Roman Reigns Going About Response to Fan Criticism the Wrong Way

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterFebruary 2, 2015

Credit: WWE.com

Add learning to be diplomatic to the things Roman Reigns needs to work on en route to becoming WWE's next megastar.

Reigns' rise has generated a hailstorm of negativity from fans, partly as a response to the company overlooking Daniel Bryan and partly out of a feeling that the powerhouse isn't ready for the spot WWE has handed him.

Too often, he has countered that criticism with a dismissive attitude. Too often, he has insulted fans along the way.

The 2015 Royal Rumble winner has all the tools to make WWE's choice to put him in the main event look like a smart one. He's a tremendous athlete, has a great look and has the kind of presence that thrusts one into a headliner position. 

Roman Reigns flies at Big Show.
Roman Reigns flies at Big Show.Credit: WWE.com

He is not without his flaws, though. And it's those parts of his game that have had some fans push back against his in-progress coronation.

In several interviews, Reigns has reacted to that pushback poorly, managing to worsen the situation.

Before the Rumble, he spoke with Sam Roberts on the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast, turning up his nose at the fans with negative things to say about him.

Reigns called his critics "people who have no clue what they're talking about and have never been in a wrestling ring." He added, "For them to critique or ever say anything about any performer is asinine and just blows my mind."

This was not a one-time outburst. He essentially said the same thing in an interview with Crave Online:

As far as the hate, it makes me laugh. Everybody is a critic. Every critic I've ever had, they weren't wrestlers. Every wrestler I've ever had critique me, they were always into my stuff or what I'm doing out there. For a non-wrestler, someone who doesn't even know how to lock up, and if we did lock up, they wouldn't know what to do, for them to critique any of us, it really does pop me.

The argument that you can't critique something unless you have done it yourself is simply wrong.

How many films did Gene Siskel make? How many downs did Bob Costas play in the NFL?

Reigns may not be referring to wrestling equivalents to Siskel and Costas, but the idea that it takes experience in a field to form a valuable opinion of it is what's asinine. Fans who have never laced a wrestling boot can observe, analyze and assess. That's essential to the experience.

Fans watch WrestleMania 29.
Fans watch WrestleMania 29.Mel Evans/Associated Press

Some fans are overly negative and reject really great things just for the sake of rejecting them. But the backlash to Reigns isn't just composed of that segment of the audience.

Many of the issues fans raise with Reigns are valid. He's far from a great talker and his ring work is below what Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose produce each night. In addition, some feel that WWE is thrusting Reigns upon them rather than letting his star grow organically. 

That's not just something snarky fans that look like The Comic Guy from The Simpsons are saying either. A WWE Hall of Famer had a similar take.

On his podcast (h/t Wrestle Zone), Steve Austin spoke with Wade Keller of Pro Wrestling Torch, offering the following thoughts on Reigns:

If you're trying to earn the fans respect, you're really starting in the hole because people feel like he's being forced down their throats. He's not ready. They're looking at the body of work. With the two other guys—three total in the Shield—he's doing one-third of the work, come in and shine and get out. Now all the sudden you've got all these gaps to fill in the blanks, and he hasn't been able to fill in those blanks.

Austin also criticized Reigns' performance in the Rumble, saying, "He goes into a corner and takes a nap."

A man who most certainly knows how to lock up essentially laid out the same arguments many non-wrestlers watching the product have said. The "he's not ready" comment is one that has echoed throughout social media.

Fan Jordan Addison is among those who have shared that sentiment:

It doesn't matter that Austin doesn't believe Reigns is ready, though; WWE does. It has him lined up for a showdown with Brock Lesnar in the WrestleMania main event.

That decision has Reigns in need of winning over his critics, especially those dead-set on seeing Bryan in that match. 

He has time to do it and will have plenty of opportunities to do so. He'll have to start pulling back his punches on the fans, however.

In the two aforementioned interviews that Reigns did, he gave fans added reasons to dislike him. 

When speaking with Crave Online, he said of people criticizing him, "That's what haters do. They hate because they hate their lives."

In speaking with Roberts, Reigns threw gunpowder on a fire. He said, "The fans have to realize that as opinionated as y'all are in the way you want it, the company is the same way and they're gonna do what they wanna do. At the end of the day, I'm just a guy getting rich."

Reminding fans that he is better off than them financially is certainly not going to help him. Saying things like "they hate their lives" is in the same category. Reigns is going to have to learn to play the game better.

Fans power pro wrestling. They make a guy like Bryan a WWE champ and Curtis Axel a bit player despite his talent.

No wrestler can please every single person sitting in the stands, but rejecting their thoughts and throwing verbal jabs their way is not the way to go.

As much as politicians may dislike or disagree with their constituents, they have to speak nicely of them and placate to them. That's one of the ways John Cena has been so successful. Cena is WWE's best politician, a baby-kissing spokesman for the company.

On his way to becoming a top-tier star, Reigns is going to have be more like Cena in that respect. 

For him, the road to WrestleMania will not be the one the typical babyface takes. To go along with the cheers, there will be boos. In addition to praise, critiques are coming his way.

He's in an unenviable position having to be the scapegoat for WWE not elevating Bryan. But by WrestleMania, he can certainly win some of those folks over.

Reigns being less harsh to fans and learning to say the right thing is just as vital to that process as any move he executes in the ring.

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