On October 22, 2018, during the opening segment of Monday Night RAW, the then WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns strolled to the middle of the ring. Like usual, he arrived to a mixed reaction from the live audience, some cheering him and some booing him. This time, things were different as, by the time Roman Reigns exited the ring, the crowd and probably the entire WWE Universe applauded him and his performance. Even chanting “Thank you, Roman” as he left.
This was because he wasn’t spouting ridiculous lines like he was the “big dog” and the ring was “his yard.” He didn’t say anything tough like he was going to demolish Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel or that he’s the leader of the Roman Empire. No, Roman Reigns came out because he had to relinquish the belt. Roman Reigns came out because he was leaving to battle leukemia.
The promo, if you can call it that, was a very human look at Leati Joseph “Joe” Anoaʻi, the man who is known as Roman Reigns in the WWE. I’ll go so far as say that this was even the best he ever was on the mic. He was honest and it showed that he could deliver a bunch of lines and make it believable… because it probably was. This wasn’t some crappy speech WWE Creative slapped together and forced him to say. This was something he believed in and it came across as real.
I do with Joe Anoa’i the best and I honestly hope he does kick cancer’s ass once again. I do hope to see the man back in action in the squared circle in the near future once he does. But “Roman Reigns,” man, I’m sorry. I still hate “Roman Reigns,” the WWE Superstar and character. And I feel safe saying that it should be okay for me to do so. Because Joe Anoa’i and Roman Reigns are two different people.
People tend to forget that. Professional wrestlers, sorry, WWE Superstars are not real people. They’re works of fiction and are brought to life by dedicated athletes who put their bodies on the line for our entertainment. I do have a healthy respect for the performers; I know I couldn’t do what they do day in and day out for most of the year. I’ll probably have to take at least 3 months off after a grueling schedule like they have to do! So, yeah, I have respect for Joe Anoa’i for putting his body on the line. I still dislike Roman Reigns, the character he portrays with a passion.
The WWE certainly didn’t do the character any favors due to the way they booked him and how they told his story. I’ve actually written several posts before regarding why I don’t like the character. And in those posts, I never really knocked his in-ring skills nor his ability to do good matches. The big problem I have with Roman Reigns is that he’s boring!
As a “good guy” wrestler, he’s as vanilla as they come. He’s the tough guy who super strong yet still booked to be the underdog for some strange reason. He talks tough and he wants to be the champion because… he’s tough. No real motivation other than he’s strong and he deserves it. Sure, a lot of WWE Superstars follow this trend but at least they have some kind of personality that makes them interesting.
It certainly didn’t help that Roman Reigns was never good on the mic. Yes, I did heap loads of praise on his farewell speech but, like I said, he sounded honest there. Before that, it was like he just memorized the lines WWE Creative wrote for him and he never bothered to put his own spin on what he was going to say. Heck, John Cena even pointed it out on RAW a year ago where Cena simply destroyed Reigns in that promo!
The weird thing is, while I hate Roman Reigns the character, I can’t really say that I can blame Joe Anoa’i, the man behind the WWE Superstar. I put most of the blame on the WWE. They’re the ones who took one look at “Roman Reigns” and they jumped at the chance to put him in the main event. They gave “Roman Reigns” all the breaks early on. Remember the SHIELD, Roman Reigns’ original group? According to CM Punk, he claims that he came up with the idea of the SHIELD and recommended that Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Kassius Ohno. While the WWE was on board with Rollins and Ambrose, they nixed Ohno. Instead they went with Roman Reigns, who was Triple H’s “guy.” So, even from the start, the WWE was already grooming Roman Reigns for bigger things.
After the SHIELD broke up, Roman Reigns immediately was on the fast track to the main event. He then getting booked in title matches for the WWE Heavyweight Championship and even won the Royal Rumble 3 years ago to the disapproval of a large contingent of the WWE Universe as this meant that Reigns would get his title shot and main event that year’s Wrestlemania, something fans dreaded and didn’t want. They even tried to make the crowd cheer by bringing in The Rock to celebrate with Reigns, which felt soooooooo fake and desperate. Because it was soooooooo fake and desperate!
They really wanted Joe Anoa’i as Roman Reigns to be the new face of the WWE but fans were just not biting. That didn’t deter them from attempting so many times to make Roman Reigns “the man,” though. The WWE kept trying and trying but he just wasn’t accepted.
And this wasn’t like how fans hate John Cena. At least John Cena’s rise was legitimate! He was a “rapper” who made fun of guys and fans loved that. It was when Cena turned into a goody-two-shoes corporate sellout that fans started to turn against him. But at least he earned his spot. Roman Reigns never did as he shot to the top without actually getting the necessary skills, such as good promo work or ability to listen to the crowd and react accordingly, which John Cena can do.
This is why I still hate Roman Reigns. He’s the most artificially created super good guy that the WWE wanted you to cheer and adore. Instead of building him up slowly, they rocketed the character up the ladder of success and fans saw through their plan. He’s the personification of how out-of-touch the WWE has become. Instead of listening to the fans, they wanted to make their own hero that will sell the most merchandise. And just because the man behind the character had to leave because of cancer, that doesn’t erase the fact that Roman Reigns is the most phony thing the WWE has done in recent memory and symbolizes what a corporation will try to do to trick its loyal fans into liking.
Joe Anoa’i, if you’re reading this, I really do hope you beat cancer once again. But I will still boo Roman Reigns when you return to the ring. Believe that!
Has your opinion on Roman Reigns changed since Joe Anoa’i left? Let me know in the comments section below!