Roman Reigns is a polarizing professional wrestler. Much like Hulk Hogan and John Cena before him, he’s booked as a hero even though he doesn’t always get a hero’s welcome. In fact, many arenas across the world are firmly against the former Shield member and will viciously boo him the very moment his music hits. He’s turned the most evil heels into babyfaces simply by being positioned opposite of The Big Dog.
This strange dynamic has been part of his presentation since he left the stable stage of his career and ventured out on his own. In the beginning, much of the criticisms were valid. Yes, he was the corporate pick and fans don’t like being told who to cheer for. Yes, he wasn’t the best at extended promos and said some rather goofy one-liners. Yes, he was pushed to the top of the card as a singles wrestler when there was little evidence offered that he could go as the top guy. All of those and plenty more were good criticisms, but not anymore.
Reigns has progressed quite a bit as a singles wrestler over the past couple of years. Over the course of this article, 15 reasons will be offered as to why hatred towards him isn’t really valid anymore. He’s still not a perfect performer and there’s always room for improvement, but an honest look will prove that he’s worthy of not only respect, but also kudos.
15. No Reactions Are The Worst Reactions
Monday nights are very tiring for those of us who watch week in and week out, but it’s even longer for those attending live. With Superstars also being taped and an occasional dark match, who can expect to be cheering and booing everything that happens in the ring? Raw is a very long show and it’s almost a guarantee that any Caribbean travel agent acts are going to be greeted by silence. Surprisingly, even the much anticipated Cruiserweight division often is subjected to a polite stillness.
Unlike many others, Roman Reigns does not suffer from a lack of reaction. WWE is delighted when he gets the heroes welcome because that’s always how they try to book him, but few TV markets play along so easily. He’s mostly pelted with a barrage of boos that are so loud that the announcers have to point out how they’re in yet another one of those “smarky” towns.
It’s not Roman’s fault that he’s mostly a miscast character in this very quirky WWE tale of heroes and villains. Considering how apathetic the crowds are at times for other wrestlers, he at least can be credited for routinely one of the loudest reactions of the night.
14. Getting Comfortable
Speaking of being a miscast character, Roman was intended to break out of The Shield and become the next big babyface for WWE to build their company around. That simply didn’t happen. He looked shook on many occasions, so much so that even The Rock was perplexed during a Royal Rumble celebration. Having to stick to the script when the story was being received in the exact opposite way that it’s intended to made for an awkward Reigns. He’d stand victorious like a conquering hero after wins while the audience spouted out an arena full of jeers.
Nowadays, Roman appears way more relaxed in front of the detractors. Granted, sending him out to a confetti celebration in the midst of sneers isn’t a scenario he’s booked in quite so much these days, but he definitely shows more confidence. Reigns has underwent an extended trial by fire and it’s refined him. He carries himself way better now, a trait that will probably be added to the ire of his critics
13. Less Promo Time
When WWE pushed Roman Reigns as the face of the company he was, well, expected to fulfill the duties of the face of the company. This included the obligatory 20 minute opening promo to every show, of course. Guys like John Cena and Seth Rollins happily took the extended diatribes when they were in the top spot in stride because they were well-suited for that role.
Cena and Rollins are a special case, though, and most people aren’t naturally gifted for those kinds of monologues. What makes it even more difficult for a guy like Roman is that he’s mostly expected to memorize a script. When the content includes terrible nursery rhymes and “suffering succotash,” it’s no surprise that he struggled with the material he was given.
More recently, Reigns has not been forced into extended microphone time and that’s been undeniably to his favor. He’s a big dude who needs to simply punch people in the mouth and that’s more of who he his now.
Outside of his performance in the ring, Roman Reigns has followed in the footsteps of previous top guy John Cena by investing a lot of himself into charitable organizations. Most WWE fans will remember the Father’s Day PSA that WWE partnered with the Ad Council and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, depicting Roman with his real life daughter enjoying a spot of tea. He’s dominant and adorable, ladies.
In addition to being about family values, Roman once took part in a local Knoxville version of Dancing With The Stars, raising money for the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. Also, he’s worked alongside DoSomething.org to help promote their Bully Text campaign. Helping sick kids and standing against bullying is something that surely everyone can get on board with.
WWE loves it when their top stars give back, something Roman has no problem doing. Like John Cena’s involvement with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, even the harshest critics have to give some credit when Reigns keeps popping up on lists of the most charitable athletes.
