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How WWE Booked Roman Reigns In The Royal Rumble Was Genius

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WWE Roman Reigns Royal Rumble 2018

You know the drill. It’s the Royal Rumble, the buzzer sounds off, Roman Reigns comes out and the crowd boos in absolute disgust. Since 2015, Roman Reigns has been able to elicit such a strong reaction from the live WWE crowd and the fans at home. That’s because whenever Reigns enters a rumble, everyone’s mind jumps back to the horrid finish of Royal Rumble 2015 wherein Reigns continued to stumble through his mega push straight to the main event of WrestleMania 31.

However, in recent years WWE wised up to fan criticism in a few ways and Reigns has not won another rumble since then. Granted, WWE still found a way to insert him into the WrestleMania main event year in and year out, but let’s focus on the dynamics of the Royal Rumble for now.

Fan Response

Often the favorite annual event of many hardcore fans, the Royal Rumble presents immense opportunity, unpredictability (sometimes) and plenty of nostalgic surprise returns. Because it’s a fan favorite though, the crowd often makes their opinions very well known. For a mark such as myself though, this outspoken crowd is a beautiful thing.

This crowd makes it so that every year Roman Reigns enters the rumble, he’s essentially booed out of the building. It’s difficult to get the taste of WWE pushing him down our throats out of the way, so we naturally let management know how we feel about that. Previously, this came as a detriment to WWE, but they’ve perfected a strategy for it as of late to make the Royal Rumble much more enjoyable.

Turning Negatives to Positives

In Royal Rumble 2018 and 2017, WWE made a point to utilize Reigns to his fullest potential based on the inevitable disapproval of the crowd. Each year Reigns came out at the tail end of the rumble and each year he’s been a runner up. Why? Because it makes the end of the match all that much sweeter.

In 2017 Randy Orton won the Royal Rumble in order to progress a story between himself and Bray Wyatt, the man he would go on to face at WrestleMania. Thinking that Orton winning would ruffle a lot of feathers among the WWE fans, i.e. “Ugh Orton, again?” and “Why don’t you push younger guys?,” WWE placed Roman in the #30 spot to get fans into an “Anyone but Reigns” mentality. After sending out Reigns, the crowd got extremely concerned that they would see a repeat of 2015, but the universe went home happy after seeing Orton eliminate Reigns.

Fast forward to the 2018 Royal Rumble in Philadelphia, the same city that Reigns won the 2015 rumble in. Reigns was yet again the runner up, this time to the fan favorite Shinsuke Nakamura. Seeing Reigns and Nakamura as the final two really brought concern upon the audience as Reigns may not only win the rumble again, but he may stop Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles from happening in New Orleans. Again, when Shinsuke eliminated Reigns, the WWE universe exploded in happiness, showing that Reigns losing made for an even sweeter payoff for the fans.

The Invaluable Tool

WWE successfully used Reigns as a tool to amp up the Royal Rumble finish for the past few years and also prevent rapid crowd disapproval.  It seems like WWE knows the power that Reigns has to completely alter the reception of any match these days, especially one as significant as the Royal Rumble.

When Roman Reigns is the runner up, it makes the winner look all that much better in the eyes of the WWE universe. By defeating Reigns, the rumble winner not only gives us a good match finish, but they give us genuine happiness that Reigns is not in that spot yet again.

Of course, Reigns is primed to headline WrestleMania again in 2018, but at least the road to WrestleMania was able to kick off with a bang rather than a sigh because of WWE’s smart booking at the Royal Rumble. This also makes me wonder how WWE will continue to leverage Roman Reigns in future rumbles, but we’ll just have to wait until 2019 to see if he’s involved in the rumble or if he’s the reigning universal champion at the time.


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Opinion

Top 5: Wrestlers Birthdays In May

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The Rock May 2nd

Sometimes the good people running TheChairshot.com don’t mind if I get a little self-indulgent with these columns. My birthday is coming up this Sunday. I’ll be way too old to be writing wrestling columns, yet younger than most of the people I associate with that do. Figure that one out.

Like most people, I’m interested in who was born around the same time as me. As it turns out, pro wrestling is full of spectacular personalities that were born in May. Seriously, take a look at the list sometime. There are so many talented & famous wrestlers celebrating their birthday this month that there’s no way I could ever include all of them. Some I chose not to include because they’ve been in other Top 5s. William Regal was in last week’s. Brian Pillman & Ron Simmons were football players. (There’s one football player that I had no choice but to include.) Some I chose not to include because they killed people. We’ve got two of those this month.

