With the leukemia revelation made by Roman Reigns during Monday’s edition of WWE Raw, fans everywhere are turning hate into love as they support a superstar who is stepping away to take on a renewed rival in a different arena. But no one should be mad about the hate that existed before that show.
Since his debut with The Shield, Roman Reigns has held a presence and charisma that many didn’t see, and many more didn’t understand. It was already apparent in 2013, when he was the sole survivor of their Survivor Series match, that Reigns was headed for a huge run in the company. And many fans weren’t happy.
The 2014 Royal Rumble saw fans singing a different tune, supporting Reigns in his bid to eliminate Batista and win the Royal Rumble. Fans will tell you today (well, probably before yesterday) that they weren’t in support of Reigns, they were against Batista.
Reigns’ ascension continued after the split of The Shield as he became the featured singles star in the company, main eventing WrestleMania 31 (against Brock Lesnar in a match that saw Seth Rollins capture the WWE Championship after cashing in his Money In The Bank briefcase), WrestleMania 32 (beating Triple H to win the WWE Championship to a chorus of 100,000 boos), WrestleMania 33 (defeating The Undertaker in what, at the time, appeared to be The Deadman’s last match–followed by a monumental Raw promo where he only spoke one line), and finally WrestleMania 34 (losing to Brock Lesnar in a match everyone assumed he’d win).
Along the way Roman Reigns placed the company on his shoulders, carrying the roster through a brand split transition, many injuries, and tons of changes. The company evolved, but one thing remained the same–Roman Reigns.
As SummerSlam 2018, Roman Reigns defeated Brock Lesnar to finally end his year-plus run as Universal Champion, seemingly taking the mantle back into the company so there can be a defending champion.
Or so we thought.
When Roman Reigns revealed his past, and now future with leukemia, the crowd reaction was one that you’d expect. There was one guy yelling “you still suck!” and a turn around in general mood when people quickly realized…this is real. This really is a guy named Joe dealing with a horrible disease.
The “Twitter mood” changed as well, as many fans turned into “I love the guy behind THE GUY” while others became “WHY DID YOU HATE HIM?!?!” really fast. All of those reactions are natural and expected. Some others called this a work (don’t even get me started), while others focused on the fact that the WWE is “taking the easy way out” to crown a new champion at Crown Jewel when Braun Strowman faces Brock Lesnar.
But last night’s revelation doesn’t change one thing, and this is one thing you need to remember:
It’s okay that you hated Roman Reigns.
Seriously, it’s totally okay. In fact, be glad that you did!
One of the few “wrestling things” in Reigns’ promo on Monday was his appreciation towards the fans for REACTING. He thanked you for cheering AND booing him. WWE knew, very early on, that Reigns was polarizing. they capitalized on it, making him one of the six biggest stars in WWE history (this is true), a huge merchandise mover, and a really rich man.
You may not like this statement, but your hatred towards Roman Reigns truly was a desired reaction. They wanted you to hate him. Not all of you, just the percentage that did. They literally put him in positions to be loved by half of the audience and hated by the rest.
And it worked. You bought into it because it’s the reason you’re a fan. It’s the same reason you believe in the Montreal Screwjob, and it’s the same reason you think you forced Vince McMahon to change the WrestleMania 30 main event.
In a business built on “the work,” you allowed yourself to be worked by the Roman Reigns push, and you loved to hate him. Be glad, as Roman Reigns is proof that the magic of professional wrestling that sucked you in on (your) day one still exists today.
And when he sends his leukemia back into remission, and you go nuts for his eventual return, it’ll be okay too.