Roman Reigns returns to WWE RAW tonight to make a big announcement. Roman is back. He has beaten leukemia and will be resuming his place as the world’s most hated babyface. While he will be given a hero’s welcome on RAW, not everyone was happy about the way he announced his return.
Roman Reigns abruptly walked away from the WWE in 2018 after being diagnosed with leukemia. Reigns walked away as WWE Universal Champion, relinquishing the title he had won after a long chase. The hope by even his most vocal critics was that he’d be back for WrestleMania. He’s back, yet some in social media have hijacked the narrative, robbing Reigns of what should have been a celebration.
The narrative quickly shifted away from Reigns returning to the disgusting attempt by the WWE and Vince McMahon to use Roman’s health update as a tactic to pop a rating. Perhaps one of the loudest critics was veteran Wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer who seemed to make it some kind of a personal crusade to rain on Roman’s parade.
While I no longer read the Wrestling Observer or listen to his podcasts, Dave’s tweets arguing his point relentlessly with even his biggest supporters on the topic is often retweeted by other wrestling journalists and wrestling personalities. A Twitter gem featured Dave arguing with former WWE superstar and current WWE producer Shane Helms on whether WWE should be promoting the health update of one of its superstars vs. just outright reporting on Reigns’ health without advertising it.
CagesideSeats.com does a great job capturing the entire transcript of this debate. You can read the story over at CagesideSeats.com to read the entire debate but here are a few highlights which capture the essence of the argument.
DM: “How about IF it was his choice and he wanted to do it on Raw, they didn’t spend a week advertising it as a ratings ploy, and he showed up unannounced? There’s a reason in all sports and entertainment you can’t find a similar example to this and they are all desperate for ratings.”
SH: “Okay, in the future if anyone in the WWE gets sick and returns to discuss it, it mustn’t be announced in advance. Also, the person must teleport to the ring. No music, no nothing. Hope that makes it easier for you to cope with how someone else deals with cancer.”
Meltzer is only one example of a minority of folks who weighed in on social media about this being a sleazy promotional act. However, naturally, Dave’s take has gotten more play based on his notoriety in the community. Point being, Reigns’ return is not being celebrated the way he has earned and rightly deserves.
In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with the WWE advertising this a week out. For starters, savvy wrestling fans on social media have already seen plenty of tweets and posts confirming Reigns return to action. It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets I can remember and probably with good reason. Because it has less to do with a ratings pop than it does with celebrating a man beating cancer.
Comparing the way WWE handles the reporting of injuries to other professional sports is just a foolish argument. If not for sports betting, the reporting of injuries would look much different. The WWE is not beholden to sports betting and guess what? It’s a scripted show! With all due respect, it’s not a sport so why would anyone expect them to hold themselves to those same standards?
Finally, let’s look at this logically. How many people who are not watching RAW today are going to go out of their way to suddenly watch RAW tonight for a Roman Reigns’ health update? It’s 2019 and anyone that truly cares would either a) be watching already or b) probably already knows what the update thanks to social media. I could certainly be wrong, but I just don’t see this announcement having any kind of impact on the rating.
Let’s look at the other side of this. Maybe some folks are fighting their own battles with cancer or leukemia? Perhaps a loved one will latch onto this and make sure their loved one sees this as a source of inspiration? Those people aren’t necessarily Roman Reigns fans but are looking for any kind of hope they can find, even if it comes in the form of a pro wrestling promo. If it becomes “appointment-television” for them, getting the word out ahead of time is well worth the publicity whether it turns into some kind of a ratings bump or not.
As someone who lost two parents to cancer, I say it’s not mine or anyone else’s business to take offense with how he wants to share his news. Promote it, publicize it, pimp it all you want, because at the end of the day he can celebrate a brutal fight and help offer up some hope to people at the same time, there is nothing sleazy about that in my book.