These are the Top 5 Wrestlers With May Birthdays.

5. Jake “The Snake” Roberts (May 30)

Little-Known Fact: Jake was my very first favorite wrestler. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned that here before. I don’t think it was some cosmic connection due to us being born in the same month, but I suppose it can’t be ruled out. Roberts has celebrated many more birthdays than anyone would have predicted.

4. Vader (May 14)

Unfortunately, this man might not be celebrating too many more. Vader has had some heart issues over the past several years, which can happen with a man of his size. In his prime, Big Van Vader was one of the biggest badasses in the history of wrestling. The first time I noticed WCW was when I saw Vader on the cover of WCW Magazine. Again, I don’t think it was some kind of cosmic connection.

3. Owen Hart (May 9)

We just passed the 19th anniversary of Owen’s tragic death in Kansas City, Missouri. It was the first time I remember not caring at all what happened during the main event of a PPV, as I was shaken by the news of Owen’s passing. Not caring what happens during the main event of a PPV is now a monthly occurrence for me. I don’t think I’ve looked at wrestling or mortality the same way since. Owen, from all accounts from people not named Stone Cold Steve Austin, was one of the best men to ever work a match.

2. Daniel Bryan (May 22)

As Jeremy Lambert points out in the next edition of the Arc of Wrestling, coming this Sunday to The Chairshot Radio Network, one of the main reasons CM Punk was so easily dismissed by fans after his departure was because WWE pushed Bryan into his spot. As somebody that followed both men in their Ring of Honor days, I was always partial to Bryan anyway. He’s one of the few people in wrestling or in entertainment in general that comes off as genuine. He can be a great heel, and maybe he’ll go down that road again, but it seems like a waste.

Honorable Mention: Traci Brooks (May 22)

Traci was the first friend I made that was on televised wrestling. One of the drawbacks of my gaining maturity at the same time that the world decided that being a pervert wasn’t cool is that it’s tougher for me to make friends in the wrestling business now. I’m not constantly complimenting attractive people for being attractive these days. I’d go back to it, but I think Greg DeMarco’s beat me to the punch. Anyway, Traci’s a great girl.

Honorable Mention: Eric Bischoff (May 27)

Bischoff celebrates on the same day that I do, so good for him. Also good for him is the fact that he’s doing a podcast with Conrad Thompson now. Once you start doing a podcast with Conrad, everything you say turns into Gospel. It’s the darndest thing. Natalya also celebrates on May 27, but I couldn’t think of anything funny to say about her.

Honorable Mention: Roman Reigns (May 25)

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh you thought he was getting the top spot, didn’t you? I’m gonna get some heat here, but the Big Dog will have to settle for being the most attractive man in the honorable mentions.

1. The Rock (May 2)

If there’s one thing that matters to The Rock, it’s when his birthday is. Remember when WWE held Raw in Miami on his birthday & actually threw him a party that didn’t end with his face full of cake? When a wrestler can pull that off, they’re something special.


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Opinion

Character Alignment In WWE

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Shinsuke Nakamura Character

Hell of a week in wrestling, eh?

Well, given all of the news items involving professional wrestling right now, most notably the MASSIVE amounts of money that WWE is receiving for their TV rights, I want to talk about something more nuanced.  I want to talk about something that fans criticize often but seem to not truly understand. Today ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to talk about character alignment.

Roman Reigns recently was interviewed by the Daily Express in the United Kingdom.  They asked him about him possibly turning heel, and his response was “It’s a weird question cause, aren’t I already a heel? If I garnered that reaction, what’s the point? If it’s already happening, if I’m already being booed, why try and get booed?”  When this article was published and it got to the internet, needless to say the IWC lost their minds. Some people, like me, tried to show people that clearly he understands that he’s already an antagonist in some form. Others, like a heavy majority of fans I interacted with this past week, tried to argue that he’s completely wrong and he’s trying to save face by saying something that couldn’t possibly be true.  So that created a question in my mind. Is Roman Reigns a face or a heel? More importantly, if Roman is a face, what does he do that constitutes being a face?

The answer to that question is simple, yet ends up getting very complicated.  Roman exhibits both heel and face tactics, often depending on the feud or who he’s pitted against.  When he’s heelish, he’s brutal to his opponents, arrogant in promos and around other talent, attacks other wrestlers unprovoked, and known to hold a vendetta and go out of his way to eliminate his opponent.  On the other hand, Reigns has shown to be loyal to those he considers his family (The Shield and the Usos), has moments where he’s pandered to the crowd, and stands up for himself often in the face of adversity.  So, the logical answer is that Roman is a tweener. Yet, some fans refuse to accept that, stating that not giving him a traditional alignment is a cop out. So, how do we figure out what Roman really is?

