With our apparent knowledge of the backstage politicking of our favourite wrestling organisations at an all time high. A trend, branded unhealthy by some has now embedded itself amongst the “WWE Universe” and the wider wrestling fan community as a whole.
This trend of course is that of shunning the traditional face/heel aspect of the sport and generally backing characters whom have had a strong following/backgrounds in the independent circuit prior to joining the WWE and those generally not possessing the traditional wrestling ‘look’, this includes aspects of height and build.
This trend was popularised by the recently retired Daniel Bryan. Bryan was booked as the ultimate underdog, a plot thread that due to his overall stature, image and wrestling lineage in the independent circuit was a resounding success that brought the biggest crowd reactions since the heights of the attitude era with Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock’s best years.
These traits of course do not apply to the current WWE ‘golden boy’ Roman Reigns; who, as we speak is looking more than likely to be headlining Wrestlemania and is as much a traditional wrestling stereotype as one could imagine. With his height, look, build and current move set Reigns brings back memories of similar WWE stars past.
But, is this the reason that Roman Reigns has been received the way he has since leaving the Shield almost two years ago?
Simply put, no.. Kind of.
During his time with the Shield, Reigns maintained a positive, supportive reaction from fans for a number of key reasons; he wasn’t overexposed, his weaknesses on the microphone were hidden and overall scriptwriting was supportive of the character that was portrayed on screen.
The best way to describe Reigns’ fundamental problem is to begin with his Shield cohorts first.
Dean Ambrose’s character started life a slightly odd, unhinged, loose cannon with the Shield, he then developed his fully fledged lunatic fringe persona upon embarking on his solo career. This path of character development actually makes complete sense; within the boundaries of WWE storytelling.
The same can be said for Seth Rollins’ character. Seth started as the cunning, resourceful architect of the Shield. Upon splitting from the group Seth’s character also logically developed, he became a selfish, egomaniacal, manipulative anti-hero; another sensible progression for the character.
One of the current major issues with Reigns is that he has received a complete character shift from what made him popular to begin with.
As the overbearing, downright intimidating member of the Shield faction, Reigns was portrayed as a silent destroyer; kicking ass and taking names. Now, however, Reigns’ characterisation is that of a wisecracking underdog, a completely different beast from what we’ve experienced before; a line of character development in complete contrast to either of his two Shield compatriots.
From the Shields debut and for the subsequent two years whilst he was a member, fans were invested in the Reigns character, they bought in to all that the Reigns was; a bonafide beast.
Following the breakup with the Shield, fans were expecting this character to develop logically much like Ambrose and Rollins. Unfortunately Reigns never did, his characterisation was changed almost beyond recognition; this is why the fans’ interest in Reigns has waned to the extent it has.
The issues surrounding the popularity of other top stars such as Daniel Bryan, CM Punk etc, have all played a part in the overness of Reigns undoubtedly, however the notion that a majority of WWE/Wrestling fans will only support ‘their’ guy and shun any other commercially created product is actually pretty preposterous; so long as that character appeals. This was proven during Romans destruction of Triple H at WWE: TLC; fans lapped up that moment and were fully behind the Roman Reigns character at that time.
Fans still want to cheer for the good guy. They just want that good guy to hold a character, a character that is consistent and fleshed out. A character that develops naturally and logically.
Roman could undoubtedly do with adding a few new interesting variations to his move set, but as a big imposing strong guy you wouldn’t want him to be unleashing his inner Dean Malenko on a weekly basis; it doesn’t fit his characterisation.
We need to be given a character we can support; until we get some consistency, constructive and supportive writing, I fear that day may never come.
What is your view on the scenario? Let me know in the comments below.