A Plea to the WWE Universe: Cheers are More Powerful than Boos
Roman Reigns has been getting booed out of buildings pretty regularly over the last year. There was a brief period when he really was over. Following one of the worst reactions I’ve ever seen a match get, Sheamus vs. Reigns at TLC, Roman attacked HHH and beat him brutally, and the fans seemed to finally be on his side.
The very next night on Raw in Philadelphia, Reigns beat Sheamus for the title on one of the best episodes of the PG-era. His reception all night was solid and the crowd was legitimately amped for Reigns to Superman punch Vince McMahon and hold the WWE World Heavyweight Championship high above his head.
But the Authority vs. Reigns storyline seemed to drag on, and when HHH won the title at the Royal Rumble and the Hunter vs. Reigns Wrestlemania plans were written on the wall, the fans turned again. There is one thing that clearly doesn’t work with the hardcore, vocal fans, and that’s force feeding them. Nobody had any interest in HHH-Reigns, and so fans booed the obvious “company choice”.
We’re on the downside of the John Cena-era. A decade of one Captain America character prevailing against all odds turned a lot of people away, and the thought of transitioning into Reigns becoming Samoan Cena is too much for many of the fans who’ve hung around despite hating the direction of the product. So Reigns gets booed profusely.
But there are a few problems with booing Roman Reigns like he’s Eva Marie. First, getting any reaction is better than silence. Continuing the Cena comparison, he’s been getting booed by adult fans for over ten years. Sure, he sells a ton of merchandise to kids and is one of the all-time greatest faces of the company, but rejection by a large section of the fan base hasn’t curtailed his being booked as far and away the greatest on the roster.
No, simply booing Roman Reigns is not going to work. While it may have changed the outcome of the main event at Wrestlemania 31, it did little to alter the 2015 Royal Rumble or any of the booking since last year’s Mania.
Fans complain that Vince McMahon and the company don’t listen to their paying customers. But when anarchy is the choice of the fans, there isn’t much to listen to. Booing a guy who is working his ass off and has improved greatly over the last twelve months without proposing any of your own better ideas is childish.
When fans decide to turn on a guy because the writing is bad or chant for JBL or CM Punk, they’re just being contrarian. And the thinking in the company will continue to be that there is simply no pleasing a portion of the audience, so we’re going through with our plans, regardless.
Remember the YES! movement? Why did that work? Because the vocal fans were chanting for something. When Raw was taken over by “Daniel Bryan” chants during the Randy Orton-John Cena coronation ceremony, that resonated with the decision makers. When Orton vs. Big Show was met with absolute indifference, despite Big Show attempting to appropriate the YES! chants for himself, dispelling the idea that Bryan was over like Fandango was over.
Fans demanded Bryan. They bought his merchandise. Sure, Batista was rejected with resounding boos, but it was the passion for Bryan that drove the WWE to change its plans.
On the Raw after Wrestlemania, AJ Styles became the number one contender by winning in a fatal four way match. Since Styles signed, fans have supported him. His shirt sold out at its initial offering on WWE’s website. His name was cheered over a legend like Chris Jericho’s, and there was minor panic when Jericho defeated Styles at Wrestlemania. Hell, I paid to download his entrance music on iTunes.
Supporting Styles has resulted in his catapult up the WWE hierarchy. Sure, Styles was brought in with a lot of fanfare, but there have been plenty of big debuts that went awry shortly afterwards.
I’m not as against Reigns as many fans with whom I share the internet, but I get it. He has struggled on promos and doesn’t come off very naturally. His character just isn’t very defined. You can’t describe who he is or what he’s about with a simple word of phrase like “lunatic fringe” or “underdog from the underground” or “beast incarnate”. His in-ring work has come a long way, but he’s not exactly Seth Rollins or Kevin Owens.
So if you don’t want to see Reigns, that’s fine. But don’t just fold your arms and whine like a petulant child. Cheer for an alternative. Scream “we want Ambrose!” or “AJ Styles!” or “Suplex City!” at the top of your lungs to show that you are interested in the product, just not its current direction. Be an advocate, not just a disruptor. Give the WWE a reason to listen.