Over the last two weeks, Cena and Reigns have verbally sparred as we head into their first time ever match at “No Mercy 2017”. To say Cena has dominated the talking segments is an understatement as he’s taken jab after jab at Reigns who has had almost no response other than lame and occasionally crude jokes. Cena has called him out for not being able to cut a promo and made Reigns look like a fool in general. Therefore, Reigns should be sending him a Christmas card every year for the rest of his life for such a great act. Let’s look at this for a minute.
To say Reigns hasn’t been a great success in this role is an understatement. He’s been pushed as one of the top stars of the company for the better part of three years now and is regularly booed out of the building despite being a face (allegedly). This has turned him into one of the biggest punchlines in wrestling history as the fans continue to wonder how much longer this will be allowed to go on. It’s clear that Reigns’ push isn’t working, but the question is why hasn’t it been working.
Here’s where we were about two and a half years ago.
Well there’s a variety of reasons actually, but the biggest for me is the fact that there’s nothing to Reigns’ character. Think about it for a second and then tell me three things about Reigns, other than something you can tell me by just looking at him. There’s no depth to his character and it kills him. Aside from his look, the fact that he’s strong or of Samoan heritage, there’s very little to say about him and it’s holding him back.
Before being shifted to the World Title scene, Reigns’ biggest claim to fame was being a member of the Shield. The trio was one of the best factions of all time and dominated WWE for the better part of two years. Along with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, Reigns ran through almost anything in his path. Since their split, all three members have gone on to win a World Title (with Rollins and Reigns winning multiple times). However, in the cases of Ambrose and Rollins, you can explain their character in far greater detail.
Here’s what happens when Reigns brags about a major accomplishment:
Rollins is the mind of the trio and easily the most cunning. He’s seemingly always looking out for himself and will throw his best friends under the bus for the sake of getting ahead. After being screwed over by the Authority, he returned to the side of good and seems obsessed with proving that he’s trustworthy all over again, though there’s always the chance that it’s another big ruse.
Ambrose was the heart of the team and is always willing to fight until the end, even if it’s a battle he has no chance of winning. He’s also someone who isn’t serious all the time, often being goofy to the point of wearing a costume for the sake of a laugh or just to get inside someone’s head. Ambrose is also by far the most loyal and sees those close to him as the most important thing in the world. If he happens to pick up some gold along the way, that’s just a bonus.
I’ve been sitting here for a bit trying to figure out something similar to say about Reigns and I’ve just got nothing. At least nothing that is unique to him. He likes winning World Titles and is a powerhouse who doesn’t like being screwed over. The problem is that’s something that could be applied to a large group of people on the roster but in Reigns’ case, he’s being pushed far harder than anyone else.
Compare him to Braun Strowman for example. He’s a powerhouse who wants the title but above that, he wants to prove that he’s the most physically dominant man in WWE. He wants competition and is willing to do anything to destroy someone in his way of being the top monster. That character has been developed in the last few months and he’s WAY ahead of Reigns in the character development department at this stage.
So yeah, Reigns doesn’t have much of a character and it’s really a problem. However, there’s always a chance to fix that and it really should be as simple as adding in some elements to his character that make him a bit more unique. That’s going to bring us back to the last two weeks when we were all sitting in awe at Cena ripping Reigns apart because there’s a point to it that I think we’ve been overlooking.
Here’s their first exchange:
The point of the promo exchanges has been that Reigns isn’t ready to be this big star yet and needs to prove himself. Reigns was anointed as the next top star a few years back but still hasn’t found his footing in the role. Cena still is the top guy in the company and while a win over him would help Reigns, it’s not going to be enough. What Cena was saying is that Reigns needs to find another level if he really wants to be that kind of a star, which is exactly what Reigns needs.
What this gives Reigns is a unique goal. Everyone wants to be World Champion and it’s hardly interesting to say “I want the title”. One of the most fascinating characters ever was Cactus Jack in 1992, who beat Sting up for the sake of beating him up and didn’t care about Sting’s World Title. That’s almost unheard of and therefore a lot more interesting than just another challenger of the month.
With Reigns now having to prove himself to be this top star, there’s something he can fight to achieve. I’m not saying that’s going to solve all of his problems (“Go ahead find it. I’ll wait. It’s called a promo and if you want to be the big dog you’re going to have to learn how to do it. SEE YOU FOURTH WALL!”) but it’s going to give him something to reach for, which is something he’s been lacking for a long time now.
And their second:
Think back over Reigns’ main event run. He wins the Royal Rumble and wants to fight Brock Lesnar in the biggest fight of his life. Then he wants to fight Big Show for some reason. Then it was Bray Wyatt over…..I have no idea. Then it was the title. Then it was the Authority over the title. Then it was the US Title where Reigns was really mean to Rusev and Lana for no apparent reason. Then it was Braun Strowman.
How many of these stories didn’t involve him just wanting a big fight or wanting the title? Going back to Strowman, there’s a very key difference here. Strowman is someone who fights because he wants the big fight. Reigns comes off more as someone who has the big fight because he doesn’t have anything else to do. He doesn’t seek these things out but rather just deals with them when they happen. There’s no motivation there and while his matches are good, there’s little reason to care about them in the first place. With Strowman, there’s an immediate interest in “can he beat this guy?”, which is a step up over Reigns.
This feud with Cena could potentially do Reigns a world of good. However, none of it matters if WWE doesn’t follow up with it. If you just have Reigns win the match (which he likely will) and then revert back to business as usual, none of this matters in the slightest. Reigns needs a lot of help to get to the top spot in the company and if WWE is just going to insist on it, they need to put the work in. More importantly though, Reigns needs to be interesting enough for us to care about that work, which would be the biggest challenge of them all.
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