Why Turning Roman Reigns Heel Is No Longer a Viable Option for WWE

The Doctor Chris Mueller@@BR_DoctorFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2018

Roman Reigns surveying the crowd.
Roman Reigns surveying the crowd.Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

WWE always has plans in place for its top Superstars up to a year in advance, but the crowd doesn't always react the way the company expects.

This leaves management with two choices. It can either adjust course to go with what the crowd wants or it can dig in its heels and keep pushing forward regardless of what the WWE Universe thinks about it.

When Braun Strowman went from being booed to getting the biggest pop on any given night, the company did the right thing by embracing the cheers and putting him into storylines with heels so his fanbase could grow.

The same thing has happened countless times in both directions. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was turned babyface when the fans began to root for him more than Bret Hart, and The Rock was turned heel when it was clear the crowd was tired of his smiling good guy gimmick.

Then there's Roman Reigns. When The Shield was gaining steam, The Big Dog would get the loudest reaction every time he tagged into a match. The WWE Universe had spoken, and it had declared Reigns as the breakout star of the group.

If you don't remember it that way, watch the included video of The Shield vs. The Wyatt Family from a 2014 episode of Raw. When Reigns gets the tag at the 1:34 mark, the crowd goes wild.

As all stables do, The Shield broke up. Dean Ambrose remained a hero, while Seth Rollins embraced the dark side and joined The Authority.

For some reason, Reigns began to get more and more boos even though he was the babyface in all of his feuds. As time went on, the heat got hotter.

We hadn't seen someone get such a negative reaction as a face since John Cena, but just like with Cena, WWE chose to ignore the reaction and continued pushing Reigns as the biggest star in the company.

For a long time, turning him heel would have fixed a lot of issues. He could have helped a lot of good guys get over thanks to the nuclear heat he was getting, but WWE waited too long.

Now, Reigns gets a more mixed response during his appearances. Some cities seem split, some boo him out of the building and, occasionally, some crowds cheer for him. It happens more at live events than televised shows, but it does happen.

He moves merchandise, represents the company well in public, puts on good matches with a variety of opponents and has the kind of look CEO Vince McMahon loves in his top stars. 

Some of the more jaded Reigns haters will say their reaction to him is more a response to WWE's shoving him down our throats than his wrestling ability, but that excuse is weak.

Booing a Superstar because they are overexposed makes no sense when you look at how many people in the exact same position remain popular.

Hasn't WWE been featuring Strowman just as much as, if not more than Reigns for several months? Hasn't The Monster Among Men been given more big moments, like flipping ambulances and destroying a dozen Superstars at once, than anyone?

Strowman has worked his butt off to improve as a wrestler, both in the ring and on the mic, but Reigns is still arguably better in both areas. 

WWE has tried a lot of things to make everyone like him without much success, but he has passed the point where turning him heel would do any good.

Let's say it happened. Reigns snaps, beats the life out of a beloved babyface for no reason and goes on a tirade against the WWE Universe for booing him when he was trying to be its hero. What do you think would happen?

He might get heat that night, but the desire to see him as a bad guy for so long would lead to him getting cheered and viewed as the cool heel.

Then WWE would be right back in the same position, only in reverse. Reigns would get a better response than his opponents, who are supposed to be the favorites. 

When Cena retires from the ring, Reigns is going to be the guy WWE sends to Good Morning America to chat with the hosts and crack jokes about pop culture. 

The reason Cena has remained a face for over a decade is that WWE wants someone familiar the casual fans will recognize as the company's top star. If a dormant fan is entertained by a few of Cena's media appearances, maybe they will tune in to Raw to see how it is these days.

That is the thought process behind keeping someone like Cena or Reigns the way they are instead of going with the flow and listening to the fans. It might not make sense to a lot of people, but it's smart from a business perspective.

WWE knows there are always going to be several other Superstars to keep you interested in the product if Reigns isn't your cup of tea, so it can afford to ignore the boos he gets.

Some people will cite the low ratings as a reason to change direction, but Reigns is not solely responsible for the decline in live viewership.

The television industry has experienced this problem because of the way we consume content. DVRs, streaming services and digital downloads have taken over, and WWE has responded appropriately by embracing platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Instagram while also developing the WWE Network as a subscription service.

Turning Reigns heel would be a short-term solution to a long-term problem. WWE is better off hoping the crowd will turn against Brock Lesnar for holding the Universal Championship hostage so that when Reigns finally beats him, he gets the desired reaction.

As a WWE fan, you should never have to justify why you react a certain way to any Superstar. You paid for your ticket and bought a shirt, so you can like and hate anyone you choose.

But Reigns deserves to be judged fairly. He busts his butt traveling, training and performing for all of us just as much as anyone else. If you don't at least respect him for his hard work, that's on you.

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