First, we have to realize that characters are no longer simply linear.  While there are characters that still fall in that realm, wrestling characters are, as characters in general often are, non-linear and deal with more shades of grey.  Characters have evolved into fully fleshed out characters, with motivations that serve multiple purposes. Wrestling has followed suit. Some of our greatest characters have been either a tweener or an anti-hero.  Long gone is the classic battle of good and evil between the “white meat” babyface versus the evil heel; it still exists in some forms, but wrestling and entertainment largely have moved on from this. So then, how do we figure out where a character stands when it comes to alignment?

In 1974, Dungeons and Dragons was created and introduced to the world.  The creators of that game introduced an alignment chart in which most characters in entertainment are judged by.  With society being more broad than simply good and evil, the creators found a way to classify characters taking into account their moral and ethical perspectives and motivations.  They concluded that there are 9 alignments that a character could be, all mixing the thought process of law VS chaos and good VS evil. The chart is below.

This chart gives deeper thought to character motivations and explains who a character is in a much deeper way than simply good or evil, or in wrestling terms, face or heel.  So, I’m going to explain what each alignment is and who I think associates with that alignment the most.

The first alignment on the character axis is the Lawful Good alignment.  Characters that align with this believe in truth, law, and doing good.  They often have a personal code of conduct that they stick to through everything.  The most clear character like this in the WWE is John Cena.  He stands by his code of Hustle, Loyalty, and Respect, and always tries to do the right thing.

On the other end of the spectrum, Lawful Evil characters are similar to Lawful Good characters in that they believe in law and order, but their purpose for such is to adhere to their ways and wishes.  These characters often use the law and manipulate it to get what they want, usually at the detriment of good characters. Nobody in wrestling represents this better than Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.  The Authority technically believes in the laws; they make them.  They often use their laws, however, to hold who they want down and push who they want to prominence.

Neutral characters are the most important characters in this character axis, because the represent the shades of grey more than any other.  Lawful Neutral characters represent that perfectly, as they believe in law and order and what’s right, but follow their moral compass.  This differs from Lawful Good in that while both believe in law and order, Lawful Neutral characters don’t necessarily believe in right and wrong.  They just believe in their code. This was the hardest for me to match to a WWE star, but the closest I can think of is Aleister Black in NXT.  Aleister has talked often about being in the grey space between good and evil, and his character follows its own motivations.  He doesn’t try to be a hero, he doesn’t try to be a bad guy. He believes in his own moral compass, but only his moral compass.

Chaotic Good characters differ from both other good characters in that they try to do what’s right, but they believe in their conscience more than the laws maintained.  These characters are often free spirits or rebels that do what they want, but always in the name of good. I’d relate this alignment to guys like AJ Styles or Seth Rollins.  Both men have shown that they try their best to do right and stand up for what they believe in, but they’ve both shown that they’re willing to do whatever they have to in order to achieve that.  Both men have had very brutal feuds with authority figures, and both men have also been the bad guys in the story, but through it all, they try to do the right thing according to their own conscience.

Chaotic Evil characters live by the old Joker adage; they just want to see the world burn.  Characters like this do what they want, when they want, how they want without any care who or what it hurts.  They don’t really believe in anything but their own impulses. Since his heel turn at WrestleMania, Shinsuke Nakamura has represented this perfectly.  He’s attacked and stalked AJ Styles at every chance simply because he wants what AJ has; the WWE Championship.  On top of his excessive and unnecessary violence, his speech and mannerisms have changed and become very neurotic and unconventional, even more than usual.

Chaotic Neutral characters are the Han Solo’s of the world.  They do what they want, and are often considered crazy.  They’re rebellious just for the sake of being rebellious.  Good or bad, their concern is their freedom and ability to do what they want.  I’m sure you’ve figured out that this is Dean Ambrose.  Ambrose is considered a lunatic, somebody who does what they wants and often doesn’t make sense in doing it.  Ambrose has stuck up for his brothers but has also turned on his brothers when it’s been advantageous to him. And more than anything, his concern is his ability to be unabashedly himself.

