Some are calling Roman Reigns the least over WWE superstar to headline a WrestleMania. That is high praise considering it wasn’t even five years ago that Miz was headlining. Where did it all go wrong for the former member of the Shield?
Consider this for a second. It was only a year ago that Reigns was tapped to be the next John Cena of the WWE. Today many will argue that the experiment with Reigns has failed. Who is to blame for the colossal descent is a matter of opinion. Is Reigns to blame for not being able to achieve the success he was slotted for or is it the WWE Creative Team who may be responsible for the worst booking of anyone on the ascend in the last decade?
Next up for Reigns was a big feud against Evolution. The Shield and Evolution had a pair of memorable matches on pay-per-view shows following Mania. The fans went freaking ballistic for Reigns at Extreme Rules when he hit the Superman punch and spear on Batista for the pin. Reigns was not only over, but he was super over. He looked more than ready to headline Mania the next year and be a featured WWE player in 2015.
Here is where things got interesting. The RAW after Extreme Rules the Shield fought the Wyatts. Bray Wyatt pinned Reigns, with interference from Evolution. The night after Reigns’ star shined brightest he was pinned on RAW. That is just unfathomable if you think about that. Reigns did score the pin over Triple H in the Evolution rematch at Payback. He was still red hot but you have to wonder if the taint of that pin loss to Bray Wyatt hurt Reigns moving forward.
The Shield splits up after Payback and the next couple of months are critical. The WWE could have separated Reigns here and established him as a money singles player. Instead he completely floundered over the next few months. Reigns didn’t have a real purpose and came up short in the Money in the Bank match. Even worse is that Reigns’ ex-Shield partners were picking up real steam with their feud as he took a backseat. Ambrose and Rollins were stealing shows with their rivalry as Reigns bounced around.
Let’s focus on Money in the Bank for a second, which was Reigns first big match away from the Shield on pay-per-view. It is fascinating when you watch back the reaction Reigns got as he was walking down the steps. It was not only nowhere close to the reaction he received just a couple of months back at Payback, but it was far less than John Cena’s. Reigns badly needed to win Money in the Bank or not be booked in the match. Reigns was already struggling and not winning Money in the Bank hurt. It is hard to argue the booking decision since Rollins was clearly much hotter at the time. However, if your long range plan was to rehabilitate Reigns for Mania, they needed to give him the win here.
Reigns spends the next few weeks wrestling Randy Orton repeatedly on television as Rollins and Ambrose are tearing it up. Even worse, now Reigns is booked to lose two big PPV matches in a row. Reigns is booked in a Fatal 4-Way match at Battleground for the WWE championship and loses. This was just pure insanity! The guy you are supposed to be booking as the next big superstar, a legit threat to Brock Lesnar has now come up short in two big matches. I think it was at this point that his goose was cooked.
Reigns would of course take some time off in the fall due to injury. Reigns was just starting to heat up again with a feud against Seth Rollins. Reigns would have presumably beaten Rollins at Night of Champions, although you never know. The biggest problem here is that unlike Daniel Bryan who came back hot from his injury, Reigns was struggling when he went out. He wasn’t hot which meant he wasn’t missed at all by the fans. Even worse, Dean Ambrose stepped into that spot and was far more over with the fans. The WWE tried their best to make sure fans understood that Ambrose was not a top guy but it didn’t matter. He thrived, Rollins remained hot, and Reigns was sitting at home out of sight and out of mind…that was until that infamous RAW interview.
Michael Cole conducted an interview via satellite with Reigns on RAW. The badass, monster, no-nonsense Reigns transformed into a goofy, corny, babyface. Whatever aura Reigns had was destroyed singlehandedly in this one promo. Experts and critics watched in astonishment as Reigns delivered some of the worst scripted promo lines you had ever heard a character like him repeat. It was awful and while they tried to fix this in future interviews, the damage was done.
Enter Daniel Bryan! Bryan left the WWE as champion and red hot with the fans. His presence was missed and fans couldn’t wait to see him return. Bryan announced his return to the Royal Rumble and Reigns’ goose was officially cooked at this point. Even with Reigns struggles, and his struggles started far before Bryan returned, the company still proceeded with plans to give him a Royal Rumble win and a match with Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania. It may have worked if not for the fact that the people’s champion was now back and after last year’s Rumble, it was clear he had to be in it to win it. He didn’t and ever since then, Reigns has paid the price for it.
On top of all of this, Reigns’ character development since September has been downright awful. The person or people responsible for getting Reigns ready for Mania should be fired immediately or resign. They have over-produced this kid to the point that fans just don’t even care anymore. The worst reaction anyone in a WWE ring can get is apathy. Reigns would be better off getting booed out of the building every week. Instead, he receives tepid reactions and fans are more pumped for Dolph Ziggler these days than they are for Roman Reigns.
That doesn’t relieve the creative team and Vince McMahon of their failures here. Let’s take silly promos out of this and go all the way back to May 5, 2014 when Reigns was pinned by Bray Wyatt on television. Let’s go back to June and the post-Shield split and the lack of a plan the company had for Reigns. Let’s go back to last summer and revisit booking Reigns in two top matches without winning. The Royal Rumble and his silly promos are an easy cop out. This mess goes back much further than that.
Roman Reigns needs to be rebooted. From his character to his impact as a performer in the ring. Being forced down the fans throats not only won’t do him any favors, it could be the final nail that kills Reigns’ chances as a top guy. Everyone involved need to take a long hard look in the mirror because there is plenty of blame to go around for this debacle.