The Royal Rumble fallout with Roman Reigns. Why was it so wrong and can WWE get it right on retraction?
Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble match, and with it caused immense upset. WWE miscalculated the effect it would be expecting with 'the normal’ overreaction from fans failing to get their way then caving into normality afterward. This wasn't it.
Has WWE lost its touch with fans? To an extent yes, but not overall. Yet all is also salvageable.
Fans accept it is not Reigns fault and there is no personal displeasure with Reigns, but fans concern is that he is not ready. He isn’t. WWE are not backing down and hopeful it can work with the John Cena hard push that launched that very star years ago. Ah, hope. Recently mocked by WWE upon advice is now their main support. Therein lies the problem. Roman Reigns as John Cena number two, on an already negative reaction, will have catastrophic future outcomes should this continue. Roman Reigns could be the second John Cena with disastrous effects. WWE really do need to reassess.
WWE’s priority is the WWE Network. They have not been shy about that either. Fine. Though the stars that drive the content are needed to please fans, and when there is not that in place, there is a problem needing to be rectified.
WWE get confused with fickle fans. The stock for WWE drastically declined after the Royal Rumble pay per view. The following Monday’s Raw, initially cancelled, then postponed, which later aired, caused a rise. The format was forced to change. Fans were interested to see how WWE would get around a real crisis on its hands affecting programming and turning a positive in response. They did so and they needed little tools to achieve it. They could have held off of the repeats, but at short notice, what can you do? Even so, it worked out. Though fans have unsubscribed and crashed WWE’s Network in its millions. The company boasted one million subscribers early this week, met with scrutiny with numbers. Many felt WWE either misrepresented those numbers or instead counted overall figures. Stock on Thursday was at roughly 912 instead of a million. WWE have been known to lie about attendance at PPV's, especially Wrestlemania sellout crowds. Fans don't feel trusting any longer.
So, what is WWE doing so wrong and why such a tremendous upset with fans they could not envisage as serous to future company progression?
Brock Lesnar and the WWE title have not been defended for months on programming and stalled until Royal Rumble. Lesnar gave one of the greatest matches and defined his role as a credible champion. Though his credibility was undermined by his absence at the height of WWE where fans quietly preserved but felt they missed out along the way. The top title needs to be at the top of its game for WWE fans.
The creative team/WWE management tension is another problem fans are mildly becoming furious with on the surface. The direction and mishaps on programming, mostly Raw, with no logic or understanding is driving a tiresome product for fans.
The true stars are sidelined. The stars fans want to see rise for the good of the product and not their own way is another issue. They want Antonio Cesaro, Bray Wyatt and others. The plain Jane’s in Barrett, Ziggler and The Miz aren’t the future any longer. They were three years ago. Some fans hold out hope for Ziggler not for skill or want, but because he is their measly last hope and has been transferred into the fan role of CM Punk. Desperately hoping he would be the next change is ludicrous but there as fans final attempt at change. Though WWE know Ziggler is not going to materialise big time and fans contained support over the top in ungracious want drives WWE further apart from non business minded fans. When they finally got Ziggler’s push, it was underwhelming and fans don’t know what to do now. Their stars are not being utilised correctly or at all. They want the Sandow’s and Axel’s to come up as well. They want big men too, but Roman Reigns, Cena, Big Show and the blubber’s with little talent are not what they need. Resentment settles when too much is dismissed. Some blame CEO Vince McMahon for his 1980’s approach to big bulk size and six foot requirements. Fans will like one of those if they have the talent and skills. This current era is the most difficult and pressured than Attitude, 80’s or any other era to breakout. Though in those days they had risks taken and new stars were thrust into the chance of limelight, even if they failed. WWE can still protect them, but it needs to be constant and firm with backup.
Daniel Bryan not winning wasn’t the problem here. The fact that someone who was not at all over on Reigns and is struggling to connect with the audience on a wider scale and WWE’s failure to accept it caused problems. No-one could appreciate it. They don’t want their time spent wasted on a weak concept going forward. If WWE feels this is a power game unwilling to buckle to fans, who want WWE to listen to their concerns legitimately, WWE has a big problem coming at Wrestlemania. As much as Reigns is wanted, he can’t carry WWE, even if he really wishes to do so.
Take this example then. Can Reigns, if say a crisis occurred where all the lights and everything conked out, but the match in-ring was still on-going. Could Reigns work and lead this match to a natural and think on the spot direction? The answer is no. His logical call up from NXT was superb. With Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, who set NXT to new levels of excitement in their stay beforehand, Reigns was protected. Now, alone, Reigns is isolated. Family interjections will not support but only further alienate him. Reigns, now given the golden ball, must work to the standard on his own. Therein is the immense pressure given at short notice. It is highly unlikely that the hard push for Reigns is going to be accepted within two to three months. WWE is said to be adamant not to buckle to its Universe's pressure for fear of looking weak. The same weakness that will occur by not taking restorative action.
Reigns has moderate to weak vocals, promos and in-ring talent on his own. He can’t be in multi-matches for too long. It is an unfair pressure that shouldn’t be on his shoulders yet. A year in the making will be for Reigns. Though WWE often give an out of nowhere push but has no backbone to it that fails to be anything other than stiff. Stars need this boost but so often the wrong ones are selected at certain times of haste than logical patience.
So is the problem the old coot at Titan Towers? No. Is it the son in law who is trying to find his prowess running a pet project for WWE footing? No. Though the pair need to understand audience better than simply shrug it off. With The Network even more crucially necessary to success upon it, WWE have to have better relations. Will you give into all the fans having silly Sami Zayn matches every week doing “all that flippy sh*t?” No. Though you can put your people forward while making new areas slightly appealing. Not everyone can be pushed, but the selection process must be more than, 'yeah, him.' 'He looks good.' Isolated, without the skills and minimal opponents to cross the bridge to Wrestlemania against the massive beast Brock Lesnar, who is unstoppable, Reigns is stumbling at the brick wall. How will such a lukewarm smiler finding it difficult to be a subtle tough guy beat The Beast, if at all?
Fans will accept a legitimate choice, not a rushed selection with no stability behind it. If WWE do not plan to remove Reigns from the battle, and it doesn’t want yet ‘another’ Triple Threat ‘Mania event, it needs to act soon. Failure to alter the decision will then require a third man at Wrestlemania. Either way, whatever the outcome, Roman Reigns will become the John Cena version 2. This means he will never recover from Wrestlemania and instead of being WWE’s new future pick at company guy, he will become boo’ed and hated forever. WWE know exactly how they pushed Cena and are doing exactly the same way with Reigns. Cena has been tarnished then, now and forever. A future beyond Reigns' control such not take the same blind or arrogant approach for ego's sake. His hard earned success will not be respected because he never worked for it and cannot back it up to fans either. Reigns will be the guy forever a future prospect tarnished for his entire career instead. That is serious for a) WWE, b) it’s future and c) the Network sales. This would be the best for business, Roman Reigns and the long-term protection of a future star, simply not yet ready. Tweak the event and drop Reigns. Patience is a virtue.
© Max Waltham 31st January 2015
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All Rights Reserved