In case you’ve been living in a cave with Brad Maddox lately, or just not watching WWE, Roman Reigns is pretty clearly going to be the next big star in the WWE. Standing at 6’3 and weighing 265lbs, the 29-year-old has the genetics to back up his skills, being the son of Wild Samoan Sika and cousin of the Usos, Rikishi and the Rock. There is nothing about Reigns that doesn’t make you think he’s going to be a star. He can work a good match, he can talk, he has the look, he’s been pushed hard, and he hardly ever gets beaten.
That last part could be the worst thing that ever happened to Reigns. Flash back with me to 1997.
As the Attitude Era was taking shape, it was no secret that Steve Austin was the fastest rising star in a very long time. He was absolutely on fire and was running over everyone in his path….except for Bret Hart. Austin challenged Hart to a match at “Survivor Series 1996” and was defeated in a classic. After costing Hart the Royal Rumble and then the WWF Championship early in 1997, a rematch was made at “Wrestlemania 13”. Hart won again but the war between the two was far from over.
Over the course of the summer, Hart formed the Hart Foundation along with Jim Neidhart, Owen Hart, the British Bulldog and Brian Pillman. The group stood up for Canadian values against the United States with Austin as their primary adversary. After a summer of fighting, including Austin’s only win over Bret coming via disqualification at “In Your House 15: A Cold Day In Hell”, Austin lost the Border War to the Hart Foundation.
Yes Austin lost, but the long term good was far more important. After his war against the Hart Foundation, Austin was ready to ascend to the top of the wrestling world because he had been seasoned and shown as a human. When Austin was up against insurmountable odds, he was defeated. This was the case during his title reigns as well, with examples such as his losses to Kane or the Brothers of Destruction.
This brings us back to Roman Reigns who is rising up the card. While he isn’t as hot as Austin, odds are Reigns is going to be one of the top stars in WWE a year from now. Since the Shield split up, Reigns has run over everyone in sight, only losing multi-man matches such as the Money in the Bank match. Reigns hasn’t had to face adversity which could humanize him instead of leaving him as a Superman.
The same argument is something that occasionally plagues John Cena. While most rational people won’t argue that Cena is one of the greatest of all time and deserves to be at the top of the company, there is a fair argument that some of Cena’s comebacks go beyond the point of believability. There are times where he gets beaten down to no end but still makes a comeback and survives against multiple opponents. While this is fine on occasion, there comes a point where it’s ridiculous.
If you want a more historic example, look at Hulk Hogan. The Hulk Hogan formula over the years was a very simple one: you build up a seemingly unstoppable monster, give him a title shot, and have Hogan lose via countout or disqualification. It made the fans think Hogan couldn’t do it before he came back and won the rematch with the big boot and legdrop.
This brings me to the other important point: there’s always a rematch. Again, let’s look at Steve Austin, focusing on his title reigns this time. Austin lost the title at “In Your House 24: Breakdown”, but it was in a match that he shouldn’t have been able to win. Yes Austin lost the title in a glorified handicap match to the Undertaker and Kane, but he was able to come back and win the title again at “Wrestlemania XV.” That win meant so much more because he had lost before and was able to come back later.
Now let’s apply this to someone like Reigns. Suppose he goes up against Triple H, Randy Orton, Seth Rollins and Kane in a four on one handicap match or even a gauntlet match. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Reigns were to lose a match like that in the long run. Those are three former World Champions and a likely fourth, so it would be beyond a stretch to see Reigns defeat them all at once or in a row. If Reigns loses a match like this, the time when he comes back to get his revenge on a fairer stage is going to be all the more powerful.
Reigns has gotten off to a very hot start, but he needs to be shown as human. An extraordinary human for sure, but a human. I’m not at all suggesting that you have him lose a clean match, but having him face some adversity is going to do him a lot more long term good than short term bad. The greatest heroes are the ones that get knocked down and then make the hero’s comeback. If you need a modern example of this, look at what Daniel Bryan accomplished at “Wrestlemania XXX.” Reigns can be a great top man, but he needs to show he can survive some problems first.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to planting that little seed of doubt. It there’s a reason for the fans to believe something could happen, it makes every single moment of a match that much more dramatic. Fans would believe that Reigns could lose a match in an unfair advantage because it happened before. If you can make the fans believe that something unlikely could happen, WWE has the fans right they they want them: opening their wallet and handing WWE their money.
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