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What’s Next For Roman Reigns?

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Just days after WWE seemingly scraped the Roman Reigns project for the foreseeable future, the company announced that he was suspended for thirty days for his first violation of the WWE Wellness policy. The former WWE champion apologized on Twitter and will be on the sidelines until a few days before the Battleground pay-per-view, where he’s scheduled to work a triple threat match with the other members of The Shield. This is terrible timing for Reigns and it creates many questions going forward.

I was surprised that Reigns was booked to drop the title at Money in the Bank, simply because it’s the second time in a little more than a year that the WWE has changed course as a result of the hostile crowd reaction. However, this time WWE management got the Wrestlemania moment they’ve wanted since Reigns was recruited into the company and they concluded the title run within two months. Depending on when Reigns failed the test, it’s possible that the MITB decision was a response to his upcoming suspension. Either way, this further complications his problems and considering that violations are publicity announced, it will fuel hostility toward him. If management knew of the violation prior to the pay-per-view, it’s easy to understand that they booked the title switch because he won’t be on TV for a month. If WWE brass didn’t know of the violation before MITB, the title change was a result of Roman not getting over as champion. Neither scenario helps his case of supposedly being the next top star.

Is it possible that Roman accidentally took something that he didn’t know was a banned substance? Sure, but in terms of public perception, the damage is done. Obviously, Roman is responsible for his own decisions, but everyone makes mistakes and it’s disappointing that many fans are condemning him on social media, especially when the specific circumstances surrounding the situation aren’t known publicly. However, this violation could sway the booking to take another direction because the WWE has continued to push him despite the fan rejection, but this might be the deciding factor for them to attempt to build another long-term star. Specifically, with Rollins, Ambrose, Finn Balor, Nakamura, etc. on the roster, there are other opinions for the WWE to get the marketing machine behind toward a main event run. Granted, other stars such as Randy Orton, Edge, and Rey Mysterio had violations, but the difference is, they were established commodities at the time. Roman is on his third attempt to get over as the top baby face and if he doesn’t eventually get over, the WWE will go in another direction.

An example of this is Lex Luger was chosen to be the predecessor to Hulk Hogan, and the WWF did everything they could to cast Luger in the USA role. The Lex Express, body slamming Yokozuna on a Navy fleet, and a push to the top of the card were used, but Lex didn’t get over. The wrestling business being in the slump of the early 90s didn’t help, but the main reason that the fans didn’t buy Luger as the top star was that the Hogan-type character wasn’t going to be successful for him. Similar to how the WWE is trying to book Roman Reigns as the next John Cena, but it’s clear that Roman doesn’t fit the Cena mold. More specifically, it seems like WWE brass is trying to base their next top guy around being the “next John Cena,” but there’s only one Cena and he’s a rare breed. Instead, it would probably be more productive if the WWE looks for the star that gets over the most with the audience, and if that’s Roman Reigns or not remains to be seen, but the wellness policy violation certainly doesn’t help.

So, where does Roman Reigns go from here?

He will return to TV, but where he goes from there is anyone’s guess. If WWE still tries to push him as the top star will be an indication of what he does in terms of storylines. Keep in mind, after Lex flopped, he joined the British Bulldog for a relatively uneventful tag team run. Almost everyone that has noticed that Roman isn’t over as a baby face has suggested turning him heel. At this point, especially with a publicly announced violation that gives live crowds something else to chant, how doesn’t Roman turn heel?

The writing team trying to get Roman to sound similar to Cena with attempted witty or comical type promos come across lame and are actually counter productive to establishing him as a Samoan monster. The baby face promos have mostly fallen flat and when Roman is on Raw with a live mic, it’s almost like someone should throw him a life-preserver because his message starts to get drowned in the sea of crowd chants. As I wrote a few weeks ago, there was a time when a performer getting booed out of the building every week made them not only a heel, but in theory an effective heel. Somehow that hasn’t been the case with Reigns, but it might be the only way he builds any steam on TV when he returns. In fact, a heel Roman Reigns could use the super man type push as an asset for a heel character and when he defeats a crowd favorite he can simply tell the audience that there’s nothing they can do about it. The audience is already invested in seeing Roman lose, could you imagine the emotional investment if the booking added some fuel to it with a heel turn?

Despite the mishap, Roman still has a chance to become an established star, but who knows what the WWE does in terms of booking when he returns to TV? As I’ve said before, if Rocky Maivia hadn’t turned heel, The Rock wouldn’t have gotten over as a baby face so the heel turn could be the key factor for Roman Reigns eventually becoming a bigger star. It remains to the seen what direction his character takes, but as of right now, the Roman Reigns experiment is a flop. Hopefully, this entire situation can be used to benefit Roman in the overall picture, but with a roster of talented stars, his time as the projected top star might have concluded.

Until next week

-Jim LaMotta

@jimlamotta

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