Ever since debuting on the main WWE roster as part of The Shield in 2012, Roman Reigns has been positioned to become a huge star in the wrestling world.
While the insta-cool appeal of the no-nonsense muscle of The Hounds of Justice has long since left Roman, that’s not stopped the WWE making him their top guy. Remember, whether you want to or not, you will like him! Well, that’s the viewpoint of Vince McMahon, at least.
Throughout Reigns’ rise to the top, many a superstar and performer has been sacrificed in one way or another. Whether it’s being overlooked for Roman, being used to try and get him cheered, or simply there as a big name for him to get a win over, so many have done their best to try and help Roman Reigns get to where the WWE wants him to be: as the #1 babyface and poster boy of the company.
To give you an idea of how strongly Roman Reigns has been pushed over the past few years, the statistics total up as The Big Dog having won 91% of his 192 matches in 2015 and 89% of his 159 matches in 2016 – and keep in mind that Roman was suspended and supposedly in the “dog house” for part of last year.
Now, of course, anybody positioned as a major top tier talent in the WWE will win far more matches than they’ll lose (at least in theory), but the regular wins of Reigns is something that often draws the ire of many a WWE fan. This is even more-so when Roman is constantly beating superstars who so many watching would much rather see positioned in Reigns’ spot than The Big Dog. Unfortunately, Vince McMahon is the only one who calls the shots, and right now Vinny Mac is still constantly getting tight in the pants at just the thought of Roman headlining yet another PPV.
So, let’s take a look at 16 performers who have been used by the WWE in their seemingly-doomed attempts to make Roman Reigns “the guy”.
16 The Big Show
As has been done so often over the years, when in need of help putting over a new star, it’s time for the WWE to call in The Big Show.
In the aftermath of The Shield breakup, Roman Reigns had suffered an injury and had to take some time off. Upon his return to the ring, though, he began a feud with The Big Show. The 7 foot, 500 lbs former World Champion is one of those go-to performers who have enough name value in the history in the business that they make for a great opponent for somebody on the way to the main event picture, and that was indeed the case here.
What is interesting about this particular feud and the use of The Big Show is that, shock horror, Roman was actually getting a positive crowd reaction at this point in time. Of course, that was before Vince McMahon began to amp up his plan of forcing Reigns down the audience’s throats whether they wanted him as the top guy or not.
15 Paul Heyman
Paul Heyman, as the saying goes, could sell snow to the Eskimos. Hell, Heyman could sell yellow snow to the Eskimos – that’s how good he is!
The point is, the former ECW head honcho is one of the greatest talkers the wrestling industry has ever seen. Whether it’s as a manager, a commentator, an authority figure, or merely an advocate, Paul E. with a microphone in his hand is usually instant gold.
And so, it comes as no surprise that on far too many occasions to count, it’s been Heyman who has been tasked with having to help get Roman Reigns over with the majority of the wrestling audience. In typical Paul E. Dangerously fashion, the advocate of Brock Lesnar has tried his utmost at every turn to get Roman cheered by the masses, and it’s sadly largely failed to work.
When you have Paul Heyman struggling to connect a performer to an audience, you know that there’s something seriously wrong with the situation.
With this particular entry on this list, the inclusion of Cesaro (please don’t call him Antonio!) is mainly down to how he is one of those WWE superstars who has been left out in the cold in favour of Roman Reigns.
Whatever Cesaro is tasked with doing on WWE TV, be it good or bad, the Swiss Superman always delivers the goods. Sure, Vince McMahon may not like him because he has an accent or his promos aren’t on the level of The Rock, but Cesaro went out and connected with the WWE Universe purely based on his incredible ringwork and his athletic charisma.
Still, despite Cesaro being on the cusp of the main event scene several times, even pushing John Cena to the limit on multiple occasions, the WWE higher-ups just regularly overlook him as they instead continued to force Roman Reigns down our throats as the top guy in the company.
Reigns has had so much handed to him and so many powerful people backing him, while poor Cesaro has worked his tail off around the globe for over a decade, earning the respect of the wrestling world… yet that’s still not enough for the WWE.
