As WrestleMania season approaches in World Wrestling Entertainment, there are a number of Superstars under the microscope. Most of them are former WWE and World Heavyweight champions or returning giants in the industry.
One, however, is a surging phenom who has become the breakout star of The Shield. His name is Roman Reigns and he now finds himself the subject of reports, from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter (via WrestlingInc.com), stating that WWE is eyeing him to be one of the top babyface stars in the promotion for years to come.
Reigns is a second-generation star who has made a tremendous impact since debuting in November 2012, and over the past five months has separated himself from teammates Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as a potential standalone star for the company.
But, as Hall of Fame commentator Jim Ross says, "Potential doesn't buy groceries." There have been a number of stars to come through WWE with a great look and tons of potential, but fail when given the opportunity to succeed.
Is Reigns the real deal, or will he fail like those who came before him?
Let's take a look at the big man's positive and negative attributes before deciding.
The look, size
There is no denying the fact that Roman Reigns has the look of a huge star for WWE.
At 6'3'', his size is not that of some of the taller stars in company history, but at 265 pounds and with an imposing physique, he more than makes up for it.
He has a star presence about him that few other young stars can boast. He looks like a legitimate bad-ass and is believable as a dominant Superstar.
No one would have trouble believing Reigns as a true main event star based on his look alone.
But what else does the explosive force of The Shield have working in his favor?
Like "The Animal" Batista before him, Reigns possesses a quiet charisma about him.
Rather than ranting and raving and promising to beat someone up, Reigns speaks lightly, rarely raising his voice in any give promo. His facial expressions instead convey his feelings about any given statement or situation in a way that indicates he is far smarter than anyone, including his tag partners, gives him credit for.
It is a development in his character that allows him to do the little things that really capture the audience's attention while allowing the explosiveness of his in-ring work to get him over.
Speaking of his explosive in-ring work...
Explosive move set pops the crowd
Whether it is the Superman punch or the high-impact spear, Reigns has accentuated his power advantage by adding eye-popping maneuvers.
The manner in which he sets them up and signals that they are coming helps the crowd invest themselves in the action being presented. The anticipation between the setup and the execution allows the audience to come to a fever pitch before exploding as Reigns flattens his opposition.
The spear, a move used by everyone from Goldberg to Edge, is an excellent finisher than can be delivered from any position and one that has established good will with fans for over a decade. Most importantly, it fits Reigns' nature as a performer.
At only 28 years old, Reigns is young enough to be a main event performer for the next 10 years, something WWE cherishes given the fact that guys like John Cena, CM Punk and Sheamus are not getting any younger, and others, including Big Show, Triple H, Undertaker, Mark Henry and Batista, are well past their primes.
Limited singles competition
Reigns has competed in very few singles matches since debuting on the main roster just over a year-and-a-half ago, his most notable match coming on the January 6 episode of "Old School" Raw against CM Punk.
It is a major risk for the company to invest so much into someone with the potential of Reigns without having any real resume of great singles matches or singles performances with which to back up the faith. While there is no reason to believe Reigns would not be able to stand on his own and still perform at a high level, there is no evidence that he can in any major, high-profile and high-pressure bout.
Prior to his big main event push, Batista turned in several really good matches against the likes of Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho and Edge. Those matches helped The Animal evolve as an in-ring performer and his series against Triple H did a great deal to help cement him as a legitimate top star.
Reigns will need those types of opponents, solid wrestlers who specialize in different styles, to help him along on his road to the top of the promotion if he wants to grow into a complete performer. Competing in tag team and six-man tag team matches will not cut it.
Yet to work as a babyface
Reigns has yet to work as a babyface since arriving in WWE.
Sure, he worked as a good guy as part of developmental in Florida Championship Wrestling, but he has never filled that role on the main roster. Even during his time in FCW, he was a suitable worker but an unexciting one.
Now, with a ton of experience working with top stars in the industry thanks to the push he and his Shield mates have enjoyed over the last year, Reigns has developed into a much better wrestler.
Being a babyface, however, is completely different than working as a heel. Whereas a heel controls the tempo of the match and is in control of the action for the majority of the time, a babyface takes the beating before making the triumphant return late in the bout.
WWE fans have not had the opportunity to see Reigns work that style of match to this point and it remains to be seen if they still accept him in a role that is anything other than the one of sheer dominance he has played as a member of The Shield.
WWE's 50-50 booking
One of the negatives facing Reigns has nothing to do with his actual performance.
Over the last five years, WWE has started pushes on so many young stars only to stop them the instant that ratings dropped off or business dipped in the slightest. Even worse, some of those pushes have been stopped for no reason other than petty politics.
Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, Kofi Kingston, Wade Barrett, The Miz and Alex Riley are a few of those young stars who had the crowd behind them and did nothing to really earn a demotion, yet all plummeted back down the card.
If WWE wants Reign to assume the same role that guys like John Cena, Randy Orton and Batista held for years, it will have to stick with the performer through the good and the bad.
The recent departure of CM Punk and injuries to stars such as Cena, Big Show, Mark Henry and Sheamus over the last year have created a necessity for WWE to start looking toward the future. It can no longer afford to get cold feet while pushing talent. It is boom or bust time and Reigns should be the first to benefit from the desperation.
The positives far outweigh the negatives in terms of numbers, but those two negatives are fairly significant.
The size, the high-impact move set and the quiet charisma are things that made Batista such a captivating babyface, but Reigns does not have the in-ring experience necessary to prove that he can thrive with a huge push behind him—such as the one most expect he will receive.
His work has shown tremendous growth over the 15 months since his debut on the main roster. If put in the position to succeed by the company, he could star for the next 10 years. If not, he will join the likes of Ziggler, Kingston, Carlito, Chris Masters, MVP and Shelton Benjamin as stars who had potential to carry the industry, but for whatever reason never reached their full potential.