Were the WWE Inattentive or did
Vince McMahon Sabotage Roman Reigns?
I say definitely not the former and yes to the latter for reasons you may not expect. Last year it's pretty safe to assume that Seth Rollins was supposed to face Triple H at Wrestlemania. Unfortunately Rollins suffered an injury putting him out of action for the big show. Reigns was slotted into the slot with one of the most frustrating storylines of the year in terms of psychology, for me personally anyway.
At every turn Reigns, although clearly the supposed protagonist acted like the antagonist. I can't recall all the details, but basically he felt slighted by Triple H, when really it was something that came down to circumstance more than anything else. Reigns took the first physical shot time and time again. Really what happened was Reigns forced the Authorities hand into actually trying to screw him. Which is one of the reasons, even though people will deny, Reigns struggled to truly get over during that period. Most people don't pay attention to the actual intricacies in a plot that really effect us all on a subliminal level when we are processing what we are watching and deciding how we feel about a character. And when someone portrayed as a good guy, but their actions do not meet the definition as accepted by the majority in society, they are often met with either the reaction Reigns got or even worse indifference.
While watching NXT last night it suddenly clicked in my head why things HAD to play out the way they did.
Now, you may say already be thinking, "Why would they purposely sabotage Reigns?" Well, Reigns clearly has potential. His time in the Shield showed that. Reigns is still relatively young. WWE rightfully predicted his potential star power could withstand the flawed plot and not only that, but possibly set him up to be even bigger than he otherwise would have been. Right now the latter has yet to be seen, but that's not surprising. Looking at the landscape in WWE, Reigns when he (I believe it's a certainty) turns heel in the next six months, will hopefully be in a very strong heel role which he will really sink his teeth into. By that I mean he will be a straight heel, not a funny heel, not a cowardly heel, just a thoroughly unlikable human being in every single aspect of his character. Given that the rule is "the hotter you are a bad guy, the more over you'll be as a good guy," you can see where that goes. Whether Reigns will be capable of meeting this projected future or not, only time will tell. This last year will not be the reason for any shortcomings though. It has only served to strengthen the fans feelings toward him which will ultimately pay-off if they do allow him to be straight heel.
Let me make something very clear here too. If I say "they," or "WWE," in reality I mean Vince McMahon. Yes, there are writers, producers, agents, and everyone else involved in making the product, but Vince McMahon has the final say. The rumor is that he is very much a believer in Reigns and history dictates when he sees someone who he can build to stardom he likes to be very hands on. More importantly, Mr. McMahon does not have to share the whys of what he says to do only that he is sure he wants it. Often guys who have worked with Vince say they were asked to do something thinking he was out of his mind, yet once they did it, it worked. Guys say he just knew and I can't help but remember the saying, "teach them everything they know, not everything you know." Jim Ross's story about not wanting to wear the black cowboy hat is just one example of how McMahon just knew something would work. I'm not saying Vince was always right and every idea was a golden one either, just that he has a pretty damn good record.
Ever since Seth Rollins first turned heel on the Shield I have really had doubts about how well he would do as a face on his own. Mainly for the reason I just did not see his ability on the microphone being as strong as it was as a bad guy. His vocal tone I thought was perfect for the whiny and irritating bad guy. A notion I have held on to until last night's NXT TakeOver: San Antonio when he came out as a surprise to take the show hostage.
Sure, initially fans loudly chanted, "this is bullshit." That lasted for all of thirty seconds after he was removed from the arena by several security guards. Then it changed to an ever louder united cry of, "WE WANT ROLLINS!" Combined with the ovation he received and the fantastic work he has done since coming back from injury I am finally ready to admit I was wrong. Seth Rollins is going to be perfectly fine as an ongoing top level good guy. Is he going to be the next Stone Cold? I don't think so, but neither are 99.99% recurring of wrestlers currently or those who will ever be wrestlers.
Judging by how WWE have done the Rollins Vs. Triple H story so far, by the time Wrestlemania XXXII is here in several weeks it is going to be red hot. The match itself should in theory leave Rollins set for life as a top guy, although in the minds of many he probably already is.
