Many fans say the only way to salvage the Big Dog is to turn him heel. But what will that accomplish?
The WWE is in Year Four of the Roman Reigns mega push, and wrestling fans are about as willing to accept Roman in 2018 as they were in 2015. The company tries to explain that Roman is “polarizing,” but in reality the Big Dog has not won over enough of the fanbase to even garner a consistently mixed reaction. In fact, many wrestling fans say that Roman gets such negative reactions, the only way he will get over is to turn him heel. Not only is that unnecessary — it may do more damage to his career.
Fans who defend turning Roman heel point to The Rock. Rocky Maivia was a floundering babyface who was hated by fans until a well timed knee injury led to a heel turn that allowed him to showcase his amazing charisma. Even casual fans know the rest of the story, as Rock went on to become arguably the most recognizable professional wrestler ever.
Those who compare Roman to Rocky conveniently leave out just how insanely charismatic The Rock is. The People’s Champion is a funny, brash, and cocky badass who can verbally spar with anyone. During his peak, The Rock seemed to come up with a new catchphrase every week. He was not a participant at this year’s WrestleMania and he still had the best promo of the night.
Fans also forget (or just don’t know) how hated Rocky Maivia was. It wasn’t just the hardcore fans who disliked Maivia, nor was he just another target of the IWC. There was never a point when the blue chipper was polarizing. Pro wrestling was changing when he debuted, and no fan — casual or hardcore — liked squeaky clean babyfaces.
Roman has never displayed anywhere near the charisma of The Rock and despite what hardcore fans will say, he has a strong fanbase. The Rock did not become THE ROCK just because he became a bad guy. His personality won the fans over. He also did not have to worry about disappointing any fans. While a Roman heel turn will undoubtedly make some happy, it will disappoint many others. The end result is the same with the roles in the audience reversed.
It’s important to remember that Rock and Honky Tonk Man are exceptions. For every ultra successful heel turn, there are dozens that went nowhere. Rikishi, Cesaro, and Ken Shamrock are just a few examples of turns that were supposed to elevate faces to the next level and did nothing.
Fans who defend a Roman heel turn also point to John Cena who has been the subject of mixed reactions for over ten years now. Fans have longed for a Cena heel turn to such an extent, he’s joked about it on TV. However, before becoming the face of the company, he was so over as a heel, a turn was necessary. He remained incredibly over for years before fans became tired of his act. So Cena’s case is a little different — he needs no elevation. Some fans are just done with Super Cena.
The only time Roman approached near Cena levels was Royal Rumble 2014 when fans cheered every one of his record twelve eliminations. He was clearly the most over person in the Rumble, but this was due more to fans wanting Daniel Bryan and not accepting Batista.
Turning Roman heel does not change the main reason fans don’t like him: Roman is the company’s choice; the golden boy. And in 2018, fans refuse to play along. Maybe it’s years of the company itself playing heel or maybe it is a natural evolution of the sport, but a heel Roman is still WWE’s choice for The Man. The initial pop for a Roman heel turn will immediately go away when The Big Dog starts beating favorites like Daniel Bryan, AJ Styles, and Seth Rollins (Sound familiar?).
Getting Roman over can be done. He looks like a star and has shown he can deliver the goods in the ring. He just has to be written better. First of all, do not have him say stupid things. On Raw recently, Roman addressed Brock Lesnar’s dominance of him saying their Universal Title Match at Greatest Royal Rumble will be different since it is in a cage. This makes no sense since Brock beat him clean as sheet at Mania. Roman comes off as a moron when he is scripted to say things like this.
Secondly, do not book him as a geek. For example, during the past year the F-5 was built up as a match ender that put down the likes of Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, and Braun Strowman. It was clear that Roman would be kicking out of it at Mania and he did (six of them to be exact.) When Roman was finally pinned, what move finished him? An F-5. After a year long build, Roman was pinned in the middle of the ring without any interference or underhanded tactics. As Lex Luger will attest, fans will not get behind a loser.
Roman Reigns may be the most hated man in the WWE, but turning him heel will not change anything. Initially, fans may be on board, but will quickly realize that heel Roman is still Vince’s pet. He has all the tools to be a star and if booked like one, fans will treat him as such.