Make no mistake about it, Roman Reigns is a really, really good wrestler. But, as many of you will be well aware, he’s unfortunately totally miscast in the current WWE landscape. While the WWE and Vince McMahon are adamant that Roman is their new poster boy – and dammit, you will adore him – the fan base isn’t exactly onside with this concept. In fact, no matter what the WWE does to try and get Reigns cheered, it seems that the audience can muster up nothing but boos for the Big Dog.
Ever the stubborn sort, it appears that Vinny Mac is refusing to change course or listen to his audience; instead sailing full steam ahead with Roman as the man. Sure, right now you could interpret certain things as indicative of an imminent heel turn over the next couple of months, but we’ve been here before and we could well now be at a point where that would be giving too much credit to the WWE’s creative team.
Over the decades, we’ve seen McMahon push guys to the moon only to receive the complete reverse response to what he was hoping for. Case in point: Lex Luger. In 1994, Luger was seen by Vince as being his next Hulk Hogan. The only problem was, the fans simply weren’t buying it. They wanted Bret Hart, and they made that known in their refusal to embrace Luger as the guy. In less than a year, McMahon handed the ball to the Hitman and that was that. With Roman though, this has now been going on for four years or so – with you able to count on one hand the amount of times that he’s gotten the all-out positive response that Vince yearns for.
As mentioned, it’s not Reigns’ fault and he really is great in the ring. So with all of that in mind, let’s look at fifteen times that the WWE went to desperate measures to get you to cheer Roman Reigns.
15 The Daniel Bryan Route
One of the hottest wrestling stories of the past decade is the rise and rise and rise of Daniel Bryan. While WWE brass may not have seen the American Dragon as their guy, the fans embraced Bryan and rallied behind him in a way rarely seen before; so much so that the WWE had no choice but to reluctantly put Bryan in the WrestleMania 30 main event and give him the Undisputed Championship.
What made Bryan’s journey so memorable is that he was up against the Authority, essentially fighting the system. The real-life Bryan Danielson was never meant to become the poster boy for the WWE, just a fantastic in-ring talent who could get great matches out of other wrestlers while being positioned as an upper-midcard act. To the fans, Bryan was beloved for his genuine and sincere love of the business, for being an all-round nice, normal guy, and for being frankly the best wrestler on the planet.
So, when Bryan was constantly being screwed over or being held back from opportunities, that only got the fans behind him even more. And now, the WWE is in the midst of bizarrely attempting something similar with Roman Reigns.
Ever since WrestleMania 34, the Big Dog has been storyline screwed over at every turn. Well, if you believe what the on-screen Roman character is spouting. Reigns is having to overcome obstacles and hurdles at each turn, only to then have success ripped out of his grasp. The problem is, everybody knows that Roman Reigns has been hand-picked behind the scenes to be the WWE’s poster boy going forward, that he himself has stated he’s there to do what he’s told and get rich, and that he only stumbled into the wrestling business once he didn’t make the grade in the football world.
14 Put Him Against The Evil Foreigner
A staple of the wrestling business for decades has been the character of a foreign menace. Sure, it at times often reeks of casual (at best!) racism, but wrestling companies – and in particular the WWE – have gone back to the drawing board and reused that age-old stereotype over the years.
There was Ivan Koloff, there was the Iron Sheik, there was Nikolai Volkoff, there was the Fabulous Rougeaus, there was the Iraqi sympathizer turn of Sgt. Slaughter, there was Yokozuna, there was Bret Hart’s anti-American rants, there was Muhammad Hassan, there was Rusev upon his main roster debut, and currently there’s Jinder Mahal. To be blunt, it’s a tired and outdated generic character that is a lazy option to take for the most part. Sure, having a foreign heel is fine, but when the only reason they’re viewed as a bad guy is because they’re foreign, that’s when you find yourself shaking your head in disbelief once again.
Right now, former WWE Champion (yes, that still sounds weird!) Jinder Mahal is feuding with Roman Reigns. The logic being that everybody hates the Modern Day Maharaja; casual fans disliking him for being the pesky foreign menace; smart fans disliking him due to his slow, plodding in-ring style. So how can you guarantee Roman Reigns to be embraced and cheered? You put him against Mahal. Only so far it’s not working.
You couldn’t make it up, but so far in this ongoing feud fans have actually been cheering Jinder against the Big Dog. So rather Roman being cheered because of the hatred for Jinder, it’s actually Mahal getting cheered because of the disdain for Reigns.
13 Protect The F5 At All Costs
One of the biggest complains than wrestling fans have had over the past few decades is that finishing moves are often a case of false advertising – as in they rarely actually finish a match!
