Defending the Empire

Roman Reigns. New era (since WWE insist on using that term as a promotional tool), same old problem. In the space of two years, he has already become the new era’s new John Cena. He’s the guy WWE wants on top, he’s the guy a lot of the kids are gravitating towards, but he’s the guy who is also hated by the older – or maybe I should say smarter – generation.

Here’s my issue with the whole Reigns situation: I don’t think he’s that bad. While he is by no means my favourite, and there are many other people I would rather see hold the championship than him, he is definitely capable. Before I get into specifics, I want to point out something that’s dawned on me recently.

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Much like WWE was looking for someone to take over the mantle of the face of the company from John Cena, the fans were looking for Cena’s replacement too. Cena was the guy a lot of fans could rally against, and it almost became the cool thing for a lot of people to boo the guy. We may now see that there’s a token good guy that be fans boo.

I’m not sure it’s a coincidence that the boos for Reigns started gaining momentum as John Cena was having the best in ring year of his career, with his US Title open challenge becoming one of the most anticipated segments even for Cena’s haters. Just as Reigns was getting pushed down our throats, Cena was winning people over, and the fans turned their attention to the new guy.

But anyway, earlier I said I thought Reigns was capable. I think he is actually quite underrated in the ring. Being afforded some protection while in The Shield, Reigns was allowed to shine and do what he was best at: high impact moves. But when you branch out on your own a match has to contain more than what he had shown up until that point.

He was at his best when he was in physical brawls. Let’s not forget he was winning the Wrestlemania 31 crowd over in his match with Brock Lesnar because of his physicality. And the booking put him on a level playing field with the beast incarnate. The crowd that had started off massively against him were beginning to rally until Seth Rollins made an appearance.

Roman Brock

As far as I could see, the main issue most people took with Reigns was that he couldn’t talk. He was though, being given nursery rhymes. There aren’t many people in the company who could have saved face while spouting nursery rhymes at their opponent. He has improved so much in that regard, mostly because I think WWE has started figuring out what they want him to be. Yes his whole “I’m not a good guy, I’m not a bad guy, I’m the guy” shtick still sounds a tad forced, but it’s much better than what he was doing before.

I had no interest in Reigns match with Triple H at this year’s Mania, but I put that mainly down to 1) the overwhelming predictability of the final outcome 2) my belief that HHH shouldn’t have been anywhere near the title picture, and 3) just that there were so many other more interesting prospects on the card.

But what he has done with AJ Styles since then has been very impressive. They had really good chemistry together in their two month program. They managed to introduce Gallows & Anderson, make all of The Club look like threats, all the while keeping Reigns looking like a champion and reinforcing his on-screen link with the Usos. I fear Styles will get all the credit for their matches. While he has done a fantastic job since debuting in January, this was a key mistake towards Cena for many years – the idea that his opponent carried him through. So they say, it takes two to tango, and looking back on Cena’s career he was much better in the ring than a lot of fans gave him credit for. It would be a shame if the same thing happened to Reigns.

Roman AJ

Reigns is getting better both in the ring and on the mic, and let’s face it, he has so much going for him. There’s a reason WWE picked him to push to the moon over others. He has the look, he has the heritage, if he has the work rate behind the scenes there are very few downsides. He has untapped athleticism that can be seen from his FCW/early NXT days that he can mix with big power moves.

I understand why people don’t like him, the main reason until now being his lack of characterisation. And as I’ve said already, he wouldn’t be my number one guy in the company. But even if you wouldn’t have him right up there, it’d be tough to say he shouldn’t be at least close to main event status. Maybe, just maybe, the return of the brand extension (which incidentally is something I have been advocating for years) will be the biggest blessing for Roman. Being the top guy on the second brand might be the perfect fit for him.

Even though crowd reactions may not support it, I still see Roman Reigns as a hugely valuable asset to the company, and a future bona fide star. He may require a change or two along the way to his presentation, but there is still time for him to become exactly what WWE have always wanted him to be – the top star in the company.

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