The addition of Roman Reigns to SmackDown Live was perhaps not a shock to many WWE fans, but it was impactful all the same. The Big Dog made his blue brand debut on the April 16 edition as part of the Superstar Shake-Up. The WWE Universe knew that one more major talent was coming over from Monday Night Raw and Reigns was the most obvious choice.
But it was what he did when he arrived on SmackDown Live that has everyone talking. Reigns confronted Vince McMahon and delivered the Superman Punch to the WWE owner. The live SmackDown crowd erupted and gave Roman a huge pop for laying out the boss. But is it possible that this was much more than just a throwaway spot? WWE.com is teasing that Roman may be “fired” for the assault on Vince. So could it be that WWE is leading fans down the road of Austin versus McMahon II?
Stone Cold Steve Austin remains arguably the most popular Superstar in WWE history. His attitude, his swagger, his fearlessness in the ring, all of these things made Austin a legend. But it was his rebellious nature that created the most buzz and brought in the most fans, of perhaps anyone that the pro wrestling industry has ever seen.
Austin was so important to WWE that the company has continuously tried to recreate his rise many times over the years. It’s no secret that WWE saw its most profitable time during The Attitude Era. It’s also no secret that without Stone Cold at the helm, that era would likely not have been the smash success that it was. To this day, fans clamor for a return of The Attitude Era. But the best WWE can do is try to retread the Stone Cold character.
That’s not to suggest that the talents used in previous attempts didn’t have the “it” factor. The truth is that CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Dean Ambrose and Becky Lynch, all have something special. Each one fought the corporate regime of WWE and each one rose to immense popularity as a result. In every instance, fans believed they were being given Stone Cold 2.0 and in every instance, there was some truth to that belief.
It’s not that the WWE faithful didn’t want to just enjoy the four Superstars for what they were and what they brought to the table. But Stone Cold Steve Austin made magic when he was in WWE. His reign is remembered as the most compelling, most exciting time of WWE because that’s exactly what it was. Of course fans want to relieve that and of course younger fans want to live it for the first time.
However, the Texas Rattlesnake didn’t make magic alone. He had Vince McMahon as his foil and when the two were on camera together, they set the world on fire. Fans could not turn their eyes away from this feud and they never wanted to. It was absolute gold each and every time. So where does Roman Reigns fit into all of this?
The fact is that Roman is a bit of a curiosity when it comes to the Stone Cold booking. Yes, he’s a tough and rebellious babyface. Yes, he’s the kind of hero that could excel from a feud with The McMahon Family. But Roman has more baggage than anyone WWE has ever tried to use in this spot.
Despite all opinions to the contrary, the truth is that WWE does care whether or not Roman is booed. Vince McMahon wants Reigns as the ultimate babyface, the most beloved protagonist on the entire roster. That’s why Roman is booked the way he is and it’s the same reason why he’s never went full heel on anyone since his days with The Shield.
Indeed, WWE has used every tactic imaginable to get Roman over as a babyface. It’s the same method used to book John Cena during his own rise in the company and it never fully worked then. It was a success in theory and sometimes on paper. But for the most part, Cena was never fully accepted as the conquering hero on a consistent basis. Only now, after his full-time career is over, has John Cena finally swayed the bulk of the WWE audience to his side. What makes WWE believe that Roman Reigns will be any different?
If Roman’s assault on Vince McMahon does ultimately lead to a war with The McMahon Family, then the company will pull out all stops to ensure success. The April 16 Superman Punch is the precursor of things to come. But revenge will likely not happen in the form of Shane McMahon and it’s obvious that Vince’s days as a wrestler are finished. Triple H and Roman have already went to war in the past and Reigns won that feud. So who’s left?
If The McMahon Family wants to punish The Big Dog, the best way to do it is to use another WWE Superstar against him. If that happens, then Lars Sullivan is perhaps the best man for the job. Sullivan is big, he’s powerful and most importantly, he’s unpredictable. No one really knows what his motivations are, just as no one knows what his mindset is. Lars is a monster in every sense of the word but the scariest thing is that he’s a highly intelligent monster as well.
So Sullivan probably won’t be manipulated by Vince or anyone else, into becoming a hitman. But it could very well be that Sullivan will jump at the chance to steamroll Roman Reigns. It’s a win for WWE, because it thrusts Lars into a high profile main event run with the top guy. Sullivan would have the chance to show what he can do, while earning his main roster stripes at the same time.
It’s also a win for Roman, because he would have a legitimate heel to work against. There is nothing remotely redeemable about Lars, which means that Reigns would undeniably be in the babyface role. As much as many fans continue to dislike Roman, the fact is that he would perhaps be hard to hate if he were standing across the ring from a despicable monster. But then again, isn’t that the point?
The fact is that when it comes to Roman Reigns, WWE will do whatever is necessary to get him over. If it means that he will now receive the Stone Cold booking of a lifetime, then that’s exactly what will happen. Roman is fully capable of becoming the antihero that WWE needs. Whether or not the fans will want him as that antihero remains to be seen.