For the past few years, Roman Reigns has been one of the most polarizing figures in all of WWE. Seemingly taking the torch from John Cena, especially from the split reactions from the fans, Reigns is becoming the new face of the WWE. This year, Reigns will face Brock Lesnar for the WWE Universal Championship in a WrestleMania rematch.
The last bout they had was at WrestleMania 31 in Santa Clara, where it exceeded the expectations of many. Unfortunately, for both Reigns and Lesnar, the match was abruptly altered by Seth Rollins cashing in his Money in the Bank contract and pinning Reigns to win the WWE Championship for the first time.
If the Universal Championship ends up being the main event for WrestleMania 34, this will mark the fourth straight year that Reigns will main event. Along with his match against Lesnar, Reigns faced Triple H for the WWE Championship at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas and gave The Undertaker his second loss at WrestleMania 33 in Orlando. This achievement of Reigns main-eventing four straight WrestleMania events is rare. In fact, it has only been achieved by Hulk Hogan.
While WWE has Reigns compete as a babyface, the fans have heavily jeered him in over the past few years. With excuses such as “he can’t wrestle” or “he’s getting shoved down our throats” being a common theme, former WWE Creative member Bruce Prichard revealed the first moment when Reigns’ ovation started to shift from negative to positive.
During his time with The Shield, Reigns was cheered for acting as the muscle of the group. With his superman punch, spear, and Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose lifting the opponent up to be powerbombed, Reigns’ aggressive and explosive in-ring work was liked by the fans. However, one event became a pivotal point in his support, according to Prichard via Newsweek.
“What hurt Roman Reigns is that everyone wanted something new, they wanted something different. And the guy everyone wanted was Roman Reigns,” said Prichard. “That’s because Daniel Bryan was out [with an injury], so they gave them Roman Reigns. Everyone was ready for him, and we get to the Royal Rumble in Philadelphia, set to anoint Roman Reigns, and they bring back Daniel Bryan and the people wanted him! Prior to Daniel Bryan being a part of all of that, they wanted Roman.”
Prichard also strongly advocated that WWE should have held off bringing Bryan, back, because it ultimately hurt Reigns.
“I would have held off on Daniel Bryan and kept Roman Reigns in the right spot, in the right place. Everything would have been completely different. But bringing back Daniel Bryan when they did, it hurt Roman Reigns. So people who remember that want to hate him. It’s not [Roman’s] fault, and I do think that there’s a large segment of the audience, whether they love him or hate him, man, they react to him. And that’s a good thing.”
Although Reigns receives a heavy level of boos from the crowd, he still continues to hone his craft and perfect his in-ring and mic work. Currently, Reigns is involved in a heated feud with Lesnar, which is slowly turning some fans over due to Lesnar being portrayed as a person who does not care about the company.
On the most recent episode of Raw, Lesnar finally appeared but came after Reigns was handcuffed by the U.S. Marshals. After a brutal attack which included multiple chairshots, an F-5, and whipping the stretcher to further harm Reigns, Lesnar was strongly booed from the crowd, which helped the mission to make Reigns the babyface of the feud.