There’s an argument in the wrestling community that Alexa Bliss is a female version of Roman Reigns, or vice versa. It’s one I’ve made myself in the Cageside offices when asking why Bliss and her booking is generally cheered/loved by what seems to be many of the same fans who loudly dislike Reigns and the way WWE uses him in their stories.
Obviously, there’s not a one-to-one corrolation. Alexa is a heel, gifted on the microphone, and a woman. Roman is a face-leaning tweener who shines in the ring, and a man. The size of the roster they exist within and the amount of screen time their divisions receive are big factors.
But most of the oft-stated reasons for hating Reigns - didn’t earn his spot, isn’t well-rounded enough to deserve to be on top, elevated at the expense of others and “shoved down our throats” by virtue of too much time in the main event scene - can be applied to Bliss.
Yet even while The Big Dog is removed from the top of the card and put in a mid-card, non-title program, such as Roman was for his Money in the Bank feud with Jinder Mahal, he’s jeered. The Goddess can be cast in a story where she’s a full-on Disney villain, like she was for WrestleMania 34 feud with Nia Jax, and be cheered.
We can debate if that’s just the nature of heel-loving 21st century fans, an indication folks who claim to love workrate over everything else actually want funny promos and cutting insults more than great matches, or a predominantly male fanbase judging an attractive woman by different standards than an attractive man.
What WWE seems to have learned from it is that if you want to get someone booed in 2018, you have to get meta.
Just like in the days of before Vince McMahon pulled back the kayfabe curtain, it’s more difficult to manufacture a face pop in the ‘Reality’ Era than heel heat. McMahon and company tried to force cheers for Reigns heading into ‘Mania by casting him as someone being screwed by the authority. It didn’t work. At all.
But if you can convince audiences you’re “shoving someone down their throats”? That person might get booed, even if she is a beautiful blonde with a silver tongue.
So if you were to take a wrestler who’s held a championship title for something like 18 of the 24 months she’s been on the main roster, booked her to win the Money in the Bank briefcase over several popular characters, including a certain redhead Chicago was desperate to see get the kind of moment she hasn’t had since said wrestler beat her in 2016, then had her use the briefcase on the same night to reclaim a title she only just lost in April... there might be some backlash to that.
Just in time for that person to feud with Ronda Rousey, an apparent wrestling prodigy who’s already a household name, that the company’s invested heavily in and wants to ensure continues to get cheers.
We’ll start to find out tonight (June 18) when Raw is in Grand Rapids, Michigan whether or not the heat Bliss has been getting online since Money in the Bank went off the air will translate into arenas. If it does, WWE might get the moment they’ve been looking for at SummerSlam, where a nearly universally beloved babyface* captures a Championship by vanquishing a hated rival on a major stage.
It just won’t be Roman Reigns. But they may have a lesson they learned from booking him to thank for it.
* Of course, they have to hope people don’t recognize how much the arguments for disliking Roman apply to Ronda, too. But they’ve been really successful in avoiding those comparisons by emphasizing what a hard-working fan of the business/artform she is so far, and there’s no reason to believe that’ll stop being effective between now and Aug 19.