The origin of this seems to really stem from the Attitude Era, with even some of the biggest stars of the day having to hit one, two, three or more of their supposed “finishing moves” in order to put an opponent away. Before that, all it took was one big leg from Hulk Hogan to win a match, one Sharpshooter from Bret Hart to have rivals tapping out, or even a single Write-Off from IRS to finish a bout. Yes, even the jobbers of the day would win a match should they happen to hit their grandstanding big move.
In the years since, it’s taken multiple finishing moves from names like Steve Austin, the Rock, Undertaker, Triple H, Chris Jericho, Edge, John Cena, Randy Orton and pretty much any top star to win a match. In this latest Brock Lesnar run though, just one of the Beast’s patented F5s has finished off any and every opponent. Top tier challengers such as Braun Strowman and Samoa Joe have fallen to Lesnar’s F5, and the reason that nobody has kicked out of the manoeuvre is simple: that prestigious honor was being saved for Roman Reigns.
By WWE logic, if Lesnar can put away everyone else with just one F5, it will look all that more impressive when Roman kicks out of the move in the WrestleMania 34 main event. In fact, when it came to that event, Reigns eventually kicked out of five F5s while constantly getting booed.
12 Keeping AJ Styles And Daniel Bryan Away From Him
In the most recent Superstar Shake-Up, it seemed a given that one of AJ Styles or Daniel Bryan would make the jump from SmackDown to Raw. As it happens, both of those hugely popular talents remained with the Blue Brand. For those who thought that AJ or Bryan – most likely Bryan – would be switching brands, the thought process was that there was no need to have two such ridiculously popular guys on one brand; especially when Raw was really in need of a flagship babyface who stands head and shoulders above the pack.
Where the WWE was concerned, though, was that they already had that flagship babyface in Roman Reigns. As in, the one and the same Roman Reigns who gets booed from town to town, from continent to continent.
It’s far from a stretch to imagine that the reason that Styles and Bryan were both kept on Smackers is because WWE brass knows that either one would get a reaction on Raw that would simply be embarrassing to Roman. To be honest, it’s already at the embarrassing point right now in just how much of a strong reaction Seth Rollins is getting despite Reigns being the one given the loaded deck of parlour tricks to help get him cheered.
11 “Retire” The Undertaker
Of course, we now know that the Undertaker is not retired. But for a moment there, it looked as if the legendary Deadman had fought his last battle. Rumors of ‘Taker’s retirement have been brewing for over a decade now, and it seemed as if the Phenom had finally had his final match once he lost against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33. Now, having Reigns defeat such an iconic figure was meant to raise his stock and show audiences just how much of a big deal Roman is, although that didn’t exactly happen. Instead, Reigns got booed out of the arena by the watching crowd, with them taking umbrage with him beating their beloved Undertaker.
For all intents and purposes, the next several months of WWE television saw Roman Reigns responsible for retiring the Undertaker. Again, the logic was that it took somebody as all-powerful and all-dominating as Roman to finally send ‘Taker into retirement. Only again, this just served to continually piss off fans every single time that the Big Dog would make reference to ending the career of the Phenom.
Fortunately for longtime fans of the Undertaker, it looks as if the Deadman has at least one or two more matches left in him before he finally does call it a day.
10 The Passing Of The Torch
Love him or hate him, John Cena has been the standard bearer and poster boy of the WWE for over a decade now. Despite getting a hugely mixed reaction from audiences and fans, Cena has been Vince McMahon’s chosen guy for that entire period, never turning heel and remaining true to his baby-slapping, hand-shaking good guy routine regardless of the negative reaction the act was getting.
In order to emphasize that Roman Reigns was the next in line to be the WWE’s poster boy, that fact was hammered home by him defeating John Cena clean in a one-on-one match at the 2017 No Mercy PPV.
Now you can go with two trains of thought with this. Firstly, you have the visual of the WWE’s current top guy handing over the proverbial baton to the WWE’s next top guy. Secondly, you could make an argument that for all of those who have booed Cena over the years, they’d surely be cheering for Roman by default in that case. Sadly, the build-up and the match itself was met by chants such as “You both suck!” or there were even times that Cena would be getting cheered by the majority of crowds; something that’s not happened since around 2005.
9 Team Him Up With Two Indy Darlings
There’s no doubting that the Shield was a fantastic faction that well and truly made their collective mark on the wrestling business. And since the breakup of that group, each of the three members have gone on to become World Champions in their own right.
The WWE has long viewed Roman Reigns as a "stud" since his early days in their developmental arm of FCW, later NXT. Sure, he was green as grass, but he had the look and heritage that gets Vince McMahon tight in the pants. So, how do you get this green performer on to the main roster in a major, meaningful way that’s going to get him cheered by savvy fans while simultaneously papering over his shortcomings? Why, you team him up with two guys who have a boatload of credibility. That was the case with the Shield, with Roman being put with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Both Rollins and Ambrose had honed their craft on the independent scene as Tyler Black and Jon Moxley, respectively, and both were adored by the savvy, smart wrestling fans.