13 Vince McMahon
It’s been many years since the now-71-year-old Vincent Kennedy McMahon was involved in the WWE TV product in a physical way. Long gone are the days of Vinny Mac taking Stunner after Stunner from Steve Austin, and so it again shows how desperate the WWE were to do anything in order to get Roman Reigns cheered when Vince McMahon made an on-screen return during a December 2015 edition of Raw.
Not only did Vince return and confront Roman, he would even go as far as to be the special referee in the Reigns vs Sheamus match for the WWE Championship. And doing his very best to try and get some sympathy for the ever-rejected Big Dog, Vince even put himself in the crosshairs of Roman.
Despite McMahon returning to Raw and taking a Superman Punch, the mild cheers for Roman Reigns lasted for just one week. Once the shock factor of Vince’s return died down, once again Roman was back to being booed by the masses.
For a long point in time, Sheamus was one of the most hated superstars under the WWE umbrella. He may not have necessarily been one of the most hated bad guys that the company had, but that’s irrelevant here. Simply put, fans had no time for The Celtic Warrior and so would often boo out of boredom when he was in action.
And so, what better way to get Roman Reigns cheered than to have him pitted against the WWE’s resident Beaker lookalike? Well, whilst you could see the logic of Vince McMahon and Co., it didn’t quite work out as they’d hoped.
Reigns had just beaten BFF Dean Ambrose for the WWE Title at the 2015 Survivor Series show, and Sheamus ran down to cash-in his Money in the Bank briefcase. Roman lost the belt after just 5 minutes 15 seconds, and having a villainous bad guy take the belt from The Big Dog in such an underhand way should in theory get him a whole boatload of sympathy.
Instead, the crowd were hugely behind Sheamus and cheered him on as he took the title from Reigns. And if fans are cheering a Sheamus title win at that point in time, you know that the alternative must’ve been really bad…
11 CM Punk
Clearly the majority of us still miss The Straight Edge Superstar, CM Punk, and most of those Punk fans will have heard his post-WWE appearances on Colt Cabana’s The Art of Wrestling podcast.
It was there that Punk regaled Cabana and his listeners with a story about a handicap match he had with The Shield. Before the match, Punk was told how he was going to actually beat The Hounds of Justice, but the WWE were sure to emphasize to him that he needed to make Roman Reigns look strong. Okay, fine, that was the plan. Then the WWE agents reminded Punk to make sure that Roman looks strong. Okay, got it. And again, remember to make sure that Reigns looks strong. And so on, and so on.
As he continued his story, CM Punk reiterated how, even though the company wanted him to win the match against The Shield, one of their priorities even back then was to protect Roman Reigns and to make sure that he looked like a beast.
Something like this just goes to show how long the WWE had been planning a huge future for Roman, and it was logic and decisions like this which played a part in the bigger picture of why CM Punk decided to quit the WWE.
10 Stephanie McMahon
In a time period where Stephanie McMahon makes it a regular occurrence to be sure to take away the balls of any and all WWE superstars that she can – like some twisted take on Pokemon – the Billion Dollar Princess just simply never, ever gets any sort of comeuppance.
Whether it’s John Cena, Randy Orton, Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, or pretty much anyone else that’s been on the roster over the past decade, Stephanie regularly emasculates talents on a weekly basis. It’s a tired, played-out shtick that many viewers find groan-inducing.
Of course, back in the Attitude Era, Stephanie would’ve been given a Stone Cold Stunner or Rock Bottom at the mere raising of her voice to a Steve Austin or a Rock. These days, male-on-female action is simply a no-go on WWE TV.
And because of that, it was made all the more shocking when Stephanie McMahon was hit with a Spear by Roman Reigns at WrestleMania XXXII. While that may have got a decent crowd response, it also shows just how far the WWE is willing to go in order to try and get fans behind Roman.
9 The Rock
We all remember it: the 2015 Royal Rumble.
Roman Reigns had just won the Royal Rumble match itself, but not all in attendance were happy. In fact, absolutely nobody was happy. Yet again, it was a Rumble where so many had hoped for a Daniel Bryan win, and yet again the masses were left unhappy. Even when Reigns faced off with the villainous Rusev as the final two competitors in the match, the crowd were all behind The Bulgarian Brute.
