ViRTUE's RAGE: State of the Roman Empire Submitted by Virtue on 09/06/2020 at 05:18 PM
September 6, 2020
Now that Roman Reigns is back and is the new WWE Universal Champion, it’s finally time again for an all new State of the Roman Empire address from yours truly. Although it’s still too early to talk about ratings comparisons regarding the shows Reigns is on versus the shows he was not, there is still plenty to catch up on. I will revisit ratings later this month because I want to observe how WWE continues to use Reigns on SmackDown and how often he is on the shows. WWE needs to thread the Big Dog throughout the entire show like they used to do Steve Austin, the Rock, and even John Cena. For now, let’s get to the gist of this address by starting off with the surprising heel turn of Reigns and his alignment with Paul Heyman.
On paper, Reigns is finally a true heel. This is something I have talked about and supported for quite some time now. However, I did not think WWE would ever attempt this, just like they never had John Cena turn heel. Perhaps because of the way the Steve Austin heel turn did not go as smoothly as planned back in the day, the cold feet set in with Cena and eventually carried over to Reigns. I am a firm believer that if a top babyface star turns heel for a solid year (if done relentlessly and with handcuffs off), it not only creates great entertainment during that stretch, but it also plants the seed for them to go full circle and become a babyface again when all is said and done. Many fans seem to grow more admiration for wrestlers that can change the pace and show character development. This has always been a key factor for episodic TV. When WWE management refuses to do this, like with Cena and for a long time with Reigns, many fans revolt against the stagnant direction of the force fed top babyface and the results are always the same with more complaining and unsatisfaction. I have often mentioned Reigns has suffered from the John Cena Effect, but finally in 2020, he has been put into a position to entertain in a way most of us thought would never happen.
What I enjoyed about Reigns’ and Heyman’s first promo together on the last SmackDown is once Heyman was done speaking, Reigns took the mic and was able to deliver some verbiage. This rarely (if ever) happened when Heyman was with Lesnar. Not only did Reigns get to speak, it was obvious he was way more comfortable and confident in the lines he was delivering than he ever has been while giving a promo. If the handcuffs do indeed completely come off Reigns, there is no telling what kind of promos he can deliver and the level of conviction that will radiate to the audience. The surface has only been scratched and I sure hope WWE management lets him unleash during this new alliance with Heyman. What I like most about this current direction of Reigns, even more than the heel turn, is he finally went directly after the Universal title. He wanted it and got it back quickly by any means necessary. When he returned from his sick leave in 2019, I questioned why WWE would not have him interested in regaining back the title he never lost. Perhaps they were just taking it easy with him. Although it was evident that he would have most likely been booked to go over Goldberg at WrestleMania this year, the delay and second fiddle feuds Reigns was in back then just did not sit well with me for how important his character is supposed to be portrayed on TV since his rise to the top. The goal for any wrestler should be the top prize, especially for someone like Reigns who has already had it and previously only lost it because of an illness. What has happened with Reigns since his return at SummerSlam has made more logical sense than anything WWE has done in the past several years.
Now I want to briefly go back to Reigns’ 2014 and 2015 for a moment in order to point out some interesting tidbits I happened to stumble upon. This was the timeframe of his so-called initial main event push that supposedly set many fans off because he was going to become the next forced top star. He did not have any one on one main event closers at a PPV event in 2014. He only had four in 2015 and was booked to lose three of them. This did not seem like a forced top push to me, but rather a more gradual one to slowly build Reigns up as the main guy. In fact, Seth Rollins was the one to turn on The Shield in 2014 and even won Money in the Bank. Although Reigns won the 2015 Royal Rumble match and faced Lesnar for the WWE title at WrestleMania 31, Rollins was the one who ended up leaving with the title after he cashed the MITB contract in mid-match. This seemed like a well-planned out main event push for Rollins to me, albeit a heel main event push. Meanwhile, Reigns was still chasing.
I find it fascinating that many fans wanted to boo Reigns back when he won the 2015 Royal Rumble match because he was going to be Vince McMahon’s next Cena. To this day, I feel if Reigns would have won the 2014 Royal Rumble match instead of Batista, he would have not had as much disdain from the fans as VKM’s next Cena. Reigns could have gone on to WrestleMania 30 and win the WWE title from Randy Orton and get that first title run out of the way while The Shield was still hot. Rollins could have still turned heel and won the MITB contract that year. As for Daniel Bryan, he could have done the angle with The Wyatt Family which led to his feud and win over Triple H at Mania. Perhaps this would have allowed Bryan to remain healthy and eventually go on to win the 2015 Royal Rumble match and have his moment at WrestleMania 31 instead by defeating Lesnar and Reigns in a triple threat. Rollins could have cashed in his MITB contract the next night on Raw and really got some heat by making Bryan’s reign last less than 24 hours. So many possibilities if WWE management was more creative and in sync with the pulse of the WWE fanbase. Ultimately, Reigns would have been better off for it, as well as the entire main event scene.
Where would I like the Reigns/Heyman alliance to lead to in the future? It’s no secret that I would enjoy a Roman Empire faction with the likes of the Usos and perhaps Naomi, Nia Jax, and even Shayna Baszler all under an alliance advocated by Heyman. I know this is wishful thinking though since WWE already seems too focused on pushing Retribution down our throats. The Jey Uso being #1 contender to Reigns angle does have me somewhat intrigued, but I feel this is being done just to get more heat on Reigns for taking out and annihilating Jey. Reigns will most likely remain solo with Heyman in the new Lesnar/Heyman role. I just hope if this is the route WWE decides to keep going that they will make it feel much different and allow Reigns to separate himself from Heyman to the point Lesnar never could. The good news is Roman Reigns is back in WWE and is right where he belongs at the top of the food chain. All we can do now is wait and see how it all plays out. Will Roman’s new island keep getting bigger and the volcano more active, or will WWE manage to have it all fizzle back into the sea?
Thanks for reading Virtue’s Rage and I WILL BE BACK…