Can we face the facts, WWE? Your top babyface in the company gets a stronger heel reaction than your top heel in the company. At this point, I don’t know that there are any heels in WWE who have true heat, other than, maybe, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. Even so, those guys are still rather beloved bad guys. Maybe Tommaso Ciampa is on his way to becoming a true heel down in NXT, but fans still have those proverbial smiles on their faces as he snatches their signs and rips them up in their faces. No, in the modern era, I have yet to see any truly angry fans threatening to jump the barricade at any heels like they did with Shawn Michaels in the late-’90s. However, I do see that kind of angry fan spark with WWE’s top babyface. His name is, you guessed it, Roman Reigns.
This Frankenstein experiment has just gone on long enough. There isn’t a thing WWE can do, okay?
Lately, I’ve noticed some fans of WWE hoping that, just because Roman cuts one good promo on Brock Lesnar, Roman is on his way to becoming universally liked and, even, cheered. I was one of those fans. For a while, I was rooting for Roman to get over. I went against the grain of hatred for Roman. Why not? The guy has the look and athleticism necessary to be a megastar. But, I recently had a revelation. I’m here to tell you it’s not going to happen for Roman Reigns as a babyface.
I hate to be ruthless here, but I’m facing the facts. Listening to Roman talking on an episode of the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast, I felt no attraction to him as a guy that I want to root for. When talking about his shortcomings in pro football, Roman stated, “I wanted to be, like, a man of influence, somebody you could say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s a role model! Or, a superstar!’… somebody that is a bit of a household name. I felt like I had that in me.” To me, this didn’t sound like something a modest good guy would say. I would think Daniel Bryan would just want to wrestle. I would think The Undertaker would just want to wrestle. I would think “Stone Cold” Steve Austin would just want to wrestle. But, Roman Reigns wants to be glorified in households. Even if that’s something a wrestler wants for himself, that’s not something you publically say if you’re trying to get over as a babyface. Am I wrong? Do people respect someone who just wants fame?
There is a reason Daniel Bryan and the “Yes Movement” are over to a tremendous ovation from fans. The guy is modest, determined, talented, modest, and, most of all, modest. He’s even modest too! Can we say the same for Roman Reigns? Well, history tells us we can’t, unfortunately. During that same interview on the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast, Roman not only paints himself as a man worthy of praise and glory, but he also even mentions that he was better than his teammates during his CFL career. There’s a reason people don’t like Tom Brady, folks, just like there’s a reason people don’t like Roman Reigns. It all boils down to modesty. It’s even evident in the way he carries himself. It seems like he truly thinks he’s the best in this line of work, just like he did in pro football. This is a great trait to have as a heel, but WWE is intent on making him their glorified babyface.
I know the WWE isn’t trying to paint Roman Reigns as squeaky clean and all. They want him to be more edgy like Stone Cold. It’s even more obvious lately with the whole thing about Brock Lesner supposedly being Vince McMahon’s “boy” as well as the law enforcement’s arresting of Roman. It’s all way too familiar.
The problem with this is that the character of Stone Cold was being played by Steve Austin. A character like that doesn’t do as well if he’s played by anyone else. Chris Jericho even stated on Austin’s WWE career documentary, “The things he did, the choices he made, the little nuances he added put that character over, nobody could’ve played that character like he did.” A Stone Cold character needs someone who fits that mold, like Steve Austin. An Undertaker character needs someone to fit that mold, like Mark Calaway. Those guys are able to be edgy babyfaces and get away with it because they can somehow execute it in a way that relates to the fans.
WWE needs to face the facts with the Roman Reigns character. He’s played by a man who carries himself as an alpha in a heelish manner, whether he realizes it or not. In my high school, no one actually liked our star quarterback because he carried himself like he was above everyone else and cocky. There’s a difference between being cocky and being confident. Even if you are good at what you do, if you’re cocky about it, people aren’t going to get behind you.
Roman talks himself up more than he puts his peers over, and by peers I also mean the WWE fans. Every successful babyface who ever lived has included the fans and acknowledged them as a good source of strength for his or her being one of the best. Roman never does this. Granted, he would probably get booed out of the building if he did, but even if he just acknowledged the niche market of fans, like children, that would help him quite a bit, I think.
The guy doesn’t even have a nice catchphrase. Bryan has the “YES!” chant, Austin has “Gimme a hell yeah!”, and The Undertaker has “Rest in Peace.” Roman’s catchphrase is one that he actually stole from The Undertaker, one of the greatest of all time, and it doesn’t work for him at this early point in his career. The reason the phrase worked so well with The Undertaker when he debuted it was because Taker had been an established megastar for around ten years. Roman has only been in the spotlight for about three years, maybe four. Nevertheless, no true wrestling fan is going to respond positively to Roman claiming the wrestling ring is his yard when we live in a world inhabited by the likes of Kenny Omega, A.J. Styles, Kazuchika Okada, Daniel Bryan, etc. The list goes on.
So, could Roman Reigns ever be accepted as a great babyface in WWE? If you ask me, the facts are all there. He just doesn’t have that genuine good-guy nature about him that could make it work. Based on his real-life interviews, he still comes off as a bit arrogant and full of his own you know what. Do you know what all those ingredients make a recipe for? A solid heel. If he goes heel, I don’t think he should ever go babyface again. He has a true quality for not being liked. I really don’t like to sound brash or sound like I hate the guy. I don’t hate Roman Reigns. I just don’t see a likeable character in him. I relate him too much to the jerky high school jocks that I grew up resenting.
It’s time for WWE to face the facts. The Frankenstein’s monster that is a babyface Roman Reigns needs to pull that lever and blow it all to atoms. How long can this really go on? Here’s to hoping Lesner vs. Roman doesn’t kill the WrestleMania main event.
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