Roman Reigns was, at one time, anointed to be the next top star for the WWE, taking the “John Cena spot” as the center piece of the company. As history shows, Reigns didn’t get over, and still isn’t over in most situations.
The reason Roman Reigns isn’t over after two years of being pushed as the main event guy was summed up in one segment this past week on Raw. As Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho were complimenting each other in the ring, Reigns interrupted and mocked them before setting up a match with Owens later that night. The problem is, Roman attempted to be witty and comical, which came across as lame and counterproductive to what could be a successful formula for him.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the WWE seems to be looking for the next John Cena instead of just the next top star. While Cena is one of the most polarizing athletes in WWE history, he’s a rare breed and nobody can deny his work ethic. Plus, regardless of if fans pay to cheer him or pay to boo him, John Cena draws money, which is the key to truly being considered the top guy. Again, some might boo him, but Cena has the mic skills to make the comedy promos work, at least for the demographic of the audience that he’s trying to reach.
Roman’s attempt to sound witty comes across as forced and unnatural, which is why the fans aren’t buying it. Keep in mind, you can’t blame Reigns for this either, he’s literally just doing what he’s told. Clearly, Roman works hard and he’s doing the best he can with what he’s given, and it’s disappointing that he gets so much flak for it, but the audience has sent a message to management with the continuously hostile reaction. The perils of over scripted promos and an over sanitized product are another discussion for another time, but there’s no question that the ridged script hasn’t benefited the career of Roman Reigns.
It’s a little puzzling why the over scripting ideology is still being used as the direction of the product, especially when it’s generally acknowledged that the most successful characters in sports entertainment are simply extensions of those that are portraying them. The bottom line is, Roman Reigns isn’t John Cena and he’s not going to get over the same way that Cena did. If Roman is going to eventually be the top guy, he will get over in his own way.
But, can Roman Reigns get over at this point?
When The Shield was one of the most popular stables on WWE TV, Roman Reigns was presented as a destroyer. It was simple and somewhat one dimensional, but it was effective. The Samoan monster that is willing to fight all challengers was and can be effective. WWE brass has really flip-flopped on the presentation of Reigns, during the Sheamus feud, he was portrayed as the no non-sense powerhouse, but subsequently he attempted to deliver tacky jokes during a rather lackluster feud with Rusev. Speaking of the US title series, after the HIAC match with Rusev, Roman took a second after the pin to pose with the “surfs up” sign to the camera and it was so lame that it took the intensity away from the match that just happened. This past Monday, the promo with Owens was another example of how attempted comedy will limit the success of Reigns, as he again had lines that were similar to something Cena would be known to say, and delivered them in such a way that it actually took away from the effectiveness of his character. If the path to truly getting over on a long term basis for Roman is as the Samoan destroyer, why dilute that with counterproductive promos?
However, will the audience buy Reigns as a monster after these attempted witty promos?
In some ways, Reigns was exposed when he sounded unnatural attempting to deliver over scripted lines, and considering how often the presentation of his character was switched, does he still have the credibility to be perceived as the Samoan monster that will fight anyone?
Another point to consider, is when will Roman Reigns getting yet another run in the main event become stale? He has won the WWE title a few different times and still isn’t over as a main event star so it’s somewhat of a “been there done that” type of scenario. He won the match against Owens on Raw to get a title shot at the Road Block pay-per-view, but is there really a demand for him to be in the title picture?
Basically, if Roman is going to get over to the extent that the WWE is pushing for, it seems like there’s going to have be some type of reset for him, as the audience continues to make it clear they’ve had enough of the Reigns experiment. It was discussed previously that a heel turn would be a way to add a completely new dynamic to his character, and there was a time in sports entertainment when a performer that prompted booing from the crowd would actually be a heel. The lack of competition in the business allows WWE more flexibility when it comes to presenting the product that they want and as effective of a decision as it might be, it doesn’t seem like Reigns is going to turn heel. Another option would be to have him take some time off and start fresh in a few months as a way to reset his character for the audience, but considering the brand extension divided the rosters, management will probably keep him on TV for the estimated star power he brings to Raw.
If Roman was booked for the title match at Road Block just to give Owens and opponent, it doesn’t say much about their hopes for him to be the top star. At the same time, if Reigns wins, it doesn’t appear that one match is going to win over the crowd for him. While the US title is more of a consolation prize than anything, will there be a point when the WWE acknowledges that the Reigns experiment flopped?
Granted, the WWE is a global company for a reason and they bet right more than wrong, but it’s obvious that Roman Reigns isn’t over and it was summed up in one segment on this past week.
Until next week
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