In the Reality Era of WWE, Roman Reigns is the man who has been singled out by the company to carry the babyface brand for the foreseeable future. The only issue is that he isn't what the fans want.
Because WWE has basically shoved Roman Reigns down fans' throats, fans have started to rebel, booing Reigns at nearly every opportunity. The good news is that it doesn't have to be this way. WWE has a few options for how they can to tackle this in a more strategic manner.
Turn Him Heel
"But isn't that exactly the opposite of what McMahon and Triple H want?", you ask. Well, yes and no. Although turning Reigns heel means he would have to play the villain, it doesn't mean he would be stuck as the villain for the remainder of his career. In fact, it's extremely common for superstars to turn heel and face and heel again or vice-versa numerous times throughout their careers. But there are definitely dumb and smart ways to go about this.
The dumb way is often seen with bigger wrestlers, such as Big Show, Kane, and Mark Henry. Because these three switch sides so often, fans are confused about whether to cheer or boo for them. Even worse, some fans have ceased to care.
Some of the smart examples can be seen with icon, The Rock, or more recently, The New Day. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson—Roman Reigns' own cousin—began his career as happy-go-lucky superstar, Rocky Maivia. Despite playing the nice guy role, fans ultimately started to boo him, nearly burying his career in the process. But after joining up with The Nation of Domination, The Rock pulled a 180 on his career, shooting up to main event status in no time.
Similarly, The New Day were given a ridiculous happy-go-lucky gimmick to work with. To make matters worse, WWE's creative team wasn't behind the trio and they lost match after match after match. Then, The New Day got creative in their own right, becoming those fun heels that fans actually root for.
Since fans are already booing Roman Reigns, it wouldn't be difficult to turn him heel. The easiest way to solidify that would be to have him betray Dean Ambrose, longtime brother in arms. By maintaining Reigns' destructive style (and keeping him off the mic), he can eventually reminisce Brock Lesnar, a force to be reckoned with. And what happened with Lesnar? Fans began to cheer for him. By doing the same with Roman Reigns, WWE could eventually have a top face on their hands.
A Family Reunion
When Roman Reigns first landed in WWE back in 2012's Survivor Series pay-per-view, it was as one part of what became one of WWE's greatest stables, The Shield. This almighty team took WWE by storm in record time, holding the WWE Tag Team Championship and the United States Championship. But a year and a half later, that all came to an end. After banding together for the last time, conquering Evolution (another historical stable), Seth Rollins double-crossed his brethren, smashing Reigns and Ambrose with repeated chair shots.
Not only were we all surprised that Rollins denounced the team after such an epic victory, we were all shocked by the fact that it was Rollins, not Reigns, who turned heel. Another year and a half later, Seth Rollins became the top heel in the company, whereas Roman Reigns became the top failed attempt at a face in the company
However, during Seth Rollins' reign as WWE World Heavyweight Champion, he defended the title against Randy Orton, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose in a fatal four-way at Payback 2015. The night of the pay-per-view, Roman Reigns joined forces with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, albeit briefly, to powerbomb Randy Orton through the announce table. The crowd cheered like crazy for the group.
So why shouldn't they do it again? As previously stated, The Shield was one of the hottest stables in WWE history. With all three members circling the main event scene, they could play a novel role in the company's dynamic, annihilating The Authority once and for all.
The Lesser of Two Evils
Despite Reigns' current unpopularity, he's a far cry from the most hated man in the company. This was evidently seen during his feud with The Celtic Warrior, Sheamus. At a time when WWE was plagued with their worst injury in WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins, Sheamus cashed in his Money in the Bank contract on a newly crowned Roman Reigns. For the next couple of months, these two sparred on countless occasions. But the most memorable of them all occurred in Philadelphia.
Despite interference from Vince McMahon, Roman Reigns overcame the odds and speared Sheamus for the 1, 2, 3, reclaiming the title. And the Philadelphia crowd? They loved every second of it. Ironically, just one year prior, this same audience booed Roman Reigns and The Rock out of the building in the closing moments of the 2015 Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
So what changed? For one thing, wrestling smarks everywhere were pulling for Daniel Bryan to win the Royal Rumble. With Bryan nowhere near Reigns' match with Sheamus, fans didn't have a better face to cheer. Which brings up point #2: No one wants to cheer for Sheamus. Given a choice between Roman Reigns and Sheamus holding the belt, most would prefer the former.
Although this feud has been worn out, this begs the question: Who else do we hate more than Sheamus? Roman Reigns may have faced the remaining members of The League of Nations, but never with the title on the line. So there's a potential starting point. Another option could involve actually pushing younger NXT heels. Tyler Breeze and Baron Corbin may not be hated like Roman Reigns, but they certainly don't have his popularity and brand recognition either. By following this route, Roman Reigns can have a series of successful title defenses while avoiding comparison to the white hot Dean Ambrose.
The John Cena Approach
Love him or hate him, the aforementioned John Cena is a staple in professional wrestling. When thinking of the most popular faces of the last decade, one would be hard-pressed to leave him off the list. But Cena hasn't always been a popular man. Even nowadays, the audience is usually 50-50 on the man with cheers of "Let's go, Cena! Cena Sucks!" encapsulating arenas everywhere.
And it seems like this is the path WWE wants to follow once more. Ignoring fans' hatred for Roman Reigns, The Samoan Badass continues to steamroll foe after foe, quite akin to John Cena, who rarely loses clean. Does this work, though? Again, the answer is "yes" and "no".
Some fans will always hate John Cena and everything that he stands for as a product of WWE the corporation. Others will love him for basically the same reason. Then there are those in the middle. While many spent years booing Cena, especially during his year-long reign as WWE Champion, others have come around as of late. This can be largely attributed to his United States Championship Open Challenge, a multi-month angle entailing John Cena facing off one-on-one with members of the mid-to-lower card. Besides featuring several entertaining matches, these contests also featured wrestlers that didn't regularly have a slot on Monday Night Raw.
Even if Roman Reigns wins the World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania, he can be a part of a similar storyline, consistently defending the championship on Raw. Such an offering would showcase matches that otherwise would never occur, such as Roman Reigns versus Zack Ryder or Roman Reigns versus R-Truth. More importantly, this would once again let these stars have a moment in the sun.
Honestly, I'm positive that any of these four ideas could work. But you don't want to hear that. You want to know which has the most potential, personally, I think turning Roman Reigns heel is the smart move.
Although fans could someday come around on Roman Reigns at the current rate, it will be a long time. The same can be said for having him square off with more despised individuals, but who really wants to watch that? And although a Shield reunion would be a great storyline, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns are in the process of cementing themselves as main eventers in singles competition and any move to force them into tag team action could stifle their efforts.
As a heel, I envision Roman Reigns as a force so devastating that people just want to watch him at work, obliterating the next opponent. If this effort was maintained, fans would undoubtedly begin to cheer when he launches a Superman punch or when he spears his enemies into the next dimension. And if a "Suplex City!" chant for a monster heel like Brock Lesnar can be created once, it certainly could again.
So how would you turn Roman Reigns into a heel? Or do you prefer him in his current babyface role? Comment below and let us know!
Thanks for reading!