In case you haven't noticed, Roman Reigns isn't exactly over with a significant section of the WWE Universe. His career-defining moments, such as winning the 2015 Royal Rumble and capturing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 32, have been backed with a chorus of boos. Compared to his former Shield brothers Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, their actions have been embraced by the live crowds, Reigns remains the black sheep of the dominant trio.
The reasons for this are numerous with varying levels of validity. There are those stubborn enough to suggest Reigns can't wrestle, which is about as inaccurate as a Dana Brooke dropkick. Others criticize the fact he's been jammed down our throats, to which I would retort, you wouldn't be complaining if Kevin Owens had been shoved down our throats. Finally, and arguably the most valid reason, Reigns' character is bland, corny and not true to the man himself.
While I would not go so far as to say he's been portrayed as John Cena 2.0, Roman Reigns has been put under a lot of pressure to display the same charisma as The Rock, Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan and other main event stars before him. I have no doubt Reigns has that charisma, it's just not on the mic; it's in his actions. He was over as the brooding powerhouse of the Shield, akin to Brock Lesnar (although Reigns has the advantage of being younger, better-looking and actually giving two s***s about WWE and its fans).
Yet, at this point, many have made their minds up to dislike Roman Reigns indefinitely. He will have to carry the stigma of generating a mixed reaction for the majority of his career, unless his fabled heel turn finally takes effect.
However, this leads me onto another huge face in the future of WWE and Monday Night RAW - Finn Balor. Balor has been a success from the minute he stepped foot in NXT. Balor became the longest reigning NXT Champion in history, was selected ahead of Roman Reigns in the WWE Draft, beat Reigns on RAW to win a match for the Universal Championship and won the belt at SummerSlam against Seth Rollins. Quite an entrance, and the crowd has been behind him throughout his rise to the top.
Now, what if all of those accolades had happened to Roman Reigns? I can tell you the reaction would have been far less celebratory. But, if Reigns has been shoved down our throats due to his booking, by comparison Balor bypassed our throats and Coup de Graced his way straight through our stomach linings. Obviously fans of NXT have witnessed his journey to this point, and others fondly remember his work from New Japan Pro Wrestling and the European independent scene. But for those that simply know WWE as RAW and SmackDown, this guy came from nowhere to claim the top spot.
Injury robbed Finn Balor of the chance to capitalize fully on this unparalleled push to the main event. But, part of me is scratching my head as to why Balor receives such an overwhelmingly positive reaction, while Reigns' is decidedly negative. Because, from where I'm looking, they are more similar than first impressions could have you believe.
As previously alluded two, both have received mega pushes since bursting onto the scene and rarely lose in fair fights. Both are exceptionally talented wrestlers, despite what some would have you believe, and have competed in some of the best matches this year. Both are less than stellar on the microphone, and prefer to let their actions do the talking for them. Both have an explosive arsenal of moves and strikes at their disposal.
Yet, most strikingly of all, both severely lack depth of character compared to the likes of Kevin Owens, Seth Rollins, Chris Jericho, AJ Styles and more.
If Finn Balor wasn't as good of a worker as he is, people would be calling out his gimmick far more frequently. His character is simply "I'm an Irish wrestler, I used to work in Japan, and I put on face paint at PPVs". The face paint does NOTHING to his character except make him look cool. Balor doesn't change his mannerisms, his moves, his aggression, his taunts - some may say he rarely loses in that garb, but he rarely loses full stop.
Balor should become feral when the paint is on, transform into a deranged, aggressive monster, and it should only be brought out when the feud calls for him to dial it up. Not every PPV like clockwork, because then it isn't special, especially with 12 PPVs a year. It shouldn't be a case of "Oh, Clash of Champions is coming up, better break out the face paint". He should emerge as the Demon King only when he can't overcome an opponent traditionally, and every time he becomes this madman, it should slowly chip away at his sanity until he can't break out of this trance any longer.
Maybe I've given this too much thought, and I could write an entire article about how WWE should book Finn Balor upon his return to the ring (so keep your eyes peeled for that). But sans face paint, Balor is bland, dare I say blander than Roman Reigns, who might lack the emotional investment of the majority of the crowd, but has a rich backstory in WWE. He has been turned on by his best friend, screwed over by the powers that be and smiled in the face of the Beast Incarnate.
Now the reason Balor gets cheered and Reigns gets booed is obvious - Balor built up a legacy in Japan before joining WWE, whilst Reigns had the audacity to be a homegrown talent. This is something that really bugs me about certain fans, because it should never be about where you've come from, it should be where you are at right now. I love AJ Styles for his work in TNA and the independent circuit, but if he were sucking in WWE I wouldn't care about him anymore - the fact he's still killing it is why he's one of the best on the roster.
Arguably, getting injured could be the best thing to happen to Balor, because I fear that over time, fans would start to look past the face paint and more at the man behind it. They would have turned on him for lacking nuance in his character and begged his displacement from a more developed character like Owens, Jericho or Sami Zayn. They have layers to their personality, while the only layer Balor has is the paint covering him once a month.
Both Roman Reigns and Finn Balor need a lot of work on their character to reach their full potential and keep the fans invested, whether it is as faces, heels or anything in between. Hopefully the creative team will keep this in mind over the coming years. But, I hope this article has highlighted an important detail about hypocrisy in the WWE fandom. Cheer and boo for whoever you like, but don't boo Reigns for having an unrelatable character and cheer Balor despite him having none.
Let me know if you think I have some valid points or I'm simply talking gibberish in the comments below.