The alignment of Neutral Good is similar to Lawful Good in that characters believe in law and order, but will stand up against it if they feel that it’s wrong or corrupt.  They try to always do the right thing, but are willing to go against what somebody else believes is the right thing if necessary. This describes Daniel Bryan perfectly.  Bryan had a very storied rivalry with The Authority where he was attacked and mistreated for months, but also became the authority figure later on in his career.  He’s been on both sides of the law, but always does what he believes is right.

Neutral Evil characters have been called the “assholes”.  They are just plain bad. They take advantage of any situation, go after their own interests, and they even align with other characters if it helps them in their goals and endeavors.  Doesn’t this sound like The Miz to you?  Miz has had numerous henchmen and partners; he turned on them all.  Miz is always scheming to find a way to get what he wants. He’s also cowardly and conniving, taking advantage of every opportunity.  You could also equate this to Kevin Owens.

I know you’ve all been waiting to see where I’d put Roman Reigns in this algorithm.  Well, we’ve finally gotten to the alignment I feel he fits best – the True Neutral character.  I know that differs from the perception that he’s a face, so let me explain.  True Neutral characters aren’t selfless enough to be good, but their don’t do enough bad to be considered evil.  They don’t follow the rules enough to be lawful, but they aren’t wild or rebellious to be considered chaotic. True Neutral characters simply exist in the middle.  They do everything, just not enough. Doesn’t that describe Roman? He’ll attack a man viciously in the backstage area from behind one week, and the next, he’ll stick up for his brother.  He’ll pander to the crowd in a promo one week, and the next, he’ll brag about how much better he is than everybody. Roman does what he wants with no bearing on anything else but his one goal.  He’s a wild card, and that’s the true nature of the character.

Now, obviously, these are just my interpretations of these character alignments.  I can understand if you disagree with any of these, I can even understand if you think using an alignment axis created for a Role Playing Game is even relevant to wrestling.  But my point is this – wrestling characters are no longer as simple as good or evil. There is more nuance in characters than ever before. Most of them aren’t beholden to heel or face, they’re more beholden to their character and it’s motivations.  And, as I’ve explained here, often times it can serve many different purposes. So the next time you find yourself in the argument of whether Roman Reigns is a heel or not, try to think about it differently. You might be surprised what you think if you do.

FIN


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Opinion

We Need Darth Reigns, Not the Prequel Ani Version of Him

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Roman Reigns WWE Championship

RAW WARS – Episode I

“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”                                                                 (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Episode IV – A New Hope)

In the world of entertainment, everything is tied together. There is no cultural phenomenon that does not refer to the works that came before or that cannot be linked to the works that came after. Such is the force of culture. This includes the world of sports entertainment. So, follow me on my weekly journey on RAW WARS, when I search for the binds that tie RAW and the universe of popular culture together.

We Need Darth Reigns, Not the Prequel Ani Version of Him

With Solo – A Star Wars Story hitting theatres, I have been reminiscing about the previous Star Wars movies in recent weeks. I was not born when the films of the original trilogy were released, but I do remember going to the cinema as a teen to see the prequel trilogy. I remember even more vividly the backlash that the movies, especially Episode II, caused. Much of this criticism focussed Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin Skywalker. Hailed as the chosen one throughout the prequels, Anakin Skywalker never lived up to the high expectations fans had because of the quasi mythical performance of Darth Vader in the original trilogies. Instead of being the charismatic and enigmatic badass that we loved from Episodes IV – VI, Anakin Skywalker presents himself to us as a whiny, pouty teenager. He holds awful monologues on the irritating coarseness of sand and on haunting kisses, while being upstaged by the more charismatic characters who are played by the veteran actors. In the moments when he does decide to act, he is not applauded for badassery, but criticised for ridiculous displays of strength and his mindless savagery, making the audience sympathise with his opponents.

Sounds familiar?

The WWE has been booking Roman Reigns in the exact same fashion for years now and just like with Anakin’s portrayal in the prequels, most of the fans do not like it one bit. Yet if the latest episode of Raw on 21 May is anything to go by, the WWE either does not listen to the chorus of boos every week or chooses to ignore the fans’ rejection of the gimmick and taunts us instead. I argue that the WWE executives in charge of Roman’s booking need to (re)watch the Star Wars trilogies to see why they are wrong in casting Roman in the prequel Anakin role and that they need to put Vader’s mask and cloak on the Big Dog asap.

