If the backlash that followed this year's Royal Rumble is any indication, fans are, for the most part, refusing to get behind WWE's new golden boy. #CancelWWENetwork became a worldwide trend on Twitter over outrage that Daniel Bryan was eliminated early on in the Royal Rumble match. To cap off the disappointment, the last three men standing in the ring were the ridiculous trio of Kane, Big Show and Roman Reigns, with Reigns taking the predictable victory. There could not have been a more obvious or anti-climatic ending to what is traditionally regarded as one of the most exciting pay-per-views of the year.
Despite the fans' mutinous cries and threats to cancel their WWE Network subscriptions, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon was reported saying that the controversy was actually good for business. Judging by the fact that the WWE Network hit the 1 million subscriber benchmark the very next day, it seems like McMahon may have been telling the truth.
During the next Monday Night Raw it appeared that WWE creative had listened to the fans' protest. The Authority granted Daniel Bryan and Seth Rollins a match, the winner of which would get an opportunity at Fastlane to claim Reigns' WrestleMania title shot. Bryan wins, we go to Fastlane and...Reigns beats him to retain his WrestleMania match. The WWE stuck to their guns after all and to the dismay of countless fans we'll be seeing Roman Reigns take on Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at Wrestlemania 31.
But let's stop and think about why WWE is trying to shove the Samoan bad boy down our throats. Is there something just below the surface that we're not quite seeing in Reigns? Could there be more to him than a gloomy appearance and a handful of powerful moves? If you think about it, his title shot at WrestleMania puts him in a unique position and allows for some pretty entertaining possibilities for his character. Don't think so? Here are 10 reasons you should get behind Roman Reigns now.
9 His Pedigree
We saw how his cousin The Rock came to Reigns' rescue following his Royal Rumble win in January, and that says a lot about the support system that is operating around him behind the scenes. The Anoa'i family is one of the most legendary wrestling families in the history of sports entertainment and it looks as though Reigns definitely has the natural gifts he needs to make it up there with the best of them. The only thing holding him back at this point is his apparent lack of personality, having stayed the strong silent type even long after his break with The Shield. But if there's anyone who knows a thing or two about reinventing a character, look no further than the man once known as Rocky Maivia. The Rock made very little noise in the WWE until his famous heel turn in 1997, so there's really no better person for Reigns to have in his corner.
8 He's Not John Cena
For over 10 years now John Cena has been the face of the WWE, and it seems that with every year that passes, more and more fans begin to get fed up with The Champ and his stand-up-guy ways. Cena has navigated his career according to his "hustle, loyalty, respect" mantra, and there hasn't been much variety in terms of his character in WWE. Fans longed for the day when Cena would turn heel but as time went on it became apparent that that day would never come. Cena remains a role model for younger fans and is still the company's leader in terms of merchandise sales, but the 37-year-old needs to allow younger superstars time to shine atop the WWE roster. Roman Reigns as a character allows for much more flexibility than Cena ever did, since Reigns has always been billed as an anti-hero type wrestler. Having him rise to the top is a slightly darker turn for WWE and a move that has the potential to satisfy both those yelling "let's go Cena" and "Cena sucks!"
7 WWE Needs New Blood
The previous point illustrated a specific example within a much larger problem. The WWE needs to utilize its young talent, and Roman Reigns can lead the way. Keeping things fresh has not been WWE's strong suit over the last decade or so. The tired Authority gimmick has been beaten to death and at this year's WrestleMania two of the most talked-about matches involve a 55-year-old Sting, a 50-year-old Undertaker and a 45-year-old Triple H. John Cena isn't going anywhere just yet, but at 37 he may be reaching the end of his prime, so the time is right to introduce a fresh, young face as WWE Champ. Sure, there are other candidates to choose from, including Reigns' former stable-mates, but a strong argument can be made that no one on the current roster has as much potential drawing power as the Samoan Superman.
