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WWE’s monsters are beyond simple classification

Sunday night proved exactly one thing. In the world of monsters, just pick your favorite.

Roman Reigns committed attempted murder on Sunday night in full view of a fleet of television cameras following his loss to Braun Strowman in the ambulance match at Great Balls of Fire. Of this, there is no debate. He’s not the first to do something of this sort, but for a babyface to turn into the world’s sorest loser after a defeat in which he defeated himself was quite the head scratcher.

I joined many immediately afterward who were just SURE this was a double turn, even if WWE hadn’t realized it yet. It had to be. Strowman refused help, and I tweeted about Bret Hart and Steve Austin at WrestleMania XIII. There simply was no other explanation that satisfied what we’d all seen unfold on this show.

Except that there was, and by the end of Monday night’s RAW program, I finally understood what’s happening. By the end of this article, you will as well.

The calls for Reigns to turn heel and embrace the dark side, thus pleasing the fan base that boos him out of every taping and house show in the world, have been loud and they’ve existed for years. I’ve written and begged Vince to flip his character before, and I’ve also then written that he should be left exactly as he is. His reaction on the post-WrestleMania edition of RAW in Orlando this year was the Roman Reigns I always want to see.

That guy was just a guy. He was an asshole if you wanted him to be an asshole. He was a smug prick, but he was real. He felt like someone that didn’t give a damn whether you liked him or not. He doesn’t cheat to win, but he’s the chosen one. He’s the one Vince anointed with oil and will not give up on. So he’s hated. Even though the last bad Roman Reigns match wasn’t in 2017, and it also wasn’t in 2016.

When he came out on Monday night, following attempted vehicular homicide, he was that same ole’ Roman Reigns we’ve always watched. He wasn’t arrested on sight, and he was barely even scolded. He wanted his shot at Brock Lesnar, and that was the entirety of his storyline, up until Samoa Joe joined the equation a few minutes later.

Joe spoke effectively about his match with Lesnar the night before, his desire for a rematch, and also took a few verbal jabs at Reigns. Brock had to be censored, as usual, for using a word inappropriate on the USA Network, and sat back smugly as he has for years. Braun Strowman was nowhere to be found, which begs the question why WWE didn’t send a few officials after him when he left. He was on foot. He was moving very slowly.

“No one has seen him since last night.” Kurt, did anyone even try? He’s probably only about two blocks from the building right NOW based on his condition when he left. He may be resting against a park bench or something. Go find that guy! He may need help!

Braun was a babyface on Sunday night when he left. He was actually a babyface before that point, because he stared across the ring and saw Roman Reigns. If you’re in the ring with Roman, you’re likely the one being cheered. He didn’t behave like a hero, but who the hell dislikes Braun Strowman? What are you? A communist?

Of these four men, allow me to ask one simple question of you, the reader. Which guy is the babyface of this quartet? Have your say in the comments, or tweet me @JMartOutkick. You can make a viable argument, literally, for any of them. And that’s the point.

WWE may not have intentionally done this, but they’ve formulated and executed a philosophy when it comes to their A-level giants. When it comes to the behemoths, the monsters, provided they’re in the main event, they can just... shit.

For example:

Roman Reigns can back an ambulance into a solid structure.

Braun Strowman can overturn an ambulance with another man inside.

Brock Lesnar can cuss, hurt people, and make them bleed.

Samoa Joe can attack a defenseless manager, both on television and even before the bell rings in a match. And he can choke people out.

Any of these men can play babyface or heel on a given night. Any of them can be likable, and any of them can be a complete jerk. They can hurt people, they can spit at each other, they can bully smaller guys, they can thumb their nose at the fans, among other possibilities.

When Conor McGregor fought Nate Diaz, some people liked Conor and others liked Nate, while others just watched with interest. It wasn’t that one guy was necessarily a hero and the other a villain. These were two complex individuals acting in the moment, rather than based on a predetermined scale of “like me” or “hate me.” At times, both built houses on each side.

We must stop thinking of Brock, Braun, Roman, and Joe in terms of babyface and heel, protagonist and antagonist, because WWE is repeatedly telling us THEY don’t view them in one classification for longer than a week at a time. None of them plays to the fans virtually at all, with Roman the only one that even acknowledges the audience’s existence. Whether it’s a good thing or not, I can’t answer, although I’m enjoying the work and spectacle of each guy, and I like feeling off guard about where their allegiances might lie.

There’s one problem, however, with this strategy for WWE. For this to work, and feel as fresh and unique as it could, the rest of the company needs to be on the extremes. That’s simply not the case. How many truly likable babyfaces does WWE have? How many hatable heels? The answer in both cases is a small number. That must change, and unfortunately, I don’t foresee it being the norm going forward.

Vince, if you want to make your top monsters all just some version of “Select Your Beast,” you have got to give the viewer something to cheer for and something to reject. With very few exceptions, you’ve failed in that responsibility. I think the idea that the main event terrors and juggernauts are all off the beaten path is potentially wonderful, but that means everyone else needs to be on the main road.

Right now, they aren’t, and that’s why WWE feels so consistently disjointed and uneven.

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