Roman Reigns, man. What a polarizing figure to discuss. Unfortunately, we have been discussing him in those polarizing terms for far too long. When you couple in the fact that it isn’t working with the obvious “fix” (turning heel) this feels more like a practice of insanity than it does a workshop of solid creative ideas.
Often compared to John Cena for the ways the WWE has tried to book the former Shield member, now Reigns has even more in common with the former face of WWE. Like Cena before him, the WWE is attempting to use several shortcuts to get “The Guy” over.
In short, the company is attempting to use other wrestlers’ popularity to get Roman more friendly crowd reactions.
For Cena, it was pairing him up with a back-in-the-day fan-favorite Usos, or Ryder, or Cryme Time. For Roman Reigns as of late, it is to have him team up with the incredibly over Sasha Banks.
The comparisons don’t stop there. While the WWE has done a good job the last five years of removing Cena from obvious “get Cena over” situations, in the past the company would conjure evil-doers for our hero to vanquish. The best way the WWE could do that is by inventing characters we were meant to wholeheartedly hate.
While that wasn’t always the case, as some of the bad guys were “cooler” than Cena, we do know it never worked. How do we know this? Because Cena still gets — at best — mixed crowd reactions whenever his theme music hits.
Still, for reasons only known to Vince McMahon, the WWE is not only pairing Reigns with more over acts ala Cena back in the day, but are trying to take an engaging Rusev character, force us all to believe xenophobia is OK, and make the vest-wearing performer become beloved by happenstance.
The WWE is trying to give us two options in this angle to root for. Option one is obviously Roman. Option two isn’t just Rusev, but supposedly everything “bad” he represents — and, well, by “bad” we mean that he’s not American, which is supposed to irk us for some reason.
Outside of that, Reigns has acted more heel-y during this feud than anyone else. He, for no reason as of yet, interrupted Rusev and Lana’s wedding celebration, says incredibly misogynistic things to Lana on the regular, and is acting as though he deserves U.S. title shots because, uh, he’s “The Guy.”
Thing is, none of it is working. Rusev remains sneaky charming and a wonderful performer. While many crowds do indeed boo him as the WWE would like, there’s a large pocket who admires his work ethic, mic work and ability to adapt to any given situation. In turn, Reigns isn’t getting the massively positive fan reactions the WWE was originally hoping for.
So what happens when the WWE realized that? The company put him alongside Sash Banks on Monday night after it teased Rusev possibly going after two female performers. Yup. That’s how low the WWE is willing to go to force you to hate Rusev in an attempt to make you indirectly cheer for Reigns by being out of options.
Oddly, even though the company has well over a decade’s worth of evidence in John Cena that none of these tactics work, it is trying yet again. It is the very definition of insanity. Let’s get this guy over the same way we failed John Cena in the past, all when the WWE Universe is practically begging for a heel turn.
That’s probably the biggest issue here. Cena never turned heel because of merchandise. Even the most ignorant a member of the Internet Wrestling Community knows that. Couple that with his Make a Wish work, and it somewhat makes sense — at least from an optics standpoint — to never turn Cena heel. But what’s the excuse for Reigns? He isn’t moving merchandise like Cena, nor is he a brand ambassador at the same level as the veteran.
But you keep trying, WWE. Try already proven to fail angles to get Reigns over. While you do that, the rest of us will root for Rusev out of spite. Yes, even if you pair Reigns with people we do like such as “The Legit Boss.”
Osmosis isn’t a thing when it comes to “liking” other people. Either you do or don’t.