Full disclosure: To retain his sanity, Will Pruett watches the 90 minute edit of Raw on Hulu. He has no regrets.
Roman Reigns has been a very interesting study in character and modern crowds over the past 12 months. Think about it. Roman was rejected on a night where he was endorsed by the biggest star of all time and fought off the forces of boredom and evil. He was rejected or worse, treated with ambivalence, going into WrestleMania. Over the course of 2015, Reigns seemed to be on a journey to find himself. Who is Roman? What makes him tick? Why should fans like him?
Being the cool silent type in The Shield was no longer enough. Roman had to talk. Roman had to fight for himself. Roman had to be a more compelling character. While he failed time after time, he also found a few successes. The greatest success was at the end of the year. At TLC, Roman found himself in anger.
WWE developed a very bad habit over the course of the John Cena years. They took righteous anger out of the protagonist playbook. Cena was not allowed to get upset about anything. When he was left bloodied and battered, he made a joke and moved on. When he was insulted and his morals were questioned, he quipped. Cena let any strategy from an antagonist roll off his back, even when those strategies included attempted murder. It’s the worst thing about the Cena character. It’s a trait WWE seemed desperate for Reigns to inherit.
When Roman found himself at TLC, it was righteous anger fueling him. Time after time, he rose above the antagonistic forces against him. Time after time, he was pushed back down. Frustration boiled over and Roman rejected the Jedi way. He finally got mad and fans, deprived of a righteously angry protagonist for over ten years, suddenly rose to their feet. This is what they wanted from Roman. This was the change they needed to see.
The next night, WWE struck while the iron was hot and Roman Reigns became WWE Champion. It was the right time. Since then, WWE has forgotten what made Reigns work over this two night stretch.
Roman Reigns is not being treated fairly by Vince McMahon. This is factual. There have been multiple segments (including a puzzling one where Vince couldn’t open plastic eggs on this show) to prove this. No character in the WWE storytelling universe could argue in favor of this treat on the basis of its fairness. Yet, when Roman reacts to it, he’s not mad.
Reigns seems to not mind being treated unfairly. He didn’t seem to mind entering the Royal Rumble at number one. He didn’t seem to mind being told he had to defend the WWE Championship in the rumble. He doesn’t mind being forced into this awkward situation. Why? Why isn’t Roman upset? I would be. You would be. Anyone would be angry if they were treated this way.
WWE (or, more accurately, McMahon) would argue against having Roman complain because he could seem whiney. He doesn’t have to whine. Some of the best promos of all time were protagonists standing up against injustice done to them. Look at Dusty Rhodes’ “Hard Times” promo. Was he whining about the Horsemen breaking his leg? No, he was stating a fact and reacting.
In a time when fans feel like they cannot connect to Reigns, WWE is having Reigns act in a way no one can relate to. They’re having Reigns resign and accept his fate instead of fighting against injustice. WWE is forgetting who Roman Reigns is and who they created him to be.
And now for some random thoughts:
– Can we set up some sort of intervention for Chris Jericho? He seems enamored with his current character, but everything he does on TV is somewhere between passé and obnoxious. He was in far too many segments on this show as his character went from comedy guy to serious contender. Jericho is a parody of himself, but he doesn’t seem to be in on the joke.
– Becky Lynch is easily the best protagonist on WWE television right now. Unlike Roman Reigns, she is upset about and calling out the injustices done to her. She is actively fighting against the oppression enforced by Charlotte and Ric Flair. Becky is fighting the way one would want a hero to fight. Her match with Tamina and subsequent in-ring promo was a delightful demonstration of babyface fire. Becky is a highlight of WWE TV right now.
– The opening segment of this show was 17 minutes long. The crowd was silent. It felt like a 45 minute slog through talking points. Reigns, Jericho, and the League of Nations had very little material to make anything meaningful out of.
– Jericho’s over-acting special referee schtick made me dislike the Reigns vs. Rusev match. Who knows? I might have disliked it anyways. We’ll never know.
– Has any feud ever been as one-sided as The Wyatt Family vs. The Dudleys? This is the right way to write this feud, so it doesn’t bother me. It’s worth pointing out.
– The segment with Vince and Stephanie drawing plastic eggs out of a tumbler and Vince failing to open them was one of the weirdest things I have ever seen on WWE TV. Vince looked confused and frail. Stephanie seemed thrown off and frightened. It was not just puzzling, it was counter intuitive. Where was the outrage from the announcers or Reigns or anyone else?
– I like seeing Kalisto in the upper-mid-card mix. His performance teaming with Dean Ambrose against Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio added some much needed athleticism to Raw. Kalisto should be a fixture in this picture. Fans will react to him and he could rise above it someday.
– Big E vs. Jey Uso was definitely a match that happened. The trombone funeral featuring New Day was sadly not a part of 90 minute Raw.
– It seems like WWE is teasing a Bray Wyatt vs. Brock Lesnar match at some point. When I look at the top of the WrestleMania card, I definitely see why this could occur. I also see why it shouldn’t. Wyatt is not a character on Lesnar’s level. He is a mis-used undercard spooky bad guy. He does not scream main event. His character lacks logic and consistency. I know some people are still hanging onto the 2013 Wyatt excitement train, but much like the word “Fetch”, it isn’t going to happen.
– I would be alright with Wyatt being smashed by Brock Lesnar at Fastlane. I would not be fine with this feud carrying on into WrestleMania.
– There may be a serious lack of heels on the WWE roster, but Wyatt is not the answer.
– Chris Jericho and Paul Heyman did not have a good promo exchange. What was the last good Jericho promo? Was it in 2009?
This was a chore of an episode of Raw. There were a few bright spots, but it bored me almost to tears. I can’t wait for the Royal Rumble on Sunday if, for nothing else, just to get past it and tell the WrestleMania stories.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? If they aren’t super annoying thoughts, hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @itswilltime or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.