Roman Reigns, from the beginning of 2015 to nearly the end of 2018 was easily the most hated superstar in WWE. Heels would crave to get the reactions that he received and the backlash he did get was constant and for a very good reason. It was an advanced version of John Cena’s “polarizing” figure, except he was hardly even polarizing because the vocal majority was constantly booing him.
He was the “chosen” corporate champion who in the eyes of many fans didn’t deserve what he got. Not that they hated the man himself, but they most certainly hated the character, what it stood for and WWE’s presentation of Roman Reigns. They tried year after year to coronate him, without realizing that they were simply making it worse – killing off other superstars’ momentum in favor of The Big Dog.
Ultimately, nobody denied that Reigns was a legitimate main eventer. In the eyes of many fans, he has always been an extremely talented superstar from a great heritage but he simply wasn’t done any favors by WWE creative and the way WWE wanted to present him was always a stark contrast to how fans wanted to see him.
Ultimately, what changed everything was his tragic leukemia announcement. It set aside all feelings about the character and in a rare instance, it felt as though the whole wrestling world was united as one out of concern for Roman Reigns. He announced it around late October and many people, including leukemia survivors themselves, estimated that Reigns would likely only be back by January 2020 at the very earliest.
However, he would return around late February and shockingly announce to the world that he was in remission—and everybody was on their feet with joy and happiness. Even when he did make the tragic announcement in October, he stated that he would come back and when he did, it was not going to be about championships and accolades, but simply inspiring people and proving that they can fight out of any adversity that’s in front of them. And this is something he didn’t just say for the sake of saying it. He meant every word of it and that’s what he has been doing since then. All said and done, WWE must be given credit for how they’ve handled Roman Reigns in 2019. Many fans wondered how long it would take for Reigns to get booed but as we’re in the second half of the year, that doesn’t even seem close to what’s going to happen.
Reigns came at an interesting time. Up until he left, he was the front and center of WWE programming. The entire show revolved around him and there was no mistake about it – he was The Guy. But with a lack of certainty over when he would return, WWE knew they had to go with someone different and the obvious and correct pick was Seth Rollins.
On the SmackDown side of things, Kofi Kingston was having his big build to the WWE title which meant that there was no real spot for Reigns at that position. And WWE didn’t rush it either, making sure to involve their big star in high-profile feuds, but not the biggest feud in the company.
And this is where they’ve finally realized how to handle Reigns and prevent him from getting booed. Ever since coming back, they’ve not given fans a single reason to boo Reigns and they’ve been able to portray him as a hero with an edge to his character who isn’t constantly shoved down people’s throats.
He’s been utilized in upper-midcard rivalries and each storyline that he’s been a part of has been interesting in its own right. This isn’t to say that Roman Reigns is never going to compete for a top title again—because ultimately, it’s inevitable and nobody can deny that Reigns does deserve another shot at a top title later on and eventually, another long run with it as well.
The fact that he’s never had a single world title reign cross more than two months truly shows that he deserves it a long run with the title at some point of time. However, the build to it must be organic and there must be a story in place where fans accept him back in that very position.
With that being said, there’s always going to be an unfortunate uncertainty in the air when it comes to Roman Reigns. He’s stated in different interviews that he has anywhere between two to five years to work full-time in WWE before his health probably caves in and he’ll likely make a switch to Hollywood.
We certainly hope that doesn’t happen, but ultimately, all we can hope is that we value Roman Reigns while he’s around and appreciate what he contributes to millions of people watching every week. The current role that Roman Reigns in is one where he’s not only in regular feuds, but he’s helping build big stars as well, as seen from his match against Buddy Murphy on SmackDown on August 13th.
WWE will do everything they can to keep his momentum rolling.