We’re officially on the Road to Wrestlemania as Roman Reigns has won the Royal Rumble and will go on to “Wrestlemania XXXI” to face Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Title. That means the clock is ticking on Reigns, who is popular but doesn’t feel like the top star that WWE is adamant that he must become at this Wrestlemania for some reason. Today we’re going to look at Reigns’ biggest problem and the simple steps WWE needs to take to solve it.
Let’s start with a little game. I’m going to describe a character in a few words and see if you can guess who I’m talking about.
1. A Texas rebel who fought against all authority.
2. A cocky jock with a razor sharp tongue.
3. An All-American man who drew energy from the fans.
4. A fighter who never gives up and never compromises his core beliefs.
5. A giant who calls upon the powers of darkness and intimidates his opponents using mind games.
6. A strong man with a good look who doesn’t say much.
In case you aren’t the best at these kind of games, here are the answers.
1. Steve Austin
2. The Rock
3. Hulk Hogan
4. John Cena
5. The Undertaker
6. Uh……Batista? Or Warlord? No wait it’s Brock Lesnar. I mean Mark Henry. But it could be Great Khali. Perhaps Kane? I’ve got it: Bobby Lashley.
The problem is it could be all of those guys, but it could also be Roman Reigns. That’s Reigns’ biggest problem: there really isn’t anything that sets him apart from a lot of other people. Yeah he has a famous family and played football, but so did a lot of former wrestlers. He doesn’t have a big resume yet and other than a win against Randy Orton at Summerslam in the second biggest match on the card, he really hadn’t won a major match on his own until the Royal Rumble.
Without an identity, it’s hard to care about Reigns. He’s incredibly athletic and has some good looking moves, but you can only get excited about the jumping apron kick, the Superman Punch and the spear (which far too many other people have used over the years). At this point, Reigns is just a big guy who hasn’t shown he can connect with the fans.
Keep in mind that there’s a big difference between getting cheered and connecting with the fans. Reigns can wear a New York Yankees jersey in Madison Square Garden and get cheered, but that reaction ends as soon as he’s wearing his vest again. The fans need something about him to care for, not about something he does. This really isn’t as hard as it may sound.
The shortest and simplest answer is to let Reigns talk a bit more and let it be more from the heart. Those horrible promos about Jack and the Beanstalk and other stupid lines like that weren’t getting him anywhere because anyone could read those same lines and get the same reaction. There’s nothing interesting or unique about what he said and there’s no reason for anyone to care about him after he said it.
Let’s look at another guy who had the same problem and took a big step towards fixing it before WWE pulled the cord on the story. A few weeks ago, Ryback stood in the middle of the ring and told the story of his career which eventually led him to his feud with Rusev. Those five minutes or so gave us more of a reason to care about Ryback than anything he’s done in several years in WWE. It was about him and his life instead of just something we’ve seen him do in the ring.
That’s where Reigns is severely lacking. We don’t know anything about Reigns, including his motivations or what he thinks about the goings on in WWE. He doesn’t like Big Show, he’s presumably still mad at Seth Rollins and he’s friends with Dean Ambrose. If there are any other major details about him, I’ve yet to see what they were.
Having Reigns as a gladiator who rarely talks is fine. It worked for Goldberg and it worked for Batista for most of his career and they turned out pretty well. There’s nothing wrong with having Reigns as guy who says short lines and then lets his actions do the talking. However, if that’s what WWE wants to go with for him, they need to stick with it. At the moment, he’s some cross between Goldberg and a lame imitation of John Cena as he tries to be funny half the time and silent the other half of the time. It can’t be a mixture of the two things.
So how does WWE change this? They had a very good start this past Monday on “Monday Night Raw”. Reigns told a story from his childhood about learning to swim where he was thrown into the deep end of the pool and clawed his way back to the top, which is how he plans to make it up to the top of WWE. They followed it up with Reigns facing off with Lesnar as Heyman gave a history of Reigns’ family and talking about how Reigns wants to live up to their history.
That right there is more than WWE has given us about Reigns in the eight or so months since the Shield split up. While they need more, they’re starting to shape him as the fighter that is trying to live up to his family’s legacy. That alone is something that a lot of fans are going to be able to relate to: being stuck in their family’s shadow and needing to live up to the pressure they put on you. In other words, Reigns starts to be a more rounded character instead of someone with one or two basic traits.
Reigns is still a major work in progress as far as a top of the line player and he’s still being rushed into a spot he isn’t ready for, but they’re taking some of the very necessary steps in order to make the audience care about him. Now if they can stop having him out there with Big Show in one of the least interesting feuds in the history of ever, he might be able to make some real progress and give the fans a reason to care about him.
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