As much as we all may be tired of talking about it, Roman Reigns’ mishandling will be one of the defining aspects of this era of pro wrestling.
WWE’s stubborn refusal to accept the outright rejection by the fans gets to the core of so many issues with WWE and Vince McMahon that it’s easy to see chapters of future books by wrestling historians devoted to Reigns in the larger picture.
Over at Vice Sports, Ian Williams wrote about the complete inability to ever “save” Reigns in the eyes of the fans.
He’s almost certainly not wrong, beyond the legitimate resentment some fans have for Reigns due to the company forcing the issue for years now, it’s also become a part of the WWE experience for fans to revolt during every appearance from “The Big Dog.”
Roman hatred is an identity now. A religious conviction. It’s not going anywhere.— Dylan Hales (@DylanWaco) June 18, 2018
To a certain segment of fans, booing Reigns is how they signal that they know what real good wrestling is. It’s like the guys who would come into my work and say “ROH is the best wrestling” and couldn’t name 1 ROH match. It’s not about “truth,” it’s about being part of the group.— Dylan Hales (@DylanWaco) June 18, 2018
The thing that sticks out most to me from Williams’ Vice article was this passage:
This isn’t like John Cena. Cena had a brief but memorable run at the start of his career as an asshole white rapper. People ate it up, including folks who later detested him. There’s also a charming awareness to Cena, albeit one which isn’t always apparent; it’s almost impossible to imagine Reigns working a Tonight Show audience with puckish glee like Cena does. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why Cena’s late career renaissance as an appreciated goofball happened so quickly once he stopped being pushed as a superman.
Reigns has none of that. More than that, because of the hand WWE creative dealt him, he never can have it. He can’t have the early career, quasi-ironic gimmick people grow nostalgic for. He doesn’t have the tools to charm normal people.
This sticks out even more the day after Rusev won the Smackdown Live gauntlet match to earn a shot at AJ Styles’ WWE Championship at Extreme Rules.
Rusev has spent two years as cannon fodder in WWE. He entered last night’s match with an 7-62 record this year. That number is slightly misleading, given the repetitive results of house shows. But on TV and PPV since the start of 2017, he has a 16-34 record.
Of course, wins and losses have never mattered less in the history of pro wrestling than they do in modern WWE.
The relevance here, is that Rusev has been able to bounce back from the sort of career limbo that followed the end of his initial unstoppable foreign heel gimmick and he’s been able to do so through the kind of charm Reigns just doesn’t have.
Rusev and Rusev Day, Cena’s goofy charm, Austin with the guitar, Angle with the tiny cowboy hat, Strowman and Nicholas, Foley and Socko ... and so on. Those are moments it’s impossible to picture Reigns being able to have because the charm just isn’t there. And those are moments that matter in connecting with fans beyond just being a “badass.”
Roman’s entire thing has been this attempt to be a somewhat dickish “cool guy” face. And there’s no ability to ever flip the switch and find a new way to connect — mostly because there appears to be no switch to flip.
The unfortunate reality is exactly what’s in the title of the aforementioned article at Vice: Roman Reigns can’t be saved.
Not by WWE and not by himself.
- The biggest non-TV story yesterday was probably the WWE’s release of Big Cass on the heels of a major program with Daniel Bryan.
- There was also some big news from the WWE UK, so if you want the spoilers, here they are.
- ROH lost MSG and they’re blaming WWE.
- Sami Zayn is out injured, it appears.
- We’ve got the SmackDown Live recap and reactions for you also. Oh, and 205 Live, too!
- NXT airs tonight, so make sure you join us for all the live results.
- Triple H was in the UK for the UK talent, not to talk about Brock Lesnar.
- A really good edition of Raw brought in some extra viewers, so that’s a little extra scoop of good news for this Wednesday.
Happy Wednesday. And more importantly, Happy Rusev Day!
Follow me on Twitter @BrentBrookhouse.