It's actually rather sad that we have to qualify a list extolling the virtues of WWE's "Big Dog" because even his most virulent detractors know that he's not deserving of hatred this deep. When you remove the horse blinders and you stop telling yourself that Reigns usurped Daniel Bryan's spot on the card three years ago, you'll find that Reigns justifiably belongs in WWE's upper echelon, usually for many of the same reasons that you like whoever your favourite wrestlers happen to be.
It may be too little too late to salvage the Roman project from the depths it's plunged, owed to a combination of non-acceptance and the harmful doubling down of the office. But judging fairly, here are 10 reasons Reigns makes a good face for WWE.
Please don't hurt us. We're good people...
10. He's A Far Superior Wrestler Than He Gets Credit For Being
If you ever come across a fan who denounces a wrestler for "having three moves" chances are you're listening to a moron. First, it needs to be said that, in the presentation of a fight, quantity of moves doesn't win, but rather application of the ones you *do* have win you the fight. Someone with 800 variations of a suplex doesn't stand a chance if Big Show jacks their jaw with a solitary right hand.
And even then, this argument that Reigns has a lacklustre moveset is a weak one. Spear, Superman Punch, Samoan Drop, Drive By kick, Deadlift Powerbomb, Sitout Niagara Bomb, leaping Clothesline, Tilt-A-Whirl slam, corner Clothesline barrage, Belly-To-Back side slam - that's 10 right there with barely a strained thought. And he applies those moves in a way that's realistic to his character, because the idea of Reigns isn't to be technical, but rather explosive.
9. He's Proven To Be Compatible With Different Opponents
People who put all the stock in the world in Dave Meltzer's match ratings would be surprised to find that Reigns has topped the four-star mark plenty of times in recent years. The kneejerk response from the naysayers would be to claim that Reigns is always carried by quality workers, which is likely a bit of a stretch.
Since the split of The Shield four years back, Reigns has been in four-star-plus singles bouts (again, in Meltzer's personal opinion) with Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, Brock Lesnar, The Big Show, Cesaro, AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, and John Cena, among others. That group of eight alone represents a diverse range of in-ring characteristics. While all adhere to the static WWE style in one way or another, it's still proof that Reigns works well with others, regardless of what their own skill set entails.
8. He Ranks Highly In WWE Merchandise Sales
In case you couldn't tell, WWE puts more value in who makes money for their company, as opposed to who gets booed out of the building by stubborn fans that want to go against the grain. Otherwise, John Cena would've been banished to episodes of Main Event a long time ago.
Speaking of Cena, in a recent report from Meltzer, Cena remains the top merchandise seller in WWE, by quite a wide margin. While Cena's mainstream star won't be fading any time soon, the next highest names in merchandise sales are apparently Reigns and AJ Styles. Behind them are Finn Balor, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, and The New Day. Even as adults loudly boo Reigns to the point of developing throat polyps, it's clear that he's resonated with other parts of the audience that would proudly wear his gear.
7. Let's Face It, He Looks A Star
There's no denying that Roman Reigns has an appealing look. With the realistic musculature, the placid smirk, the menacing eyes, and the long mane of hair, it's no surprise that a lot of female fans adore the man for at least his aesthetic. He's pro wrestling's Jason Momoa, except this version of Aquaman goes "OOOH-RAHHH" before punching somebody in the grill.
Reigns walks the fine line between 'visually appealing' and 'indisputably bad ass'. While he may not be anywhere near as charismatic as The Rock (and really, who the hell is?), there are nonetheless some shared traits between the two. It's easy to see why WWE puts plenty of stock in Reigns as an appealing star - in that chorus of boos he receives, you can still hear the female shrieks.
6. Your Booing Doesn't Really Do Much
Bryan Alvarez of Figure Four Weekly has dismissed the boos of Reigns as a 'meme', and he's probably right. People still haven't let go of the fact that Reigns' ascendance began as Daniel Bryan was being phased away from the biggest push of his career, and almost four years later, they're still holding it against Roman.
