Roman Reigns is known for two things; he's the top guy, and he's the most hated Superstar in the company. But he also happens to be the top babyface, which directly contradicts his current standing with the WWE faithful.
Though the company has refused to turn him heel thus far, that needs to change. The stacked babyface roster of Monday Night Raw demands it.
Reigns' positioning as the top star in WWE may have happened over time, but it was the worst kept secret among fans. It was apparent from the beginning that the company was high on the Samoan star, though it may not have been evident just how far WWE was willing to go with him.
Now that he's supposedly retired The Undertaker, Reigns is obviously in the driver's seat.
WWE has done everything imaginable to get Reigns in that spot, and his evolution has happened as the whole world turned on him. It's not that fans were closed minded to the idea of Reigns becoming the No.1 star, but when it happened at the expense of guys like Daniel Bryan, that's when the problems started.
However, WWE continued with Reigns, ignoring every opportunity to tweak his character and restart his run. Vince McMahon seemed perfectly happy with booking Reigns as John Cena had been booked, and there's been little reason to change course now.
Fans are stuck with Reigns, and they can't even get a heel turn out of it.
But there are four Superstars that stand in the way of Reigns' ability to get over as a babyface on Raw. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, Finn Balor and Chris Jericho are four of the most popular guys in WWE, and they're all members of the red brand. Even when Jericho does leave again, as most fans expect he will, that still leaves three stars that can out-pop Reigns on his best day.
Having a deep roster of great protagonists is a good thing, but it may be too many for Reigns.
Though some believe that Reigns really doesn't need to turn and can run his character as a middle-of-the-road type, that notion just does not tend to work all that well. Fans need someone to love and someone to hate. They may flip the script and go with their favorites despite which side those favorites are on, but the heel/babyface dynamic still exists.
WWE believes that Reigns is the top babyface and features him as such. The fact that he's booed out of the building has not changed the way he's been booked, so it's obvious that the company still cares about that dynamic as well.
Reigns primarily only works heels, which is further proof that WWE cares about which side he's on. Reigns has the ability to become the hottest heel that fans have seen in years, but the move to get him over the hump has been resisted at every turn.
Roman Reigns @WWERomanReigns
Loudest seg of the show. Maybe the loudest of the past 2 decades. And I could of stood there for another 15 min. #TheGuy #RAWaftermania https://t.co/l9Z5zuwYzr2017-4-4 14:43:55
Now that he's been destroyed by Braun Strowman, it seems that turn may not happen any time soon.
Strowman has never looked better as a top heel, and everything he did to Reigns on Raw put him on another level. WWE is indeed investing in Strowman and surely has big plans for him as the monster antagonist that he is.
But when he attacked Reigns, he was cheered for it. If there was ever a moment that should have signaled a heel turn, that was it. Of course, the company has made no effort to book Reigns any differently, and that will likely be the case when he returns to get vengeance on Strowman.
The contempt that exists among fans because of Reigns' babyface role is palpable. It's obvious every time he's on TV, and it's only getting stronger as time goes on. Cena did eventually overcome some of that negative reaction to a certain extent, but fans still have not been able to fully accept him as a good guy.
Reigns may indeed never be accepted at all.
Working on a program alongside four exceptionally strong babyfaces will not help Reigns' cause. Unless WWE decided to move Reigns to SmackDown, he may have no other choice but to turn heel. Even if a change of address happens, Reigns would have to contend with Cena, Randy Orton, Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles, who appears to be turning face again.
Either way WWE goes with Reigns, he's got to fight an uphill battle. Top babyfaces need top heels to work against, as it deepens the drama for fans of the product. Strowman has been built as a top heel, but when Reigns is finished with him, who's next?
Brock Lesnar? Lesnar happens to be in the wrong role as well; he's a babyface in heel clothing. Pairing him with The Big Dog would only bring more turmoil for Reigns in the long run. After that feud is over, who's the next great heel to get Reigns over as a face? Does that heel even exist?
Unless the company plans on moving Reigns to Tuesday nights, he needs to turn heel. Fans want it. Reigns needs it. The situation would be better served with it happening. Reigns isn't going anywhere, and the company has a tremendous amount of faith in him. So since he's now the face of WWE, why not provide a twist in the story to make him more interesting?
After all, he can always turn face again later. But he should definitely not remain a face right now.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online here