Reigns is back. On Monday Night Raw Reigns made his first appearance since February 23 following his vicious mauling by Triple H. This Monday, after Triple H beat Dolph Ziggler and denied him a spot on the WrestleMania 32 card in the process, an enraged Reigns came out and inflicted a bada$$ beat down of the WWE World Heavyweight Champion.
From a storyline standpoint his revenge makes sense but the moment felt uninspired and ultimately fell flat. And it’s hard to think of anything else but a missed opportunity in the booking of WrestleMania 32’s main event.
The moment had potential but failed to deliver. Rather than assault Triple H in such a manner, wouldn’t the most logical outcome have been Reigns distracting Triple H and allowing Ziggler – a fan favorite – to claim a surprise win and gain a spot on the WrestleMania card, with an opponent of his choosing? The crowd was disappointed by the outcome and Reigns was booed, demonstrating the fact that WWE still hasn’t optimized its booking of its top babyface.
Reigns’ attack on Triple H a few months back was inspired and savage; it put WWE’s Chief Operating Officer out of action for weeks and created a narrative which led to Triple H’s Royal Rumble victory. Booking Reigns like a heel worked then. The beating we witnessed on Monday night was another attempt by WWE Creative to make Reigns the bad guy. It was the right thing to do, but it was executed in a disappointing fashion and now WWE find themselves in the corner. Reigns remains in that limbo in which he’ll never really be over. Resorting to the violent, silent Reigns on Monday didn’t work. Though Reigns smashed Triple H’s bloodied face into the announce table multiple times and chased him behind the scenes, it didn’t feel as if his heart was in it. Something was amiss, and it will stay that way as long as WWE doesn’t want to commit to booking him as a major heel.
If WWE wanted to make Reigns the bad guy then more than a half-hearted attempt was needed. He attacked Triple H repeatedly, pushed the referees, and stalked his prey relentlessly. But his pursuit fell flat because Triple H was still standing at the end of it and he was talked out of the savagery by The Usos, Mark Henry and Jack Swagger. Think how Raw could have been different had he also attacked his brothers in arms, the Usos for instance. The surprise factor would’ve been huge and it would’ve made for a Wow moment.
Up till that point Reigns was a savage. He looked good in that role and played the part convincingly – the man who cares for no one but himself. I like to think of the segment as WWE teasing us with a possible heel turn for the Big Dog, portraying him as a kind of monster. Wasn’t it Michael Cole who was alarmed by Reigns’s surgically-reconstructed face when he first pounced on Triple H?
Given that the wrestling community and fanbase’s interest in a babyface Roman Empire seems to be fading drastically, WWE would be wise to cash in on this monster heel potential.
In late-January, when the Triple H – Roman Reigns WrestleMania match was all but confirmed, I advocated for a full-blown Roman Reigns heel turn. I speculated for such a heel turn at this upcoming WrestleMania. It would make for unforgettable television: After predictably becoming the WWE World Heavyweight Champion for the third time, he could carry out another brutal beat down of Triple H and cement his monster heel status and the rise of a heel Roman Empire in which violence and retribution are commonplace.
To avoid more fans turning on Reigns, WWE needs to provide him with that extra violent edge – a role that would allow him to thrive at least in the medium term. WWE can take the gimmick as far as they like, knowing that one day they can easily push him again as their top babyface as he’ll have more than just one side to him. It’s a recipe that would undoubtedly generate more cheers than boos.