11. More Than A Limited Moveset
No one is denying that Roman Reigns has his key signature moves. It can be expected that in most of his big matches he will attempt the Drive By, the Spear, and the Superman Punch. However, a claim that those are all he ever does is hardly fair. His style is more of a brawler, so he’s not going to be caught doing what a guy from the Cruiserweight Classic would do. He’s also not a technical wizard, so systematically dismantling a body part isn’t his shtick either. What Reigns has is a varied striking and power game and he knows how to bring it against his opponents.
His big matches routinely run 15-20 minutes (and sometimes beyond) and the offense is usually shared. While many fans want to boo Roman for every strike he might throw, he also has a tendency to elicit the very unique “You Still Suck” chant. It’s usually heard after Roman performs a spot so undeniably impressive that the fans are checkmated into giving him props. One example of this was during his match with AJ Styles at Extreme Rules 2016; he gave his challenger a mighty back body drop that caused him to crash through an announce table. Other times include when he leaps over the top rope to the outside, Undertaker-style, onto a pile of his foes. Roman has his specialty moves but to accuse him of simply being a “5 Moves of Doom” player is simply not accurate.
10. Just Classic Enough
When The Shield split up, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins received quite a bit of reinventing. New entrance music was cooked up for each guy. Seth started wearing gear that made him look like a Power Ranger when he busted out the all white version. Dean got a slightly too tight pair of jeans. They both felt like they were trying to do something different, but not Roman Reigns.
At first it was a little forced for Roman. He’d still come out through the crowd with the same Shield music in the same Shield gear. Being the chosen recipient of the three to be pushed upon disbanding, the Shield aura felt like it was being used as a crutch to get people to still remember that they were supposed to like Reigns. Thankfully, WWE gradually eased up a little on the 2014 nostalgia.
Roman now comes to the ring down the entrance ramp like a normal person. His gear is even tweaked, now sporting the very arachnid-style double R’s on his chest protector. There’s plenty of distance behind him from the Shield split that it feels like he’s embraced the remaining carryovers as his own by now, and it works.
9. No More Forced Factions
Surely there is nobody who watches WWE today that wished “The Family” got more of a chance to get over. Pairing Roman Reigns next to his real life cousins, The Usos, as well as with his “brother” from The Shield, Dean Ambrose, was an obviously manufactured way to re-present him to an audience that wasn’t loving him as much as WWE was hoping for. It hurt Reigns with this group because, like their leader, the three other guys were in desperate need of refreshing as well.
The Usos weren’t far off from a heel turn, something that worked wonders for their reception. Dean Ambrose was also a WWE Championship win and a Stone Cold verbal lashing away from feeling like the fire was finally re-lit under him. WWE was not only miscalculating how much people were receiving Roman but also the guys they were trying to group him together with.
Other than an occasion reminder that he might one day be friendly again with his former Shield crew, Roman is strictly a solo fighter these days. That’s really the best thing for him, especially if they’re trying to market merchandise for him that says “One Versus All.”
8. He Makes WWE Lots Of Money
Being a valuable asset to your company has to account for something. Roman Reigns is routinely identified as one of the top merchandise sellers for WWE, which is good news for their bottom line. When asked by a fan on Twitter, pro wrestling guru Dave Meltzer claimed that Roman’s merchandise was the 3rd best seller for 2015.
Pushing out t-shirts that fans will go to live events and actually spend money on works for everybody. It’s a revenue stream that makes Roman money as well as his employer. In an age when ratings occasionally hit all-time lows, Reigns is a superstar that is bringing in the profit. Who can hate him for that?
7. Not Currently The Main Event
When Roman Reigns was the guy that Vince McMahon wanted to build his company around, it really was too much. He was Superman among mere mortals, never made to look weak; he was all over programming and was the focal point of the shows; and you better believe he was either the Champion or the guy chasing the title belt. When Raw and SmackDown still had a shared roster he was the crown jewel whether the audience agreed or not.
Now, he’s no longer vying for the top title on his show. Kevin Owens is the current Universal Champion on Raw and has been dealing mostly with the likes of Seth Rollins and by proxy, the McMahons as well. Roman is still doing his thing but he’s not the default main eventer anymore. It looks like he might be taking his U.S. Championship towards a champion vs. champion challenge in the near future, but that’s after several months out of the title scene.
6. …And Less Main Events To Return To
If you read the previous entry and you scoffed it off as a moot point because Roman’s current semi-main event placement is only temporary, that’s fair. He will be headlining Pay-Per-Views again and the safe bet is sooner than later. The good news for anyone who isn’t clamoring for the Roman show to return is that mathematically speaking, Roman will headline less shows from here on out.
