jinder Mahal has been WWE champion longer than Roman Reigns. You have to put some stock on who is your world champ. When a guy hasn’t held either one of your biggest titles in almost 2 years, he shouldn’t be getting flack from the fans because he’s the “golden boy.” It’s just inaccurate. To go down this rabbit whole even further, let’s take a look at Roman Reigns in PPV title matches. He is 4-10. Three times a Money in the Bank briefcase has been cashed in during a match he was involved in, including his first WWE Championship win. Reigns is not the superhuman fans make him out to be. So how can we change this perception?
The WWE can’t seem to find a way to get Reigns over that sticks. The sympathetic underdog is ridiculous. Fans chewed up and spit out the larger than life superhero. For years there has been a clamoring for him to turn heel, but at this point that makes little sense. He is already getting booed out of every arena. If you made him a bad guy, he would probably get cheered. I agree they need to make a change in his presentation, but the WWE has really put themselves in a bad spot. How do you do it? From my seat there is one way we can turn Roman, where it would all make sense, and fans would be able to accept him for what he should be. They need to align him with the greatest heel of them all, Vince McMahon. Play to smart marks out there. Show Reigns being Vince’s chosen champ. Show the irony of their encounter before WrestleMania, that led to Reigns suspension. Make it interesting, and see if you can cash in on giving the fans what they want. Give them a logical reason to hate a man they already hate.
It is an interesting case the likes of which we have never seen. At a different time Roman Reigns would have the fans in the palm of his hand. These days fans have an undeniable sense of entitlement. If you are one of these fans please remember, the WWE is not a restaurant. You can’t just order off the menu, then if you don’t like the meal, chant it back to the kitchen. The WWE is in constant motion. I know its hard sometimes, but its important you enjoy the ride. If you don’t like Roman Reigns, fine. Nobody is asking you to. I will ask that you don’t be disrespectful to him, or any other wrestler who puts their bodies on the line for our entertainment. I love this sport. You love this sport. Start acting like it.