Roman Reigns isn’t a new thing. WWE, dating all the way back to the WWWF days, has always been known as a promotion built on a strong supporting cast with a “Superman-like” babyface atop the heap. So, why the hate for “The Big Dog”?
Vince has history on his side
Vincent J. McMahon loved superhero babyfaces. He built the WWWF off a relatively simple concept: push an “all-american”, unstoppable babyface capable of carrying the company on his back with class and legitimacy. For close to 15 years, whether he was wearing the WWWF Title or not, Bruno Sammartino was that man, owning the Northeast to the tune of untold sold out arenas and countless ecstatic fans.
The next “hood ornament” babyface to come around for Vince Sr. was Bob Backlund, a walking, talking embodiment of the phrase “aw shucks” if there ever was one. But Bob was also a Division II NCAA wrestling champion, as well as an All-American in both wrestling and football, meaning when the time came to step into the squared circle, what he lacked in charisma, he more than made up for by being a great athlete. Backlund was world champion for close to six years.
The formula was perfected with Hulk Hogan
By 1983, it was Hulk Hogan’s turn to be “the man”. In Hulk, Vincent K. McMahon found the perfect “Superman” to take what was once a local family owned territory, and rebrand it for the mainstream, ultimately making the WWF synonymous with professional wrestling. People who don’t know the first thing about pro wrestling still know Hulk Hogan, and after he won the WWF Title from The Iron Sheik in 1984, he carried the belt (and the wrestling world) for most of the next seven years, forever transforming the way we view the genre. With all due respect to “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan is the most influential wrestler the industry has ever produced.
Speaking of Steve Austin, he owned the late 90s and early 2000s and did so whether he was wearing a championship or not. He crossed over into pop culture in a way only bested by Hulk Hogan, taking the WWF to unseen heights in revenue.
John Cena picked up the load of being “the man” in 2005 and carried it for a decade. No babyface has ever been more vilified by fans, but through it all, Cena remained the face of not only the WWE, but the industry as a whole.
Roman Reigns is “your guy” because Roman Reigns is “Vince’s guy”
Whether you like it or not, it’s Roman Reigns’ turn. He is, quite simply, the guy Vince McMahon has decided is his most marketable face. Vince doesn’t care about 5-star matches, workrate, and catering to the anti-Roman Twitter army (most of whom likely harbor a double secret crush on “The Big Dog”. Vince wants someone he can market to middle America, to little kids, to your grandmother. He wants another Hulk Hogan. He wants another John Cena.
Would Reigns, from a creative standpoint, be better off with a heel turn? Maybe, depending on what Creative had for him. That’s the thing about a turn: doing it just to do it doesn’t work. Look at the hundred times Big Show had done it for no reason. How about Randy Orton’s 94 turns? I can name two that were memorable.
The dislike for Roman is likely rooted more in overexposure than anything else, which is much the same thing that hurt Cena (from an Internet fan standpoint, at least). With Bruno and Backlund, fans almost always had to go to the arena to see them. Hulk and Austin were merchandise juggernauts, but we still only saw them on TV once a week. Neither had to worry about the level of overexposure Cena and Roman have been saddled with working through.
Yes, Vince has had his “misses”. Anyone making as many decisions as he’s made is gonna have plenty of them, but in Reigns, I guarantee he sees someone he can count on. Dependability and work ethic go a long way with guys like Vince McMahon. Plus, Vince knows you’re not gonna turn the channel.
Vince plays it safe because he knows he already has you
“The Big Dog” isn’t going anywhere. Why, because you’ve proven to Vince you’re not going anywhere either. You’ll whine and moan about Roman (or Cena before him) but you’ll be right back in front of your television every Monday and Tuesday, ready to get mad all over again. Just accept that Vince has you and stop taking it all so seriously.