Everything started so promising. As the enigmatic powerhouse of The Shield, Roman Reigns let actions speak for himself. His no nonsense attitude put him over with the fans, especially as indy veterans Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins were able to hide his weaknesses. Even after the June 2014 version of the ‘chair shot heard around the world’, fans were still invested in him. They wanted to see Roman confront Seth and vanquish the turncoat. And then Roman’s own version of Anakin’s sand monologue happened: the Sufferin’ Succotash debacle. Fans did not fully turn on Roman then, but this promo did nothing to endear him to the audience. Neither did the many promos that followed this one. But Roman was still a badass, so the relationship between the chosen one and the fans was still amicable.

Until Roman stopped being a badass and became a distorted version of a superhero. Remember that scene from Episode II when Anakin jumps from his floating vehicle on Coruscant to follow the assassin? Or when he effortlessly beats Count Dooku in Episode III, which he could not do prior? I ranted about Anakin being portrayed as some kind of Superman, overcoming all odds. Braun Strowman survived several finishers and signatures moves during the 2018 Elimination Chamber main event, but then suddenly fell victim to a few Superman punches and spears by Reigns. Roman also kicked out of five (!) F5s at Wrestlemania 34, when in the months prior no one even kicked out of a single F5. I can only suspend my disbelief so much. In his current feud with the Modern Day Maharaja, his attacks are too brutal and unjustified (and ultimately pointless), so that the audience grows sympathetic towards Jinder Mahal.

Well, at least he lost the match against Lesnar then, right? And his clean loss was awarded with another title shot at Greatest Royal Rumble, which he also lost (he really did as one foot remained entangled in the apron cover). But, to improve his mood, he was awarded a spot in the main event match at Backlash, despite several titles being on the line on that PPV. He won that, admittedly, but he lost the respect of the fans even further, who could not wait to get home as soon as Roman had successfully pinned Samoa Joe. He then lost the qualifying match for the Money in the Bank ladder match, which leads us the recent RAW episode. Roman came out to confront Stephanie McMahon on how management did not want him anywhere near the Universal title. At that point I got a horrible flashback from Episode II, when Anakin throws a cup against the wall, claiming that Obi-Wan Kenobi is holding him back. This did not endear Anakin to the fans, nor will Roman whining about management help getting him over. This segment on Raw only accomplished one thing for me: it made me resent Roman.

I usually like Roman. A lot. He is one of my top 5 wrestlers, but with each passing week of this awful booking I have to ask myself: how can I justify giving him this spot in my personal favourite list? Which leads me to ask the WWE how Roman is still perceived as the top babyface in the company? Hayden Christensen had the misfortune of having to perform with more seasoned actors who upstaged him quite a bit. Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi for instance. Watching the prequels, I became less and less interested with Anakin’s story, as I grew more attached to Obi-Wan’s story. Roman is currently upstaged by at least two babyfaces on the RAW roster. No matter whether you pick the Monster Among Men Braun Strowman or Red-Hot Seth Rollins, who burns it down every week, you cannot go wrong with either of these men as your pick for top babyface of the company. Alas, the way that booking presents itself, Roman is still the WWE’s chosen one. Braun and Seth do not have multi-facetted storylines, quite the contrary: for the most part Braun is stuck in tag team matches and Seth was even used as a sidekick to advance Roman’s feud on RAW last Monday.

The Solution is Simple

This means: we are stuck with Roman as the top guy of WWE, just as we were stuck with whiny, pouting Anakin during the prequels. Yet, if Star Wars has taught us something, then that there is always hope. Between the most insufferable moments of Anakin in Episode II and his tear-jerking death in Episode VI, something profound happens. Anakin Skywalker turns heel. The chosen one who is supposed to bring the force into balance and fight as a Jedi allies himself with the Emperor and becomes known as Darth Vader. Roman needs to do the same, or the WWE risks angering their fans to the point they stop caring for the entire product. It also would solve so many issues that RAW currently suffers from. Roman Reigns could be the top-level heel that the company so desperately needs and his feuds against the top babyfaces, especially Seth Rollins, would make for some compelling story telling. Roman’s position on the roster would finally match the reactions he gets. Imagine him embracing all that hate! I cannot wait to see that. And as we know from watching Episode VI, it would make his eventual face turn all the more powerful and fans would be likely to embrace Roman as a top babyface in the far future. Anakin Skywalker is at his best during Episode V, which is widely received as the best of all Star Wars episodes. If the WWE finally stops booking Roman in the prequel Anakin Skywalker role and turns him heel, RAW is indeed destined for greatness. Then and only then, I would cheer for him again and enjoy watching how the Roman Empire strikes back.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or message me on Twitter @KirstinHerzog1.


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