Roman Reigns has had a very complicated history with the WWE and its fans. When he first joined the main roster as the power of the SHIELD faction, fans gravitated towards him thanks to his look and ferocity in the ring. I guess that was all according to plan as, after the SHIELD broke up, the bigwigs of the WWE quickly positioned the Big Dog as he was called to be the new “face of the company,” so to speak. This really turned off fans and started hating on Roman Reigns en masse. While he was still positioned to be the biggest good guy, he just wasn’t the good guy the WWE Universe wanted.
Fast forward to 2022. Roman Reigns is now the leader of the Bloodline, a ruthless faction hell-bent on getting as much of the WWE’s gold as they can. He’s supposed to be this evil character who demands not only your respect but your fear. He’s not below stooping down and doing underhanded tricks in order to keep his Undisputed WWE Universal Champion with him. He’s not supposed to be cheered. That didn’t stop the fans for cheering the dastardly heel’s team at the end of this year’s Survivor Series, did it? Sure, you can say they were cheering for Sami Zayn but do you think people would be cheering for him when he’s siding with the bad guys? I didn’t think so.
So, what happened? How did Roman Reigns, who was pretty unlikable when he was supposed to be the new main good guy to cheer, become the leader of a faction of heels and now have the entire WWE Universe on his side? Well, it’s complicated and it’s a pretty long story. Luckily, I have an entire post to fill out here so I’ve got the time to go through why I think it took Roman Reigns to turn heel to become the biggest face of the WWE at the moment.
Let’s start out with why the fans didn’t like Roman Reigns when he was a good guy. A lot of it is actually is because of his seemingly meteoric rise to the top of the card despite being pretty green when it comes to being a WWE main roster Superstar. It does seem like this was the WWE’s plan all along when they put together the SHIELD as, if CM Punk’s story of him being the one who created the group is correct, Roman Reigns wasn’t even supposed to be one of the Hounds of Justice in the first place. It looks like the powers that be saw Roman Reigns’ potential to be a top star so they added him to the group instead of the intended member, Kassius Ohno.
This worked in the short term as Reigns’ athletic and power style of wrestling did win fans over while he was part of the SHIELD. Now, you might think the WWE fast tracked Reigns after the SHIELD broke up but you’d be incorrect. If you do watch the days just before the team imploded, you can see them nudging Reigns to take a bigger role in the team as he was conducting the interview segments instead of being the quiet behemoth during the team’s early days. This also leads me to one of the other reasons why fans just couldn’t stomach Roman Reigns. He just couldn’t do a good promo!
This may be because, despite him wrestling for some time, he still hasn’t really learned to speak on the mic all that well. He probably never got the chance to practice so it really showed when he tried to do promos after the SHIELD broke up. They were super cringe. Couple that with him forgetting his lines, not able to keep up with the likes of John Cena and, of course, being forced to say specific things like “suffering succotach” certainly didn’t help endear him to the wide WWE Universe as it all felt fake and just reinforced the idea he was being groomed to be the top guy, whether we like it or not.
We still haven’t gotten to the biggest reason why fans hated the “good guy” version of Roman Reigns and it does deal with some hilariously bad timing. Let’s talk about probably the biggest reason why fans started to really hate Reigns: the 2015 Royal Rumble.
After the SHIELD broke up, it was plain as day the WWE were strongly pushing Roman Reigns to become the hero of the WWE, which didn’t really sit well with fans. The WWE Universe was still getting over John Cena’s dominance as the biggest babyface of the company, someone the WWE shoved into fans’ faces for years. So they really found it hard to swallow when the WWE were doing this entire thing again with Reigns. In fact, the fans had someone else in mind regarding who should be their hero. That man was Daniel Bryan.
Things came to a head during the 2015 Royal Rumble to a spectacular degree. Daniel Bryan, who had been out of action for a couple of years, announced he was returning to in-ring action and entering the Royal Rumble. Fans were excited and they thought the WWE learned their lesson from the previous Royal Rumble when a returning Batista won. Even then, fans craved for Daniel Bryan to enter as the last man but it didn’t happen. Well, Daniel Bryan did return but was eliminated unceremoniously during the middle of the match. This signaled to fans that Roman Reigns, the company’s Chosen One, was going to win it all, which he did. Not even The Rock’s appearance and vouching for his cousin could stop the boos!
Adding to the problems was how the WWE was booking this version of Roman Reigns. They kept on trying to book him as an underdog, which just didn’t make sense. Reigns proved time and time again he was strong, powerful and agile, making him more than a match for most of the locker room. Also, we got the same deal with basically his predecessor, John Cena. The fans already hated John Cena. What more his copycat?
Even after all that, the WWE refused to change course as they stayed on track, despite it simply not working. They kept on trucking for what seemed like an unbearable amount of time. The weird thing is that Roman Reigns, when he does get into the ring, he can definitely perform. Fans never really knocked in wrestling ability. What fans had an issue with was with the Roman Reigns character. He was just your typical bland hero who said corny things. The strange thing is I think the WWE would’ve stuck to their guns and kept pushing Roman Reigns as the top babyface of the company if he didn’t need to take a long sabbatical away from the ring under very unfortunate circumstances. Ironically, this piece of bad news might’ve started his path to becoming the beloved heel he is today.
On October 22 of 2018, Roman Reigns went to the ring on RAW to announce he was vacating his WWE Universal Championship as he wasn’t medically cleared to wrestler. That’s because he was diagnosed with leukemia. Roman Reigns was diagnosed with the cancer way back before he joined professional wrestling and it was in remission. He gave a heartfelt speech about how he beat it before and he’ll beat it again this time as well. This, for me, was the catalyst for fans to start liking Roman Reigns because he didn’t come off as just a tool of the WWE. He was a person. He was a human being we could empathize with. Some fans, like myself, even though that was going to be the end of Roman Reigns’ career.
It turns out this was only the start of Roman Reigns’ renaissance as his return would mark the start of his redemption. However, this post is pretty long so I’ll save how he successfully turned heel to the delight of the WWE Universe next week. See you then!
Were you a fan of Roman Reigns before him turning heel? Let me know in the comments section below!