Pro Wrestling Illustrated is one of the most beloved professional wrestling magazines of all time. Before the Internet, this was how wrestling fans got their news. It also gave fans a chance to have their voices heard when they held their year-end voting each year with the results completely chosen by the fans. One shocking result this year came when fans voted Roman Reigns as the Most Hated Wrestler of the Year in the PWI Awards.
When speaking about the fan-voted award for Roman Reigns, PWI mentioned that this was the first time in their publication’s history that a babyface – a fan favorite – won the Most Hated Wrestler award.
“More than a quarter of our respondents cast their vote for Roman Reigns as the Most Hated Wrestler of the Year, marking the first time in the history of the PWI Achievement Awards that a so-called “fan favorite” has won this distinction.”
Professional wrestling has completely changed over the years. In the past, there were villains that fans cheered, such as The Four Horsemen and The Freebirds, but everyone understood who the good guys and who the bad guys were. Today, it seems fans don’t care who is doing bad things when it comes to who they want to cheer, which leads to booing a guy like Roman Reigns.
This all might have started in the Attitude Era when Stone Cold Steve Austin was a fan favorite who wasn’t a good guy. He was someone who did what he needed to do to win, and he didn’t have any real friends or allies. However, he was facing the evil Mr. McMahon, so he was still technically a babyface.
Today, WWE fans will cheer for Kevin Owens, a guy who cheats to win and tries to hurt people, but they will then boo Roman Reigns; someone who tries to do the right thing in the ring. PWI pointed this out when announcing Roman Reigns was the Most Hated Wrestler of the Year.
“Here’s a guy who fights honorably and abides by the rules. He has proven loyal and dedicated to family and friends. He always conducts himself as a gentleman, never ducks a challenge, and has managed to overcome the odds every time they seem stacked against him.And the fans boo the crap out of him.”
Of course, there is a little more to it than that statement. Roman Reigns hasn’t done too much to deserve to be hated. He does show an arrogance that suits a heel better. When facing heels like Rusev, Roman Reigns is just as antagonistic as the villain is. However, fans hate Roman Reigns because the WWE wants him to be the top star, and the fans don’t.
In 1984, Rowdy Roddy Piper was voted the PWI Most Hated Wrestler because he smashed a coconut over the head of Superfly Jimmy Snuka. Ric Flair was voted Most Hated Wrestler by the fans because he cheated to win and was fighting the beloved Dusty Rhodes. Randy Savage won the award in 1989 for attacking Hulk Hogan. Roman Reigns has done nothing evil to deserve the fan’s scorn.
In 1996, Hollywood Hogan won the award when he turned his back on WCW and joined the nWo. Stone Cold Steve Austin won it after he turned heel and joined forces with Mr. McMahon. The Authority won it in 2013 and 2014, and Seth Rollins won it in 2015 because they were ruling over the WWE. Unlike Roman Reigns, those were dastardly villains who tortured the beloved faces.
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However, Roman Reigns won the award in 2016 over Kevin Owens, The Miz, and Eva Marie. Kevin Owens cheated to hold his Universal Championship and rarely ever won cleanly since becoming champion. The Miz, who finished third, was clearly the best villain in the WWE in 2016 as he revitalized his career on SmackDown Live. Much like Roman Reigns, Eva Marie is hated because the WWE fans don’t want her around.
But fans chose Roman Reigns, a WWE babyface who battled evil men like Rusev and Kevin Owens through the year. It wasn’t because Roman Reigns was a bad guy. It was because the WWE wanted Roman Reigns to be the guy.
[Featured Image by WWE]