Evaluating Roman Reigns' Often-Criticized Move Set

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterAugust 28, 2014

Credit: WWE.com

Roman Reigns is hearing the same criticism that John Cena has endured for years, that he has too few moves in his arsenal.

Reigns' move set is loaded with high-impact attention-grabbers, but it could benefit from some expansion. In order for him to deliver in longer matches, he'll need to start working in more transitional moves, packing filler in between his big spots.

Many fans, though, don't see the issue as one that can be solved with tweaks. The powerhouse is already being dismissed by some folks, written off as a wrestler with not enough weapons to entertain.

Fans like Seanie claim he only has five moves.

They don't mean that literally of course, but it's become an anti-Reigns mantra. Depending on who you ask, he has an even more limited move set than that. Wrestling Lad counts only three moves.

Some fans may not even give him that much credit. One named Miles has labeled Reigns a single-move star.

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These are all over-the-top generalizations but they speak to the biggest problem that many fans have about Reigns. He's the anti-Dean Malenko, a man with few options when taking down an opponent.

Like many wrestling discussions on the Internet, this criticism is rooted in the truth but has since suffered from maximum exaggeration.

What is Reigns' move set really like? What does it need? We first take a look at its strengths.

Filled with Thrillers

Reigns' signature moves can rev up a crowd.

His combination of size, athleticism and power make his bursts of offense fun to watch. He has a small stock of high-impact moves that complement those skills.

The Samoan drop, Superman punch, basement dropkick and spear all are used liberally throughout his battles.

His version of the dropkick is something no one else in WWE does. Reigns flies at his foes and somehow manages to land on his feet after his boots collide with their mugs. That move shows off his great jumping ability, as does his Superman punch.

Roman Reigns hits John Cena with the Superman punch.
Roman Reigns hits John Cena with the Superman punch.Credit: WWE.com

Add his leaping clothesline and you have an ideal babyface comeback sequence at the ready.

All of those moves are exciting and follow each other well. He caps that off with the best-looking spear since Goldberg retired.

He looks like a superhero as he launches himself into the air. It's an emphatic move that has produced some of his greatest moments to date.

The most consistent criticism of his ring work is that he relies too much on these maneuvers. That may be overstated by some overzealous fans, but there's some truth to it as well.

All Climaxes

Thanks to Reigns spending much of his career so far in tag team matches, he has only been asked to attack in short bursts. It made sense for him to hit a succession of haymakers.

He was the powerhouse swinging away at whoever stood in his way.

As he ventures out on his own, though, he's going to need to stretch out a match better. There need to be some slow points before he pushes down on the pedal.

Looking back at his tag title match against The Usos at last year's Money in the Bank highlights that issue:

During this battle, he performs one palm thrust to the face, a clothesline or two, forearms, a Stinger Splash, an elbow drop, slamming an Uso's head to the mat, an attempted Saito suplex, a spear, a few kicks to the gut and around 10 punches. What's missing from that list is what happens in between the big moments.

Like in most of his matches, he doesn't execute many rest holds, submission attempts or more banal moves to throw in between bursts of excitement.

No one expects him to become Kurt Angle and just outgrapple guys, but during longer matches on his own, he's going to need some ways to fill the time. It can't be full-throttle from bell to bell.

In his biggest match to date, Reigns and Randy Orton clashed for over 16 minutes, per ProFightDB.com.

Roman Reigns tries to put Randy Orton out with a sleeper hold.
Roman Reigns tries to put Randy Orton out with a sleeper hold.Credit: WWE.com

Rather than Reigns pulling out some surprises to attack Orton with, the match was mostly The Viper pounding on him. Aside from a sleeper hold, fans saw the usual series of signature moves from Reigns.

To aid him as he continues on his march to the world title, Reigns needs to tap into his NXT days and throw in some ordinary in between all of the extraordinary.

Possible New Additions

Back when Reigns was known as Leakee in WWE developmental, he employed a wider range of moves. While it's smart to sharpen and perfect one's most common attacks, it would add diversity to his matches to reach back to his early ring work.

The following fan-made video shows off moves fans just don't see from Reigns today:

When's the last time we saw him hit a running crossbody, a springboard chop or a spinning bulldog in a WWE match? Throwing in a few of these would certainly make his bouts more varied, but big moves like that aren't the real issue.

Reigns' matches would benefit greatly from more subtle offerings like an armbar, hammerlock or single-leg Boston crab.

When both he and his opponent need a rest, when the audience needs to come down from the high that seeing the most heart-quickening parts of his in-ring toolbox brings, these are good go-to moves. Orton gets criticized for using the side headlock too often, but a move like that can help a wrestler control a match.

Watch Mr. Perfect and Bret Hart's King of the Ring matchup from 1993 and count the number of headlock takedowns:

It's not a move on par with the basement dropkick in excitement, but it helps pace the bout. The bigger spots mean more when they are spaced out. Hart and Perfect didn't just dropkick and superplex each other to death. 

Reigns is not booked as a mat technician like those two men, but he could add some of the subtle touches they relied on.

The Hitman cranks Perfect's leg in a grapevine, for example. Reigns would be smart to add a few holds like that as well as a submission hold he can pull out if need be. It doesn't have to be his finisher, just an alternative move to turn to, like the Sharpshooter was for The Rock.

Reigns doesn't need to reinvent himself. He doesn't need to study Chris Jericho's list of 1,004 holds

Pulling out some of his old tricks and learning to hit singles as well as home runs would be enough to silence his critics.


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