HEYDORN’S TAKE: Roman Reigns isn’t a heel … yet

BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH COLUMNIST (@zheydorntorch)

Roman Reigns (credit Scott Lunn - @ScottLunn © PWTorch)

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

We all want it to be true. We’re desperate. Being the bearer of bad news is never fun, but in the name of honesty, here it goes. Roman Reigns isn’t a heel. Yet.

The last 10 days in WWE have been quite the rollercoaster. Within that timeframe, we’ve seen Summerslam, Payback, two Monday Night Raw’s and one Smackdown. That much WWE content at one time typically evokes a reaction of groans and moans among even the most ardent WWE supporters. This time, the reaction was different and one of intrigue.

Why? The return of Roman Reigns. For better or worse, Roman Reigns is the single biggest regular attraction that WWE has in their arsenal of stars. His push and ascent up the card has undoubtedly been engulfed with a smorgasbord of errors and bad judgments, but he stands heads above the rest in terms of people paying attention to what he does.

WWE’s empty arena era hasn’t been good for much, but allowing Roman Reigns the time off is a feather in its cap. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and grow fonder it did. It would be silly to say that audiences were openly clamoring and begging for a return, but Roman Reigns creates interest and his inevitable resurfacing was always slated to generate intrigue for fans.

Then Summerslam happened. Reigns ran out after the finish of the Universal Championship match between Braun Strowman and The Fiend. Without the maligned chest protector, a more authentic Reigns aggressively destroyed his foes and held the championship high above his head. After, it was announced that Reigns would face both The Fiend and Strowman in a triple threat match with the Universal Championship on the line at Payback. Ahead of that match, Reigns aligned with Paul Heyman as a manager and leveraged that relationship to enter the triple threat match late to enhance his chances to win. Win he did.

That return narrative is chalk full of heelish tendencies by Roman Reigns. The way in which he obliterated the Fiend and Strowman at Summerslam, his arrogant mannerisms as he played coy over signing the Payback contract, bringing on a habitual heel in Paul Heyman to manage him, plus he used that manager to stack the deck in his favor ahead of and during the championship match so he could win the championship.

That’s just the surface stuff. The mannerisms and body language that Reigns has shown have been arrogant, dismissive, aggressive, and cold. Reigns is a hypocrite too. Stealing the Universal Championship on Sunday in the way that he did runs counter to everything he’s said throughout his run thus far about respecting the company and championship ahead of matches against part-timers like Brock Lesnar and John Cena. Heel, heel, and heel. Check, check, and check.

Roman Reigns is not a heel though. Not yet anyway. Right now, he’s as likable as he’s ever been. Audiences never seemed to have a problem with Roman Reigns, the man. Their issue was with his push and the constant force-feeding of the Big Dog character. That character was corporate, overproduced, and inauthentic when juxtaposed to the real Roman Reigns personality. Audiences saw through it. Sure, the Roman Reigns boardroom creation clicked for business executives, but audiences rolled their eyes.

We’ve seen the real Roman Reigns here and there throughout the last five years – destroying Triple H after a TLC event, Superman punching Vince McMahon, and the Philadelphia crowd raucously cheering for Reigns on Monday Night Raw as he defeated Sheamus for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Each of those times, Reigns received the babyface reaction WWE had always wanted him to get and he did so by acting like himself – arrogant, aggressive, and confident, all the qualities that we’re seeing now and once again, audiences are reacting to him in a positive way.

Sounds like a babyface to me. Plus, all of the heel tendencies that Reigns has shown throughout the last 10 days that have generated a babyface reaction from crowds have been at the expense of The Fiend, Smackdown’s lead heel, and Braun Strowman, a babyface character that has fallen off the rails.

Let’s not pop the Roman Reigns as a heel excitement bubble yet, though. He’s close. He’s teetering on the edge and it will only take a little context to fully push him off the cliff. First, we need to hear from him and Paul Heyman on Smackdown. It’s time for Heyman to work his magic and tell the audience once and for all who the new Roman Reigns is. Within those words we’ll be able to determine the nature of Reigns moving forward. Only through the detail of a specific and new mission statement will we be able to look at the new Reigns demeanor through heel glasses.

In addition, the first championship challenger to Roman Reigns will be significant in defining his new role on Smackdown. If a rematch with the Fiend is on the horizon and the Fiend presentation stays the same, Reigns will remain on the babyface side of the aisle. A program with Braun Strowman would tell us the same thing. However, if Reigns is on the opposite side of the ring of someone like Jeff Hardy, Matt Riddle, or a surging Big E, the title of heel will apply once and for all.

The opportunities on the table for Roman Reigns as a heel are endless. Challengers like Drew McIntyre, Edge, Hardy, Riddle, Big E, and major part-time attractions like The Rock, John Cena, and a babyface Brock Lesnar put big business on the table for WWE while keeping Roman Reigns fresh.

A heel Roman Reigns is the way to go. You can see when watching him that that persona is dying to be pried out him. We’re almost there, folks. Almost.


NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S TAKE: HEYDORN’S TAKE: Don’t hold me to this – WWE Payback 2020

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