Believe it or not, there was a time when entire days would go by without Roman Reigns giving an interview that included some cringeworthy quote for blogs like this one to pick up on and pick apart while watching the traffic pile up. There was a day when he wasn't an easy target for derisive chants on Monday Night Raw. There was actually a time when it was clear he was the chosen one, the member of The Shield who would be pushed hardest when the group broke up, and that was totally okay.
So what the hell happened?
You could argue Daniel Bryan and his fans are to blame. After all, he never lost the WWE world heavyweight championship following his Cinderella run to the title at WrestleMania 30, so when he returned for the Royal Rumble there were certain expectations to go along with it. Plus, it was in Philadelphia, a town far more likely to respect the wrestler it wants over the one WWE wants it to.
You could argue he's being pushed too hard, too fast, and he's just not ready for it. This despite the fact that he's been on the main roster for just over two years and has participated in a number of outstanding matches, one of which was the main event of Fastlane. For the sake of comparison, Brock Lesnar, Roman's opponent at WrestleMania 31, was WWE champion within his first six months on the main roster, overthrowing one of the most beloved stars of all time, The Rock.
You could argue WWE made multiple baffling decisions after Reigns had surgery to repair an incarcerated hernia, such as frequent check-ins in the form of "live via satellite" interviews, none of which were worth anyone's time and destroyed any hype for a big return. Essentially, he was robbed of a highlight reel moment and one of the funnest things in wrestling: A wrestler returning after many months away dealing with injury.
Now, looking at all that, how much of that has to do with Roman Reigns himself? How much hate has he run into thanks to a series of decisions he had no part in making that he executed to the best of his ability?
Sure, Reigns has plenty to work on as a wrestler. He's not the most polished worker, it's fair to doubt if he can carry a big money match, and his promos leave something to be desired. But he's getting better in the ring each week, he tore the house down the last time he was in the main event and he's far from the only top star who struggles on the microphone.
Let's be real: That includes Daniel Bryan.
And even with that, he's getting better.
Remember when The Shield broke up on Raw in June of last year? And how the main focus of that break up was Seth Rollins turning but feuding first with Dean Ambrose? The star of that segment, one of the best in a number of years, was Roman Reigns.
I still can't get over how great he responded to that chair shot, with pain quickly followed by the crippling realization that it was Rollins hitting him and everything was shot. He falls into the rope in what appears to be an attempt to embrace it, like he's looking for comfort he knows he'll need after he hits the mat.
After so many unbelievably stupid decisions by WWE, it's been easy to forget that Reigns has been good. He's been really good, actually, in really big spots, like the GIF you see above, or the match with Bryan in the main event of Fastlane.
If I was given the pencil and told to book WWE, there are quite a few things I would change but the decision to make Reigns the focus of the promotion is not one of them. He's got the look, he's got the drive, he's got all the right spots to pop the live crowds, and he's steadily improving in every area you could consider a weak point.
I don't love how WWE has brought us to this point but you know what?
I love Roman Reigns.
Come at me, haters who hate because they hate their lives.