Now or never for Roman Reigns heel turn
Now more than ever, Roman Reigns needs a heel turn in order to maintain some kind of stability in his path to success in WWE.
On this week's episode of Monday Night Raw, the rumoured match between The Undertaker and Roman Reigns for WrestleMania 33 seemed to be made official as the two had a standoff in the ring. Reigns was left feeling the effects of a chokeslam from The Deadman and the fans couldn’t be happier.
For the past few years, WWE has tried its best to push Reigns as the top new babyface of the company and the heir apparent to John Cena, but in doing so, has fallen victim to the same pitfalls as the ones that happened in the case of The Doctor of Thuganomics.
Needless to say, based off of the reaction that he consistently gets from the crowd, this has been an exercise in futility as a good portion of the audience just refuses to accept him as their next figurehead.
In some ways, it’s unwarranted. Roman Reigns isn’t as awful as a lot of people make him out to be, either on the mic or in the ring. He seems to want to do a decent amount of charity work and he’s yet to break down and just quit out of frustration, so he must be passionate about WWE.
However, the past few months have seen a noticeable lack of flexibility from the crowd regarding the idea of going with the flow and just cheering him because “we’re supposed to.” It isn’t so much going against the grain for the sake of being edgy and rebellious, but just the standard operating procedure.
Now more than ever, WWE is faced with the facts that it is time for Roman Reigns to turn heel, and if they don’t pull the trigger, they will actually be doing him a disservice rather than taking a risk.
Many tend to echo the arguments for keeping him a babyface by saying that he sells too much merchandise to justify making him a bad guy and WWE would alienate the children who support him, ignoring the attention span kids have and their ability to bounce back from quite a bit.
If Reigns is no longer a good guy, do you know who they would end up cheering and getting behind? Whichever good guy is facing him.
Then, that wrestler would see an increase in merchandise sales and it will all balance out in the long run, if not be more beneficial, as it would upgrade another person to being a guy worth paying attention to.
If you’re worried about there being a gap on the roster with the lack of a top babyface, that’s just an open invitation for someone else to step up to fill that spot and for some fresh storytelling to come out of it.
WWE’s writers shouldn’t be afraid to do their jobs in crafting storylines that entertain the audience. If something isn’t working, that’s when you need to try something new.
So why now? Isn’t this all the same rhetoric people have been spitting out for over two years?
Braun Strowman’s promo illustrated exactly why we’ve passed the tipping point of the boos being something to ignore. While the chants for CM Punk were an attempt to upset the establishment and hijack the show, nobody else on the card had an improper reaction from the audience.
Bayley wasn’t booed, Charlotte wasn’t cheered, Chris Jericho was able to properly transition to a babyface and The Undertaker was met with resounding applause. Roman Reigns, though, garnered no support from the audience, and a heel was able to call him out on it as a sign of solidarity with the crowd.
If a guy like Strowman—someone who has no allegiances to anybody but himself, has never once pandered to the audience to get their approval, and regularly beats up babyfaces all the time—can go out there and say that both he and everybody else, including the live audience, hates Roman Reigns, then there’s a serious problem.
The reason why a change to a heel persona for Reigns is so imperative at this precise moment is because WWE has backed themselves into a corner. They are in a no-win situation with Reigns’ match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33.
If Reigns is a babyface and he loses, his fans will be disappointed. If he’s a babyface and he wins, there’s no way it ends up creating anything but outrage from the vast majority of the WWE Universe.
On the other hand, if he’s a heel and he loses, fans can properly rejoice with the way the program’s script intends them to react and the same thing goes for him as a heel, since the plan would be to upset us.
That is the only way that there can be a satisfying conclusion to the WrestleMania match, and considering how there are several other matches on the card which could have controversial decisions happening in them, WWE can’t afford to have a slew of blunders happening repeatedly throughout the night.
This will just kill WrestleMania’s energy and the viewers will look back at the entire past season building up to it as a disappointment, which in turn would convince people to tune out and not follow the rest of the product in 2017.
At WrestleMania 31, the only thing that saved the main event from being booed out of the building was Seth Rollins cashing in his Money in the Bank briefcase.
A babyface Roman Reigns winning the title just wasn’t going to fly. WWE tried it again the next year and it didn’t get anywhere near the reception they were shooting for. Trying for another babyface Reigns win over a respected veteran like The Undertaker and thinking it will go over well with the crowd is just lunacy at this point.
WWE loves to recite a specific mantra that it doesn’t matter if you’re getting a positive or negative reaction, so long as you’re getting some kind of response from the crowd. That is only applicable if your entire goal is to stay within the public eye and you have no stakes in earning money from those who support you.
None of the people who dislike Roman Reigns are buying his merchandise, nor are they paying for the opportunity to boo him at a show. They’re paying to see the people they do enjoy.
These fans aren’t interested in actually watching The Undertaker beat Reigns as some sort of wish fulfilment, they just don’t want to see the alternative happen and have to hope that Reigns doesn’t come out on top.
If you ask around, most of them seem to agree that they’d rather watch The Undertaker go up against John Cena, so if Reigns were suddenly taken off the card due to an injury, that might actually convince them to be more interested in the event.
If Reigns goes into his match with The Undertaker as a babyface and wins it, all of them will be outraged.
If he loses it, they’ll be happy, but his supporters will be upset and it will feel like an odd situation as it’s unnatural to see people rejoice in a good guy’s loss.
The writers of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones and all other television shows don’t set up situations for the viewers to be hopeful that the protagonists will die as we’re supposed to be sad about that, not happy. The same applies to WWE’s loose rulebook.
On the other hand, if Reigns enters the match as a heel, then no matter what happens, we’ll be going along with the script.
If he loses, we’re supposed to be glad The Undertaker was victorious, and we will be. If he beats The Phenom, it will have been booked specifically to upset us and then you’d see the entire crowd collectively boo when they’re actually being told to do so, rather than when WWE is begging us to stop.
The worst case scenario to come out of a Reigns heel turn at this point in time is that it overloads the Raw roster with too many heels, but the draft can come up anytime WWE wants to make it happen, so that can solve that problem right away.
Also, with the return of Finn Balor and the possibility of bringing up someone like Shinsuke Nakamura, will help offset the problem as it is, and there’s nothing stopping a guy like Strowman from turning face to see how that works out.
WWE has nothing to lose and everything to gain from a Reigns’ heel turn, but if the next few weeks keep the status quo and the creative team is foolish enough to think fans will lay down and start cheering for The Big Dog, they deserve every bit of backlash they’ll end up getting.
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