When the WWE pushed Roman Reigns ahead of Daniel Bryan back in 2015, fans turned on him quickly. The WWE believed that Roman could be the heir apparent to John Cena as the next major babyface in the company. Many fans booed Reigns when he won the Royal Rumble and have never forgiven him since.
Despite there being so many fans who boo Roman Reigns, and many who think he could work better as a heel, the WWE is not looking to have him make that switch anytime soon. A lot of fans, mostly women and kids, still love to cheer Roman, similar to the reaction that John Cena gets.
As a result, Forbes reported that Roman Reigns is a better value for the WWE as a face than he ever could be as a heel. Sure, if Roman turned heel, it could freshen up his character and become instantly more interesting. However, the controversy of the WWE keeping Reigns a face is doing a lot for the WWE on social media; a platform that the company finds very valuable.
When it comes to this year’s Royal Rumble, the WWE knew that many very vocal fans have grown to despise Roman Reigns. The WWE wanted fans to accept Randy Orton as the winner of the Royal Rumble and knew that could be tricky to pull off.
The WWE did the most ingenious thing they could have pulled off to make it work. With one spot left in the Royal Rumble and a number of intriguing guest appearances including NJPW star Kenny Omega and possibly NXT star Finn Balor, the WWE brought out Roman Reigns at number 30.
The fans started booing loudly at this. Roman Reigns had already wrestled on the card, failing to win the WWE Universal Championship from Kevin Owens. Now, he was getting another shot, and the fans hated it. When Randy Orton eliminated Roman Reigns and won, the fans loved it.
That was what the WWE hoped for, and it worked like a charm.
Here is some interesting data from the social media buzz surrounding the Royal Rumble. There was only one surprise entrant, and that was NXT star Tye Dillinger, the Perfect 10, who came into the Royal Rumble at number 10. The WWE tweet of his entrance was shared 1,700 times; an impressive number.
A non-WWE Twitter account put together some of the biggest shocked reactions of fans watching the Royal Rumble from their homes as they waited in anticipation of the number 30 entrant, and their disappointment and anger that it was Roman Reigns. Despite the WWE not promoting this tweet, it was shared 6,321 times.
The lesson learned here is that the WWE Universe are a lot more people connected to Roman Reigns by hating him for being a face and the controversy surrounding the fact that he also has a large fanbase on social media as well. It is this notoriety that has Roman Reigns so popular right now.
If the WWE turned Roman Reigns heel, he would be another bad guy. He could destroy beloved faces and become one of the best bad guys ever, but he would still be just another heel. There is nothing unique about a heel doing bad things, and the online chatter and discussion would die quickly.
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Roman Reigns was the first face to ever win the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Most Hated Wrestler of the Year award. Past winners included The Authority, and many fans at WrestleMania last year was actually cheering the hated Triple H over Reigns. Even the evil foreign gimmick that Rusev uses didn’t help, and fans cheered him over Roman.
The WWE won’t be turning Roman Reigns bad anytime soon without a solid plan in their back pockets, such as a possible NXT invasion angle. The WWE would lose too much of the important online discussion if they pulled the trigger and turned Roman Reigns heel right now.
[Featured Image by WWE]