Breaking things down tale of the tape, MMA title fight style. Rob gives us a comparison of two very similar WWE Superstars.
Since you guys liked the first Tale of the Tape I did last week, I figured I’d give it another go round. This time I’m going to look at two more people who I’ve seen lumped together a few times, Charlotte Flair and Roman Reigns. I got inspired to do this a while back because I saw an article on some website (I don’t remember where, to be honest) saying that Charlotte was going to get the ‘Roman Reigns treatment’ and get pushed to WrestleMania whether we like it or not (never mind that a lot more of us do like it than Wrestling Twitter would have you believe). Now unlike last week I did find a lot more things in which they do have in common but ultimately it’s silly to just say that they are two examples of the same thing. So let’s dive in and take a look, shall we?
The Obvious Stuff
First a few things that are pure undisputed facts. Both are children of WWE Hall of Famers. Neither of them worked in the indies before coming to WWE. Neither of them initially sought to be in the wrestling business before changing their minds and diving in. Both have athletic ability that sets them apart from a lot of their peers, and moved ahead of the people they came to the main roster with who were more highly touted by fans on the internet (with Roman that would be his Shield mates Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, and for Charlotte that would be Sasha Banks). And both of them are among the favorite people the WWE loves to send out for media appearances, be it local news hits, award show stuff, etc. Whatever narrative your trying to tell about either or both of them, these are things that are cut and dried without any room to debate. Which of course means we get to the things that are, shall we say, up for interpretation.
The Bad Raps
Both of them are constantly accused of being where they are because of their family connections. Both of them are accused of having been given too much, of being shoved down our throats, and of getting a spotlight that is equally or more deserved by others. Both of are accused of benefiting more having the right look than their ability. How much of that is true, and how much is nonsense? Well, being from a wrestling family will get you a look and get you in the door. No one’s disputing that. But if it were as simple as that then we’d be celebrating the World Championship reigns of Curtis Axel, Bo Dallas, and Tamina Snuka (who gets a different kind of flak for being from the same family as Roman). The Colon Brothers would be SmackDown Tag Team Champions instead of paycheck All Stars. Ted DiBiase Jr might still be working there. The list goes on and on, and we can go back for generations and find no shortage of people who came into the business by way of who their parents were and did not succeed simply by being in the right bloodline. And at the same time there doesn’t seem to be any problem with Randy Orton or Bray Wyatt being the sons of former wrestlers (one day we’re going to have that conversation about why so many of the wrestlers who get hit the nepotism charge are women and people of color).
As far as the look? There have been plenty of men who looked the part, got a chance, and flamed out. The early and mid 2000s in particular saw a parade of body guys who didn’t amount to anything – Tyson Tomko, Luther Reigns, Chris Masters, Heidenrich. If it what was that simple those guys wouldn’t have all flamed out. And as for Charlotte, yes she both looks good and like a dominant athlete. In both cases, so what? If either or both of them were terrible it wouldn’t matter how much they looked the part. Wrestling is a TV show, a visual medium, and they are always going to put people out front who fit the aesthetic of a champion and are pleasing to look at in some way or another. That’s not just true for WWE either. New Japan has several prominent guys who look like they could leave the arena and go straight to a movie set. Impact Wrestling is banking a lot on the sex appeal of Scarlett Bordeaux. And look, if you’re bashing either of them for being on top due to looks while you tout Finn Balor or Seth Rollins or Becky Lynch for the top spot, or for Toni Storm to be the next big female star once she eventually gets called up…..just stop already. How many of y’all worshiped at the altar of Shawn Michaels or Trish Stratus? How many of y’all were entertained by ‘Ravishing’ Rick Rude back in the day knowing good and well what they going for? Lie to me if you want to but don’t lie to yourself, ok?
