Roman Reigns successfully defended the WWE Universal Championship against his cousin Jey Uso at Clash of Champions on Sunday, September 27. The end came when Jimmy Uso threw in the towel for his brother, giving Reigns the win.
Roman’s victory was not a surprise for WWE fans. In fact, they expected The Big Dog to win due to his reinvigorated run as the company’s top heel champion. Indeed, Reigns’ work alongside Paul Heyman is the best of the champ’s career thus far.
The Tribal Chief is a character that demands respect, which was precisely what his match with Jey Uso was all about. Reigns was obsessed with Jey acknowledging him as the man at the head of the table, the founder of the feast for the family. Roman didn’t care about the fact that he could potentially destroy his cousin in the middle of the ring. In the end, it was all about respect.
This is where Paul Heyman’s character comes into play. He spent several years next to Brock Lesnar, who he hyped to everyone within shouting distance. Heyman proclaimed his client to be The Beast Incarnate, the unstoppable force on a roster full of movable objects. Heyman was the town crier, anxious to inform the world of just how right he was and he was, every time.
Paul didn’t create Brock Lesnar, as much as he reinforced what was already there. Lesnar was a killer long before Heyman got to him. All he needed was Paul’s voice to bring that killer to the surface. Paul Heyman turned the volume up for Brock and he turned it up so loud that many fans were deafened by the sound. That is exactly what he’s doing now with Roman Reigns.
Watch Roman Reigns destroying Jey Uso at Clash of Champions!
It’s a far cry from where Roman was before. As WWE’s top babyface, Reigns was seemingly a man without a country. The fans didn’t believe in him. His booking was often atrocious, as were his promos. Only the company had his back and every time it seemed that Roman was losing a step, he was elevated back to the top, in spite of fan reaction. WWE wanted the fans to love Roman and wouldn’t accept any other outcome.
Indeed, much of the sentiment coming from WWE at the time of Roman’s previous ascension was that everything was going just fine. The company tried to convince the fans that Reigns was on track and his work on TV often reflected that. Reigns beat everyone, from the underneath talents, to the legends, to the main event stars. No one could touch him.
But every time his music hit, Roman Reigns entered the arena to a mixed chorus of cheers and boos. Some nights, he was loved more than others. Other nights, he was torn to shreds by every fan in the building. More often than not, Roman Reigns couldn’t get over as a babyface if he were in Vince’s private jet flying over the city. The WWE faithful were not buying it. At all.
The irony of it all was that most of Roman’s critics weren’t attacking The Big Dog on a personal level. In fact, most agreed that he was a very good, if not great, heel. All he needed was the right direction, with the right booking. More importantly, he needed the company to let him explore his dark side. He needed Vince McMahon to let him wear the black hat.
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) September 28, 2020
Now Roman Reigns is exactly where he needs to be. He is the villain that everyone knew he could be and he’s never looked better. Some fans believe that without the pandemic era, this massive change would never have taken place. But due to the absence of a live audience, WWE is more willing to take a chance on such a move.
Despite what the reason may be, the fact is that it’s working. Roman Reigns is indeed The Big Dog of WWE and this time, the fans are onboard. He’s completely in his element and for many fans admiring him from home, Roman is the only reason to watch Friday Night SmackDown. The Tribal Chief is in charge and ruling with an iron fist. So what happens next?
The idea of long term planning in WWE is laughable at best. The reason for that is the assumption that many fans have regarding the company’s apparent booking decisions, many of which seem to come from out of nowhere. Vince never seems interested in thinking about tomorrow, it’s only today that matters. What does that mean for Roman?
If there is no long term plan, then there is no eventual destination for him. WWE put him back on the throne because he was healthy and because it was different. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that of course, as it is definitely working on every level. But if there is indeed nothing long term moving forward, then there may be some cause for concern.
Relive Roman’s first heel promo with Paul Heyman!
Top heels need top babyfaces to work. The yin and yang of two characters embroiled in a power play of ego and control, makes for some fascinating television. Nothing can be more compelling than the morality tale, when told the right way, in professional wrestling. So without viable contenders to Roman’s crown, his story could one day become stale once again.
If that happens, then WWE would have missed an opportunity to develop the best heel character that fans have seen in years. Roman has the background, he has the experience and he has the confidence to get the job done. Whether or not the company will stay the course and resit the urge to turn Reigns face before his time, remains to be seen.
Roman’s booking has never been up to him and that was the case before as well. The only thing he can control is how he carries himself in the ring and on the mic. So far, he’s more than risen to the occasion and there are no signs of him slowing down anytime soon. Roman Reigns has found his niche, he’s found his direction and he’s only just getting started.
Tom Clark is a Senior Pro Wrestling Analyst and Featured Columnist for Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Spotify, YouTube and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live