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Tuesday, February 26, 2019

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WIRTB Review: Can We Ever Boo Roman Reigns Again?

By Speed on the Beat

It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you. However, at least for today, I’m back with a new WIRTB piece.

As I mentioned in my interview with True and Apollo over onSpeedontheBeat.com, I don’t really keep up with WWE these days. I’ll catch a random RAW or NXT and read spoilers on LordsofPain or Twitter. However, my WWE fandom, at least for the current product, has mostly subsided. Call me fickle on some Daniel Bryan stuff, but that’s just how it is. With that in mind, even I heard the news about Roman Reigns returning to WWE after dealing with leukemia.

Leukemia, and cancer in general, ain’t no whore. 

When he returned, it was like the Prodigal Son returning home. Everyone erupted with joy. The heavens burst open. Vince’s grapefruits dropped to his knees at the sound of the cheers. The point is that it was a pretty cool moment. The Big Dawg is back, and even got physical at the end of RAW last night.

Again, cancer ain’t no whore. Coming back from cancer in any field, much less one where you're constantly throwing your body around, is an accomplishment in of itself. As someone who’s had family members who have dealt with cancer, I’m always going to be on Team Eff Cancer and applaud anyone who beat it. And WWE, being how they are, will probably strap several rockets to Reigns and send him to the ends of the universe because of this. That’s expected and I'm not really mad at that.

For all intents and purposes, we're given a man who literally gave Death the middle finger. Meanwhile, WWE, even in today’s atmosphere, is about larger-than-life characters and personas. It’s why we keep getting Taker coming back even though his body doesn't seem willing to handle it anymore. That's why Ric Flair is celebrated at every turn (I'm surprised Migos weren't Ric Flair Drip'n at last night's RAW). And, it's John Cena is still someone they use to get people over (for better and for worse).

Truth be told, I would be surprised if they didn’t push Roman higher than Mount Everest at this point.

However, what if Roman Reigns comes back 120% and nothing has changed from before? What if, a few months, even a year, down the road, Roman Reigns is still the same Superman Punch-throwing, Spear-giving, “Sufferin’ Succotash”-reciting, muscle-y babyface that has the general swag of a heel (yes, even with his “I’m going to use my platform to raise awareness for cancer” speech last night)? What if the same things that gave him that "go away heat" over the years persist? What if the entire creative team goes into flux because Roman Reigns is back and we get Lesnar/Reigns again and again for the next year or two because, you know, Roman's back? These are all hypothetical situations. I don’t know the future, nor do I claim to. Hell, Roman Reigns could come back and start diving and hitting Frankensteiners or some crap for all I know.

If he does come back and, as a performer, he's on the same ol' crap, are we assholes if we boo the man? Are we “edge lords” if we restart saying “Roman Sucks?” Do we deserve vitriol and shame if we don’t immediately get behind Roman Reigns, as a character? Not as a person, but as a character?

I’m going to say “hell, no.”

We’re human. As such, we’re allowed, by free will, to like and dislike whatever the hell we want (within reason, of course, because “-isms” are stupid) People who boo Roman aren’t booing the man because he had cancer. They’re booing him—or will boo him—because they don’t like the character. Most of the time, Roman Reigns, prior to the cancer announcement, was corny as hell. He was Ultimate Warrior-levels of cringe, even down to the over-pushing. Ultimate Warrior, at least, had the faux-spiritualism promos going for him.

With that said, we can cheer the hell out of Joe Anoa’i the man and still be apathetic towards Roman Reigns the character. And, we can do so without looking like trolling morons. Well, we should be able to, at least.

Today, people are ever ready to “cancel” you if you don’t agree with a general feeling/idea. With some things, such as R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein, rapists, or people who beat down LGBT people just because, that’s fair. They deserve cancellation. 

With other things, like not liking a certain show, character, or song, it goes way overboard. Look at how many in the “Beyhive” are ready to eviscerate anyone who says anything even remotely negative on something about Beyoncé, even if it’s an innocuous, unrelated joke. The same thing happens in the wrestling world. For example, I got a lot of flack for saying, in a previous WIRTB Review, that The Attitude Era was kind of overrated. If we're being real here, and excuse any possible cynicism, WWE is probably banking on cancel culture, people who say eff cancer, and the like to get Reigns over more than he’s ever been. Well, that and the fact that Roman Reigns looks like a superhero for kids (hi Aquaman) and probably looks like a snack to a lot of women and some men (again, hi Aquaman).

Shrug it.

Remove even that and the plan is still genius. They may have as much of an almost unbooable talent as they’ve had since the days of Bruno Sammartino. I mean, even Hulk Hogan got booed for some of the things he did at the height of Hulkamania. Plus, you know, Roman Reigns never said that he’d hate for his daughter to date/marry/be intimate with a Black man. Even if he turds it up in the ring years from now, he’s, at least, got that going for him.

Last night, we also got a glimpse into a possible future regarding crowd reactions towards Reigns. A fan said “you suck” during Reigns’ speech and was immediately shut down and shut up.

Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t think saying “you suck” during an anti-cancer speech is the best place to voice negative opinions on a character. That’s Westboro Church-levels of hate and attention-seeking. Honestly, the fan should've just sat there and ate his food. There’s a time and place for just about everything.

However, that was that fan’s opinion and I’m pretty sure the fan was referring to the character of Roman Reigns, even if the timing of his disdain was all sorts of off. But telling people what they can and can’t like, about sports entertainment and otherwise, is weird and borders on repressive. Wrestling, as antiquated as some of its ideals are, has become a place where anyone can show up and show out, from a woman shoving tampons in her opponent's mouth to Kofi Kingston getting two WWE Championship shots (and maybe even a WrestleMania spot). If we start stopping people from voicing their dislike of a character, we might as well say forget the whole thing, turn that sumbish sideways and...well, you know.

In closing, is it bad that Roman Reigns is back? Not at all. Prosper Big Dawg prosper. Will it become intolerable for anyone who doesn’t like his character? I hope not but, if we’re not careful, things could go south quick. If that happens, I don’t think even beating cancer can save Roman Reigns in the eyes of some. If you're happy he's back, be happy. If you don't want to see him on your TV in a few months or so, that's okay. You're not a monster if you don't like Roman Reigns. It's okay to not like a character. Let people like who/what they like, dislike who/what they like, and move the hell on, everyone.

It's better that way.


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