How do you solve a problem like Roman Reigns?
Mikhail Khan dissects the polarizing career of WWE Superstar Roman Reigns!
For all intents and purposes, Roman Reigns should have strolled into the WWE and effortlessly made it his own personal kingdom. He has all the physical attributes it takes to be successful in the chaotic, high octane world of sports entertainment. To start with, he’s built like a Greek god with a rugged lumberjack-esq face that looks like it was chiselled out of granite.
In terms of his wrestling, he has a move-set that is both refined as well as exhilarating to watch. Furthermore, Roman Reigns has headlined countless pay-per-view events including the last three Wrestlemanias and has recorded wins over the likes of Triple H and the Undertaker.
Despite all of this, the WWE fans and indeed even some of his contemporaries have never truly embraced him as one of their own. They see him as someone who has managed to survive the WWE on the basis of his physical attributes alone.
They see the countless other hardworking WWE superstars around Reigns as being far more deserving of the opportunities that Reigns has received. For many fans, Reigns is seen as Vince McMahon’s golden boy and one that in the company’s eyes can do no wrong whatsoever.
From the moment he set foot in the WWE, Reigns has been considered the future face of wrestling entertainment. Ever since his debut as a member of the beloved tag team stable ‘The Shield’, he was earmarked for greatness and it was felt that his tremendous potential would be able to overcome his relative inexperience as well as his shortcomings.
Reign’s problems primarily lie within the seemingly dour and disinterested persona he has chosen to put forth over the course of his time in the WWE. In terms of both the promos, he cuts as well as in his matches there is a palpable sense of apathy that even the most optimistic of WWE fan finds it hard to look past. There is also a strange aura of lethargy to his moves that leaves fans screaming in frustration after the culmination of yet another lacklustre spear or duplex.
The Big Dog is also seen as the perfect example of precisely what is wrong with the WWE’s current era. People look back to the golden years of the 70’s and the 80’s well as the Attitude Era in the latter half of the 90’s as the benchmark for any sports entertainment company in the world.
It was here that the WWE reached what was arguably the zenith of its meteoric rise. The Attitude Era marked a time in the WWE’s history where it listened to its fans and made sure that their wishes were taken into consideration when planning matches. It was when heroes and villains were made on the basis of actual crowd responses and not merely who was the biggest, meanest or even the best looking.
It was here that the WWE cared far less about ad revenue and commercial responsibilities and more about what their adoring fans wanted. It was at this moment in time where legacies of some of the greatest wrestlers to step into the squared circle were forever cemented in the minds of impressionable young fans and it is these memories that continue to draw in the majority of the WWE’s fan base.
With Roman Reigns, the WWE has continually ignored the fact that for most people, he simply too unlikable to ever be accepted as the underdog ‘face’ character that they insist he portrays. Reigns as a member of The ‘Shield’ was, by and large, the silent, brooding enforcer of the team and this worked in his favour. He was able to focus on his strengths in the ring and leave the talking to the far more adept promotional abilities of Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins.
The first rumblings of discontent occurred when The Shield began to disband and Reigns was forced to fend for himself. This was only exasperated in the years to follow during his push for the WWE World Heavyweight title when fans often appeared to cheer for anyone that Reigns happened to be going up against.
No matter how despicable they previously found his opponent, it largely became a case of ‘anyone but Roman Reigns’. The WWE refused to acknowledge this and insisted on having him play the role of ‘hero’ in every single match. While they often hinted at a much-awaited ‘heel’ turn for Reigns, many at the company felt that this would be against the best interests of the organization itself.
So bad was their need to find a wrestler that would take over the mantle of former greats such as The Rock and Hulk Hogan and the declining John Cena. At the best of times, Reigns does a half decent job of selling his fights and rivalries to discerning WWE fans. At his worst, however ever he has all the charisma of a brick wall.
So the question now becomes one of how the WWE is to move forward in terms of the divisive Roman Reigns? The first logical step in my mind would be to change his in-ring persona entirely. Brooding, silent heroes are great for Hollywood blockbusters but not so much for the trash talk heavy world of wrestling entertainment.
They must use Reigns' silence to transform him into an anti-hero much like that of Kane or the Undertaker and build his image to be something akin to a silent, monstrous predator. If you look at wrestlers like Kane, the Undertaker or even the mercurial Randy Orton, they too have very little to give in terms of charisma or sheer likeability based on their promos alone.
What they do have, however, is a captivating aura of dark cynicism and machismo. They almost primal presence exude an almost when they step into the ring and it is all of this that allows fans to look past the weaker aspects of their wrestling personas.
Roman Reigns must mould his persona in this vein or be forever condemned as an ‘almost ran’ of legends in the WWE.
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