The Future of the Roman Empire?

June 2nd, 2014. It’s a date that should in the future go down in history. It was a different time – even though that sounds slightly strange to say given that it was just 15 months ago. Daniel Bryan was WWE Champion, Cesaro was a Heyman guy, Damien Sandow was doing different impressions every week, Adam Rose and Bo Dallas each won singles matches, and the broadcast team over the whole night included Jerry “The King” Lawler, Justin Roberts and Josh Matthews. But none of those things will be what makes that Raw historic (though Dallas and Rose winning today could certainly be considered as such). No, that was the night The Shield broke up.

Now I realise that there has already been an incredible amount written about that incident, including several columns on this very blog. But somehow it feels appropriate. See, people had been suspecting that The Shield was about to break-up for a few months prior to that night, and it had been strongly teased around the turn of the year heading into the Royal Rumble. Tensions had been rising for a long time between Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns. That’s what made it such a shock when it was Seth Rollins that turned his back on his Shield comrades.

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I’ve already written about how, in retrospect, it was a genius move, and absolutely the best for all parties. I mean, at the time, everybody thought it would be Dean Ambrose that would turn heel out of the group. Roman Reigns would go on to become the superstar face of the company, Rollins would become the beloved high flyer that could easily become lost in the shuffle. But nobody ever doubted that Ambrose would be the heel, it seemed such a natural fit. As it does now, with speculation that Ambrose may be about to turn on his “only friend” Roman Reigns. So I have to ask the question, what if WWE is about to pull a similar swerve on us? What if Roman Reigns actually turns on Ambrose?

There was that moment a couple of weeks ago on Raw where Reigns kind of stopped in the middle of a promo and asked Ambrose “am I your only friend?” to which Ambrose replied in the affirmative. If Reigns were to turn on him knowing that, Ambrose’s sympathy levels would go through the roof. I think most people can empathise with the feeling of being isolated, with no one to turn to for help. It would also give Reigns uber heat, since he knew exactly what kind of situation he was leaving Ambrose in. Ambrose is beloved anyway, but if Reigns deliberately left his one-time “brother” without anyone, and didn’t care, it would add another dimension to the turn.

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Strangely, I do think this could work really well. I mean come on, at most big events because of the kind of crowds that attend those events, Reigns gets booed anyway. And in the vast majority of the rest of the time, he gets decent reactions. Nothing spectacular, nothing particularly mind-blowing, and nothing that should elevate him to superstardom. In terms of reactions, he is behind Cena, Orton, Cesaro, Ambrose himself, Ziggler, Sting, The Dudley Boyz and Sasha Banks on the face side, and Banks is a heel. Based on that, he is an upper mid-card face. A good one, a popular mid-card face, but nowhere near that next level WWE so badly wanted him to be at earlier in the year.

As constantly seems to be the case no matter which side of the good guy/bad guy fence someone seems to be on, it looks as though there would be more of an opportunity for him to reach the top on the heel side of the roster. As a face, there is Seth Rollins for him to work with – which he has already done quite a lot, and which I suspect WWE are probably holding off on returning to until a bigger stage – as well as Sheamus. He is currently working with Bray Wyatt. Who else is there? Lesnar has kind of already been done, and he’s not around enough to do it anyway. A feud with Rusev would do nobody any favours, and the likes of Barrett just aren’t big enough to challenge him. The only name who might be at the right level for him is Kevin Owens, but that would also do more harm to Owens, who is already in desperate need of momentum.

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Compare that to faces who he could work with. A Dolph Ziggler rivalry would be awesome, as their styles would mesh so well. Ryback, while not a rivalry I particularly want to see, would be a battle of powerhouses and could end up with Reigns carrying some gold. I’m ruling out Randy Orton because they have already extensively worked together, but if Daniel Bryan returns an extended program with him could be epic. Cesaro would be a really cool match up, but the one I would be most interested in – just to see how it was booked – would be a feud between Roman Reigns and John Cena. Yes, I can already hear the groans. Cena has had the best year of his career in terms of match quality, and if he can deliver the same kind of quality with Reigns, it would prove to everybody that neither man is getting carried by their opponents on a regular basis and it could prove to be a passing of the torch moment.

And there’s always the glaring issue that nobody seems to care about. Remember when Reigns was being booked like a star? When he broke Kane’s record for the most eliminations in one Royal Rumble match? When he became the sole-survivor for his team at the 2013 Survivor Series, eliminating four opponents single-handedly in the process? In short, when we first took notice of Roman Reigns as one hell of a badass? He was a heel during all of those. It was as a heel he had the most respect, and it is as a heel he could become feared again as a threat.

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Quickly, a word on Ambrose. Having less competition on the face side of things is obviously a plus point, but it would also be good for Ambrose to be able to go up against his former teammates. Fans will easily rally behind Ambrose when he’s going up against the two men who took everything away from him. It’s a natural story that can allow Ambrose to legitimately hold the top belts and receive huge reactions while doing so.

Long term, I would still expect Ambrose to be a heel at some point, and Reigns to eventually become the top face in the company. But Michaels started out as a heel. Austin started out as a heel. Rock started out as a heel. Triple H started out as a heel. Cena started out as a heel. Lesnar started out as a heel. There is a long track record of people getting to the top as bad guys, and the fans embracing them and pushing them to legendary status. The same can still happen with Reigns, and although he was a heel as part of The Shield, a solo run could do wonders for him.

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It’s probably appropriate that I’ve saved the longest post of the week for last. There could potentially be some really exciting things happening in the future, so stick around.

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