Roman Reigns did something no other professional wrestler has ever accomplished this year. He won the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Most Hated Wrestler of the Year award as a face. No other face in wrestling history has ever won this fan-voted award. However, an interesting editorial on Comicbook suggested that the fan hatred is based on WWE booking more than it is on the actions of Roman Reigns.
What is most interesting is that proof of this can be traced back to two different Royal Rumble events, just one week before the 2017 Royal Rumble takes place in San Antonio. One of those events featured Batista winning the event and the next featured Roman Reigns winning.
In January 2014, Batista made his big WWE return and fans excitement soon turned to groans when he came back as a face and started a short uninspired feud with Alberto Del Rio. The entire fan revolt came to a head when Batista and Roman Reigns were the final two entrants in the Royal Rumble.
Fans wanted Daniel Bryan to win and they started to cheer loudly for Roman, who was a member of The Shield at the time. The WWE moved forward with their plans and had Batista win. Many fans knew that Batista had a world title reign written into his return and didn’t want him thrown into the main event at WrestleMania instead of Daniel Bryan.
The WWE soon listened to the fans and inserted Daniel Bryan into the match by having him beat Triple H at WresleMania and then beat Batista in a three-way including Randy Orton to become the world champion.
Daniel Bryan soon hurt his neck and never held the world title again after one title defense while Batista reformed Evolution with Randy Orton and Triple H and had great matches putting over The Shield until he left the WWE for good in August.
The next year, it was clear that the WWE was pushing Roman Reigns to the roof after Seth Rollins turned on him and broke up The Shield. They put Roman in the same storyline that Daniel Bryan had, as he had to fight off The Authority to get his title shots. Fans didn’t care because they didn’t want to be told who to cheer for.
The same WWE fans that cheered for Roman Reigns to possibly beat Batista in 2014 were now booing Reigns and actually cheered for Rusev, the evil Bulgarian, over the face Roman Reigns. Once again, the WWE went forward with plans and Roman Reigns won the match.
However, once again the WWE seemed to listen to the fans and had Seth Rollins run in and cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase to make the Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns match a three-way and it was Rollins that walked out as the champion.
Last year, The Authority forced Roman Reigns to put his world title on the line in the Royal Rumble. It looked like he was once again going to win the Royal Rumble and fans once again got vocal. The WWE had other ideas, though, and had Triple H as a surprise final entrant and Triple H won the world title for the 14th time in his career.
However, it led to another Roman Reigns world title match at WrestleMania and this time he won on the big stage. For the last three years, the WWE had a Royal Rumble winner that the fans didn’t care about. While they cheered for the evil Triple H to win in 2016. he wasn’t who the fans came to see win.
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Now, Roman Reigns is in the Universal Championship match at the Royal Rumble. While him winning the title would not make fans happy, at least he isn’t scheduled to be in the Rumble match itself. For the first time in four years, the WWE is not going into the Royal Rumble with a winner predestined to win, which will make the Rumble more exciting than it has been in years.
Sadly for Roman Reigns, one thing won’t change. The vocal WWE fans will likely boo him for the third year in a row, much like they did Batista before him.
[Featured Image by WWE]