During a recent interview with Forbes, Roman Reigns acknowledged that he has “it”:
“There’s never a time when my music hits, where it’s ‘Oh, I don’t care.’ It’s either ‘I love this guy’ or ‘I hate this guy.’ I’ve always been able to really pull on the emotional strings of our crowd. For me, that reaction has always been an incredible strength of mine and it’s always been something I’ve been able to rely on.”
“Yeah, you say you like this person or think this person should be in my position or this person deserves it or they’ve been through a greater journey or more adversity, but when it comes down to it, who makes the crowd louder? I’ve always, always been that guy. There’s only a handful of guys in the history of our company and the history of our business that can say they have it—that factor that registers with the people, that makes the people stand up and make noise, and I’m in that group.”
If it were up to me, the concept of the “IT factor” would be removed from the pro wrestling conversation altogether. It’s a completely meritless way for someone to explain why their favorite wrestlers are pushed or why the wrestlers they do not like are not pushed. If there is a good-faith conversation discussing the strengths and weaknesses of a particular wrestler, and the overall result doesn’t mesh with the level of push that wrestler receives on television, well the missing ingredient to explain the gap must be that elusive, intangible, “it”. This argument never makes sense to me when so much of pro wrestling comes down to the whims of the booker.
More importantly, here’s how I know for sure that anybody who is confident that they can identify “it” is spewing nonsense. Anybody who can easily and consistently identify this intangible quality before an entertainer becomes a top star would become a millionaire very quickly for possessing such an incredibly valuable predictive tool. But none of us have taken that easy path to a lifetime of wealth, because identifying “it” is not a repeatable skill that any of us possess. We’re just throwing crap at a wall. Throwing crap at a wall can be fun, I suppose, but we should not lose that self-awareness about what it is we’re really doing.
The “IT factor” is unnecessary to deploy in conversation. If you just think about it for a few minutes, you can actually describe what it is that you think a pro wrestler excels at that sets him or her apart from the pack. Using “it” is either a lazy way to avoid writing out such detail, or it’s a desperate way to push back against logical arguments staring you in the face.
My personal rant about the “IT factor” aside (thank you for indulging me and/or eye-rolling through this pet peeve of mine), Roman Reigns’ argument here about his own “IT factor” is incredibly unconvincing. He actually wants you to believe that he is one of “only a handful” of wrestlers in history who have ever been able to get fans to “stand up and make noise.” Huh? What is he even talking about? I guess just about every single wrestler on last night’s episode of AEW Dynamite also has “it” then, because those fans were standing up and making noise for nearly two straight hours.
There’s no need to be lazy and discuss the “IT factor” with Roman when it’s instead quite easy to explain why fans respond to his presence. The fans booed Reigns for years because Vince McMahon pushed him to four straight WrestleMania main events and ruined a Royal Rumble match or two along the way, while also feeding some of their favorite wrestlers to Roman. Roman was also given awkward scripts to recite about Tater Tots and Sufferin’ Succotash, which didn’t help. McMahon made the decision to push Roman to the top because John Cena’s time was winding down, and Roman’s physical look was more pleasing to Vince’s eye than the other Shield guys.
Early on, many fans were skeptical that Roman could hang on the same level in the ring with other top WWE stars of the time, but he quickly improved. Check out his PPV main events with AJ Styles in 2016 to see Roman Reigns performing at a main event level in the ring. Roman has managed to win some skeptics over since then, particularly with his ability to get Braun Strowman over in 2017, and of course his fantastic Tribal Chief gimmick, but there will always be some folks who can’t stand the never-ending push of Roman Reigns that has been ongoing for the last 7 years or so.
There you go. That’s why fans react the way they do to Roman, and there’s no need to talk about “it” when having that discussion.