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Jonathan Coachman has been a major upgrade to Monday Night Raw’s commentary team. He has not, this week at least, been a helpful advocate for Roman Reigns on social media.
He wrote on Twitter earlier this week: “I continue to be amazed at the venom towards Roman Reigns and yet all fans can say is ‘I hate him.’ Not why. Not how. Not anything. Stop being sheep and just enjoy the show. You all reed [sic] social media like it’s the Washington Post. I have to believe you are smarter than that.”
I continue to be amazed at the venom towards Roman Reigns and yet all fans can say is “I hate him”. Not why. Not how. Not anything. Stop being sheep and just enjoy the show. You all reed social media like it’s the Washington Post. I have to believe you are smarter than that.
— Jonathan Coachman (@TheCoachrules) February 27, 2018
He added: “LOVE when fans show up… Cheer/boo who you want. My point has always been the keyboard warriors not those that show up to the arenas… Go to a show. He gets a HUGE reaction. Trust me you social media lead you around by the nose. I feel sorry for ‘fans’ who are so ‘smart’ they can’t simply enjoy themselves. We all have limited time. Being negative makes no sense.”
Since The Shield broke up and Roman Reigns was clearly going to be the top pushed member of that trio in the singles ranks, a vocal percentage – perhaps the majority – of fans have rebelled against him. Unsurpassed by any top babyface over the decades – including John Cena, I’d argue – Reigns has received an explosion of boos when his music starts on Raw and on PPVs.
Some argue this is no big deal, that people showing up and booing him are paying money and supporting the product, and there’s enough other content they approve of that Reigns alone hasn’t driven them away.
What doesn’t help Reigns’s cause is someone as high-profile as Coach expressing on Twitter that fans should “stop being sheep and just enjoy the show.” Yes, he also said cheer or boo who you want a few Tweets later, which seems contradictory.
Let’s get something straight. People who attend WWE events have a right to cheer or boo who they want, and being told by WWE personnel to just “enjoy the show” and eat what they’re fed without any protest is counterproductive. Vince McMahon and other top executives over the years, when convenient, have said WWE’s live crowds are their nightly “focus groups.” When it’s convenient, they tout their ability to be nimble and call audibles and steer their creative decisions based on fan feedback. When crowd reaction goes against what Vince McMahon wants it to be, suddenly fan reaction is an expression of discontent that is hurting the experience for themselves and other fans; suddenly they’re “too smart for their own good” and disrupting the “fun” experience they and other fans should be having.
Coach asserted that fans don’t actually explain why they “hate” Reigns. That’s a generalization that doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny. Fans have spent the last several years explicitly expressing the issues they have with Reigns. To name a few:
- His ridiculously limited move set that appears to be the result of a 9 year old boy hitting the same video game controller buttons over and over.
- He was pushed ahead of Daniel Bryan when Bryan was red-hot.
- C.M. Punk was told to “make Roman look good” repeatedly before Punk grew so frustrated he left WWE entirely.
- On promos, he seems disconnected and robotic and poorly scripted.
- On promos, he hasn’t opened himself up and established a connection with fans in way every other top babyface attraction has done after this much time in front of the camera and on mic.
- He just comes across as a “D-bag” (I’m quoting PWTorch Livecast callers here) with his demeanor that seems to suggest he can’t believe such “losers” in the crowd wouldn’t worship someone as “awesome as him.”
- He got to keep the Shield music and entrance and gear, giving off the appearance that he was treated special after being carried by Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose for the duration of the Shield’s initial run.
- He said on a podcast he “just does what he’s told and hopes to get rich.”
- He once said in a media interview he’s 1,000 times improved since the year before and if you don’t agree you’re crazy.
- He touted how he works hard three or four days a week as if that’s some sort of accomplishment that gives him some lofty stature as the company workhorse above those wrestlers whom fans would rather see get pushed.
- His overall appearance and presentation – from the vest to the contact lenses to the memorized gestures he does before his signature moves – gives off the impression of a programmed corporate robot aimed at adolescent kids and women swooning at his mere presence.
- Michael Cole calling him “THE BIG DAWG!” over and over incessantly makes people just hate Roman regardless of any of the above.
Now, let me be clear. I’m just reciting reasons people have told me they boo Reigns. I’ve also been told by many people who cheer him – or at least accept him – reasons they don’t choose to be among those booing him.
- He works his ass off in the ring and delivers big-time matches on the big stage against a wide array of opponents.
- The dumb stuff he’s said (“Tater Tots,” anyone?) is just foisted upon him by writers and he didn’t have the clout yet to overrule them.
- He takes the boos like a man and doesn’t whine about not all fans adoring and cheering him (take note, Coach).
- He seems to be working hard to get better and it shows.
- He seems likable and, more or less, the negatives are a result of Vince McMahon, not his choices.
Reigns delivered perhaps his best promo to date on Monday this week. He connected with the crowd in a way I hadn’t seen before. He portrayed himself as someone coming to the defense of the “full time crew” and masterfully positioned himself as a “wrestling guy” with family roots who cares deeply about WWE, whereas Brock Lesnar is a prima donna who shows up for a paycheck and couldn’t give a damn about the fans.
Can Reigns chip away at the resentment of his push with more promos like that and a continued run of really good wrestling performances? Yes, at least to some degree. Will it be enough to make it worth the time and effort spent pushing him the last several years, against the strong headwind created by upset fans? Maybe, maybe not. If Reigns ends up getting cheered more loudly and the boos subside, is that a sign of him winning over fans or a sign that fans who used to boo him have stopped buying tickets and watching the TV shows? I don’t know.
I do know that Coach going on Twitter (or anyone else who is on WWE payroll) telling fans to “stop being sheep” while ironically telling them to “just enjoy the show” no matter what WWE presents isn’t doing Reigns any favors. Coach (or anyone else in WWE) stating, instead, that Reigns sure seems to be making a case to be the top guy and has earned respect because of his work ethic, professionalism, and improvement in the ring and on the mic would go a lot further than telling fans who have expressed resistance to Reigns’s push that they’re just not being “team players.”
Unlike Coach, fans are paying to attend WWE shows, not being paid to call WWE shows. Paying customers are not required to go along with the program and “just have fun” if they think WWE Creative’s idea of what they want is off base. A representative of WWE telling fans they should just enjoy the show no matter what reenforces why fans who boo Reigns are booing him and will encourage them to continue to do so, perhaps more out of spite than actual resentment of Reigns.
Coach isn’t doing Reigns any favors on a week that Reigns did himself a big favor with the best, most effective babyface promo of his career.
Wade Keller is the founder and editor of Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter (1987) and PWTorch.com (1999). He has conducted long-form interviews with pro wrestling top stars and promoters over his 30+ year career including Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock, Vince McMahon, Eric Bischoff, Bill Watts, Lou Thesz, A.J. Styles, Jim Ross, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Paul Heyman, Jim Crockett Jr., Verne Gagne, and hundreds of others. He is a National Wrestling Hall of Fame journalist (Class of 2015). He currently also hosts “The Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast” on PodcastOne and multiple PWTorch VIP Podcasts per week.