I feel sorry for Roman Reigns. I’m sure there will be very few that agree with me, but I honestly do feel for the guy. He regularly gets the biggest heel reactions when his music hits, but he’s supposed to be the ‘superhero’ babyface. He’s clearly trying his best to play the role of the character he’s been given and he has undoubtedly improved in the ring. I’d say he’s gone from being a limited to a solid worker in 2 years, but the issue is not the work he does in the ring or his improving mic skills, it’s his character. It’s always been his character because it just doesn’t quite click.
I can absolutely understand why Vince is high on him, he has a great look and bags of potential as a main eventer, but Vince being seemingly so intent on Reigns being a version of the ‘super-Cena’ character that fans were rejecting nearly ten years ago is hurting Reigns. It’s so obvious and has been for so long now that it’s almost become cliché, but Reigns needs to be allowed to turn heel to find that freedom he needs to truly unearth and develop his own character. Drawing parallels to The Rock is an obvious one, but there have been others who have been presented in a babyface role, but the fans didn’t like what they were being given and rejected it. The New Day are a more recent example of this and how a heel turn gave them more licence and allowed them to relax and explore their character. Because their evolved characters were not only entertaining, but felt more authentic and not so forced and scripted, the audience got behind them and their turn back to babyface was an organic one.
Part of the rise of WWE back in 1997 was them embracing crowd reactions for Steve Austin and later, The Rock. They became the two main men that spearheaded the company’s rise to levels it had never reached before, or since. Their characters were authentic and felt very much that way, their promos also felt natural and not the heavily scripted impression that resonates with too many wrestlers today. Rather than stubbornly refusing to accept how fans were reacting to their characters, WWE went with the flow and ramped it up to great effect. Stone Cold Steve Austin, the angry, aggressive and rebellious heel became the biggest babyface of all time. The smiling good guy Rocky Maivia took the rejection of the crowd to become the arrogant and obnoxious heel, The Rock, who flourished under his new found freedom of character to become so entertaining and cool, that he morphed into the much-loved mega star that he is today.
Roman Reigns has become quite a polished performer bell to bell; I’d be intrigued to see how much he could add to that and develop his all-round character, if given the freedom to do so. Maybe Vince would then have the bonafide star that he clearly sees in Reigns.
Perhaps facing off against Undertaker at Wrestlemania might just be the ideal opportunity to finally take the plunge and allow Roman to tread a new path. Taker will be cheered by the crowd, regardless of anything WWE tries to do to stop that, should they even decide they want to position Taker as the heel in this confrontation. The fans know Taker is ever nearer a much talked about retirement and respect ‘the Deadman’ for all he has accomplished and achieved throughout his illustrious career, so to try to get the fans to cheer Roman over him would be futile. Instead, Roman playing up the whole “big dog” and “it’s my yard now” thing and coming across increasingly arrogant simply heats up the match and draws the crowd into it all.
Done smartly and subtly over the next few weeks, a character evolution for Roman Reigns not only helps him and his match against Undertaker at Wrestlemania, it could also help the company freshen up Raw and give them so many new permutations after Wrestlemania and beyond.
And maybe then, I could stop feeling sorry for the guy!