Roman Reigns made headlines this week in a way that no athlete ever wants to — for violating his company’s wellness policy for banned substances.
Given the nature of WWE and how they handle media surrounding the WP, it is not known what the banned substance was that Roman Reigns took, but “the Guy” isn’t backing down from his culpability.
He posted to Twitter on the day of the announcement that he completely “owns” what he did and that he apologized to “family, friends, and fans.”
Naturally, speculation is running wild as to what this will mean for his future with the company. He had been handpicked by Vince McMahon to be the new “face of the company” moving forward.
However, as Court Bauer said on a recent episode of his MLW podcast, this is a definite bump in the road on that journey.
Looking back over the last several months since Roman Reigns won the title, Bauer examined how business had been.
— βrittan¥ Adam$ (@adamsstarr22) June 24, 2016
“House shows attendance is down, ratings are down, and he is not a real driver of merchandise,” Bauer explained. “It’s not going in the right direction. Numbers haven’t been good across the board.”
That said, Bauer advised against “panicking” and remarked that it was only a “first offense” for Reigns. Nevertheless, following his Shield compadre Dean Ambrose’s win at Money in the Bank to become the new WWE World Heavyweight Champion, ratings jumped 17 percent for the next night’s Raw.
“The next few weeks are critical for the future of Dean Ambrose, because they’re now forced to put Ambrose in that key babyface role,” Bauer said.
John Pollock, Bauer’s co-host, acknowledged that Ambrose got a good reaction on the Monday-after show, “but there was no overwhelming presence as the champion.”
Both men agreed that fans were seeing it as a “refreshing change,” but based on how he’s been handled in 2016, losing to Triple H on a WWE Network special and then getting “rag-dolled” by Brock Lesnar before working a program few cared about with Chris Jericho, it’s a little too early to call Ambrose the new “guy.”
Still, it’s a good sign.
In February 2016, Vince McMahon went on record as saying that with streaming, ratings were not as important as they used to be (hat tip to WrestleZone). Some took that as a way of Vince admitting that blame for declining ratings was not going to be laid at Reigns’ door.
While McMahon may believe that, it’s hard to ignore it when you see a surge in viewership the way that Raw surged after Dean Ambrose became the champ. Of course, the two biggest indicators as to whether fans can expect a shift away from Roman and toward Ambrose are merchandising and house show attendance.
Fans are finally getting what they want, so if they continue to support Dean Ambrose, WWE will have to take notice, providing that Dean stays healthy and doesn’t violate any wellness policy regulations.
With WWE backed into a corner on Roman Reigns, Ambrose and his followers have a unique chance to make the financial case for the Lunatic Fringe as champion. The question is: Will they?
Regardless, Roman Reigns’ time as the face of the company could be coming to a close before it has the chance to develop. WWE doesn’t like hot-shotting titles, and while they do still have plans for Roman to participate in the main event at Battleground, it is likely they will keep the belt on Dean for now.
— Handy #WITHROMAN100% (@HandyRed) June 24, 2016
Any time a Superstar shows a willingness to violate wellness standards, it sets them back in their development with the company. If Roman Reigns still is the plan long-term, don’t expect him to go over too many people in the short-term.
What do you think, readers? Is Vince McMahon rethinking his plans with Roman Reigns, and if not, should he be? Let us know what you think about it in the comments section below.
[Image via WWE]