Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, and Dean Ambrose took the WWE by storm when they debuted as The Shield at the 2012 Survivor Series pay-per-view. As heels, they were immediately thrust into high-level programs, quickly establishing themselves as one of the most dominant factions in the history of the company. Their babyface run as a collective stable lasted less than three months before Rollins executed a brilliant heel turn when he attacked both Reigns and Ambrose to join The Authority.
That betrayal occurred on June 2, 2014. And more than two years later, Rollins remains one of the WWE’s biggest heels, solidified by the fact that he was the number one overall pick in last month’s brand extension draft. Meanwhile, Ambrose and Reigns have climbed to the top of the card in their own individual ways, remaining babyfaces ever since The Shield was split apart.
You could argue that staying heel or face for over two years is difficult in this day and age, but all it takes is one look at John Cena and his decade-long run as the top babyface to realize that in most cases, WWE prefers things to stay status quo. To the company’s credit, they’ve been looking for Cena’s successor for some time, but to their detriment, they continued to push Reigns when the fans flat-out rejected him.
Two major moments recently caused a ripple effect of re-writes for the WWE creative team. Roman Reigns’ violation of the Wellness Policy effectively removed him from the title picture, and Finn Balor’s SummerSlam injury forced the company to scramble for a solution and a new champion less than 24 hours after the Demon King captured it.
Before Reigns failed a drug test, he was slated to face Seth Rollins at SummerSlam for the WWE World Championship, while the newly-created Universal Title would have gone to SmackDown. Balor would have still gotten the call to the main roster, but with the RAW main event in place, Finn would have been entered into a feud with Chris Jericho.
Had Balor not been severely injured in his match with Rollins this past Sunday, he would have gone on to defend his Universal Championship, first against Kevin Owens at Clash of Champions, then in a triple threat at Hell in a Cell against Owens and Y2J. The WWE’s plan was to keep Reigns (and Rollins for that matter) out of the title picture over the next few months, but the injury to Balor forced them to call yet another audible. So much uncertainty piling on at once caused Vince McMahon to crumble into full-blown panic mode this past Monday at RAW.
Rollins has now had a hand in hurting two huge stars in marquee pay-per-views with both Sting and Finn Balor suffering severe injuries in those matches. However, Rollins has no backstage heat on him and won’t appear to suffer any repercussions from those spots. Reigns, however, was definitively punished for his violation, as his program with Rusev was a way to slide him down the card. But it also gave Vince McMahon the chance to see if Reigns could rebuild himself into the star the company once hoped for.
Reigns had/has been much more physical and a lot less talkative in his feud with Rusev, which has pleased a lot of fans. But when his music hits, there are still thunderous boos echoing throughout the arena, a clear indication that he is not the fans’ choice to be the top babyface. And according to Daily Wrestling News, WWE officials may finally be embracing it.
There have been internal discussions centered around executing another huge turn for Rollins, but this time, it would also include Roman Reigns. The plan, before Balor went down anyway, was to pull off a double turn between Reigns and Rollins before the end of 2016. That timeline may have to be sped up now that Balor is out of the picture and both Reigns and Rollins are in next Monday’s fatal four-way main event to determine the new WWE Universal Champion.
What’ll be interesting to find out is what original plan the company goes with. Have they allowed Reigns to “suffer” for enough time to the point they’re ready to put him back in the main event, and pit him against Rollins in what was an original SummerSlam match to begin with? Does Balor’s injury preclude Kevin Owens from competing in his first main event? And if they do decide to go with Reigns and Rollins next month, is Clash of Champions the site of the proposed double turn, or do they have the luxury of waiting until the end of the year like they were hoping?
Some fans claimed that they missed the boat on a double turn when the opportunity was presented earlier this year at Extreme Rules. Reigns had just defeated AJ Styles for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship when Rollins made his surprise return from injury and attacked the champ. The crowd went ballistic and gave him an equally thunderous pop the following night on RAW. But due to a lack of roster balance, Rollins was kept heel, while the loathed Reigns remained babyface.
The fear of turning Reigns, and even John Cena before him, was that the crowd would cheer the move because it’s what they’ve been clamoring for some time. But a double turn allows them to have that moment and Rollins can be the one to bask in the reaction, and Reigns can continue to be booed out of every building.
[Image via WWE]