The Roman Reigns experiment hasn’t exactly worked out the way WWE had envisioned. Reigns had been hand-picked by Vince McMahon to become the next face of the company, and the successor to John Cena. However, much like with Cena, the fans have felt that Roman Reigns has been forced upon them. It’s evident now more than ever that the fan base supports superstars that get over organically, rather than those pushed by the powers-that-be, no matter the reaction or consequence.
The disdain fans seem to have toward Roman Reigns cannot be pinpointed to an exact moment. However, news leaked out that Reigns was going to win the 2015 Royal Rumble six months prior to the event. And lo and behold, Reigns was the last man standing that night in Philadelphia, much to the chagrin of the crowd. Fans were much more behind Daniel Bryan at the time, and the fact that the results leaked out to the public a half year in advance and WWE still stuck to it struck a nerve with their viewers.
Roman Reigns wouldn’t go on to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship until the latter stages of 2015, but even when WWE and The Authority stacked the deck against him in hopes of creating a special WrestleMania moment, the fans had already soured. It might not be Roman Reigns they despise, rather, it’s the idea of him being pushed down their throats that invokes such a negative reaction.
“Stone Cold” Steve Austin was a recent guest on You’re Welcome With Chael Sonnen. The Texas Rattlesnake has been outspoken about his issues with WWE creative recently, and especially when it comes to Roman Reigns. Austin blamed the booking on Reigns backfiring with today’s audience (Thanks to Wrestling Inc for the transcription).
“Roman is having a hard time winning the crowd over just because of the way he’s booked. When you sit there, good looking guy, a lot of charisma, [and] easygoing the times I’ve talked to him. He’s one of the nicest guys in the locker room and well-spoken and smart and doesn’t need anybody writing convoluted promos for him, so I just think many people consider him [to be] entitled because of his looks and that [has] actually worked against him, so the kid is in between a rock and a hard place, no pun intended that he’s related to The Rock.”
Austin has often said that promos these days are too scripted, and as one of the best promos in the history of the business, “Stone Cold” can tell when a superstar is reciting something from memory rather than speaking from the heart. That’s also where he feels WWE has failed Roman Reigns.
“If this is the Reality Era, let the kid go out there and shoot and let the chips fall where they may. Let the kid have some freedom. Let the kid go out there and express himself. Let him go out there and experiment. All he can do is fall down and trip and then get back up if he does and take another shot at it… Vince [McMahon] is going to still try to do the tried and true formula, a traditional babyface push, but this kid is not going to be a traditional babyface because, just going back to politics, people don’t want to be told what to like, why to like him, here’s why you should like him, and, damn it, like him!”
To their credit, WWE has tweaked with the Roman Reigns character since his championship victory at WrestleMania. He’s still getting monster heat despite maintaining babyface status. But a new wrinkle has showcased somewhat of a tweener persona. And booking him against AJ Styles will clearly have the crowd in favor of the challenger for the duration of this feud. Austin also added that Reigns should consider changing his ring gear, especially if they are bent on keeping him as a face. This Sunday will certainly go a long way in determining Reigns’ future within the WWE Universe.
[Image via WWE]