WWE Hall of Famer “Stone Cold” Steve Austin has never been shy about calling things as he sees them. That has often meant criticism of the company he used to work for and its current product, but when it came to the recently-concluded Royal Rumble pay-per-view, the “Texas Rattlesnake” was more than impressed with several things, including the controversial decision to have Roman Reigns enter last in the Royal Rumble match, and Reigns’ own improvement as a performer.
Fans had a largely positive reaction to Royal Rumble 2017 in general, as it featured two excellent main event title matches – Kevin Owens retaining his Universal Championship against Roman Reigns, and John Cena beating AJ Styles to become a 16-time WWE Champion. But the Royal Rumble match that typically ends the pay-per-view was a different story altogether. Cageside Seats, for example, opined that the lack of surprise entrants was quite disappointing, with NXT star Tye “The Perfect 10” Dillinger’s entry at No. 10 being the only one that truly impressed.
— WWE News (@WWENewsGuy) February 1, 2017
One surprise fans had especially found unpleasant was Roman Reigns as the last man to enter the Royal Rumble match. Instead of Finn Balor, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, or Kurt Angle, the WWE Universe got “The Big Dog,” and they predictably greeted Roman’s entrance with deafening boos. But “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was one of those who feels WWE did the right thing by making Reigns enter last, and he said as much in the latest episode of The Steve Austin Show. (h/t Wrestling Inc.)
“Everything made sense for me, so I enjoyed the s— out of it. A lot of people s— on Roman Reigns in the 30 spot. I popped because I’m thinking, ‘dude, here’s the setup, guys. Something’s up.'”
Austin went on to recap how the babyface Reigns was one of the final three men in the Royal Rumble match and confronted with the heel duo of Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt. He explained that fans were likely expecting Reigns vanquishing the two SmackDown Live heels and allies, and a similar outcome to Roman’s much-maligned Rumble match victory in 2015. As we now know, that wasn’t the case after all, but “Stone Cold” Steve Austin said he had seen the “setup” for an Orton win coming.
“I smelled a rat from the beginning and I just couldn’t believe what I was going to end up seeing. He goes to charge Randy Orton, spear, and, of course, Randy Orton connects with an RKO. Boom. Over the top rope. Randy wins. I thought Roman Reigns in the 30 spot was a fantastic idea and great booking.”
All in all, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin believes that Roman Reigns has continued to improve and that it’s not too late for him to transform into a more “complete” wrestler. Reigns, after all, has only been in pro wrestling for five years, while Austin said it took him “over seven years” to become an all-around talent.
“I don’t think he’s where he needs to be right now. I just still maintain, man, he’s just a good looking guy, great body, he (has) got presence. Needs to work on the promos, but I think his words are coming a little bit more (naturally). I think he’s starting to finally get a sense… and finally, let’s not get lost on the fact that the kid (has) only been in the business five years.”
The idea of a Roman Reigns heel turn has been appealing to a lot of pro wrestling insiders, including Austin himself. According to ComicBook.com’s recap of a December 2016 episode of The Steve Austin Show, the 52-year-old wrestling legend advocated this idea, saying that Roman needs some time as a bad guy before the WWE Universe can accept him as a good guy. Two months later, on this week’s post-Royal Rumble episode, Austin had once again stressed why he believes turning Reigns heel is best for his career.
“I see a really good run (for) that kid (as) a heel first – I keep saying this and it’s just me – and once he has that heel run, I think he has the potential to have a monster (babyface) run.”
It’s too early to say, and Wrestling Inc. reported earlier this week that WWE still sees Roman Reigns, even after his Royal Rumble match spot and how he had eliminated The Undertaker from the match, as the next “face of the company.” But if WWE builds on that elimination and capitalizes on how much fans dislike him, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin may like what he sees if and when Reigns finally gets that heel turn.
[Featured Image by Moses Robinson/Getty Images]