Another episode of Monday Night RAW has come and gone, and the Roman Reigns vs. Undertaker feud is heating up in the run-up to WrestleMania 33. But instead of seeing definitive signs of a Reigns heel turn, we’re not seeing much consistency in the character of “The Big Dog.” One moment, he’s cockily dismissing WWE Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels’ warnings, the next moment, we’re supposed to feel empathy for him as he gets ambushed by the monstrous Braun Strowman. And with two RAW episodes remaining before WrestleMania, the clock is ticking. Is WWE turning Reigns into a bad guy, or are they going to keep sitting the fence on a turn that hasn’t made more sense than it currently does?
We don’t need to remind you of what a polarizing character Roman Reigns is, but for the sake of the non-fans out there, he’s the WWE’s latest example of a wrestler the company wants to push as its face, only for fans to see through it all and boo him in response. In effect, fans are booing the WWE for forcing them to like Reigns, but not booing the man, who happens to be a very capable wrestler for his size.
So far this year, we’ve seen WWE seemingly double down on its attempts to get fans to buy into Roman Reigns as a great babyface talent, as if previous (mostly failed) attempts weren’t already enough. Although reports suggested he was a fill-in for an injured Finn Balor, fans were up in arms when Roman entered last in the 2017 Royal Rumble, despite having fought — and lost to — Kevin Owens in a match for the Universal Championship. Those fans were also booing mercilessly when Roman Reigns eliminated The Undertaker, though as we now know, that was the setup for what has just been confirmed as a WrestleMania 33 match, per WWE’s official website.
Given the mystique of The Undertaker’s 21-event WrestleMania winning streak (since broken by Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXX) and his status as a super-popular wrestling icon, logic suggests that he would be the babyface in the rivalry, with Roman Reigns getting that long-awaited heel turn. But WWE doesn’t appear too keen on transforming its anointed alpha-babyface-in-waiting into a villain, as we saw on this week’s Monday Night RAW.
Sure, there were signs of hope as Reigns reminded Shawn Michaels of how ‘Taker had retired him at WrestleMania XXVI, and how he plans to do the same to “The Deadman” at WrestleMania 33. But along came Braun Strowman, still angry over having been cleanly pinned by Roman at Fastlane, steamrolling Reigns from behind as cameras focused on him selling the attack. Save for Reigns’ cocky tone in his promo segment with Michaels, it was classic plucky babyface booking at work — good guy expresses confidence that he can beat his esteemed opponent in a big match but is instantly reminded of the outside distractions that could make his task a difficult one.
All this points to WWE possibly having cold feet at turning Roman Reigns heel ahead of his match against The Undertaker. Fans are booing him, and talk is rife of WrestleMania 33 being ‘Taker’s swan song. It seems like a no-brainer at this point, and as the Inquisitr reported in January, Reigns may have the potential to be the biggest heel in WWE history if he gets turned and ends up beating The Undertaker.
There are some people, however, who think that even with Roman Reigns vs. The Undertaker favoring a villainous role for Roman, he’s better off sticking to his babyface alignment. Last week, Forbes’ Blake Oestriecher argued that Reigns’ presence on Monday Night RAW drives YouTube views, among other key metrics, with the wrestler himself earning “the support, or at least the interest” of the WWE Universe, despite the fact thousands still can be heard booing him each time he heads to the ring.
“‘The Big Dog’ is in a perfect position, when you really look at it. He’s popular with kids and women, who cheer him loudly and buy his merchandise in droves. Yet, he’s hated by (mostly) male fans who pay to watch him anyway.”
According to the Observer there are no plans for Roman Reigns to turn heel in his feud against The Undertaker for Wrestlemania. pic.twitter.com/zBULt4W1Hl— Wrestling News (@WWEInsideStuff) March 9, 2017
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about why a Roman Reigns heel turn makes a ton of sense. Yes, it’s true that Reigns’ YouTube videos on the WWE channel are big draws, and there are some solid numbers to back that up. Many fans do pay good money for a chance to yell “Roman sucks!” or boo “The Big Dog” in person, while at the same time silently respecting the good work he does in the ring. I should know, having attended WWE’s Manila show last September and done all that.
Still, insisting that Roman Reigns, not The Undertaker, be the babyface in their WrestleMania 33 feud is like insisting the morning sky is green when it is, in fact, blue. The WWE Universe knows that ‘Taker may not be much longer for the wrestling ring, and WWE forcing fans to cheer the man who retired the beloved Undertaker (assuming Reigns does win and Undertaker does retire immediately post-‘Mania) would be an insult to their intelligence, not to mention another good argument for those who believe WWE doesn’t listen to its loyal fans.
[Featured Image by WWE]