ViRTUE's RAGE: The Real Influence on Roman Reigns Submitted by Virtue on 10/10/2020 at 03:54 PM
October 10, 2020
First and foremost, I would like to break down WWE’s average ratings over the past seven weeks for both SmackDown, the show Roman Reigns is heavily featured on, and Raw, the show he is not even on. I will even include the average ratings for the two months of SmackDowns before Reigns returned.
Monday Night Raw average ratings since August 24th (no Reings): 1.79 million viewers
Friday Night SmackDown average ratings since August 28th (with Reigns): 2.15 million viewers
Friday Night SmackDown average ratings from July 3rd to August 21st (no Reigns): 1.94 million viewers
Sure, SmackDown is more readily available to TV viewers because it is on Fox (network TV) rather than USA (cable TV), but traditionally Monday nights are considered the main wrestling nights of the week, and Friday is the beginning of the weekend. Even with the Raw ratings being so low these days, Monday Night Raw still routinely outdraws the combined viewers of this era’s so-called laughable Wednesday night wrestling war between AEW Dynamite and NXT. I will never use being up against the NBA or NFL as an excuse for lower ratings either, so these numbers are what they are. So far, the 7 SmackDowns with Reigns present have been approximately 350K viewers higher on average than the last 7 Monday Night Raws, which obviously have not included Reigns. The same 7 SmackDowns with Reigns have been approximately 200K viewers higher on average than the 8 SmackDowns prior to his return. I would image if there was not a pandemic in 2020 and Reigns had some more main event help with appearances by someone such as Brock Lesnar, that these differences would be even higher. Comparing eras is just not feasible ever since WWE drastically changed its business model in what I like to call the WWE Network era (aka post John Cena era), so these 200-350K differences definitely hold water in proving that Reigns is responsible for the needle moving in a positive direction for WWE. At the very least, he helps stop the bleeding for the shows he is on.
Reigns has been back on WWE TV now for nearly two months and we are finally seeing a side of him that many fans have wanted to see for quite some time, which is a true bad ass villain. How has Reigns been able to pull this off though? A few people will claim that Paul Heyman is directly responsible for how interesting Reigns’ current Tribal Chief run has been. While I will admit that Heyman may be whispering a couple of occasional earworms into Reigns’ head, there is no way anyone should believe that Heyman is directly responsible for what we are now seeing out of Reigns. When I think of Heyman, I think of a very solid on-screen character, but I do not necessarily think of creative genius. Has he had some successes creatively based on his work in ECW and once writing SmackDown in the early 2000s? Yes. Just keep in mind ECW went out of business and was absorbed by WWE and any creative position Heyman held he clearly could not keep and sustain before being removed and replaced. Unfortunately, because WWE has heavily featured the Heyman and “client’ role so hard that past decade with CM Punk and Brock Lesnar, much of Heyman’s on-screen work has begun to seem stale and not innovative. Saying Heyman is mostly responsible for Reigns’ current work is more or less saying Vince McMahon is responsible for it because VKM is the one who finally allowed Reigns to become a true heel, something he has not been since the early Shield days.
Reigns did a recent shoot interview where he praised what he learned in FCW/NXT and gave a ton of credit to Dusty Rhodes, especially regarding his current persona. This fact alone at least proves that Dusty Rhodes has had more influence on Reigns’ current character than anybody else in the WWE bubble, including Heyman and VKM. The things that were holding Reigns back from truly being able to show this side of himself was WWE management putting him into a faction early on, which definitely made sense in order for him to get his feet wet, and then trying to make him Cena 2.0 in 2015 but not changing his direction when many fans were rebelling against it. This whole scenario reminds me of Rocky Maivia in 1996 and 1997 and his morphing into the Rock by 1998. The fans back then were not having Rocky as a babyface, so he was placed into the Nation of Domination and organically grew as a very convincing heel. Over time, the fans bought into his new gimmick and by 1999-2000, he became the top babyface in WWE as Stone Cold Steve Austin was having neck issues and needed to be out for a lengthy time to have surgery. The Rock character was born because WWE management took the handcuffs off him which allowed his star to shine bright. Conveniently, the Rock got to work with all-time legends such as Austin, Triple H, Foley, Hogan, the Underaker, as well as others. The main event scene was stacked in the late 1990s and early 2000s, something Reigns clearly has not been able to experience in the WWE Network era. Remember that today, no one star can be bigger than the WWE brand.
My point with the Rock is that because he is Reigns’ cousin, blood is more binding than any on-screen relationship ever will be. The entire Samoan wrestling family has been at Reigns’ disposal his entire life, such as his father, brother, and cousins. There is no reason to name the entire family, but the notables would be the Rock, Afa, Sika, Rosey, Rikishi, Umaga, Yokozuna, and the Usos. There is no doubt in my mind he has learned from every one of them at some point during his life and career. The Anoa’I family has always been a huge deal in the professional wrestling business, always looking out and influencing one another. I also want to point out that just because Reigns and the Rock got booed in Philadelphia after Reigns won the 2015 Royal Rumble match does not mean Dwyane Johnson did not successfully influence Reigns. Reigns has already been in one of Rock’s movies and they share Samoan blood. I am pretty sure they have one another on speed dial in their phones and communicate rather frequently. The Rock went through early career fan disdain like what Reigns went through. It is surely no coincidence that Reigns is currently having one of the best and most talked about runs of his career. This entire scenario screams of high influence from his cousin Dwyane and subsequently his Samoan family.
Perhaps we should also give Vince McMahon a tad bit of credit though. He is the one in charge and has seemingly finally allowed Reigns to work handcuff free the past two months. The fact that Reigns has made most of his fortune by being a top WWE superstar shows the belief VKM has always had in him. WWE has pumped millions of dollars into Reigns the past 5+ years, which shows he is unquestionably making them money. If he was not, the plug would have been pulled awhile ago. I have no doubt in my mind WWE knew exactly what they were investing in. As a matter of fact, it has been something they have been investing in for decades now, and that is the Samoan family and its heritage. Make of this article what you will, but I stand behind my theory that family has been the greatest influence on Roman Reigns’ current character development. Blood!
Thanks for reading Virtue’s Rage and I WILL BE BACK…