Courtesy of Miguel Discart [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Edited by WrestlingMark Illustrations

Why Roman Reigns is Currently the Biggest Heel on the WWE Roster

The new dynamic of heels & faces in pro wrestling.

Throughout the history of professional wrestling, the dynamic relationship between the face and the heel has always remained constant. There is always a good guy & a bad guy in every wrestling storyline. On top of that, the wrestling promotions make it blatantly obvious who you’re supposed to love and who you’re supposed to hate. It’s a basic turn-key story that is regurgitated over and over again in every storyline. Although this formula has worked for more than 30 years, WWE is realizing that the modern-day professional wrestling fan is a new breed of it’s own.

The “Universe” Concept — A New Breed of Fans

The modern-day professional wrestling fan is a complex conundrum. The fan-base is more knowledgeable about the wrestling industry than it’s ever been in the past. The amount of “inside information” available via dirt sheets, wrestling podcasts, and backstage leaks is astonishing. Kayfabe, for lack of a better term, is dead. Fans know that the shows & characters are scripted. This is why pro wrestling is appreciated as an art-form now more than ever. It’s a dangerous work of art, but when executed perfectly, it’s one of the most amazing things to watch unravel.

Think of pro wrestling as the ongoing and ever-expanding Marvel Universe. Marvel comic-books are released every week & month with new story arcs for the beloved roster of superheroes. Each comic expands the story and connects the dots. This leads up to the final blow-off comic that wraps up the story so the superhero can move on to another story arc. This type of storytelling is constantly adding depth to these superheroes. Just like the Marvel Universe, the WWE Universe (the addition of the word “universe” makes more sense now doesn’t it?) expands and grows the same way. Superstars are involved in feuds every month on Raw & Smackdown Live. This eventually leads to a blow-off match at each brand’s PPV. This is what draws fans to the product. The depth of the characters & the story being told.

If there’s ever an axe to grind, our gripe as fans isn’t with the in-ring talent, but instead with the creative team writing the show. This current generation of fans do not want to be told who they should like and who they should hate. They want to have an integral role in finding who THEY like and who THEY want to support as their favorite superstar.

Believe It or Not, Fans Ultimately Decide the Heels & Faces… Not the WWE

The WWE and other larger independent wrestling promotions have introduced a new concept I’ve decided to call, “open-ended character arcs”. This means that although a character’s motives may be portrayed as heel or face, the actual label of “heel” or “face” is left up to the fan to decide. WWE creatively lays the groundwork for the story, displays the motives of the characters, and then the fans decide who they want to get behind. Arenas are encouraged to be split down the middle, 50/50, for main event level matches especially when they lead to the infamous “let’s go ____, ____ sucks” chants. The best example of this concept is Braun Strowman.

The Braun Strowman character is a monster heel in the realms of the WWE Universe. Last night on WWE Payback, Strowman practically murdered Roman Reigns in the middle of the ring with some steel steps to the gut. Strowman left a defenseless Roman Reigns lying in his own pool of blood and received some of the biggest face cheers I’ve ever witnessed from a pure monster heel character. That’s because Braun Strowman isn’t a heel. That’s right. Braun Strowman is one of the biggest faces on the WWE roster right now. Sure, Braun has heel tendencies, but his overall character arc is someone who’s trying to make his way to the top of the WWE ladder no matter who or what gets in his way. He gets bored because he’s not challenged on a consistent basis. He wants to be the best. He targets superstars on the roster that the fans don’t necessarily love because he enjoys the approval of the fans. Just look at his face next time he’s a cutting a promo in the ring. His eyes get bigger with every loud “Thank You Strowman” chant. There is depth to Braun Strowman. This is why the WWE is very different than it was even 5 or 6 years ago. They understand that these characters need depth and can’t be just sold as cookie-cutter faces & heels. Nobody is forced down the throats of fans anymore. Not even Roman Reigns.

The Curious Case of Roman Reigns

It all ultimately comes down to one of the most hated corny catchphrases to ever air on WWE:

“I’m not a good guy.. I’m not a bad guy.. I’m THE guy.”

This cringeworthy dialogue that Roman Reigns had to repeat week after week was to get a message across to the WWE Universe. Roman Reigns is already a heel. WWE knows this and they’re getting the reactions they want out of fans night-in and night-out. It is a widely known fact that no matter what Roman does, he will get boo’d out of the arena. The Raw after Mania, he was boo’d for ten minutes straight and couldn’t even get a word out till he finally uttered the words, “This is my yard now”. If that wasn’t a heel promo, then it was a very good troll job by Reigns.

There is a very loud group of fans that are advocating WWE to turn the Roman Reigns character heel. The point that they seem to be missing here is that they’re actually advocating for a face turn. Roman is currently the biggest heel on the WWE roster. His whole character arc is based around pissing off the WWE Universe. His constant references to WWE being “his yard now”, his constant need to go up against fan favorites and beat them clean, his cocky persona when he’s in the ring, it all adds up to Roman Reigns being the biggest heel in the company. If you take his character as-is, throw him in a heel faction lead by Triple H, and make him the baddest guy on the planet… he’d get the loudest cheers on the roster, night-in & night-out.

“The Guy” Roman Reigns = Corny, Troll, Heel (current character on TV)
“Heel” Roman Reigns = Fans would go crazy, Face (what fans want)

That is why Roman Reigns is such a polarizing and controversial subject amongst fans. At the flip of a switch, he can easily be the next big face of company. WWE brass is fully aware of fans salivating over the idea of a “heel” Roman Reigns character and it will inevitably happen. So for now, let’s enjoy this slow development of the Roman Reigns character and appreciate him for the huge troll that he is.