The WWE did it. They rehabbed a guy’s character in a 24-hour time span by essentially combining month’s worth of stories into a minuscule amount of time. More or less, they used peak-Steve-Austin’s feud with Vince McMahon and peak-Daniel-Bryan’s rivalry against The Authority in two shows.
This is the good stuff the WWE does for us — specifically when their backs are forced against the wall.
Moreover, last Monday’s Raw had that rare big event feel to it. Positive momentum has finally begun on the road to Wrestlemania, and things look up for the WWE for the first time in a long time. That is all the good news. However, it isn’t all smooth sailing from here on out.
Roman Reigns as a performer in the ring is fine. He has become so wildly hated over the last year that people have diminished his abilities a bit. No, he isn’t some ring tactician, but his move-set feels big enough that they matter. Obviously he relies on a few things too often, but so too do many other superstars. Rarely are there innovators of offense that have new move-sets each week.
Plus, he has been improving. Merely look at his last two matches against Sheamus. Neither guy has ever been thought to be the type to put on excellent matches, yet the bouts were booked to near-perfection, literally turning a hostile crowd in Boston at TLC — who chanted about everyone and everything other than the match — on their collective heads.
The problem the WWE will face with the Roman Reigns character is within the flaws of the man who plays it. Reigns is poor on the microphone. He has some weird, now running obsession with telling bad jokes about grown men’s testicles on the picture-box. First it was Sheamus’ tater-tots, then Vince’s wrinkled up grapefruits. Those are the same kind of bad, sophomoric jokes which made John Cena promos into something of a face-palm situation.
It is part of why the booking of Reigns moving forward has to be done carefully. He is the WWE Champion now. With that comes the responsibility of having to carry the shows as well as being burdened with how we judge their runs of success — TV ratings. Yet, even with that being said, there are no valid reasons to make Roman Reigns speak words in front of audiences.
If they choose to run with Reigns as the champion for a substantial amount of time, it is imperative that they play to his strengths while masking his flaws. Thing is, they already have a few formulas in place to help them navigate the difficult waters that is having a champion whose words sound as if they were being spoken by a frat brother.
Simply look at how Roman Reigns “got over” in 24 hours. He barely spoke. Instead he was some ravaging, blood-thirsty maniac committing violence against all those who opposed him. That is the Roman Reigns people want. Not the guy who tries to murmur words on the microphone. Seriously, it is hard to quantify why he’s so bad on the mic, but part of me thinks he simply comes off as a tool. Like that one friend of all of ours who is only around so we can make fun of him or her behind their back.
WWE has had similar guys in positions like this before, too. Brock Lesnar, while nearly not as incompetent as Reigns is as a wordsmith, isn’t valued because he’s charismatic. People love him, his big event feel, because he is a destroyer of other humans. Reigns can never reach that sort of level, although the WWE could amplify the violence around him to make it seem like he not only thrives in those moments, but enjoys it. They’ve already somewhat hinted at that, as he often smiles while he is busted open or getting his rear whooped by others.
Another key factor from preventing this huge shift in momentum from turning into a pile of garbage is to keep up with quality booking. We can assume that a match with HHH is already on tap at some point. So, too, should Vince’s attempt to extract revenge (Vince stable vs. a Shield reunion down the road?). But what about the Royal Rumble? Well, I am glad you asked.
The great thing about the Rumble is that the main focus isn’t on the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It is on the Royal Rumble match itself. This is where you can get that “rematch” clause stipulation out of the way, and have Reigns destroy Sheamus yet again. Doing so, while also having a Royal Rumble winner, will paint a clearer picture for WrestleMania. It also provides the WWE with options.
Option One: Vince’s attempt at extracting revenge is by having “his star,” John Cena, return at the Rumble. He says as much. Heel-ish Cena, there on Vince’s behalf, wins the Rumble, heads to WrestleMania chasing Ric Flair’s record, while a super over Roman Reigns is going to face a heel-ish Cena. This only helps but distance the comparisons of the two.
Option Two: Brock Lesnar. With, yes, Roman going over at ‘Mania.
Option Three: Kevin Owens wins the Rumble, carries their feud with his mic work, and the two put on an unforgettable match.
Any other option — sans a miracle Seth Rollins return — would feel like a letdown. You can’t have a newly minted over Reigns go through some ho-hum feud. It can’t happen. Not when the momentum is on his side, and his clear flaws can hurt him quicker than his positive attributes can help. Confuse viewers away from those flaws by way of making everything around him a gosh slam spectacle.
Time will tell how this all plays out. Considering how fickle we all are as fans, though, this upcoming Monday Night Raw will be a telling one. Will the WWE double-down on Roman Reigns the man of violence or return to trying to make him a more traditional champion? For all of our sakes, including Roman’s, let’s hope the Roman Empire (bluh) is built on the foundation of blood and not attempts at words.