In his triumphant first RAW as WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Roman Reigns was not given the hero’s welcome WWE would want. In fact, thunderous, unforgiving boos and furious jeers were hurtled at the new top dog no matter what he said or did.
But interestingly enough, Roman didn’t even attempt to get on the crowd’s good side. In fact, his entire promo reeked of, well, arrogance.
Perhaps Creative simply accepted that Dallas would boo him even if he rescued a dying puppy. Perhaps they didn’t even intend for him to come of as cocky as he did. Or perhaps they are finally pulling the trigger on what could be a masterful and career-defining heel turn.
As of right now, Roman Reigns has the kind of heat most heels would kill for. Yes, some kids and fans still cheer him on, but hardcore fans and even some disinterested casual fans hate him. In all honesty, he’s not good on the mic, somewhat limited (but technically sound) in the ring in terms of acrobatics, and feels force-fed to a resistant audience. He’s failed to truly connect with fans, and he’s suffering for it.
I don’t blame him in the slightest. I like him. He’s a great dad and a good ambassador for the company. But WWE is, first and foremost, a wrestling company. And if Roman is going to get over, he needs to turn to the dark side. I seem to recall another Samoan star doing the same.
And I have a plan for how to do it.
First, let’s work on building his character. Right now, he’s a bland badass, throwing punches and defying authority but lacking anything to separate him from the pack. Kevin Owens throws punches just as hard. Dean Ambrose defies authority just as often. What defines Roman Reigns?
One word: arrogance. Infuse it into everything he does. Have him hold his belt high with a smug smile at every chance he gets. Let him sneer every time he utters his awful “Believe that” catchphrase. Turn his dull self-reliance into conceit. It’s not too much of a change, but it adds depth to a flat character, driving everything he does.
As for the turn? Well, every heel needs a beloved face to feast upon. And the WWE, it seems, already has one in mind: AJ Styles.
The internet darling has quickly earned the love of the entire WWE Universe with his unrivaled in-ring ability. He is everything babyface Reigns is not: naturally charismatic, a bit smaller than the average star, and a flying powerhouse. His ringset is at least twice as large as Reigns’.
Just imagine the fury that will be unleashed when Roman retains his title against a beloved star with worldwide fame.
Let me make one thing clear: AJ Styles will, in my mind, be WWE World Heavyweight Champion at least once. But will it happen right now? I doubt it. Reigns is their guy, and while they may change how they present him, they won’t change where he is, whether we like it or not. That being said, let’s book this bad boy.
On RAW, AJ Styles opens the show, mic in hand. He talks about his long and successful career all around the world, and the goals he set for himself. He says his final goal used to be getting a WrestleMania moment. But now, he has a new one. He wants to be the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. He talks about how much the fan response to his success has meant, and says he wouldn’t be where he is without them.
Cue Roman Reigns, who enters to what will probably 70% boos and 30% cheers. For the first time, he openly acknowledges the fans’ disdain for him, and tells AJ Styles that he got where he is now not because of his fans, but because of himself. His fists got him his title, not the support of strangers. He says he isn’t letting his title go easily, whether the fans like it or not.
AJ Styles nods, and replies: “I believe that.”
That night, Renee Young asks Roman what he thinks about AJ Styles. Roman says that he respects him, but then says that he isn’t the one who lasted an entire Royal Rumble match right down to the final three. He isn’t the one who won his WrestleMania match.
“Last time I checked, I’ve also been the Tag Team Champion as well,” he adds. “Styles didn’t win at WrestleMania. Styles didn’t become Tag Team Champion. So while I may respect him, I’m not afraid of him.”
That week on SmackDown, AJ Styles takes on Kevin Owens in the main event (setting up tension for a future rivalry). Backstage, Sami tells him to kick his ass, and Styles agrees. The two chat amicably as they walk down a hallway, but then they pass Roman, who just snorts at the two and walks off, patting his title.
