Roman Reigns has been one of the most polarizing characters in WWE in recent history. He has been on the recieving end of what we can call the “John Cena” treatment, yet cranked up to about a thousand.
Before joining forces with Paul Heyman in Setember of 2020, Reigns has been thunderously rejected by wrestling fans who claimed Reigns has been “shoved down their throats” and who said he was not deserving of the main event spot he has been in for the past five years.
Roman Reigns was well-liked when he debuted with The Shield (Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose with him) in 2012. Although Dean Ambrose got most of the attention at the time, Reigns wasn’t by an means hated like he turned out to be.
In fact, in 2014, Roman Reigns clearly had the backing of the audience in that year’s Royal Rumble match. He eliminated twelve people, breaking the record of most eliminations in a single match. After realizing Daniel Bryan would not be in that match at all, fans began to heavily cheer Reigns over the returning Batista (who ended up winning). The internet praised Roman’s performance that night and congratulating him on his new record.
So what exactly happened? How did he go from being cheered one year to being booed heavily the next? The reason is the same as to why the fans rejected Batista as winner of the Royal Rumble in 2014: Daniel Bryan.
Between 2013-2015, wrestling fans were hot for the Yes! man, Daniel Bryan. WrestleMania exploded when he won the titles against Randy Orton and Batista and was later devestated when he had to relinquish them soon after. When he returned, everyone wanted Daniel Bryan to win the Royal Rumble in 2015 and face Brock Lesnar at that year’s WrestleMania in order to win the title once again.
At this time, Roman Reigns had already been picked to be the company’s next big thing. However, the fans vehemently rejected this. When their choice, Daniel Bryan, was eliminated early the match, Roman Reigns didn’t have a prayer in getting over with the audience. Even The Rock, who celebrated with Reigns after his win, could not save him from being booed out of the building.
WWE was even forced to have Seth Rollins cash in his Money in the Bank contract on Reigns and Brock Lesnar later at WrestleMania to keep fans from hijacking their main event.
Since then, the company has plowed through (some might even say quite stubbornly) with their choice, Roman Reigns, as “top guy” of the company. He has main-evented many a WrestleMania and pay-per-view over the years.
However, pro wrestling consumers (some might say stubbornly for them as well) plowed through in refusing to accept Roman Reigns. For years, many have claimed that he is “boring” and that he “can’t wrestle”. They complained that Roman was “shoved down their throats” and he doesn’t deserve the spot he is in.
Although WWE has a bad habit of not listening to their fans, it can be difficult to do so when their fans are being unreasonable as well. The reason why they hated on Roman Reigns has never really been about Roman Reigns himself, it’s because of what happened to Daniel Bryan in 2015. They have never been able to let go of it, so they continued to treat Reigns with anomosity.
Roman has put on good matches consitantly since then. If you ask anyone to name a bad one, they have trouble. Many wrestlers themselves have said they enjoyed working with Roman as well.
AJ Styles, one whom many have called the best wrestler of today, has praised Reigns. He has said that his matches with Roman were “unbelieveable” and “really good.” AJ credits him as being a “big part of the reason why my career’s where it’s at”.
That wasn’t good enough for most of the Internet wrestling community, however. They continued to turn their back on Roman the higher and higher on the “food chain” he went.
Some even went as far as to say that Roman’s cancer diagnosis in 2018 was a “work” and that it was a ploy in order to finally get the “Big Dog” over. Nevermind the fact that WWE’s partnership with Susan G. Comen and the like would be affected or that Roman himself would never stoop so low.
Thankfully, Roman was back in remission in February 2019 and returned to the ring shortly after.
Although fans weren’t so totally against him after he returned, things didn’t really change for him until September 2020, when he returned from hiatus (to stay safe from COVID 19) with Paul Heyman and turning heel.
Since then, he has been involved in very intriguing storylines with his cousin, Jey Uso. His facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc., has told a beautiful story. He has put the doubters to bed and have once and for all proven that he is very good at what he does.
All of this has shown that Roman Reigns can have good matches and tell great stories, that he is talented, and he is worthy of being in the top sot of the company.
Roman Reigns did not deserve all of the hate he has gotten in the last five years. What he does deserve is an apology from the wrestling community.