PWP Editor, Zack Heydorn, discusses how the forced babyface push of Roman Reigns is ruining Monday Night Raw.
Roman Reigns is killing Monday Night Raw. Phew, that felt good to get off my chest.
Not Roman Reigns, the man. Not even Roman Reigns, the character. But, “the push” of Roman Reigns as a top babyface on Raw is ruining the weekly show and other great Raw performers around him. Enough is enough. If anyone else is tired of being confused and bewildered each Monday night for three hours, please stand up.
Let’s start with the obvious. Roman Reigns is not a babyface. Plain and simple. It doesn’t matter how he looks, what cute catch phrases he uses, or even that he’s regularly booked against the show’s top heels. The reaction the audience gives him tells the story. It makes him what he is. That reaction all across the country and all across the world is that of pure annoyance, disgust, and hatred. No matter how many babyface scenarios or stories Reigns finds himself in, the fans just aren’t buying it. Period. Each and every week though, we are being fed the very story that we don’t buy. It’s frustrating, confusing, and having a detrimental residual effect on the show and roster.
Part of the fun of wrestling is getting behind and cheering for the guys you like. That really is the root of the business. It’s how fans become fans and how the business itself makes money. Typically, the fans choose who they like, the company hears the reaction, and gets behind that same guy with a push. So was the case with Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, and The Undertaker. So is the case with current guys like John Cena, Finn Balor, and The New Day. Fans like them and the company pushes them. Simple. This business isn’t rocket science folks. Roman Reigns doesn’t fit that formula. The WWE is actually rebelling against its own fans by pushing a guy to the lengths that they have pushed Reigns without the backing of the audience that’s supposed to love him.
Because of the needless rebellion by the WWE to push a babyface Roman Reigns, Raw suffers tremendously. Fans can’t buy in and are confused by the show’s story when they aren’t behind the guy that the show revolves around. Just like any TV show out there. On a weekly basis Raw uses a smart and regular equation to program the show. They set a hook in the first segment, build the show around that hook, promote the hook throughout the three hours, and then wrap up the story in the main event. That equation requires a lot of TV time and storytelling for the stars involved. Fans need to be interested in those stars to stick around for three hours of their lives. Roman Reigns does not illicit that interest and therefore the storylines don’t work.
This past week on Raw is a great example. The hook set at the beginning was whom would Roman Reigns be facing in the main event for his United States Championship. Different teases got made throughout the show before it was revealed that his opponent was going to be Kevin Owens. Let’s leave the fact that we’ve seen this match twenty times and will see it again at the Royal Rumble. This was one boring story arc for three hours because nobody cared if Reigns beat Owens. Worse than that, the crowd was actually cheering for Kevin Owens to beat Reigns. For three hours, the story was who was going to face Reigns, how would Reigns overcome the evil challenger, and by the end of it the fans were cheering the evil challenger. That’s like Darth Vader killing Luke Skywalker at the end of Return Of The Jedi and everyone in the movie theater cheering him on. It makes no sense and isn’t entertaining to watch. WWE knows this. They see it every week and still plug along mindlessly.
The cheers that Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, or any other heel gets during segments with Roman Reigns hurts them too. How can a guy like Owens who is still coming into his own as a character and as an evil champion get over successfully when every heel tactic he utilizes against the babyface gets cheered? He can’t and it stunts his growth as a performer. Because fans aren’t buying Reigns as a babyface, they can’t fully buy into Kevin Owens as a true bad guy. Remember the classic wrestling formula. Fans cheer a guy and the company pushes them. In this instance, the fans are choosing the bad guy over the good guy. In what world does that make sense?
The Reigns factor hurts other babyfaces on Raw too. Because the audience isn’t at all behind him, Roman wastes every bit of babyface attention and writing he gets. There is only so much material in a three-hour show for the top babyface to sink his teeth into. With Reigns getting it all and doing nothing with it, guys like Seth Rollins who do command the audience’s interest are left with scraps. Rollins gets stunted because he can’t get more over due to being blocked by Roman Reigns.
Bottom line is, Raw is confusing and frustrating because of where and how Roman Reigns is pushed. It’s killing the show and it must be realistically addressed quickly. Its mind boggling to think of reasons why the WWE would even want to present him and their flagship show in this fashion. Especially when both of their other brands are doing it right. On SmackDown, the heel AJ Styles goes up against top babyfaces in Dean Ambrose, John Cena, and Dolph Ziggler. On NXT, Shinsuke Nakamura fights top heels in Samoa Joe and now Bobby Roode. Guys on those shows are in the right places, are featured the right way, and the program clicks because of it. Reigns on Raw is the outlier and the big ball of disgusting hair stuck in the drain clogging the show up.
Look WWE, Roman Reigns is over. You managed to at least achieve that with this nonsensical push. He’s over as a heel though. Present him that way. Everything falls into place then and Monday Night Raw can come off of life support.