VINCE McMahon has notched up plenty of major success stories in the last 35 years.
WrestleMania. Hulk Hogan. The Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection. Monday Night Raw. The Attitude Era. John Cena. The WWE Network. And now Roman Reigns.
Fans can boo him all they like. But Reigns is in no way a failure. He’s the most over man in wrestling and the future of WWE.
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And he was exactly the right man to beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33.
That’s not to say the hate for Roman isn’t real.
I was there at ‘Mania 33. I was also there for Raw the next night, when Roman stood silent in the ring for 13 minutes while fans hurled abuse at him.
It was heat like I’ve never felt before. More brutal and emotionally charged than anything thrown at John Cena.
But the fans were putty in Reigns’ hands. They played right into WWE’s trap.
The more we boo him, the harder Vince pushes him, the more toxic the hatred, the more over he gets.
Of course, it’s not hard to see why the fans hate him. He was pushed too hard, too fast as a singles main eventer.
He was chosen as the “the guy” based on his look and size, not wrestling talent.
There’s obvious nepotism at play – as (sort of) cousin to The Rock and part of the Anoa’i wrestling family.
His terrible scripted promos (“sufferin succotash!”) and limited move set.
But worst of all, there’s the pig-headed booking from Vince – ramming him down fans’ throats as the top babyface, no matter how much they revolted.
It all backs up the most commonly-heard complaint about WWE creative – Vince is “out of touch”.
But there’s a common misconception about Roman Reigns – that he’s supposed to be WWE’s top babyface.
Sure, that was the case when his push first began and he won the Royal Rumble 2015. And more than a year later when he beat Triple H for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 32.
But not now.
Calls to turn Roman heel are pointless. Vince doesn’t need to turn him. The fans have already made him the villain.
By now, Reigns’ push is essentially trolling – all part of Vince’s masterplan to get Roman as over as possible.
In booking terms, entering Roman as number 30 at this year’s Royal Rumble – when everyone was expecting Kurt Angle – was the biggest heel move possible. It was expert trolling.
And if that wasn’t enough, Reigns eliminated the Undertaker (if only the fans knew how that would end up at WrestleMania).
Vince McMahon learned years ago with John Cena that he can have a top star that smart fans hate and boo mercilessly every night.
It’s the kind of heat that makes money.
And fans can’t say they don’t care about Roman Reigns. Of course they do. If they didn’t care, he’d get the same reaction Jinder Mahal gets every week.
They wouldn’t watch Raw every week. Or every pay-per- view. Or come to the live shows. Or talk about Reigns endlessly online.
And the things that fans claim to hate about Roman simply aren’t true.
Reigns IS a good wrestler. Look at his absolute blinder with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31. Or his matches against AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, or Kevin Owens.
And so what if his move set is limited to a spear, drive-by, and Superman punch? How many of the greats didn’t work to a formula or have their own “five moves of doom”?
And when he’s not scripted to spout absolute drivel, he can cut a promo.
At the Raw after WrestleMania, he only said five words – “This is my yard now” – but the intensity and heat he commanded was incredible to witness live.
Every facial gesture, every time he raised the mic to talk but dropped it again. It was masterfully done – reminiscent of how The Rock controlled the fans during his peak.
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Vince might occasionally be out of touch. But not in the case of Roman Reigns. He knows exactly what he’s doing.
He saw something in Reigns that’s undeniable and has forged the strongest connection with fans – whether it’s through cheers or boos – since John Cena or Daniel Bryan.
There’s no question that he’s the future of WWE or the right man to retire Undertaker.
That victory would have been wasted on a veteran like Cena or Goldberg.
And there isn’t a talent from the younger generation who’s even close to Roman’s star power.
The match was almost a tragedy to watch – the veteran whose body is failing, overpowered and defeated by the hungry young warrior.
But it was the right story to tell.
Taker’s time was overdue and a victory for Reigns was a guaranteed way to crank the heat all the way up to nuclear.
It’s only a shame that Brock Lesnar had already ended the streak, and Reigns’ didn’t emerge as the only man to defeat the Deadman at ‘Mania.
It would also have meant a more poignant and meaningful end to Taker’s legacy.
(Get ready for Roman to beat Lesnar at ‘Mania next year too – and probably Cena the year after that.)
When Braun Strowman attacked Reigns on Raw this week – tipping over an ambulance with Roman inside – the fans’ reaction for seeing him close to murdered was hilarious.
It also made Braun the fans’ new hero.
Even a beatdown on Cena wouldn’t have got Braun that kind of reaction. Fans just don’t pop like for good guys getting beaten senseless.
What further proof do you need?
Roman Reigns isn’t a babyface. But he isn’t a heel either. He’s just “the guy” – the most over superstar in the company and the biggest success story in modern-day WWE.
Fans make sure of that by playing right straight into Vince’s plan each and every week.