Dissecting the Roman Reigns experiment
In the past five years, Roman Reigns has been built towards being the face of the WWE, replacing the current incumbent John Cena. The WWE has systematically taken the Cena mould and tried to replicate it with Reigns. To say that the results have been a mixed bag is a massive understatement.
Historically, if you look at the greats of the WWE, the majority were allowed to grow organically through the mid-card, often chasing mid-card titles and building fan support before being pushed up to the main event scene and world championship glory. This allowed the athlete to “connect” with the crowd and fan base, without the expectations of carrying ratings and or matches. The authenticity this generates is something that is hard to replicate artificially.
Without the time in the mid-card to find and create his own character and brand, the creative team led by Vince McMahon have fed scripted monologues to Reigns which, as we saw with John Cena, resulted in him being ripped apart with every verbal joust with one of the great mic performers. No amount of acting and speech lessons can teach sincerity, that has to come from the athlete himself.
Where we have seen Reigns excel, is when he is allowed to be himself and display an edge, a ruthless streak. He is a man of action rather than words and this is where he naturally starts to get over with the fans.
When we first saw Roman Reigns, he was the enforcer of the Shield, his NXT time being short-lived and fast-tracked. The go-to man for the high impact spots that the group was famous for, his strength and sureness of character at that stage, allowed him to succeed within that dynamic.
Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose are naturals on the microphone, and were the voice of The Shield, whilst Roman provided the quintessential, "take no prisoners, big man, enforcer" element.
Even the moniker by which he now goes by “The Big Dog” seems forced, with the catchphrase of “This is my Yard” not resonating with the fans that are currently watching the product.
So the question is how do we fix Roman Reigns? Or can he be fixed as a character?
To answer that, you have to understand what the WWE actually wants from Roman and the answer to that is simple: replace John Cena as the main face of the company. The WWE love Roman's “look”, he has a great physique, brings a natural presence to the ring and is the advertiser's dream.
Given that the option of turning him heel, which I believe to be his most effective character, playing to his formidable strengths would be juxtaposed with the ambitions the WWE harbour for Reigns. The options of his possible resurrection and course correction are limited to basically one singular sure fire option - reuniting The Shield.
Reunite The Shield
Roman needs time to develop and he needs the fans to once again support him. Whilst I believe that feuding and beating John Cena has allowed him some limited character growth over the last month, it was obvious to all that he is not the finished article.
Bringing The Shield back together would allow Rollins and Ambrose to provide cover for Reigns, similar to the Heyman and Lesnar combination that has worked so effectively over the years. This would allow Roman to sharpen his in-ring capabilities and character, with his weaknesses being papered over by the nostalgia of one of the most dominant groups or factions being back together again.
Also Read: Superstar Breakdown: Roman Reigns
If the WWE won’t change their mind on Roman, they need to pull the trigger now on The Shield reunion and go all in on sacrificing Rollins and Ambrose as singles competitors.
Personally, I think it’s time to look to other talent within the WWE and allow Reigns the time to develop. He has the talent but does he have the character to take a step back and work out who he wants to be the next time opportunity comes knocking?