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The rise and fall of the Roman Empire

Analyzing Roman's fluctuating fortunes in the WWE, and the backlash WWE is facing since his victory at the Royal Rumble.

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Feature 26 Jan 2015, 22:55 IST
3.63K
Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble and booked his place in WrestleMania

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Growing up, Royal Rumble was one of my favorite shows of the year. The uncertainty, unpredictability and pure chaos were all integral elements of the match. I vividly remember testing myself, trying to figure out who’d win the Rumble more than a decade ago. In professional wrestling, it is all about telling a story, trying to entwine the on – screen saga with the imagination of the fans. You build a story, and then let it play out in front of the fans who begin to connect two and two together. Unfortunately, that seems to be a lost art.

Last year, WWE did a colossal mistake. Vince McMahon, still with the “fans don’t know what they want, we tell them what they want” mentality refused to listen to the fans. This resulted in one of the biggest superstars of the past decade getting booed out of the building, and even worse getting labeled as “Bootista”. Did Batista deserve the kind of negative backlash that was imposed on him? Certainly not, but with WWE ignoring the meteoric rise of Daniel Bryan, it isn’t wrong to say that they had it coming.

Fluctuating fortunes

This year, it was evident that the WWE wanted to create the so-called “Roman Empire”. Roman Reigns was one of the most popular superstars in 2014. But in the past few months, the WWE Universe has turned on the former muscle of The Shield, acting in defiance and making a statement that they wouldn’t want the repetition of last year’s fiasco.

In a recent interview, Roman acknowledged this change in fortunes and mentioned that the critics were all fans, and not wrestlers. Interestingly enough, he also claimed that the so-called “haters” hated their lives.

It is one thing to be average on the mic, but it isn’t exactly wise on Roman’s part to critique the same fans that are responsible for him earning his livelihood. Not too long ago, Roman was the favorite child of the IWC and the passionate fans, but that connection is all but broken. During his time with The Shield, Roman was protected by Dean Ambrose and to a lesser extent by Seth Rollins. Now on his own, Roman hasn’t evolved with time; Roman needs either acting lessons or a new manager to shield him, similar to what Paul Heyman’s role is with Brock Lesnar.

WWE and Vince McMahon face the wrath of the fans

The reason for the fans’ frustrations lies deeper than Roman’s inability to “work the mic”. Vince McMahon has lost touch with the fans and has been delivering underwhelming content for the past few years. His refusal to listen to the WWE Universe came back to haunt him last year, and the same has already begun after Roman’s victory last night.

Not only was the live audience booing and jeering Roman, which also included a “Let’s go Rusev” chant when Roman and Rusev were the last two remaining in the match, but it was also reported that the fans barricaded the vehicles of the WWE management in the parking lot!

The fans at home too joined in, with “Cancel WWE Network” trending worldwide on Twitter moments after the Royal Rumble concluded. It was also reported that the WWE site crashed for over an hour, with people cancelling their network subscriptions – not a positive sign for the company and the number one contender for the WWE World Heavyweight title, who is also set to headline this year’s WrestleMania.

Although WWE tried to go into damage control during the Rumble match, bringing The Rock out to save Roman from Kane and Big Show, it didn’t pan out exactly as the management would’ve wanted. While Dwayne was received with open arms by the fans, erupting into a thunderous ovation for the former Royal Rumble winner, his cousin received a much contrasting reception.

Even when The Rock raised Roman’s hand as the winner, the Philly crowd booed him out of the building – a clear sign of disinterest among the fans. Much like last year, WWE should’ve listened to their fans, instead of just calling them “vocal”, and claiming to listen to their fans more than any other industry.

It all boils down to the finances, and how much interest the main event would generate come WrestleMania. WWE would be wary of the negative response the result will generate, and it would be wise on their part to include Daniel Bryan in the main event of this year’s WrestleMania. It would’ve given the fans satisfaction to see Bryan win the Rumble – something that he was robbed of last year, and WWE might be pushed once again to change the main event of this year’s WrestleMania.

Either way, the next couple of weeks will be pivotal for the career of Roman Reigns. If he faces the same situation as Batista did last year, then WWE would’ve shot themselves in their own foot by pulling the trigger on Roman a little too soon.

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