So, the logic was that if Reigns was put with them then not only would he learn the ropes of being on the road, but his wrestling game itself would progress leaps and bounds, and fans would instantly take to him as a big deal.
In fairness, the Shield served its purpose in that way, and all three guys felt like big-time players during their initial run together. Once the Big Dog went out on his own though, that’s when fans quickly became tired of him.
8 Bringing His Daughter Into The Mix
How can you boo a good dad, right? From interviews and promo work out of character, Joe Anoa’i seems like an awesome dad, an awesome family man, and someone who busts his ass every single day to make life better for those closest to him.
Upon feuding with Bray Wyatt, the decision was made to introduce Roman’s young daughter into the mix, with the Eater of Worlds seen to be creepily watching Reigns’ offspring. If ever there’s something that can get a sympathetic response to it, this was it.
So many of the watching audience are fathers or are kids, and so they likely could think of nothing worse than somebody eerily watching a father spending time with his child. It was a desperate move and one that was met with a so-so response from the WWE Universe. Roman didn’t get booed for it, so that’s a start, right? Regardless of that part of things, the WWE fan base still had minimal interest in what soon became a bland, dull feud between two good wrestlers who really should be able to put on a better set of matches together. Good dad or not, this was a rivalry that did nothing for Roman Reigns or Bray Wyatt.
7 Everybody Hates Triple H, Right?
Despite being the godfather of NXT these days, many a longtime wrestling fan has a bit of a grudge against Triple H for a number of reasons. Not only do some warrant his big push to the moon as being down to his marriage to Stephanie, others regale plentiful stories of him refusing to do the J.O.B. to a talent or for outright burying somebody. And don’t even get us started on Hunter’s “Reign of Terror” with the World Heavyweight Championship.
Looking to use that reputation to their advantage, the WWE chose to dust off the Game and have him go up against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 32. The company even went as far as to have Triple H win the WWE Championship at the Royal Rumble show just a few months before ‘Mania so that they could give coronate Roman (again!) and end the show with him toppling the nefarious Helmsley.
Not all would go as smoothly as the WWE had hoped, of course, and instead Triple H was largely cheered in the build up to the Showcase of the Immortals. And despite the Cerebral Assassin doing everything he could to try and get Reigns cheered, all of the will in the world couldn’t get the fans behind the Big Dog.
6 Have Braun Strowman Decimate Him
Right now, Braun Strowman is one of the most popular acts in the WWE. So much so, many see him as the perfect solution to finally dethrone Brock Lesnar of the Universal Championship. Whether that happens, we’ll have to wait and see, but the general consensus amongst most wrestling fans is that Strowman and Seth Rollins are both better fits than Roman to get that particular job done. Which likely means that it’ll be Reigns who does eventually usurp Paul Heyman’s Beast.
Let's rewind to a year or so ago though, and a heel Strowman ended up butting heads with Roman Reigns. Being the absolute brute of a man that he is, Braun would destroy Roman at every single turn, including tipping over an ambulance, throwing a strapped-down Reigns and his stretcher off a ramp, and just mercilessly beating the tar out of the Big Dog at every turn.
The idea was that Roman taking such savage beatings week after week and continuing to step up to the fight would garner sympathy for Reigns and get fans behind him. But, you guessed it, this didn’t work, and instead it ended up getting more and more cheers for Braun Strowman to the point that he’s now arguably the top babyface on the Raw roster. Good job, WWE. Good job.
5 Time To Wheel Out Vinny Mac
Some would argue that Vince McMahon is the greatest heel in the history of the WWE. While you can debate that matter for an age, Vince definitely has to be in the conversation. From on-air announcer to real-life owner, Vincent Kennedy McMahon jumped on to the coattails of the Montreal Screwjob and turned himself into the most hated man in professional wrestling during the Attitude Era. His feud with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin is down as one of the greatest of all-time, and many see that as a key element in the WWE winning the Monday Night War. After all, if there was no Vince McMahon character, would Austin have gotten to be as popular as he did? That we'll never know.
Vinny Mac was guaranteed to get instant heat from any and all crowds he performed in front of, and he’d butt heads with a who’s who of the game; from Austin, to the Rock, to Mick Foley, to Triple H, to Undertaker, through to the likes of John Cena and CM Punk. Simply put, nobody was as great a bad guy as Vince McMahon.
