Another WWE pay-per-view (PPV) has come and gone, and once again, Roman Reigns is at the center of all discussion. And also once again, the discussion is more about our reaction to Reigns than anything that occurred in the ring. In fact, this discussion is completely overshadowing the fact that Reigns was beaten by Braun Strowman.
No, Reigns didn't overcome.
He didn't beat Braun with one arm tied behind his back.
He didn't execute one move out of nowhere to drop the giant.
And we still hate him for it.
A lot of comments I see try to resolve this hatred around Roman's actual performance.
"His in-ring abilities are limited." Yet, he seems to have at least one more move than Braun, and possibly two more moves than Brock.
"He's a bad promo." This line of reasoning doesn't seem to stop anyone from cheering Bayley.
Bunk! Let's dispense with the above complaints because objectively, they just don't ring true. In the WWE Universe, Roman is perfectly capable both in-ring and on the mic. Maybe he's not all-world at either, but you'd be hard pressed to find a recent Roman moment where he does anything remotely cringeworthy to undermine his status as a main event superstar.
The fact of the matter is, Roman Reigns is simply not a compelling character.
In thinking about this post, I struggled to come up with a reason why I'm supposed to like Roman in the first place, other than the fact that I was told to. What makes him a face? I really don't know.
His first major singles angle was with The Authority, and dear lord did it lack alignment. As this was essentially the way WWE was building Roman, it should've been far clearer who the good and bad guys were. Unfortunately, The Authority simply weren't bad enough as evil, oppressive bosses to make us clamor for a white knight. They cared little for the rest of the roster, focusing solely on Seth Rollins. Nobody gave two craps about them or their influence.
And whereas Daniel Bryan had to hijack a damn show to get his shot, The Authority simply kept handing Roman opportunities. This was like the coach's son losing his starting quarterback spot only to be given the starting running back spot.
How am I supposed to rally around a guy when it's obvious he'll be given what he wants?
But more to the point, why am I rallying around this guy?
This is the question WWE has yet to answer for your humble narrator...
I just don't get why I'm supposed to care.
One thing that made DB so beloved, and makes Bayley and Sami Zayn so beloved, is that they're sold as natural underdogs. Roman will never be an underdog. Hell, just looking at the guy immediately renders this point moot. Couple that with booking that has seen him overcome time and again and you'd be hard pressed to come up with any reasonable situation in which Roman would not be considered a favorite.
Now you say, "Hey, a lot of tops guys aren't/weren't underdogs." You are correct. Guys like The Rock, HBK, Stone Cold, Triple H, Undertaker were never underdogs. You know what they were? Charismatic. Dynamic. Or just completely bad ass. They had an easy cool about them. They were entertaining. They didn't seem like characters, which made them such great characters.
Fast forward to today and you get the same vibe from guys like AJ Styles, Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, The Miz, Dean Ambrose, and Bray Wyatt. This collection of heels and faces has one thing in common: they give you a reason to be interested in their fate.
Why? Because they're all tremendous characters, brought to life by performers who are beyond entertaining.
I want Jericho to win because I love what he's become. I'm not rooting for him to overcome some injustice. I'm rooting for him because he somehow found a way to get a major pop for the word "it".
I root for Styles in spite of the fact that he can be a cocky asshole because he's an incredibly entertaining cocky asshole who is probably the best wrestler on the roster.
Owens cracks me up almost every time I see him. He then follows it up with something incredibly devious. If this were high school, Owens would be the guy who takes your lunch money but then pranks a teacher so hard you just have to laugh.
I've never been a fan of Ambrose in the ring but I'm invested in his matches because I'd love to grab a beer with Ambrose.
Miz TV is often a complete show stealer thanks to the comedic and smarmy chops of The Miz.
These guys are all characters that pull you in, regardless of what they're doing. The Roman Reigns character simply doesn't have that pull for a lot of people.
WWE has never done a great job of giving Roman a counter-balance we've all wanted to see beaten. They've also never really given us a reason to care. I wish they'd do both, as Roman's matches generally end up being pretty good affairs.
But when it comes down to it, I just can't bring myself to give a damn, and I can't understand why I'm even supposed to. I feel bad for Roman the performer, who through no fault of his own may go down as the most polarizing figure ever to enter a WWE ring. It's just that when it comes down to it, it may be his yard, but I'd rather go party with the neighbors.