Let’s talk about…..the fall of Roman Reigns

Let’s talk about….the fall of Roman Reigns
As he stood under the lights on Monday night, Roman Reigns
passed his first test with flying (well, decent) colors. The newly anointed savior
of our sport stood alone and cut his first main event promo, looking and
sounding like he belonged in front of us. The fans ate it up like a whale at a
buffet featuring all-you-can-eat Jonahs.

So where did this sinking feeling come from?
Let’s establish up front that the push of Roman Reigns has
proceeded rather flawlessly; indeed, the Shield has been handled as well as any
talents we’ve seen in the last ten years at this point. Slowly building Reigns
up, with few jobs and strong victories, his ascension to the top of the card is
nearly complete. We’re several months away from his final coronation, but
barring any injury or unforeseen circumstances, he will be holding the title
aloft at the end of Wrestlemania 31.
Speaking of unforeseen circumstances….
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to
repeat it” – George Santayana
Time for a stroll down the memory lane, don’t you think?
In the past 5 years, we’ve seen the ascension of 2 unlikely
stars to the top of the ranks in WWE; CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. And we’ve seen
the rejection of all of the following stars that WWE has tried to get over into
that spot – Alberto Del Rio, Ryback, the returning Batista, and old card
mainstays such as Cena, Orton, and the Big Show. In each instance, the fan base
has rejected these options in favor of the fan-grown wrestler that the audience
connected with. The booking of Roman Reigns does not fill me with confidence
that this trend will be avoided in the near future.
The fact is, I think that we’re seeing a new breed of fan
that has grown and matured over the last 5 years or so, and that fan is the
informed fan. Not the smark, like us, who analyze wrestling to a ridiculous
degree, but the fan who knows more about what is going on due to the internet
or whatever medium they use than ever before. I believe that the fanbase has
conditioned itself to reject many of the creations that WWE gives ‘superhero’
pushes to; initially, those wrestlers are welcomed as someone new to the main
event scene.
As time goes on, however, there is a real role that the fans
have taken on in determining who they want to receive a push, and not allowing
that push to happen organically is playing with fire. If Reigns is indeed the
long game for ‘Mania this year, the concern that I foresee is the fans getting
tired or restless with his domination to the point that they will reject him
the same way they eventually rejected a wrestler such as Ryback.
“Ryback? Reigns is twice the wrestler Ryback is!” Hmmmm….is
that really true? Reigns has been extremely protected up to this point with
regard to his weaknesses in the ring, which are very real. He fits in well as
the heavy finisher in tag matches, but can he carry a match on his back when he
needs to? I don’t put him in Scott Steiner territory by any stretch of the
imagination, but any wrestling fan can see that he has a severely limited
moveset to put it mildly. Spear, Superman Punch, dropkick to the ring apron. The
rest of what Reigns does in the ring is very basic kicky-punchy clothesline
type wrestling, and that type of wrestling has been a big part of what the fans
have rejected in guys such as Cena and Ryback.
Remember the Ryback push? He was given a pretty big shove
out there, pinning multiple wrestlers at once with big power moves to get him
over as a monster. Much like Reigns has been protected in tag matches, Ryback
was protected with short squashes. He was given title matches with Punk, main
events with Cena, both of whom are excellent workers, and the matches came up
relatively short. He was given a simple catchphrase to get over, which he did.  I think that the similarities are more evident
than people think. The only difference is that, when the time comes, I think he’ll
go over for the belt, whereas Ryback did not.
And that could be a problem. Because the fan’s role in
deciding whether or not he finishes his push at the top when the proverbial
rocket gets him all the way there is going to be determined by the epic nature
of his matches. And I’m not at all convinced he’s ready for that; while we make
fun sometimes of fans who may not know what’s really going on, ringwork has
always gotten people over. Just look at the Steiner/HHH debacle vs the
Angle/Benoit classic on the same show; wrestling fans will buy into good
wrestling . Will he be ready by Wrestlemania? Of course, he could be.
But what happens if they can’t sustain his act that long?
People tired of Cena’s superman act years ago, and have been vocal about that
to the point where it needed acknowledgement on television, something that
never would have happened to a top babyface from another era. Of course, Cena
is a special case, as his merchandise sales and public image for the company
require that he be kept a BINO (babyface in name only), but the boos far
outweigh the cheers. I don’t know that Roman has that type of skill set yet –
the ability to do the intangible things that are needed to sustain that type of
run at the top.
Contrast that with the man getting the second biggest pops
on the show right now – Dean Ambrose.
Ambrose is currently most smarks’ pick for the breakout star
of the Shield waiting to happen, and it’s all in how he carries himself in the
storytelling of his matches and his angles. He comes out and the crowd has NO
idea what is going to happen next. He wrestles like no one else on the card at
this time, sells like a motherfucker, and in general is a complete professional
wrestler.
But the reason that I see Ambrose as the bigger star down
the road is that he doesn’t feel like a WWE creation – he feels like a real
(crazy) person, who has no real equal in the Fed when it comes to both his
character and his unique ringwork. The fact is that if the fans are going to
choose the next main event star, I suspect that they will tire of Reigns faster
than they tire of Ambrose.
And that’s a real problem, because the WWE is going to
forget the history of even the last few years again. 
The rise of CM Punk came
because his character was unique and people were dying to see something that
didn’t look like John Cena up top. The fans rejected Batista because they didn’t
want to see the same thing, they wanted Daniel Bryan, who wrestled a unique and
different style than anyone else at the time, and who had a character that
appealed to the masses as a true underdog babyface, something that hadn’t been
done in a long time. The fact is, Roman Reigns is exactly what the WWE sees
when they look for a main event talent.
And the fact is, the fans have rejected that notion multiple
times over the last several years.
Please understand, I’m not rooting against Roman Reigns in
the slightest. I hope he pulls it together and proves me completely wrong. He
not only has the look, he has the same type of attitude that put Batista over
the top back in the day, the ‘cooler than you vibe’. It might carry him all the
way.
Or that rocket could explode before it clears the
stratosphere.
And that fall can kill you.
Rick Poehling
@MrSoze on twitter