I have had enough of Roman Reigns and I know for a fact I’m not the only one. I’m sick of the Superman Punch. I’m sick of the flak jacket and cargo pants. I’m sick of WWE forcing us to believe Roman Reigns is the company’s top guy and that his being booed is a side-effect of the social media generation blindly rebelling against random superstars. I hate the fact that Reigns retired The Undertaker. I’m sick of talented young wrestlers being built up and made legitimate only to be fed to Reigns and fizzle into the background. I’m sick of Reigns’ perpetually wet hair and pouting fish face… Okay, maybe now I’m getting petty, but you get the idea.
Here’s the things: I don’t dislike Roman Reigns the guy, or even Roman Reigns the wrestler, there’s no denying that he’s an extremely talented wrestler and his skills on the microphone have vastly improved over the years. Despite all of this, though, the fact remains that the very sight of him makes me angry. It’s the same reaction he gets from WWE crowds, booing every fleeting image of him as hard as they can.
WWE know about the booing. They don’t seem to care. They make light of it on commentary and carry on regardless. In a Sports Illustrated interview last week, Triple H said of Roman Reigns:
“If you believe what you believe, and you’re saying, ‘How can they not turn him heel? There is 70 percent of the crowd booing him out of the building!’ If that’s your belief, then isn’t he already the biggest heel we have? If 70 percent of that crowd is booing him, then he’s a heel. We’re just presenting him to you in a different way that makes you hate him.”
While I’m trying hard to understand Triple H’s point of view, it speaks to how clueless WWE have become in the presentation of their own talent. Sure, lots of people, possibly even a majority, boo Roman Reigns every night, but this alone absolutely does not make him a heel. The very notion of babyfaces and heels is about binarism, a concept fully predicated on stable oppositions (good vs. evil, hot vs. cold, living vs. dead, etc) but this is more imperative in developing a WWE character, as they rely on the fan to subscribe to specific dichotomies that that been reinforced and perpetuated for decades… e.g. a babyface will avoid taking the cheap option to win a match, a heel will get the win by any means necessary, a face will stand up for what’s right and defend the weak, a heel will put himself before all others to get ahead, etc – essentially, there are actions built into pro wrestling that will always have fans react to wrestlers in a certain way and these are essential to developing credible characters and compelling storylines.
But that’s the problem with Roman Reigns – ever since The Shield were disbanded, WWE creative have ransacked the babyface toolkit and tried to force character traits onto a man for whom they just don’t work. Telling us a 6ft 3, 265lb man is an underdog just isn’t credible. It just isn’t believable. Fans aren’t actually booing Roman Reigns, they’re booing WWE’s ineffectual attempts to turn Roman Reigns into something he’s not. They’re booing the wrong decisions being made about his character at every possible turn. So no, Triple H, just booing a person does not make them a heel but ignoring the fact that you’ve failed miserably to make Reigns a babyface and that you’re still REALLY trying does make us angry. Very angry.
During last week’s ‘Bring It To The Table’ with JBL, Peter Rosenberg and Corey Graves. Peter Rosenburg mentioned how strongly the WWE Universe used to be behind Reigns:
“You guys, my fellow WWE fans, chose Roman Reigns. Not Seth Rollins. Not Dean Ambrose. It was Roman Reigns, we all collectively said, ‘That’s the guy.’”
He’s right. We did. We wanted Reigns. We wanted the Roman Reigns we saw in The Shield: the natural, credible asskicker. We wanted the Roman Reigns that would slowly and systematically bulldoze through the roster on his way to the top. But now, every time Reigns is on screen, fans are reminded of how royally WWE screwed it up by force-feeding us a completely different homogenised babyface and the cycle of anger begins all over again, growing in intensity each time.
In the same ‘Bring It To The Table’ broadcast, JBL spoke about how he’s hot about “cry baby” internet fan reactions:
“For all these internet fans out there that want to hate Roman Reigns and say, ‘No, we’re standing up because we don’t like him…’ Few people in the history of this business walk into an arena and everybody stands on their feet – everybody. I’ve seen it night after night after night and to me, that is an absolute Superstar. Whether you love him or whether you hate him, Roman Reigns has earned his spot and I’m hot at all these little crybabies out there going, ‘We just stand up and boo him because we really don’t like him.’ Oh, really?”
Yes. Really. A hundred times really. Not everyone is a wrestling mark that can only react to events in the way the writers prescribe. The reaction that Roman Reigns gets at live events is visceral; fans want to demonstrate, as vocally and in your face as possible, that they don’t want Roman Reigns in front of them right now. It’s like when people gather outside a government building to protest a politician or outside a court against a murderer, they’re climbing on top of each other, pushing guardrails forwards and screaming at the top of their lungs… it’s not because they love to hate them, it’s because they genuinely hate them!
But that got me thinking about another thing that was said on a previous ‘Bring It To The Table.’ In this instance, on the very first episode of the panel show, Paul Heyman was getting hot about the complaints of superstars being brought up to the main roster from NXT with little or no promotion. He goes on to say that the internet wrestling community “are always going to find something to bitch, moan and complain about, but until they boycott, S-T-F-U.” Paul Heyman tells a lot of truths but this one particularly resonates with me right now. We can sit and complain all day long about the things that we disagree with but unless you’re willing to do something about it then you may as well stay quiet because nothing good will come of it.
That’s why, fellow nerds of the internet, on this day where Roman Reigns retiring The Undertaker was the final straw, I’m calling for a very vocal and public boycott Roman Reigns. My proposition is simple, when a Roman Reigns segment is on WWE television, mute it and go do something else for however long it takes – make a cup of tea, go to the bathroom, stroke your cat, hug your children – whatever it is, document your boycott by taking a picture of whatever you’re doing instead and post it to social media with the hashtag #BoycottReigns.
If you’re fortunate enough to be at a WWE Live Event and Roman Reigns appears, turn your back on the ring or go to concessions. Again, take a picture for what you’re doing – the crowd sat behind you, the pretty lady at the hotdog stand (ask for consent!) – and post it to social media for all to behold. Imagine how powerful it would be and the message it would send to have large sections of live RAW audiences turn their backs or even disappear whenever Reigns was in the ring. Perhaps, WWE might finally believe we don’t want this guy!
It will be difficult at times, like when Reigns is sharing the ring with your favourite WWE Superstars but I’m calling for strength. I’m calling for us to take a stand and say I don’t want to be force-fed a diet of Reigns any longer.
Send me your protests on Twitter at @thejezshow, tag @WWE for good measure, share the movement with your friends and don’t forget to use the hashtag #BoycottReigns