You can boo him all you want, but it hasn't deterred the push all too much. Sure, it may have made WWE reconsider the ending to WrestleMania 31, but aside from that, the company has been keen to keep him in the main event tier, where he has since held the top gold on three occasions. When looking at the previous four list entries (appeal, merchandise sales, and his underrated ring work), what's WWE's incentive to kill Reigns' push? The people booing are still buying tickets, and where does that money go? WWE's pockets.
5. We've Seen What He Can Be
Go back to December 2015, when Reigns had his torrential freakout at the end of the TLC pay-per-view. His angry outburst toward the League of Nations and Triple H was far more fun to watch than a disaffected Reigns playing the role of underdog, a role that WWE seems to covet more for him.
The next night on Raw, when Reigns fought off Vince McMahon and Sheamus' running buddies en route to capturing the WWE Championship, it was done in such a way that the crowd in Philadelphia (the same fans that booed Reigns out of the Rumble 11 months earlier) were wildly cheering for him to win. Reigns has the capacity to be just like Braun Strowman, a lawless wrecking machine without a care in the world. That side of Roman beats the hell out of the one that recites rote dialogue and lives a paint-by-numbers existence. A Reigns that's equal parts Strowman and Stone Cold is *much* more appealing, and we know that: we've seen it.
4. Hell, They've Already Gone This Far
The last four WrestleManias have featured Roman Reigns in the main event - a cancelled coronation, a fan-rejected coronation, the end of Undertaker that wasn't, and another cancelled coronation. In between WrestleManias, he's occupied vital parts of weekly programming and other monthly pay per views. In short, Reigns has been all over the WWE product for quite some time now.
WWE may find it onerous to backtrack off of Reigns - this is a war that they need to win. Make no mistake, WWE wasn't 'wrong' to push Reigns into the main event tier, although there was criticism for how it was done and how it's still being carried out. Reigns has demonstrated the qualities necessary to take the top spot, and it would be far more damaging to just give up on the entire experiment completely.
3. He Can Cut A Good Promo (When He's Allowed To)
Frankly, I'm not sure he's ever lived down "sufferin' succotash", or even "tater tots" from about a year later. WWE's insistence on getting inane phrases over ("sparkle crotch", "biscuit butt") has been taxing on performers that don't have the world-class gravitas needed to make them work (just leave that stuff to The Rock).
When Reigns is making narrow-eyed schoolyard threats or telling it like it is about Brock Lesnar, he comes off much more authentic. He looks like a killer, so why not let him talk like one? He may not be the most captivating of wordsmiths, but if he's believably pissed off enough to wanna cave in the face of some heel, chances are the next words out of his mouth are going to be quite interesting. Just let the "Big Dog" bark in the way that was intended.
2. He Could Be Money After A Heel Turn
Just turn him heel, that's a familiar refrain. Many will cite how turning heel in 1997 helped catapult Dwayne Johnson from milk-and-cookies Rocky Maivia into mega-stardom. And it's believed that WWE has trouble these days booking a truly compelling babyface, so why not let Reigns cross over into the dark side for a little bit?
The idea here is that the ensuing face turn off of that will resonate greater with fans. At one time, an Authority-aligned Reigns could've turned the same way that Batista did in 2005, emboldened by his focus on bringing down an evil boss of some sort. In that instance, fans egged on the face turn, and Batista's subtle acts of insubordination were drawing him more cheers by the week. Giving the fans something to believe in with a heel Roman makes them think that *they* pulled the strings of his face turn. And after that, maybe you have the star that you want.
1. He Has Many Years Left
According to Wikipedia, Roman Reigns turns 33 this month. To put that in perspective, Austin, Undertaker, and Mick Foley all turned 33 around the time of WrestleMania 14, while Bret Hart reached that age in 1990. Chris Jericho hit 33 a year into the Ruthless Aggression era, and CM Punk notched double-threes months after he dropped that "Pipe Bomb". In other words, Reigns is likely far from done.
It stands to reason that, five years from now, fans will still boo Reigns into oblivion as WWE tries to shoehorn him into a tenth World title reign, all the while dismissing the crowd reactions as those of Bizarro World dwellers. There's still time to make good with Reigns, even if many fans are willing to call the experiment a failure. The tools are there, and it's not as bleak as it seems. It can be done.