The hot topic heading into WrestleMania - for the second year in a row - is Roman Reigns: Why WWE has used him the way they have, how he's performed and, more than anything else, what the live fan reaction to him means.
Shouldn't be surprising then that his opponent at Mania 32 on April 3, WWE World Heavyweight champ Triple H, would be directly and indirectly addressing that talking point as he makes the rounds promoting this Sunday's show at AT&T Stadium.
He spoke about it in a general way on SportsCenter last night, as he sat down with old colleague Jonathan Coachman for ESPN. In discussing his comeback from injury at Madison Square Garden in 2002, a moment many have called the loudest pop in wrestling history and Coach says he uses to describe the toughness of sports entertainers, Haitch says that all wrestlers get nervous about the crowd response, and discusses the importance of fans to pro graps as a performance art:
In speaking to CBS Sports, The Game was specifically asked about Reigns, and he explained away boos for a top babyface like the Big Dog as where the business, and society, is now:
You know, the hardest thing in this business to do now is, as a character, to either make everyone love you or everyone hate you.
The world is a divided place in politics, in music and everything. Choices now, and people's opinions, are front and center more than ever. The Internet makes that readily available to everybody. They know all of the machinations of everything and the behind-the-scenes of everything, you know.
It used to be that the good guy was the guy that didn't cheat, you know what I mean? It was just very simple. The world has changed. I think [Reigns has] done a phenomenal job. He's, you know, from a behind-the-scenes standpoint, a great human being. I'm really happy for his success, as I am for all of them.
The days of everybody loves the white knight and everybody hates the dark knight are gone.
While that answer is very political in a lot of ways, at least in terms of not being a comprehensive analysis of the factors which go into presenting a character and story and the responses fans have to that, Trips was more matter-of-fact in answering what the reaction means for business:
You've seen it for, what, the last 10 years with John Cena. I used to say to John all the time, "You're the Red Sox and the Yankees in the same game. Half the place hates you, half the place loves you, but it's full, so who cares?"
The big question here, I suppose, is how this fits into the theory the Game is part of a backstage plot to ensure Reigns doesn't get over... since here he presents it very matter of factly, and as something about which WWE isn't terribly worried.
Thoughts, Cagesiders? Excited for the future of WWE to be built around top acts half the crowds hate?