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Column: It’s time to get back behind Roman Reigns

Roman Reigns (Courtesy of WWE.com)
(Courtesy of WWE.com)

Smarky wrestling fans united a month ago when it was announced that Roman Reigns received a 30-day suspension for violating the WWE Wellness Policy. Not only did these fans see Roman removed from WWE programming, but they got a lovely chuckle out of the fact that he seemingly did it to himself.

Now is the time for WWE to realize that Roman Reigns is all in for the success that has come with the New Era. In the two televised events that he has been on since his return, he has lost a match to current WWE Champion and fan favorite Dean Ambrose, and a man that very well be the face we remember years from now as the representative of the New Era in Finn Balor. By taking these losses, Roman Reigns has paid his penance to the WWE and to the WWE Universe. Now, it is time to treat him like it’s the 2014 Royal Rumble and jump back on his train.

Roman Reigns looks like Vince McMahon went to a police sketch artist and described the perfect embodiment of his type of WWE Superstar. He was the enforcer of The Shield, a faction that, along with CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, could be considered a true catalyst of the genesis of the New Era. Reigns, Rollins and Ambrose debuted as three new fresh faces that liquidated any opponent that they set their sights on. What made them so fresh from every other faction that laid waste to their adversaries was that The Shield were wrestlers that the crowd had not seen before. Other factions like the Corporate Ministry, nWo, Degeneration-X, etc., by in large, consisted of performers that were already familiar to the audience. The members of The Shield apparently did not need the experience that consisted within these other factions, making them more dangerous and cool.

What was also cool about The Shield, especially in the case of Roman Reigns, was the relatively limited amount of rhetoric they gave to the WWE audience. They did not need words, just feet and fists. This generated coolness would end up making a Roman Reigns the fan favorite to win the 2014 Royal Rumble after the fans in Pittsburgh were ready to riot after it became clear that Daniel Bryan would not be in the match. This fan reaction was obviously heard, but misunderstood by WWE creative, as Roman’s fall from grace with the fans would slowly begin.

Roman Reigns began to become vilified by adult WWE fans for two reasons: he is not Daniel Bryan, and written promos. It became clear that in Daniel Bryan’s original absence due to injury, Roman became Vince’s choice to be the next face of the company. The fans rejected this obvious choice, as there was no surprise entailed, and because Daniel Bryan would eventually return. This paradox would explode at the 2015 Royal Rumble, where Reigns would win the Rumble match after Daniel Bryan, again the overwhelming fan favorite, would be unceremoniously eliminated early in the match. With Reigns designated as a supposed heroic face, he was set up to fail.

On top of not being Daniel Bryan, Roman Reigns was given cute, cheeky lines to spew during his on-air promos (anyone remember the “sufferin’ succotash, son” line?). These lines were totally out of place for the “…but carry a big stick” badass babyface he appears to be. His character was a walking contradiction, and was being force-fed down the throats of fans.

These two issues were as tragic as they were debilitating. However, what they both have in common is that neither were really Roman’s fault. In the ring, he continued to have great matches with every opponent that was put in front of him (his matches with Rollins, AJ, and Bryan have all been fantastic), and not because his opponent had to carry him. Reigns shines in the ring on his own as an athletic, believeable big man. In addition, his verbal air time has been decreased (his “I’m not a good guy” line is indicative of that), leaving more time for fans to appreciate what he can do in the ring. This needs to be remembered by the judgmental WWE fans as his career proceeds forward.

Anyone can speculate about what WWE should do with Roman Reigns going forward. His suspension is up; he just dropped main event matches and Ambrose and Balor, outcomes that are rather uncharacteristic of WWE’s use of Reigns up to his point. Regardless of where he goes from here, it is time for fans to appreciate what Roman Reigns brings to the table.

WWE seems to have learned its lesson and stopped trying to make him wrestling’s Gallagher on the mic, and it seems to be totally invested in the quality wrestling-focused New Era.

Reigns’ penance from his suspension has been completed, and it’s time for fans to accept Roman for what he is: a believable, athletic, compelling facilitator of pain that every wrestling company needs to make everyone else around him better.

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