By now we’ve all seen, read, or participated in some measure of conversation about the positioning of Roman Reigns. Some believe he is pushed too hard too soon, others think he is in a position Daniel Bryan should be in, and there are still others taking more of a wait and see approach.
Let me start by stating that I like Roman Reigns. I also understand why he fits into the mold of “WWE Superstar”. He’s big, has a good look, and seems to carry himself like a star. These are all characteristics Vince McMahon has traditionally looked for in a marketable star. Lord knows it wasn’t Hulk Hogan’s five star ring work that caught McMahon’s eye in 1983. Still, it’s 2015 and what worked 30 years ago may not work now.
So let’s take a look at the relatively short career of one Roman Reigns.
Reigns first showed up in FCW, the predecessor to what is now NXT, in 2010. By 2012, he had made it to the main roster as part of The Shield. During his run with The Shield, I believe Reigns was perfectly placed. He was the silent but deadly heavy hitter. Unlike his other Shield counterparts, Reigns did not have much experience on the independent scene. His primary training was under WWE’s tutelage. Even early on in The Shield’s run, the rumors were rampant that Reigns was going to be the “breakout star”. Not surprisingly, more seasoned talkers Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose handled the heavy lifting during interviews and promos.
Fast forward approximately two years, and The Shield has now broken up with each man in singles careers. Even as far back as Summerslam, word was getting around that a plan was in place for Roman Reigns to win the 2015 Royal Rumble, and go on to defeat Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship. On paper, the formula is sound. A new, fresh face with a superstar look that can become a “made man” on the biggest stage of the year. Possibly to go on to be the new face of the company a la John Cena in 2005.
The problem is the micromanaging approach that WWE seems to take when presenting their superstars. When every line is pre-scripted, and characters are created by “writers” and not talent, it becomes more difficult to play to the talent’s strengths. To use a sports example, there are reasons a pitcher doesn’t tend to play outfield. The strength of a pitcher is in throwing across the plate, not catching or fielding balls in play. To use an acting example, there’s a reason why a Will Ferrell is not cast in drama films. Because his strengths and appeal are in screwball comedy.
The same can be said for Roman Reigns when he’s scripted to quote Sylvester The Cat of Looney Toons fame. Quoting Looney Toons may work for John Cena, because he has a certain talking charisma to him. Roman Reigns looks like a badass you don’t want to be on the bad side of, and has never come across like a guy that does much talking.
As stated in previous episodes of The A1 Podcast, there is a precedent for a wrestler who got over gangbusters without speaking: Goldberg. In fact, Goldberg didn’t even cut a promo until after he defeated Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Championship. Now I’m not saying that Reigns should be booked exactly like Goldberg, but there are some traits that can be utilized. The “strong silent type” works well with the right person. By making Roman Reigns into “the next John Cena, whether intentionally or not, it’s exposing his weaknesses, not playing to his strengths.
I’m also not saying that Reigns should never talk. Just that he should get across what he means in a few sentences, not 15 minute long monologues. In fact, I could do without another 15 minute monologue forever, but that’s a rant for another time.
Case in point, look at his few words he says in this clip. When he calls Renee Young “baby girl”, you could practically sense the squees from the females in the audience.
Hopefully, WWE will learn to downplay the longwinded talking segments when it comes to Reigns, and embrace the strong silent type vibe that Reigns naturally gives off.