At the end of the day bashing anyone in the wrestling business for succeeding because of how they look or who’s child they are is doing too much. Yes those things get you in the door. But all those body guys I mentioned got released. Eva Marie is long gone. And while that happened the women who came in during the Divas era and are still around all managed to be become legit wrestlers even though they were brought in mainly to look good. Once you get in the door you have to be good to reach the top and stay there, and if you’re terrible your last name or physical appearance are not going to save you. If you’re out here pushing either one of those lines in regards to either of them then you are barking up the wrong tree and the only question is whether you’re being disingenuous for attention or are just not seeing the forest for the trees.
Getting ‘too much’
There’s more to the complaints about both Charlotte and Roman than the what I just ran through. The other big ones are that they have both been given too much. And this is a weird thing where people are confusing Charlotte Flair and Roman Reigns with Ashley Fleihr and Joe Anoai, and are acting as if their feelings about the people warrant not playing along and booing the characters even though neither of them has been a full fledged villain for some time. For Roman it’s the WrestleMania events, the other Pay Per View main events, and the Royal Rumble victory. And for Charlotte it’s mainly about the number of title she’s won, but also about her inclusion in so many of the big historic women’s matches that have taken place over the last couple of years. But here’s the thing; by my count Roman has been in 14 one on one main events since winning the Royal Rumble in 2015 and 10 multi-man main events. and he’s about .500 in all of them. Over that same period Seth Rollins has been in 8 of each despite missing 8 pay per views combined due to injury over that same period. Brock Lesnar has 10 solo main events despite not working anywhere as many dates. AJ Styles has 6 despite being in the company for one less year than anyone else. In essence he’s about where you would expect someone to be who is considered a top guy for the company.
As for Charlotte, the elephant in the room is her first year and a half on the main roster. She won the Divas Title once, and the RAW Women’s Title four times. She also had a ridiculous 16 match winning streak on pay per view, including the first Women’s Hell in a Cell match in 2016. But since January of 2017 she’s been roughly 50-50 as far as wins and losses on pay per view and went almost all of 2017 (February to mid-November) without a title. She also didn’t win any of the three Money in the Bank matches she was in, was not in the first Women’s Elimination Chamber match or the first Women’s Royal Rumble, and did not win the first Women’s TLC match. So she got a huge buildup to start with, and since then they’ve leveraged that to get other people over while still booking her to win enough to keep her strong. Which is exactly what you’re supposed to do with whoever the Ace of your division is. They were restarting a division from the ground up and were needed to establish someone as the standard bearer. If it hadn’t been her it would have been Sasha Banks instead; either way one of them was going to get that kind of booking to start with. It’s not like they were going to have her going 50/50 with Alicia Fox or Natalya, come on.
In both instances, the problem some people seem to have is that they were chosen to occupy that spot in the first place and were kept in it. Given the circumstances (Cena becoming a part timer, Brock already being a part timer, Seth and Finn both injured for a time, Daniel Bryan out for years, Styles just getting there in 2016) what exactly were they supposed to do? Somebody had to carry that load and be the man to face; who else was going to do it? On the Women’s side it was either Charlotte or Sasha; Sasha had some injuries herself that would have made doing that with her pretty difficult and before this year no one else had risen to the challenge when they got a chance (and that includes Becky Lynch; let’s not get all revisionist history and act like she was stuck in catering for three years). When someone who stands out is also the one that is most readily available you don’t go around fishing among everyone else to make sure they all get a turn; you ride the horse and go. If you think otherwise, it’s a good thing you aren’t running a wrestling company.
I mentioned earlier that Charlotte has roughly a .500 record on pay per views over the last two years. The same is true for Roman. This is a two edged sword in that the losses they’ve taken haven’t hurt them but at the same time the people who are inclined to take a dump on both of them can’t seem to remember them every happening. This year Roman jobbed clean not just to Brock Lesnar but to Bobby Lashley and the Revival in two tag team matches. He also lost to the Miz twice on RAW and got pinned by Seth Rollins in a gauntlet match. And that’s after putting Braun Strowman over multiple times in 2017 and taking the pin in the main event at SummerSlam 2017. And while that was going on Charlotte lost the RAW Women’s Title to Bayley and jobbed to her again on two straight pay per views, then jobbed to Nia Jax on her last night on RAW before moving over to SmackDown. Then she didn’t win anything of any consequence until November when she beat Natalya for the SmackDown Women’s Title. Then this year she did jobs to Becky Lynch, to Carmella, and even did the job at the house show I went to in Baltimore. But if you ask their detractors it’s likely you’ll won’t hear about any of that, just a bunch of complaining about the times they won and who they beat.
