Hi folks! Today, I’ll be talking about Roman Reigns and his transformation from fan favorite to pseudo Mafia boss. Does it work? And more importantly, can it be sustained in WWE’s current landscape?
The last time we saw Roman Reigns, he was challenging Goldberg for the Universal title at WrestleMania. Fans weren’t hating on him like they did, because his leukemia diagnosis revelation turned many heads. Many who booed him for his poor character snapped out of the loathing and took notice of how much his peers support him and how hard he has fought to do what he loves. We would never have known Roman Reigns, had he lost his battle with leukemia, which is something many never considered before.
However, there’s still a decent amount of fans who sympathized with his real-life struggle, but weren’t about to gloss over how poor his television personality is. Unlike The Rock or Rikishi, he doesn’t have near the same level of charisma. Even The Uso’s cut better promos and are more consistently entertaining in and out of the ring. There are a few in WWE with more natural talent who could take the ball and run with it. But Reigns has the look, and we’ve seen how having the look makes a big difference in the world. We say not to “judge a book by its cover”, but the wrestling world has almost always disproved this idiom.
So when the partnership of Roman Reigns & Paul Heyman was revealed, it felt flat to me. We’ve been pleading, almost begging for a heel turn for years… but it happened with such a snap of the fingers I couldn’t process it. There was hardly any buildup, other than Reigns proving to be “difficult”. He came back from hiatus and had changed just like that, with a brief explanation. All we need to know is, Reigns has hired Heyman and runs the show. Ok? Right then. We got what we wanted… but did we really?
What Is A Heel Turn?
The issue with a superstar like John Cena or Roman Reigns turning heel, is that many fans want it to happen. Why? Because it’s more interesting. But you can’t have a true turn if fans enjoy it, because it should be something you don’t want to happen. And in this case, yes… there are fans who hate the new partnership and want the old Reigns back, but others will be like…“Cool! I wanna’ see how this goes!”. The question here is, how do you make Reigns despicable to everyone?
Do you turn him in to Brock Lesnar 2.0? What about a cheesy nickname like the “Tribal Chief”? What about having him do something exceptionally hideous? The problem nowadays is you can never get a 100% certified heel anymore. Even Brock Lesnar had his fans and merchandise while rarely sharing his humorous side. Heels can be more real to some people as they represent the world’s view more than your average super hero type. Back in the 80’s, the heels weren’t relatable because they were so notoriously unpleasant and didn’t seek to impress.
By putting Reigns on a pedestal, you are teaching the audience to look up and admire. He’s the best and we cannot dispute it. This selling wouldn’t have worked in the 90’s, because the fans would’ve rebelled against the system. In 2020 however, there isn’t anyone in play for fans to latch on to. There’s no Hulk Hogan. No Ultimate Warrior. Anti-heroes are Steve Austin knockoffs. We have too many superstars paying tribute to the past instead of creating the present & future. No one else is inherently over, because Roman Reigns is the only guy (aside from Becky Lynch) WWE has pushed in any meaningful way. Zero competition for the big dog.
I’m impressed by the storytelling. Ok, so I’m not an advocate for the way they got the Universal title back on to Reigns (they killed Strowman off), but everything since has been gold standard. The angle between Reigns & Jey Uso has to be Paul Heyman’s brainchild, because I cannot believe it came from one of the writers or Vince McMahon himself. I always knew how Reigns talks and looks would compliment a character such as this, and he’s doing a great job with it so far!
The title match at Clash Of Champions was worthy of the main event because it almost played out like a soap opera. It was more about the story than putting on a 5-star match, which is how wrestling should be. Athletic contests are admirable, but they aren’t memorable. Reigns & Jey Uso were given praise because fans will remember it as the crowning of the Tribal Chief. My only worry is that after they finish the family storyline, how do you move on to something better? This is as personal as it gets, so how can WWE keep Reigns’ momentum flowing against opponents who have nothing to do with him on a personal level?
It’s hard to imagine, but perhaps by then he will have developed in to someone who can carry himself and others through a program? This should be the end goal for the Tribal Chief, and there should definitely be a time when he won’t need Heyman anymore. But can he improve his promo skills? And can he add more to his arsenal to make his matches less routine? These are the finishing touches on a character which has always had potential, but for years has suffered like a puzzle missing a few pieces.
Yin & Yang
Some of the biggest legends in the business have had a Yin to their Yang. For Hulk Hogan it was the Ultimate Warrior. To Bret Hart it was Shawn Michaels. Stone Cold Steve Austin had The Rock. But not since the 90’s has wrestling seen two unstoppable forces fighting like an epic end battle to a movie to decide who can stake their claim as the #1 guy. John Cena never had that… we could say Randy Orton was the closest thing, but it didn’t reach the same heights as other rivalries.
And it’s the same for Roman Reigns, where he could’ve had someone challenging him for the top spot. It hasn’t surfaced because they reserved his seat in advance. No one gets a look in because Vince McMahon pushed all the chips forward and rolled his dice on the big dog long ago. Going any other way is too risky for him, and it’s sad because there are many other talented superstars. AJ Styles would be a great choice, but his time is limited and you need someone who’ll be around as long as Reigns. Drew McIntyre? He could rise to the occasion, but it heavily depends on the fans.
If the fans want Reigns to be challenged, they need to get behind someone else. Only then may we see another great rivalry in WWE. Without this, I’m afraid that Reigns’ turn won’t suffice because WWE will find it necessary to revert him back to a babyface. WWE is a business and needs a top face to sell merchandise, and if no one else is motivated enough to do the job… WWE will have to pull the plug on the personality change. It’s sad but true.
The new character can work, but is dependent on the writing and how much WWE is willing to build up others. If they keep feeding him dog food, he’ll predictably wolf it down and it won’t work. However, if WWE pits him against other big dogs? We’ll see what he’s made of and his character will flourish. Management needs to take their other talent seriously and cease sabotaging their own hard work.
They should also pull the plug on other heels in the SmackDown main event scene and make it all about Reigns; so they can build up a few babyfaces who can believably take the title from him one day. But I also think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see Reigns lose the title, even if it were for one night under extreme circumstances; just to show how desperate his character is when he’s not on top. A dangerous, desperate Reigns is likely to get over more than a calm, confident one.
An invincible heel is not an effective one, because they are meant to get others over. That’s how heels have and should always work. Reigns has the power to make new stars, but WWE won’t make any if he holds the title for the next few years. Hopefully we’ll get a better idea of what WWE has planning after the draft. Who do you think should challenge Reigns? Is Jey Uso main event material? And who do you think should be the Yin to his Yang? Please let me know in the comments, and thanks for reading!