Did you hear the boos at WrestleMania 33? Did you hear the boos on Raw the next night? Did you hear Roman Reigns get booed out of the building at the Royal Rumble the past few years? It’s clear that he’s the guy in WWE, but will he ever be the guy in the eyes of the fans? Can Roman Reigns become the Hulk Hogan / Steve Austin / Rock mega-babyface that WWE would like him would be?
As they say, “anything is possible in the WWE” and I don’t think it’s completely out of the question for Roman Reigns to eventually become a Hogan-like babyface, or at least as close to something like that as is possible nowadays. The answer on how to do this may be right under WWE’s nose, but maybe they’re too much in their own wrestling bubble to actually see it. I say if you want to get him over, stop trying to get him over and let him get himself over. Serve him up a nice cup of future endeavors. That’s right, I’m suggesting that WWE actually fire Roman Reigns.
Okay, maybe “fire” is the wrong word, but I’m suggesting that they part ways with Roman for a while, let him do his own thing on the indy circuit, in Japan, in RoH, in Lucha Underground or wherever he wants to go, and let him try to get over on his own without the WWE machine behind him. It would be an interesting experiment, wouldn’t it?
The most obvious example of this is the Hardy Boyz. For years it seemed like both Matt and Jeff hardy were on a downward spiral after leaving WWE. Both brothers have had their substance abuse problems, most notably Jeff during the infamous TNA Victory Road 2011 incident, but look at the Hardys now. Matt has been able to use his own creativity to reinvent himself, get the Hardys over and create such a big buzz that it landed them back at WrestleMania to one of the biggest pops of the night.
It worked with AJ Styles too. The guy spent over ten years in TNA with seemingly unlimited potential, but never really took off. Then, after leaving in 2013, he spent only two years on the indies and in Japan doing things his own way before WWE realized that he’s the hottest unsigned wrestler out there.
The list goes on and on, but the formula is the same. The cream will rise to the top, but you have to let it rise on its own. If Roman Reigns really is as great as the powers that be in WWE think he is, he shouldn’t have any problem getting over on the small stage. Let him do it his own way and see what happens. I guarantee when he comes back, he’ll be an even bigger star.
Another big factor in someone getting over in WWE’s modern landscape is how much TV time they’re getting. WWE has so much programming nowadays that wrestlers get stale and overexposed easily, especially if they’re in the “20 minute promo + main event match” spot i.e. John Cena. This is a topic I talked at length about in my October 2015 blog when Alberto Del Rio made a surprise return at Hell in a Cell to defeat John Cena for the US Championship. Fans get tired of seeing the same guys over and over every week. I think it would be much more advantageous for WWE if wrestlers went on hiatus from time to time just to keep them fresh.
You know someone is over when all they have to do is stand in the ring and they get that long reaction for several minutes without even saying a word. I’m reminded of The Rock’s return to WWE in February of 2011 and Hulk Hogan’s memorable ovation on RAW after WM 18. Just watch those two videos and then watch Roman Reigns on RAW the night after WrestleMania 33 and you will see how over he is. However, if WWE keeps doing what they are doing, I’m afraid Reigns might get trapped in a John Cena hole that he will never be able to get out of where the fans are either split on him or there is some kind of other disconnect.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as Roman Reigns is drawing money in the form of live event attendance, merchandise sales and overall popularity, but wouldn’t having him in that super babyface role be more effective? Letting Roman get over on his own without the WWE machine behind him may be the only way to do that.
There’s no doubt that this is the guy that WWE has chosen to be the next face of the company. He’s main-evented the past three WrestleManias and was a major player in the past three Royal Rumbles, even winning it in 2015. He’s now also one of only two men to have ever beaten The Undertaker at WrestleMania. How much more is there even left for him to accomplish? How much more of a push can he possibly get? How much more of a rocket can you possibly strap to this guy? And the thing is, the fans still refuse to accept him as a babyface. When all else fails, if you really want this guy to be your poster boy, you’re going to have to let him get over on his own.
I think it would be really interesting to see how he would fend on the indys. After all, his first match was in FCW, the previous WWE developmental system before NXT and to my knowledge he’s never even wrestled an independent match. They say that if you can make it in Madison Square Garden you can make it anywhere, but how would Roman fare in a Korakuen Hall, in the old ECW Arena or at the National Guard Armory in Martinsburg, West Virginia?
Hey, if it works, it means he’s the guy, right? And if it doesn’t, it validates the fans. Sometimes there’s only so much the WWE machine can do. Sometimes the NXT system doesn’t work. Sometimes you just have to let it happen organically and I don’t see that happening any time soon in the near future. I only see him being something like the next John Cena. If that’s what makes money, so be it. Go ahead and play that card, but if it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to let go of what you treasure most. Believe that.
- Daniel Austin (Don Roid)