clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Suspension should be WWE's pivot point on Roman Reigns

Yesterday's news rocked the wrestling world, and left many unanswered questions. But, it could be easy to turn a negative into a positive, provided WWE finally stops trying to sail against the tide.

"You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before." - Rahm Emmanuel

Without question, the leading opinion across much of the WWE Universe for the past two years has been a heel turn for Roman Reigns. You've read countless thought pieces and editorials begging for Vince McMahon to remove the stubborn portion of his brain and just accept what's directly in front of his face. The new "Chosen One" has been compared to Rocky Maivia, John Cena, and Hulk Hogan. I've always seen him as akin to an early Batista, but a better worker at this stage in his career than Big Dave ever became. Batista could talk, and was willing to go off script, whereas Reigns has consistently attempted to walk the company tightrope, even if it was only three inches off the ground. There are differences, but that's always going to be true in an analysis of more than one thing.

Now Reigns has been suspended for 30 days, which brought out some bad jokes, even worse memes, and some pretty ugly comments from trolls who couldn't even pinpoint exactly why they can't stand the guy. Let's get this out of the way. I like Roman Reigns. I think he's been placed in a position to fail, but he's had a terrific 2016 in the ring. He showed several flashes of serious improvement throughout 2015, and he works his ass off to try and live up to the hype his boss has placed on him. Seriously, can you think of a WWE performer who has ever been under more pressure than Roman has endured since The Shield split up two summers ago?

We don't know the specifics of the suspension, as the amorphous "Wellness Policy" name allows for vast speculation, much of which can end up being worse than the actual infraction. All we can rely upon is the reality that this man is off television for the next month. Regardless of when WWE knew of the test results or the timing of the announcement, Roman will be at the house until the Thursday before Battleground. Hopefully, he finally can sit back, spend some time with his family, and just exhale. He knows he made a mistake, he owned it, and there's not much more he can do. The most vile of his critics will laugh and revel in his misery, but you'll be waiting an extremely long time if you're hoping to see that kind of thing here.

When he returns, it's those dill holes who will lead chants of "Roid Rage" or "P-E-D" or whatever else, because these people exist. We all know these folks are out there, and while we'll roll our eyes, it may wear a bit on Roman Reigns, and even more so on WWE.

LeBron James spurned Cleveland while wearing a picnic tablecloth in front of Jim Gray several years ago and became public enemy number one. Not just Cavs fans had problems with LBJ; it was the entire country. He, along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, had their celebration, leading to the whole, "not three, not four, not five," nonsense, which only exacerbated and crystalized the vitriol against the Miami Heat. During his time in South Beach, James worried about James, and when he talked, it came with a hint of belligerence or a shrugged shoulder mentality. He won most fans back over before he ever returned home, but in those first few years, he just allowed the villain narrative to propagate. We knew he wasn't a bad guy, but we also knew he was still THE guy.

Less than a week ago, the very same LeBron James held up the Larry O'Brien trophy after winning the NBA Championship in the greatest Game 7 in league history. He did it as more of a babyface, at least as much as someone can be in an era where division and jealousy reigns supreme (no pun intended) in everything from sports to politics to entertainment to dog walking. The King didn't get dinged for PED's, but there's something here for WWE to learn as it relates to changing course and being flexible at the proper moment.

If Reigns comes back and tells everyone in the audience to shove it up their collective asses, then annihilates Dean Ambrose with a chair, the company will be better for it, and Roman will definitely be better for it. Just because Vince McMahon desperately wants Reigns to be the smiling face of his company, it doesn't mean it's in anyone's best interest. It's been a flop. It hasn't worked. Many hardcore fans rejected Reigns the second they realized they had no equity, whatsoever, in his rise, his success, or his spot on the card. The arrogance of the fan base can be problematic for a promotion, but it's something that also has to be dealt with, or at least taken into consideration during the planning phase of production.

As we approach the WWE Draft on July 19, everything should change. New rivalries, new superstars, call-ups from NXT, new signings, and a new philosophy. It's the perfect time, even without a suspension, to pull the trigger on a Roman Reigns heel turn. What's the worst that could happen? It doesn't work? Fine, turn him back babyface. It's not as if he'd be worse off then than he is today. Throw in the suspension, where he's in the news for all the wrong reasons, and the fresh character is sitting on the shelf, just waiting to be picked up, crafted, and nurtured.

This decision could not be any easier. John Cena is still the company's biggest babyface star, Dean Ambrose is the Champion and has the people behind him, and performers like Sami Zayn, Sasha Banks, Cesaro, Enzo and Cass, and the New Day are delighting audiences as fan favorites. Shinsuke Nakamura, American Alpha, and Bayley are soon to join them. Take this huge man with the giant arms (that's not a joke), perfect face, and intimidating look and let him tell the audience that he knows how great he is and how dominant he is. He knows he could snatch your wife from you while you're still holding her hand. He knows he could kick your teeth down your throat, and since he's grown increasingly wealthy, he can get away with it. He's well aware that everybody in the back would kill for even half of what he possesses. And then, the kicker...

He knows why Vince McMahon and the WWE made him the guy.

It's because he IS the guy.

Sure, that might turn those that hate him into his biggest fans, but there's no downside in that either. When The Rock got popular as a heel, he gradually became the biggest star in the company. After that moment of critical mass, he could represent the side of bright light or complete darkness, drawing money either way. If the goal is to make Reigns the top babyface for the next decade, the best way to do it is to give in to fan demand now, then wait for him to turn into CM Punk and use that to manipulate the crowd into buying into the "hero" thing once they've fallen for his skullduggery schtick. Or, at worst, you create the next Triple H instead of the next John Cena. Maybe you just create the first true Roman Reigns, who becomes this generation's archetype for self-centered jerk.

The WWE Universe doesn't hate the man behind Roman Reigns. Very few believe he's a bad guy, and after interviewing him two years ago, I can tell you firsthand he's the opposite. They just hate the character as they're forced to endure it on a weekly basis. So, to Vince McMahon, throw them a bone, throw Roman a bone, and give him a chance to live up to your expectations. Those visions in your head, the fantasies that seem a million miles away? Yeah, those. This is the way to hit reset on the screw-ups, the false starts, and the poor casting.

This suspension sucks, and we hate it for Roman Reigns, who can learn from it and make personal improvements.

WWE doesn't need to learn from it. They need to use it.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Cageside Seats Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your pro wrestling news from Cageside Seats