Looking at 2015, possibly the height of the Reigns disdain, WWE put on 13 official main roster Network Specials (not counting that year’s B shows like Beast in the East and King of the Ring). If you include Roman’s victory in the Royal Rumble, he headlined a whopping 6 of them. That’s 46% of all of 2015’s PPVs. The Big Dog was definitely getting the shine during that time.
Now that WWE is once again in a brand split era, the potential percentage amount of PPVs he can headline has decreased. If it’s a blue show, he’s completely off the card. However, there are more shows and it is possible for him to headline even a greater number yet still end up with a lower yearly percentage. The positive here is that more shows means more options and if he’s not your cup of tea simply wait two weeks and wait for the next AJ Styles show instead.
5. It’s Okay To Lose Once In A While
Immediately before serving his Wellness Policy suspension, Roman Reigns did something he doesn’t do very often – he lost clean. At June 2016’s Money In The Bank Pay-Per-View, Seth Rollins defeated him via pinfall for the WWE Championship after hitting a Pedigree (and then went on to lose to Dean Ambrose via briefcase cash-in mere moments later). Then, next month at Battleground, Roman lost again when Dean Ambrose used his Dirty Deeds to successfully pin Roman during the first ever Shield Triple Threat Match. Back-to-back clean PPV losses would’ve been unheard of for The Big Dog at the start of the year.
Reigns wouldn’t get back to his winning ways until SummerSlam season when he set his sights on Rusev’s secondary strap, the U.S. Championship. He’s been mostly dominant against the Bulgarian Brute, but otherwise not being presented as an unstoppable force who is invulnerable to any offense will surely work to his advantage.
4. Reigns Is Actually A Good Wrestler
It might be fun to chant “You Can’t Wrestle” to a competitor that’s disliked – and by all means people are allowed to dislike whomever they wish – but any claim that Roman Reigns is deficient as an in-ring performer simply isn’t true. In fact, it’s a laughable assertion.
One could argue that Roman regularly faces off against elite talent and that might skew the perception of his in-ring ability. Considering some of his foes have included AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, and Brock Lesnar, that’s not a far-fetched charge. However, he’s also had big matches with wrestlers like Rusev, Big Show, and Sheamus – who are good wrestlers but not on an AJ Styles level of elite – and Roman still can put on an above average contests at the very least.
3. Great Matches In Any Environment
It was just established that Roman Reigns can have superb singles matches with a wide variety of opponents. From the technical wizards to the monster powerhouses, he can go one on one with just about anybody and have chemistry. But, his talents don’t end at singles matches.
No evidence is needed to make the case in conventional tag and 6-Man environments – Roman’s Shield days attest to that – but Dave Meltzer’s star ratings will be used for the following match stipulations. At Extreme Rules 2016, he had a 4.5 star Extreme Rules match with AJ Styles. At TLC 2015, he had a 4 star TLC match with Sheamus. At Extreme Rules 2015, he had a 4 star Last Man Standing match with Big Show. That’s high praise for in very different settings.
2. For Future Babyfaces
This might be a case of peering a tad too far in the future, but there will be a time when WWE decides to move on to other wrestlers to build their company around. In the case of John Cena, it took a long while to get to the point where he’d put over the next crop of stars, but it was awesome when that stage of his career arrived. Just in the past year or so, his programs with guys like AJ Styles and Kevin Owens produced some of the best matches of the year. Cena losing didn’t hurt the career he’d built and I believe that Reigns will eventually open that same chapter.
Reigns will get to the point where he no longer needs protected and it’s okay to take a many clean losses without hurting whatever his legacy is by then. The young stallions out of NXT might even go to him first to make their name, much like during Cena’s U.S. Title run. Those matches will be great and one day, when the next AJ Styles comes along, he’ll need to prove himself against The Big Dog in his yard.
1. Blame Vince
Ultimately, all that is presented on WWE programming comes from one man and one man only. Vince McMahon still calls the shots regarding who wrestles, who wins, and who carries the titles. It’s his company and that’s a fact that will not be changing over the next century because he will outlive us all. Even after his body eventually fails him, the technology might finally be in place to continue his consciousness in some sort of cyborg setup so he can still physically be in the Gorilla position for every Raw and SmackDown.
Roman Reigns has been an experiment that has not been well received at times, but his push was never his call. If there’s still any hatred over this Roman Reigns era then please at least redirect where it rightfully belongs, on Vince. It’s Mr. McMahon’s product and if he wants to make Raw or SmackDown or all of WWE the Roman show, he deserves that blame.
But for now, give The Big Dog a break.