Roman Reigns is not the most well received guy on the WWE roster, being booed mercilessly in every arena he enters, despite being the face of the company. So, what is it about the man that isn’t getting him over with the crowd? Is it his move set? His below average mic skills? Sheer over exposure? In reality, the problem can be narrowed down to one facet which all other problems stem from: his record. Reigns is one of the most protected superstars of recent memory, almost never losing a match, clean or dirty. Off the top of this author’s head, the only loss I can think of is at Wrestlemania 32 when Seth Rollins cashed in the Money in the Bank briefcase. So, why does his win-loss record have such an impact on his popularity? Well, it’s basic storytelling.
WWE has always been about the storytelling, the struggles of superstars, the overcoming of evil, and good triumphing over evil. It’s another version of the age old good vs evil ideas used in comics, movies, and books for years. We as an audience like a good struggle. We want to see characters than we can relate to and can see ourselves in. Every day, we have challenges we overcome so we enjoy seeing watching people overcome struggles as well. The greater the struggle, the greater the reward when the goal is finally achieved. This also translates directly into the stories told by WWE.
Look at some of the most popular wrestlers over the past few years: Daniel Bryan, Sami Zayn, Zach Ryder, and Dolph Ziggler. What is so special about these guys that made viewers so enthralled in their work? Was it their skills in the ring? Possibly, but more than likely it was because of how much they got beat down on their journey. Daniel Bryan was continually denied by management both in story and in real life, making the tension engaging. Every time he got a victory, he would immediately get beaten down even worse because of it. Zach Ryder still struggles with this today as he has continually faced obstacle after obstacle, yet he keeps getting up with a smile on his face, ready to climb up the ladder again.
So, how does this relate to Roman Reigns? Roman, I firmly believe, can be an engaging character that just has been booked horribly. The real problem is that he never faces any obstacles. Roman always wins even in situations that would take out anyone else (fluky rollup, distraction, beat downs, multi-man assaults). This essentially eliminates any obstacles in his way before they even get the chance to become obstacles. There’s nothing wrong with obstacles, if anything, they make the story being told more compelling. Having Roman constantly win dehumanizes him and therefore audiences can’t connect.
If he is ever to succeed and be popular, there needs to be legitimate challenges in his path. People like seeing characters struggle because that’s how they get invested in a story. The greater the struggle, the greater the victory when the struggle is eventually overcome. Now I’m not saying to book Roman as an underdog because that will never be believable but make him more human, leave him a beat up mess once and a while and let him actually struggle to get revenge instead of wiping the floor clean of his opponent. Let him take a fluky rollup loss every few months to remind people that he is in fact still human.
WWE is trying to get the Roman story popular, but in order for the story to be told well there needs to be a more powerful struggle.