Fast forward to December 2015, and we saw McMahon get physically involved with a competitor for the first time in over five years (one brief match with CM Punk notwithstanding). As the Special Referee in Roman Reigns’ WWE Championship match against Sheamus, Vince would end up taking a Superman Punch from Roman in an attempt to garner cheers. Again, all that was dished out by the watching crowd was boos, boos, and a few more boos.
4 Have Daniel Bryan Endorse Him
One of the biggest factors working against Roman Reigns for so long was ‘the little engine that could’, aka Daniel Bryan. Whereas fans were largely against Roman due to him being handpicked to lead the WWE forward, those same fans saw Bryan as one of them: a wrestling fan through and through.
Many fans had clamoured for D-Bry to win the 2015 Royal Rumble match, and so there were plenty of mouths agape and foreheads being slapped when Bryan was unceremoniously dumped from the match early on – compounded further by Roman Reigns being the one to win said match and a shot at Brock Lesnar’s WWE Championship at WrestleMania 31.
How could the WWE get fans behind Roman? How about if they had Bryan challenge the Big Dog for the #1 contendership at the Fastlane PPV? Sure, Bryan would lose, but if he shook Reigns’ hand afterwards, that was enough of a public show of goodwill that the audience would start to get behind Roman, yeah? If Daniel Bryan thinks Roman’s a good guy, so too will his fans, right? Right?
To the surprise of nobody, this did absolutely nothing to stop the fan backlash against Roman Reigns. And that very backlash clearly had WWE decision makers a little nervous, and thus the ‘Mania main event was changed so that Seth Rollins inserted himself into the match and left as WWE Champion.
3 The Rock Couldn't Possibly Be Booed
Since stepping away from the wrestling ring in a full-time capacity over a decade ago now, Dwayne Johnson has gone on to make himself arguably the most successful star in Hollywood. Hell, we say “arguably”, but the box office figures don’t lie. The multiple-time World Champion is one of Hollywood’s go-to names right now, and he is a cash-printing machine when it comes to the silver screen. As well as that, the Rock is somebody who never fails to get a monstrous, superstar reaction from a wrestling crowd whenever he sporadically turns up in the WWE. Film fans or wrestling fans, everybody loves the Great One.
Upon Roman Reigns winning the 2015 Royal Rumble, the call was made to have Johnson – he’s a pseudo cousin of Roman’s – head to the ring to raise the Big Dog’s hand. Granted, the crowd was booing Roman out of the building by that point, but if the Rock is seen to be endorsing him then that should swing the crowd in his favor, right? Um, no. Totally, totally no.
Not only did Reigns get booed, but the fans then booed The Rock, leading to the most brilliant of puzzled looks painted on Dwayne Johnson’s face.
2 Reforming The Shield
While Roman Reigns’ Shield brothers have had a much more sought-after response than Roman – Dean Ambrose a beloved babyface, Seth Rollins getting great heat or huge cheers depending on which role he was cast in – the Big Dog has obviously struggled to get the monster cheers that the WWE has had planned for him over the last few years.
How can you fix that? Well, with Dean and Seth having both been embraced by the WWE Universe, you bring the Hounds of Justice back together as a trio in the hope that the positive, enthusiastic response to the Lunatic Fringe and Architect rubs off on Roman. Great idea on paper, not so much in action.
Sure, fans squealed in delight at these three brothers uniting to do their iconic three-way fist bump, but it didn’t take long for the bloom to be off the rose. The thought of the Shield back together was great. Initially seeing the three in the ring together on the same team was great. The problem was, any time Roman Reigns would tag in during a match, the boos would once more rain down on the ring.
Even more unfortunately, Dean Ambrose would suffer a triceps tear that would put the brakes on the Shield reunion before it could ultimately try and get a more positive response for Roman.
1 Spearing Stephanie McMahon
A major gripe of many wrestling fans is that Stephanie McMahon never gets her comeuppance for the bad things that she does on WWE programming. For a while there, it seemed as if the Billion Dollar Princess was on a mission to collect the balls of every male superstar on the roster. And for those poor superstars, there was absolutely nothing they could do about. No matter how big of a star somebody was, Stephanie wouldn’t think twice about running them down and emasculating them in front of a worldwide audience.
So, what could be a sure-fire way to get fans behind Roman Reigns? Why, you have him get some semblance of revenge on Steph. Not only revenge, but you have him physically attack her. That would come during the main event of WrestleMania 32, with Roman hitting his patented Spear on McMahon during his WWE Championship bout against her husband, Triple H.
To be fair, that actually got quite the positive response from the crowd – much like Stephanie going through a table in the same match did – but that’s exactly the point here. The point here is, this is yet another example of the desperate antics that the WWE have pulled in their attempts to get fans to rally behind their new chosen one.