But wait, how can we possibly stop the crowd from spewing hatred towards the victorious Roman? Why, let’s throw The Rock out there. After all, everybody loves The Rock, right? Well, usually they do…
With the WWE keen to have The People’s Champion endorse The Big Dog and help get a positive reaction to Reigns’ victory, The Rock was sent out to ringside. Then the unthinkable happened, and the huge cheers and jeers began to rain down on The Rock as well as Roman Reigns.
Again, to most people this would set off major alarm bells that Roman as “the guy” isn’t working out. Not to Vince McMahon, though.
8 AJ Styles
In the aftermath of WrestleMania XXXII, the WWE did what many of us thought they’d never do: push AJ Styles to the main event picture.
Styles had just lost to Chris Jericho at ‘Mania, but it was more the fact that the WWE is usually against pushing stars to the top of the card if they’d made their names elsewhere. But lo and behold, Styles became the #1 contender to the WWE Championship; a title that had been freshly won by Roman Reigns at The Showcase of the Immortals.
There’s no disputing that Styles and Roman put on some of the year’s very best matches, with their Payback and Extreme Rules bouts being, no pun intended, phenomenal. The only issue is, and you can see where this is going, that there was never any real thought that Styles was going to be given the win over Reigns.
We all knew that AJ was merely there to put on some stunning matches with The Big Dog and help convince the haters that Roman was good in the ring.
7 Chris Jericho
In the list of people who have lost the most to the WWE’s resident Big Dog, six-time World Champion Chris Jericho is right near the top.
Now obviously Jericho is in the twilight of his career these days, and unlike certain other stars of yesteryear he is a performer who is more than happy to give back to the business. And by giving back, that largely means helping to establish the stars of today and tomorrow by having them beat him. After all, beating someone of such stature can do wonders for a young performer.
The sad thing is, though, that regardless of the countless times Roman Reigns has beaten Jericho in singles or tag bouts over the past year, it has still ultimately done nothing whatsoever to get Roman cheered more by the masses. So much so, you’d have to question whether it would’ve been far better to have Jericho do the J-O-B to another superstar who the WWE sees a bright future for over the upcoming years.
Even now, with the amount of losses Jericho has against Reigns, that sadly only devalues any further losses Jericho may have against other superstars who could’ve done with the huge rub that comes with beating such a major name.
Poor, poor Rusev. Just when he seems to be getting a whole load of momentum behind him, the Bulgarian Brute always happens to bump heads with one of the WWE’s poster boys.
Whilst his initial main roster run was derailed when he battled John Cena at WrestleMania XXXI, after several months in the wilderness Rusev got his career back on track by defeating Kalisto for the United States Championship at Extreme Rules 2016. Unfortunately for Lana’s other half, despite several successful defences against the likes of Cesaro and Titus O’Neil, he’d run afoul of, you guessed it, Roman Reigns.
Rusev was on fire at that point in time, and his promos were some of the best in the company. Still, Reigns had been temporarily shunted from the main event picture following an earlier wellness policy violation, and the WWE still wanted to make him look strong. So, the call was made to have Rusev’s hugely entertaining run brought to a crashing halt by Roman at last year’s Clash of Champions show.
The Bulgarian would lose several further matches to The Big Dog, and even worse was how Reigns merely carried the US Title over his shoulder like a piece of unwanted trash when Rusev could've instead been giving the belt some legitimacy.
5 Kevin Owens
At the time of writing, Kevin Owens is still the WWE Universal Champion ahead of his impending clash with Roman Reigns at the Royal Rumble. Chances are that by the time the Rumble PPV comes to a close, The Big Dog will once again be in possession of one of the WWE’s main championships.
Either way, for the majority of KO’s title reign he’s been made to look like a chump, like a joke, all purely to help try and get Roman Reigns cheered by the crowd who totally, totally don’t want to cheer for him. Owens, despite being at the top of the tree, despite being “the man”, has suffered loss after loss after loss after loss to Roman.
Having a holder of one of your World Titles lose so many non-title matches is pure stupidity, but even more so when it’s merely done to make Reigns look strong – something that fans will not take to regardless of how many matches the former Shield member wins.
If only we could have the badass, no-nonsense Prizefighter who decimated NXT. That’s the Kevin Owens we all deserve to see. But again, that would overshadow Roman, and we all know that can’t be allowed to happen.