6 He Proved He Can Wrestle
Anyone who thought Reigns was a terrible wrestler up until Fastlane was proven wrong when he stood toe to toe with Daniel Bryan in what was an excellent match; probably the best of his career. He has both the size and athleticism to stand up to virtually any wrestler in the organization and has only improved on his in-ring skills since entering the WWE. Need proof? Watch some of his first matches as part of The Shield. Better yet, go back to his time in NXT and see how far he has come since then. Some will complain that he has a limited move set and relies too heavily on his finishers, but how many of the greatest wrestlers in history have been accused of the same thing? Answer: Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, the list goes on and on...
5 At Least WWE is Committing to Something!
Since the Attitude Era, there have been only two things that Vinny McMahon and friends have held onto with conviction: Having John Cena as the face of the WWE and trying to keep alive the tired Authority figure cliche. Everything else has come and gone like the wind. Storylines have been brief and often end without a proper conclusion (Dean Ambrose vs. Bray Wyatt), stars have risen with blazing speed only to come crashing back down (Sheamus, anyone?) and fans have been toyed with to the point of practically being insulted (remember that anonymous Raw GM?)
WWE is taking the right steps with Reigns as they didn't start pushing him too early, giving him time to settle into his role and develop himself in the ring as part of The Shield. They showed that they listen to the fans by almost letting Daniel Bryan take away his WrestleMania match, but that the organization is sticking to their guns so strongly should be an indication that Reigns has what it takes to be their number one guy.
4 He Has The Charisma
Hear me out on this one. Put a mic in his hands and no one is going to confuse Roman Reigns with The Rock or even John Cena for that matter. However, he is nowhere near as bad as critics have made him out to be. In fact, when he isn't making Superman references or trying to be too funny, Reigns has a legitimate intimidation factor that few other wrestlers possess. The problem is that Vince McMahon has reportedly been responsible for some of his more cringe-worthy moments, having taken the task of writing Reigns' recent promos into his own hands. Pushing him to be someone he's not is no way to breed success. After all, he's done well enough showing his charisma as the brooding, silent type that he shouldn't have such pressure on his shoulders to be a poet on the mic. Bret Hart never did.
3 He's Physically Gifted
2 The Best Is Yet To Come
As previously mentioned, Reigns has come a long way since he started in WWE's developmental system in 2010, and who's to say he won't continue to improve? His matches have only been getting better and if placed in the right situations he could excel as a lone wolf WWE champ. Think about the possibilities that his title match at WrestleMania 31 brings. It's highly improbable that Lesnar will retain his title (the WWE universe would like to see it defended more than once a year) and if Reigns wins then it's only a matter of time before we see him attacked by Mr. Money in the Bank, Seth Rollins. It's a can of worms that has been waiting to be opened since The Shield split, as Reigns never had a proper post-Shield feud with his old faction-mate. Wrestling-wise, story-wise, we have not yet seen the best of Roman Reigns.
1 You Liked The Shield, Right?
...And even if you didn't, you should be able to acknowledge that the faction was created with the express purpose of giving Reigns a vehicle with which to get acclimatized to the WWE. It was a happy coincidence that his two partners, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, also happened to be two extremely talented superstars who have both managed to successfully carve out places for themselves within the business. It's understandable that those who view Rollins and Ambrose as superior wrestlers may be bitter that Reigns has gotten "special treatment," but the reality is that Reigns is the reason The Shield existed in the first place.
1. Roman Reigns is Best For Business
There, we said it. We all like to watch WWE, and for the company to exist they need to make smart business decisions. Reigns has got the hair, the muscles, the tattoos. While many slam it for being limited, his move set is high-impact and he delivers each maneuver with intensity and meaning. He's also highly marketable and the average person flipping through the channels on Monday night will more likely stop if they see him than if they saw a Daniel Bryan or Dolph Ziggler. In a way it's sad, but it's also reality, and it's no reason to hate the guy. Wrestling is Entertainment first and foremost, and Roman Reigns can be the ambassador the WWE is looking for to usher in a new generation of wrestling fans. Believe that.