For the past couple of years, Roman Reigns has become one of the most polarizing figures in all of professional wrestling. At first, Reigns was a relative unknown to WWE fans when he made his main roster debut with more-known wrestlers Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose at Survivor Series in 2012. Regardless of how much people knew him from his days in NXT, The Shield’s hijacking of the WWE Championship main event immediately gave a lasting impression that this trio was a force to be reckoned with.
When The Shield broke up in 2014, Seth Rollins became the centerpiece of Triple H’s stable, The Authority. Dean Ambrose feuded with Rollins for a period of time before embarking other feuds as a babyface. Roman Reigns spent a portion of his initial run as a babyface, as they competed against each other at Survivor Series. However, this would be the beginning of a meteoric rise for Reigns.
When Reigns was with The Shield, fans were advocates of his dominance. However, oddly, he began to get jeered as a singles babyface, primarily due to knowing the writing was on the wall regarding him being the next major babyface for the company, despite not proving himself to the crowd yet. As a result, he would generate some of the most polarizing reactions since John Cena.
The reactions Reigns has received since being a top star pales in comparison to what would happen if he defeats The Undertaker at WrestleMania 33 inside of Camping World Stadium. The resounding boos would permeate the arena, and he would undoubtedly be the most hated man in the WWE by a number of fans. However, this reaction as a babyface – while counterproductive to the mission of being a fan favorite – is somehow accepted in the eyes of Triple H.
In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Triple H explained that 70 percent of the fans cheering him theoretically makes him a heel, even if he is perceived to be a babyface.
“People can look at Roman Reigns and say, ‘The failed attempt that is Roman Reigns,’ but Roman Reigns sells tickets. Roman Reigns gets one of the loudest reactions every night, whether that reaction is a boo or whether that reaction is a cheer. The fans who say, ‘I don’t understand why they don’t turn Roman Reigns heel!’ Isn’t he already? If you believe what you believe, and you’re saying, ‘How can they not turn him heel? There is 70 percent of the crowd booing him out of the building!’ If that’s your belief, then isn’t he already the biggest heel we have? If 70 percent of that crowd is booing him, then he’s a heel. We’re just presenting him to you in a different way that makes you hate him.”
So, with the reaction of his match with The Undertaker hinging on the conclusion of the bout on April 2, what is next for Reigns? According to Dave Meltzer during the MLW podcast at WaleMania, Reigns is expected to have numerous feuds that will keep him away from the WWE Universal Championship in order to set up the rematch with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans, Louisiana. A series of feuds for Reigns away from the title can keep him away from the John Cena complex many people have of him continuously main-eventing pay-per-views during the peak time of his career, as well as hopefully build some momentum as a babyface to slay The Beast at next year’s big event.
While Triple H alludes to Roman Reigns as a heel, there is no doubt that Vince McMahon has been grooming him to be a top babyface for quite some time. Now, it is just a matter of WWE conceding to the fact that they cannot rewrite what their desire for Reigns originally was, so they just have to go with the punches of the riotous WWE Universe. Ultimately, his match with The Undertaker will be a significant indicator of what WWE wants to do with The Big Dog in the near future.
[Featured Image by WWE]