The next week on RAW, Dean Ambrose opens the show, calling Roman out to the ring. He asks Roman what’s gotten into him, saying he’s not the brother he knew. Dean mentions Seth, saying he’s seen this all before, and bluntly asks Roman if he’s working for the Authority. Roman just laughs.
“I don’t need the Authority to do what you couldn’t: take this company over.”
He leaves a stunned Ambrose in the middle of the ring.
Renee tracks Reigns down and asks him why he would say something like that to his best friend, to which Reigns replies that it isn’t personal, just cold hard facts. He says that he knows the fans like Ambrose more, and says that he can have the WWE Universe: he’ll take the championship over them any day of the week.
On SmackDown, AJ Styles teams up with Dean Ambrose to take on Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens. Styles and Ambrose prove to be an excellent team against their two rivals, with Styles getting the pin on Jericho, hitting the Styles Clash after Ambrose hits Dirty Deeds. Kevin Owens was taken out of the picture by an ambush from Sami Zayn, because heck yeah this feud is going to get some nice airtime!
After the match, Ambrose gives Styles a mic, and Styles calls out Reigns, saying that he wants to make his championship match official, challenging him to defend his title at Payback. Reigns comes out, and looks at Ambrose, puzzled.
“You’re supporting this, bro?” he asks. Ambrose shrugs.
“Well, I figured you wouldn’t need anybody to take him out anyways, so why not?” Dean says flatly. Reigns accepts Styles’ challenge and Ambrose and Styles stand tall to close the night.
That week, Reigns is the guest on Michael Cole’s weekly interview segment. He repeats that he’s not a good guy or a bad guy, just THE guy. He says AJ Styles may have been the top wrestler around the world, but the WWE is HIS yard. He says he’s not afraid of AJ Styles or anyone else.
On RAW, Reigns cuts a promo on Styles, saying that his three months in the WWE is nothing compared to his three years. He criticizes the hardcore fans for hating him so much, saying that they should get lives of their own instead of demeaning his work (Reigns has actually said something similar to this already). He says that Styles may have worked for over a decade to get to where he is, but Reigns didn’t even need half the time to rise to the top.
Styles takes offense to this, running into the ring. The two stare each other down, and finally shake hands. All seems well as Styles leaves, but then Reigns spears him from behind to close out the show standing tall.
On SmackDown, Styles cuts a promo on Reigns, calling him an entitled brat and a coward. He points out stars like Dean Ambrose and Sami Zayn, calling them the heroes Reigns never could be.
Reigns comes out and charges at him, but Styles is too quick on his feet, hitting him with the Phenomenal Forearm and locking in the Calf Crusher to close out the show.
You can bet that the Chicago crowd, a historically smart collection of fans, will be behind AJ Styles completely at Payback.
In the match, Styles puts on an incredible performance, nearly getting a pinfall many times. In the match, he is clearly the dominant performer and better wrestler, rallying Chicago behind him as he wears Roman Reigns down. But then, Roman does the unthinkable, pulling out a crowbar. When the ref is turned, he spears the official, but claims it was an accident.
While the ref is down, he brutally attacks Styles with the crowbar, beating him until he is nearly limp. When the ref rises again, he hits Styles with a Superman Punch and Spear, taking him down for the three-count.
The crowd is furious. This time, Roman basks in the boos, continuing to attack Styles until Ambrose, fresh off a victory over Chris Jericho, comes to his rescue. Reigns attacks him with a crowbar as well, and it looks like he’s going to literally kill them, until music we haven’t heard in months blasts through Chicago, and Seth Rollins emerges, finally taking Roman down and holding up the belt to end the night.
Styles will be a bonafide star, with the potential to continue feuding with Reigns or spark something with Rollins. AJ Styles and Seth Rollins can square off for the Money in the Bank briefcase, feuding through SummerSlam while Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns have their long-awaited feud. Styles can cash in and hold the belt through the Royal Rumble, dropping it to Reigns who can defend it against Ambrose and Rollins at WrestleMania. And Reigns will be the most hated villain in WWE.
There you have it. WWE, I dare you to do better. 😉