Regardless of the fact professional wrestling is fact, at times there is a brutal honesty to it that makes it more “real” than most of the sports entertainment we watch on a daily basis.
When speaking about WrestleMania 32 and the harsh reality that Roman Reigns may be the babyface in his match with Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Title, the current COO of the company acknowledges the fact the fans don’t want the former Shield member as their leader, the new face of a generation in this company.
Triple H was extremely candid in his comments in an interview with CBS Sports and the upcoming event in Dallas. Denny Burkholder paints a picture of a champion, who will compete in his 20th WrestleMania event, as a villain on screen and a no-nonsense business man off camera, who works with talent to get the best possible outcome on screen. Yes, the character Paul Levesque portrays on screen really wants what is best for business.
WWE and its long-standing tradition of making WrestleMania the signature event each year for the company Vince McMahon built is banking on Reigns – whether the fans accept it or not.
“He’s a great kid, and I’m really happy for his success and how well he’s done,” Levesque said. “But it’s a tough road and a long road. That success has come fast. Sometimes that can be a blessing and sometimes it can be a curse. So I think he’s done the best that he can with it.”
Times have changed since the former DX member stepped in a WWE ring. There was division among fans who loved babyfaces and hated heels. Now, those lines are blurred, where the villains get more pops from the crowd, as if it is hip to be hated. It’s a semi-throwback to the idea that the New World Order created when Hulk Hogan turned his back on the fans of this business. It also comes from years of watching the same babyfaces carry the title around, preaching the same message that has become stale and unacceptable.
Yes, that is a direct shot at John Cena. For all that he means to this business and the philanthropic ventures of WWE, his character gets the most mixed reaction because of his refusal to bend at times when it is needed. The time off from the ring because of injury by Cena should have fostered more support for fans with new talent, to potentially help Reigns get over as the new guy. It’s done the polar opposite.
When asked about it, Levesque was on point with his answer.
“You know, the hardest thing in this business to do now is, as a character, to either make everyone love you or everyone hate you,” Levesque said with a laugh. “The world is a divided place in politics, in music and everything. Choices now, and people’s opinions, are front and center more than ever. The Internet makes that readily available to everybody. They know all of the machinations of everything and the behind-the-scenes of everything, you know.
“It used to be that the good guy was the guy that didn’t cheat, you know what I mean? It was just very simple. The world has changed. I think [Reigns has] done a phenomenal job. He’s, you know, from a behind-the-scenes standpoint, a great human being. I’m really happy for his success, as I am for all of them.”
When the two meet in Dallas on Sunday, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Reigns will walk out of the stadium with the belt in tow. It seems he will continue to be the babyface no one wants to see covered in confetti. Fans are praying for a swerve, a change, a heel turn and something epic to take place.
Make that everyone, including this writer.
While not every WrestleMania has been a hit and bowled the fans over, this is honestly the first one I can remember in some time where there is a revolt-like attitude amongst those who watch Raw on a weekly basis. Make no mistake, injuries have helped to make this card what it is, however Reigns was always going to be in the main event. His path toward that position has been skewed. That fact Seth Rollins is still injured, we have been teased by Dean Ambrose and Daniel Bryan just announced his retirement this event has had the wind taken out of its sails.
Honestly, it could be worse in the foreseeable future.
Professional wrestling is the soap opera guys (and girls) are supposed to watch and not let everyone know they do it. Now, with interviews like the one on CBS Sports, the McMahon’s appearing on CBS This Morning and continual spots on ESPN, WWE is main stream news once again. The only problem is the product for the most part sucks.
In a sense, Reigns has already turned heel, especially in the eyes of the fans. There has been talk of Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels and Goldberg all being part of Sunday’s event. The Rock is going to be there in some capacity. And still, it does not change this show might be doomed from the start.
Unless there is a shocking moment – a la Hogan and his heel turn – expect more of the same treatment from the fans where Reigns is concerned. Keeping the title on Triple H isn’t the worst idea in the world. It just means the company failed with another angle. It’s part of the business. Putting the title on Reigns for the third time in four months isn’t what may be best for business. It might just become wrestling suicide.