As far as both of them being forced down or throats….just stop it already. They’ve been getting a top guy/gal push (more on that in like two seconds), nothing more. Be honest, you’re not mad at the nature of the pushes you’re mad because they’re the ones who got them. Just two weeks ago some Becky Lynch fans were mad because she didn’t win the TLC main event, after three months where she’s won damn near everything, and are going to revolt if she doesn’t win the Royal Rumble AND beat Ronda Rousey one on one at WrestleMania. I even saw one person tweet that she should win the SmackDown Title back and the Rumble on the same night, then challenge Ronda and unify the titles at WrestleMania. And they said that without a hint of irony or sarcasm. And that’s along with the people who have been tweeting for a year sans evidence that Vince should ‘just give’ Finn or Seth the Universal Title already. So on the one hand two people are being shoved down our throats but your solution is to shove the people you prefer down our throats instead, while the rest of us just have to shut up and deal with it. OK then………it’s fine to want someone else to get the top guy/gal push but just be honest that you want them to get it and that the push itself isn’t your problem. Anyhow………I’ve run through all these similarities so I’m done, right? Not so fast, I’ve got one more thing.
The Big Difference
There is one huge difference between the two, and that is how they were booked at the beginning of their runs. Charlotte got booked for a year and a half the way some people think Roman gets booked all the time. I’m of the opinion that it was the right move for her, but he should have gotten similar treatment. Instead after WrestleMania 31 Roman got moved down to the midcard for several months before moving back up at the end of 2015 and mostly staying there, but even then his pay per view matches have been 50/50 in terms of wins and losses. And for the last two years Roman has mostly been paired with guys who needed elevating or a good opponent, while this year Charlotte got to show out in big matches against the best in her division – Lynch, Asuka, and Ronda Rousey. The last time Roman got to do anything like that was in 2016 when got to face AJ Styles in back to back months followed by a returning Rollins. Now I know that sometimes your top people have to be used for that kind of thing, but it is pretty damn frustrating to see that constantly for almost two years while other people get mad on the internet and say they’re being handed everything. I’m of the opinion that your best people should get the best matches and everyone else needs to try and keep up, so four straight WrestleMania main events for Roman was fine and Charlotte getting all the big opponents and matches in 2018 was fine, too. When he comes back I hope he finally gets the unquestioned run that he should get as the best full time performer in the company the way that she did early on.
Roman and Charlotte didn’t take the exact path to get were they are, and they damn sure haven’t been booked the same way, but from where I’m sitting the intentions with them have been pretty close to the same thing. They both get a lot of flak for things that any booker with half a brain would do with them if they employed either of them. But in Charlotte’s case Vince has been much more inclined from jump to stick entirely with the plan whereas with Roman there seems to be this constant hedging of his bets, be it perceived or real, to try and appease a loud minority. He’s put other people in the main event and shuffled Roman down to the midcard and yet the people make more noise during the midcard match with Roman than the main event, whereas with Charlotte if she’s on the card it’s in a big match and if you don’t like it you can STFU. I believe that over the long haul excellence shines through and if someone else has it in them to show then they eventually will, and the people will respond. Becky Lynch is getting a chance to do that just and we’ll see if she’s up to it over the long haul. Seth Rollins appears to be getting that chance in Roman’s absence and we will see how that plays out. In both cases they’re trying to do something that both Roman and Charlotte have been doing for over three years, and that’s live and perform out in front with all the heat and criticism that brings with it. While they’ve been booked very differently at the beginning of their runs I do think that they are going to be linked together in a way for the rest of their careers. So in total, they’re a lot like but also very different at the same time.