I read a report the other day that stated Vince McMahon believed the crowd walking out of the Backlash main event featuring Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe was “eye-opening”. I honestly felt like throwing my bluetooth mouse to my Macbook screen. I assure you no reasonable pro wrestling fan believed what happened in the main event of WWE’s last PPV was in the least bit surprising. What do I mean? Let me explain. This all goes back to WWE’s misconception about Roman Reigns, and how that misconception is continuing to damage him, his character and the mutual relationship between the fans and the sports entertainer.
Here is the issue with Roman Reigns. We are supposed to believe that he’s something we all know he’s not. He’s a walking contradiction. A liar. Again, let me explain. The main event of Backlash was inexplicably Roman Reigns and Samoa Joe. There was nothing important at stake, save for the bragging rights of saying you beat the other man that night. There were no titles, there was no long-standing blood feud and there was no urgency. Samoa Joe just decided that he was going to beat up Roman Reigns just because. Roman Reigns didn’t like that so he called him fat and lazy and the two had a match, and somehow, that translated into being the main event.
But hopefully, all of you knew the horrible tailspin the match was going to take based on what happened before the match. Before the match began, Samoa Joe attacked Roman and put him through a table. That means a match that took place on a PPV that was already well over three hours was going to feature Roman Reigns trying to come back and overcome Joe’s assault. With a litany of rest holds exacerbating matters and making the match even duller, Roman Reigns, to the shock of hopefully no one, won with a spear out of nowhere in an 18-minute match with pacing that would make The Big Show look like Usain Bolt. The match had an abundance of issues. The pacing was bad, the numerous rest holds were a chore to get through, the sense of urgency wasn’t there and we already had to sit through 180 minutes with only one match (the opening match) being anything worth watching from start to finish. But the biggest issue was a far greater one, and it goes beyond this match. It has to do with what our perception has been brainwashed to be about Roman Reigns. What may that be? That he’s an underdog.
Let’s be candid here. Nobody in their right mind believes Samoa Joe would defeat Roman Reigns straight up without any shenanigans or interference. The funny thing is WWE actually knows this too. So what does WWE do? They give Roman Reigns imaginary odds to overcome in a match that holds little meaning. Those odds came in the form of Joe attacking Roman prior to the match. OH NO! Roman Reigns went through a table? How will he ever come back from this? It’s straight out of the 2005-2015 John Cena playbook. Nobody believes he will lose, and since that is the case, we need to pretend as if there’s a chance he might do so. It actually reminded me of when Damien Sandow attempted to cash in Money In The Bank on John Cena, and Cena beat him anyway, despite being attacked prior to the match and using only one good arm for offense the entire match.
The thing is Roman actually lost because there was a point in the match where he passed out and the ref didn’t even think to call for the bell. But the point remains. We were conditioned to believe that Roman Reigns wouldn’t be able to overcome all of that. We had to suspend our disbelief to immerse ourselves in the narrative that Roman Reigns would not be able to overcome a brutal assault. But since we have developed brains and IQ’s of over 2, we all foresaw the ending. Roman would hit a spear out of nowhere, and that would be that.
WWE doesn’t understand that you can’t book someone who walks, talks and acts like Roman Reigns and position him as an underdog. It doesn’t work. When Rey Mysterio, who lost his friend Eddie Guererro, entered #2 in the 2006 Royal Rumble, outlasted 29 other men including Triple H and Randy Orton to close everything, he was an underdog. When Daniel Bryan defeated Triple H in the opening match of WrestleMania and suffered a post-match attack, but went on to defeat Randy Orton and Batista followed up with more interference, he was an underdog. Hell, when Seth Rollins went the distance in the gauntlet match this past February to defeat Roman Reigns and John Cena, two of WWE’s golden boys of the past decade in back to back full-length, PPV-quality matches, he was an underdog. Roman Reigns being put through one announcer’s table before a match with nothing on the line doesn’t make him an underdog.
I understand WWE doesn’t expect us to have memories lasting more than a few weeks, but was I alone in seeing Roman Reigns kick out of not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4 but FIVE F5’s at WrestleMania? Be reminded that was the same move that was being positioned as one that finished opponents off with it being used just once. Ask Braun Strowman. Hell, ask Roman Reigns’ opponent, Samoa Joe! One F5 finished off both powerhouses. Roman kicked out of 5 of them, but we are supposed to believe that Roman is in some sort of jeopardy because Joe put Roman through 1 table? Didn’t Joe do the same thing to Brock Lesnar at Great Balls of Fire but lost anyway? I understand Roman kicking out of all of those finishers at WrestleMania was probably an anomaly and just used as an ends to a means to their feud, but it’s feats such as those why the notion of treating Roman as someone who has the odds stacked against them is ridiculous to believe. I mean, look at Roman. He’s built like something out of Greek mythology. He looks like a legit ass-kicker. Yet we are supposed to believe he is playing from behind.
Can you imagine if Zack Ryder dominated Mark Henry for most of the match just for Mark to hit a World’s Strongest Slam out of nowhere? You’d say, “Wow, that was a bunch of bullshit.” That’s why people boo and jeer Roman. It’s not because of his in-ring ability (or lack thereof), his promo-cutting or his personality. All of those things are fine, at least in my eyes. The issue is that Roman isn’t allowed to be himself and unleash his true nature. He’s not the ass-kicking, take no prisoners Samoan we know lies in his spirit. I honestly believe he’d be received better if he was positioned as the de facto favorite in whatever match he competes in. And to top it off, not only is he a fraudulent underdog, he can’t even do it right. Wasn’t Roman Reigns the one talking shit since last summer, insinuating that he’s the only guy that can beat Brock Lesnar? Who got pinned at Summerslam last year in the main event in a fatal four way? Roman Reigns. Who was the one that told all of us that he would defeat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, but then made excuses afterward as to why he couldn’t win? Roman Reigns. Who couldn’t definitively beat Brock at the Greatest Royal Rumble? Roman Reigns. He’s not an underdog. He’s a shit-talking Samoan that wants to be an underdog and the two don’t mix.