The rise of the Roman Empire. How many times over the past 11 months have we read those exact words in one bit of speculation after another? Every dirtsheet, every blog, every podcast that covers WWE engaged in that very conversation and as the months went by, it seemed as though maybe the company would not be able to pull it off after all.
The work involved to make it happen was just too much, the effort to get him over seemed too monumental and the amount of convincing for fans to actually buy in was overwhelming. But never say never.
By this point we should have learned that lesson. It’s nearly impossible to be a WWE fan for longer than 15 minutes and not understand that despite how much criticism he receives and no matter how much fans want to believe otherwise, Vince McMahon can do anything.
He’s still turning water into wine and that’s exactly what he did with Roman Reigns. It’s not that Roman didn’t want it and it’s not that Roman didn’t have potential to get there; it’s that virtually no one wanted him there but he made it anyway.
This is perhaps the most blatant example of McMahon’s ego ruling the day than we have seen in a very long time. Instead of taking Reigns back a step or two due to his shortcomings or perhaps changing his character so he could get a fresh start, McMahon kept pushing.
Roman has often been compared to John Cena but this is likely the best example of why. Much like Cena, Roman did not change to suit anyone. He could have give in to please fans that believed he should have turned heel but he didn’t. He didn’t join The Authority, he didn’t take Paul Heyman as his advocate, he didn’t betray Dean Ambrose, and he did nothing that was out of character for him.
All he did was stay the course until the fans caught up to him. Suddenly he was not the most hated man in the building, he was the most popular. The Philadelphia crowd wanted to see him win; in fact they were salivating by the end of his match with Sheamus.
Sheamus deserves a ton of credit here for being the heel that would do the job to Roman. He checked his own ego at the door and gave what rub he could to a guy that had a hard time getting half of the audience to cheer for him on any given night. He turned in a good match and did his part to make the night a success.
But it was Vince that truly made it happen. He evidently didn’t want Roman to change so he didn’t. The same logic that dictates Cena’s stale personality remain the same applies to Roman as well and when the moment came to make the call, Vince did.
But Roman has something Cena doesn’t; he has an edge. Underneath the smile, the good looks and the corny jokes is a bad man just waiting to be unleashed. This is the same guy that busted heads with The Shield and it’s the same guy that stood tall with that group against Evolution last year.
That Roman Reigns was a force to be reckoned with, an intriguing proposition for top guy and one that fans were perfectly okay seeing rise up. He had the world in front of him and the best part about it? He wasn’t John Cena.
Fans saw the differences from the start and that’s why he had potential to be something big. Where John was static, Roman was new and fresh. There was every reason to believe he could take the momentum he had from The Shield and translate it into a singles run that would eventually put him on top.
But then Dean Ambrose got over and Daniel Bryan returned. Combined with the fact that Roman began showing signs of regressing into a pseudo-Cena state and suddenly everything about the situation began to look bad. Roman was no longer the option fans wanted for the future; he was now part of the problem.
Bryan couldn’t help him, Brock Lesnar wasn’t enough to get the job done and Bray Wyatt was just another opponent for him. All three rivalries were good for Roman and all three helped him grow as a performer. But none of them did what the guys in charge could do. Hunter and Vince did in two nights what WWE’s creative team couldn’t do with nearly a year’s worth of booking. Granted, Roman was prepped for his title win on Raw but that came after Triple H doing the work at TLC.
Of course, none of it would have been possible had it not been for the old man. Vince McMahon did what he does; he put the new guy over and he did it happily. Why? Because he had to be right and nothing could stand in his way.
The Roman Empire has risen; all hail McMahon.