WWE Smart to Highlight Roman Reigns' Pro Wrestling Lineage to Counter Backlash

Ryan DilbertWWE Lead WriterJanuary 27, 2015

Credit: WWE.com

Roman Reigns stepped out of the debris that was the Royal Rumble match looking for a way to connect to an enraged crowd. 

WWE has found one.

With fans angry over the company choosing Reigns over Daniel Bryan, and the man headed for WrestleMania's main event suffering resentment, the task of getting him out of the hole Batista was in last year will be tough. Humanizing him and leaning on his respected family is a wise way to tackle that.

A snowstorm gave WWE the opportunity to regroup from the storm of negativity that swirled around the Rumble.

Inclement weather in the Northeast forced Monday's Raw to feature in-studio interviews. While certainly not the most thrilling edition of the show in its history, it did work to smooth over the Reigns situation.

Rather than send him out to the ring to get booed, to be the scapegoat for fans' frustrations, WWE now gave Reigns a chance to tell his story. He opened up about his childhood and being a part of the famed Anoa'i wrestling family.

He talked to Byron Saxton about growing up in the business, reflecting on how his father Sika taught him how to thrive in adversity.  

WWE had yet to acknowledge onscreen that Reigns' father is one-half of the Hall of Fame tag team, The Wild Samoans. It hadn't openly stated that Reigns' family tree includes such names as Yokozuna, Rikishi, The Usos and The Rock.

In bringing in that narrative now, it serves as a reminder that he is no outsider.

Reigns is not some bodybuilder or actor coming into wrestling for the money alone. He grew up in the industry, and the interview showed off his respect for it.

He told Saxton, " I was born in this business. I was fed by WWE."

WWE is trying to paint Reigns as more than just some good-looking, well-built guy who it is trying to push. The company looked to portray him as a member of a closed-off fraternity while connecting him to stars fans hold in high regard.

Even for those members of the audience who knew of Reigns' lineage, seeing it presented like this helps make him easier to root for. 

The nod to his past continued when Paul Heyman sat down with both him and Brock Lesnar later in the show. Lesnar's advocate recalled taking photos of The Wild Samoans and Yokozuna and managing Rikishi.

He said with reverence, "It's in a Samoan's blood to go in the ring."

Going this route adds to Reigns' character. He's not just a big guy swinging punches but a part of a long Samoan tradition. WWE alters the narrative here, not waiting around hoping that Reigns' one-against-all persona will win fans over on its own.

Why not use Reigns' family name? WWE does the same for Natalya, Curtis Axel, Randy Orton and the Rhodes brothers. It's an asset.

And saving it until now allowed Reigns to grow on his own first.

That angle remained in a glass case marked "open in an emergency." When the Philadelphia fans essentially spat on Reigns' victory at the Rumble, the need to break open that case arose.

Being an Anoa'i alone isn't going to hold back the tide of fan unrest, but it's a hell of a start. WWE can now add narratives to Reigns' origin and the road ahead for him that it couldn't without first bringing his family tree into the spotlight.

Selling Bryan fans on Reigns will require craftiness and hard work. Leaning on his Samoan background will be a key tool in getting that work done.