In my opinion Rollins does not need to actually lay a finger on Triple H until Wrestlemania. He can disrupt NXT, he could kiss Stephanie McMahon, he could steal a treasured possession, but he should not physically harm, embarrass yes, but not harm in any way until the night of Wrestlemania. Small feel good, but what are actually pretty empty victories. Triple H on the other hand should always come out on top. As I say, Rollins can gain small victories, but Triple H should always be ahead in terms of actual violence and as he fired the first and second shot, both times costing Rollins what means the most to him, at no point should Rollins ever be ahead on that aspect either. There should always be some way for Triple H to slip away without any real loss or a mark on him.
That is why the story last year had to be flawed in terms of actually being the pure good versus evil battle it could have been. No matter how they did it Reigns was going to be judged in a harsh way because of family connections, because he was deemed not ready, not as well rounded as the other two members of the Shield when they split. To be fair, he probably was not quite there, he does seem to have grown a whole lot over the last year as a performer adding to what was already a pretty solid foundation. So, as mentioned above the storyline only served to only boost Reigns in terms of people caring about him regardless of whether they cheer or boo. Not only that, but it left all the good stuff, the "real" story to be told this year.
For those reading this and have absolutely no idea who I am, you probably shouldn't know who I am. I'm just a fan of many years who happens to research wrestling history for the website you are reading this on when I'm not working on the night shift in a job consisting of menial labor. I'm also a fan who is thoroughly enjoying the Seth Rollins story thus far.
Going into almost every single TV show, movie and so on, we all know the ending. Every single person whether they consciously think about it or not know the ending. In the case of pro-wrestling every single story told should be based on good versus bad. Even when there it is good versus good people will lean toward the one they like more creating their own good versus bad situation for that singular paragraph in the never ending series of books known as professional wrestling.
Some people say good versus evil does not exist anymore in relation to the pseudo-sport, but it does. Even good ole "Stone Cold" Steve Austin did the right thing when it really mattered. Anyone remember who saved Stephanie McMahon? And if someone tells you he is going to stun anybody who gets in his away ahead of time and then actually does stun everyone who gets in his way actually that bad of a person when stunning everybody is legal within the confines of a pro-wrestling arena? Yes, he was edgy. Yes, he was a flawed person, but so is everybody else. He was just more of a realistic good guy than the perfect white night of stories from yesteryear when in reality the heroes had just as many flaws, they apparently just didn't make for a good story at that period in time. There will always be good versus evil in pro-wrestling it's just that the socially accepted definitions of righteous and unrighteous qualities that make up our perceptions of good and evil change over the years.
Basically, Vince McMahon the man who likes to take a chance and overcome the odds used the Rollins injury as an opportunity to take a chance on his latest racehorse Roman Reigns by betting he'd leap the hurdles of last year's Wrestlemania build. Which left the door open to pick-up where they left off with Rollins to repeat the Reigns-Triple H story with one big difference between the two. No imperfections or confusion as to who is the good guy is and who is the bad guy is. Rollins arguably needs it more to truly cement himself as a top level guy, I know some already see him that way, and Rollins is the guy a lot of people already wanted to like.
I could again only assume, but I'd have to think Vince tells Triple H more than anyone else too, so I'm sure this maybe a case where only Triple H and not Rollins and Reigns knew the plans from day one and that will likely never change. People say the boss doesn't have long term plans anymore, I have never been able to accept that. His families involvement in pro-wrestling goes back nearly to the beginning of the 20th century and plans have always been long term. I just think due to explosion of social media and stuff getting leaked out (some of it most likely on purpose) he just keeps his long term plans in the family, just like when he and Patterson did it back in the day. That's not to say he does for everyone or every thing, but for the ones that matter, I just can not believe that Vince McMahon does not and has not taught Shane, Stephanie and Triple H all about the importance of timing, social trends, having flexible long term plans and all of the other details that help to make a profitable promotion. Maybe the most important rule is if your top guy isn't over, neither is anyone else. Get your top guy over and everyone below will be found by a part of the audience within the throngs of folk watching that like them.
By Jimmy Wheeler
As unique content strictly for the Professional Wrestling Historical Society