4 Triple H
You know it’s getting bad when Triple H is having to try and get a talent over. As we all know, much like Shawn Michaels in the ‘90s, The Game lies down for absolutely nobody.
Considering all of the stories about how Hunter has regularly shot down talents, refused to work with them, or even flat out buried them – hell, the guy even came out of “retirement” for one match purposely to beat CM Punk when Punk was the hottest star in the business – to see Triple H prepared to do whatever he can to try and get Roman Reigns over as the huge babyface the WWE wants him to be, shows how all-out the company is trying to go on Roman.
In fairness, having The Cerebral Assassin bloodily beating down Reigns on Raw while crotch chopping at him wasn’t exactly the best way to get sympathy and cheers for Roman, but at least the ultimate endgame of all of this was to have The Big Dog defeat the despicable Triple H in the main event of WrestleMania XXXII.
Yet again, though, the sight of Roman standing tall to close out The Showcase of the Immortals was another scene overflowing with boos.
3 Dean Ambrose
By the time Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns faced off in the final of the WWE Championship Tournament at the 2015 Survivor Series PPV, the stage was set for Ambrose to finally be given his chance as the WWE Champion.
Of course, that wouldn’t happen and Ambrose would be beaten in the middle of the ring by The Big Dog.
At that point in time, it would’ve been the perfect opportunity to pull the trigger on the much-needed Roman heel turn by having him savagely attack his bestest buddy. That, though, would position Ambrose as the top babyface in the company instead of Roman Reigns… and we all know that simply isn’t going to happen for as long as Vince McMahon has breath in his lungs.
Ever since The Shield split up, Ambrose has so often been held back from becoming a top-tier babyface as that spot has been long-reserved for Roman. Regardless of how much the fans cheer for him, Ambrose was always playing second fiddle to Reigns. So much so, it took last year’s roster split before the WWE positioned Dean Ambrose as the true top babyface of one of their shows. Well, until John Cena came back into the fold on SmackDown, that is.
2 Daniel Bryan
Yes, we all wanted Daniel Bryan to win the 2015 Royal Rumble match, but sadly Vince McMahon only had eyes for one man: Roman Reigns.
Of course, to keep the boos for Reigns to a minimum, it was made sure to eliminate D-Bry before Roman even entered the ring. But still, that didn’t stop one of the more hated crowd responses to The Big Dog.
So bad was the reaction to Roman Reigns, even The Rock couldn’t salvage anything resembling a cheer from those in attendance.
Let’s face it, Daniel Bryan was the one we all wanted to see win the match. In fact, The American Dragon was who we all wanted to see win the previous Rumble match, too. To add further to this, and to make it abundantly clear that the WWE saw Roman Reigns as a far more valuable asset, Roman would beat Bryan at Fastlane, the PPV following the 2016 Royal Rumble.
And of course, Reigns would best Bryan clean 1-2-3 in the middle of the ring. Even a poorly-thought-out show of mutual respect between the pair after the match couldn’t stop Roman again being booed out of the building.
1 Seth Rollins
When it comes to superstars who have been overlooked and pushed aside in order to keep the spotlight on Roman Reigns, nobody has been shunted more than Seth Rollins.
Sure, Rollins did get the big clean win over Roman at the 2016 Money in the Bank main event, but that was only in order for Dean Ambrose to cash in on someone who wasn’t Roman in order for him to take the belt over to SmackDown Live and give it some credibility ahead of the impending roster split.
But the main grievance with how The Architect has been sacrificed in order to keep Roman front-and-centre was when Rollins returned from his six-month injury layoff at Extreme Rules 2016. As the crowd lost their mind when Seth returned and laid out Reigns at the end of that PPV, all was set perfectly for Seth Rollins to return as the all-conquering babyface who never lost his crown. And then, the next night’s Raw saw the uber-hero Rollins deflated and resort back to the slimy heel.
With that, the WWE once again cemented the fact that nobody was going to eclipse Roman Reigns as the babyface poster boy of the company. Rollins would later turn face after Finn Balor got injured, but the momentum was long gone by that point.
Sources: wikipedia.org; profightdb.com