Pruett’s Pause: WWE Payback – The Roman Reigns hate has gone too far, Braun Strowman as Raw’s great creative victory, and Alexa Bliss makes history

By Will Pruett

It finally happened in the last month. I had seen this coming for years. It has taken longer than I thought to get here, but friends, I believe the hate has gone too far on Roman Reigns.

I understand why so many people have embraced the backlash to Roman Reigns. At a time, it was a logical thing to do. Daniel Bryan was the hottest star in wrestling and Reigns appeared to be usurping him without the crowd support to justify it. After being told a year earlier to reject WWE’s plan and force their own narrative, fans tried to do so once again. It didn’t work. WWE stayed the course with Reigns and Bryan eventually retired. This damaged Reigns more than anyone anticipated.

WWE didn’t lean into fan reaction with Reigns, they stayed the course. In doing so, some people genuinely became fans of Roman Reigns. Personally, while the character has always lacked something, I have found his in-ring work to be fantastic most of the time. Reigns has had amazing matches over the last few years and his run in The Shield should not be forgotten either. Roman Reigns is a good-to-great professional wrestler.

This is the weird thing in modern WWE. I’m not sure why people actually hate Roman Reigns at this point. Many say he’s pushed too hard, but plenty of wrestlers have been given main event pushes throughout time. It’s common for wrestling shows to have main events and for those main events to be filled by main eventers. Roman Reigns wrestles in main events. WWE has gone out of their way to embrace Reigns as a main eventer, but no more than they did for Hogan, Austin, Rock, Cena, and so many others.

What is it that make Roman Reigns so easy to hate? He was likable in The Shield as the heavy for the three man group. He’s probably had the best career outside The Shield of the three men.

The only justifiable reason to hate Roman Reigns is the lack of humanity he shows on WWE television. I don’t believe WWE has ever fully figured out who Roman Reigns is and without the ability to connect to that, Braun Strowman could throw Reigns into a volcano and fans would cheer. WWE has come close to humanizing Reigns, but at every turn they fail somehow.

What I enjoy about Reigns are the performances he manages to deliver even when his character has been so under-developed. In the ring, it’s hard to think of a Roman Reigns match I didn’t find compelling. Fans invest emotionally in Reigns even when WWE hasn’t given them the emotional human to latch onto. This is actually remarkable. Roman Reigns, despite an underdeveloped character, still brings a certain drama to his matches other wrestlers in WWE cannot.

As Braun Strowman did all he could to murder Reigns last night and fans chanted “you deserve it” and “thank you, Strowman” I couldn’t help but not enjoy it. It’s not funny anymore. It’s not even fun anymore. It’s too much. Before Roman Reigns, I often said John Cena was the best wrestler to ever get thrashed for his wrestling ability, but Roman has taken this mantle.

I’m not advocating for anyone to love Reigns or not express themselves, but I am saying the hate for Roman Reigns has gone too far.

And now for some random thoughts:

– Alexa Bliss vs. Bayley was my favorite match on this show and my favorite match of Alexa’s career. It was better than most of Bliss’ matches have been and better than just about anything Bayley has done on the main roster (aside from her Raw main event with Charlotte). WWE does have something special with the Bayley character, but they messed up somewhere along the way with her title reign. Alexa Bliss is a great talker, a solid worker (who is growing into her own), and probably the best standard bearer for the Raw brand right now.

– Any reason why this pay-per-view didn’t have at least two women’s matches?

– As much as I’d like to see Sasha Banks vs. Bayley eventually be for the Raw Women’s Championship, I’d actually rather see them get a major match on a pay-per-view without a title. We need more than one feud in the Women’s Division.

– Braun Strowman is the great creative triumph of all of Raw. He has been solidly built and he is still a monster. It’s remarkable, since I saw nothing in him when he debuted. It’s great to see him doing such great work in a character that fits him well.

– Samoa Joe vs. Seth Rollins was good, but missing something. These two can tell great stories in the ring, but it reminded me of the Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens match earlier in the night that was just a little slower than I would have liked.

– Why have Chris Jericho win the United States Championship? Maybe he’ll be doing more than just a show or two on Smackdown but at this moment I expect Jericho to lose the title quickly and Kevin Owens vs. AJ Styles to still be the top program on Smackdown.

– How many houses does Bray Wyatt own? He has a full compound with a few homes on it. He has millions of followers in weird sheep masks. He also has a home in the Bay Area, which I assume cost him about $2,000,000 given the cost of home ownership in silicon valley.

– The House of Horrors match between Wyatt and Randy Orton was not as bad as it could have been, but it was plenty silly. WWE broke out all the weird string instrument effects on their synthesizer to soundtrack it, which thoroughly annoyed me.

– Matt and Jeff Hardy continue their nostalgia run sponsored by overly baggy jeans, but at least at this moment, they will have some motivation. I’m glad Cesaro and Sheamus turned after a pretty good tag team match. I’m excited to see where this feud and all of these characters go next.

– Neville and Austin Aries had a good match with a lame finish. I know Neville is the cowardly champion, but I worry the future will have him overly reliant on finishes like this and he’ll lose the edge he had when he took over the division.

– Is everyone getting pinned by surprise roll ups these days?

– This was an odd show from a construction standpoint. Finn Balor, Sasha Banks, Dean Ambrose, Nia Jax, The Miz, and other high level wrestlers were left off. Is this simply because WWE didn’t know what to do coming out of the Superstar Shakeup? Was the Shakeup planned before or after plans for this show? It was weird.

Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email me at itswilltime@gmail.com.


The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell and guest Colt Cabana on his role in ROH, the state of the independent wrestling scene, the future of his podcast, the ROH Global Wars tour, the new ROH television format, Starrcast III, and much more...


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