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Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Orders: On The Microphone, Roman Reigns Is A Little Puppy
By The Doc
Sep 14, 2017 - 12:36:25 PM

”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE's top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a worldwide 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What is the end game, in your opinion, for Roman Reigns in his current feud with John Cena?

It has been an eventful post-Summerslam period for WWE, with the Raw brand offering up two huge headlining bouts for No Mercy and Smackdown Live countering with the foundational rivalry in Kevin Owens vs. Shane McMahon that it has been missing since before WrestleMania. Plenty of noteworthy happenings could be said to have stood out above the rest over the past four weeks, a pair of them this week alone, but perhaps the most memorable of them all has been Roman Reigns and his failure to step up on the microphone in verbal duels with John Cena.

Say what you will about the week-to-week character work across the past thirteen years by The Golden Boy; history has shown that, when he is dialed in, Cena is one of the greatest talkers that WWE has ever produced. Still, the degree to which he has out-shined the guy who just main-evented the past three WrestleManias is just astounding. Anyone who thinks it has been remotely close is just being a contrarian for contrarian's sake.

Trash-talking is woven into the fabric of global society, be it through sports or video games or playing poker and, even if you have never personally been any good at it, you know someone who is and you know what good trash-talking sounds like and whether or not the person being trashed has been able to fire back. Maybe Reigns has some B-Rabbit at the end of 8 Mile in him, but September 2017 may go down as the month that “The Guy” got repeatedly punked out by the face that ran the place for over a decade. So, again, any columnist or podcaster out there pretending Roman has not been getting absolutely owned is just fishing for feedback. Some may hate the worked-shoot style of live in-ring segment, others may love it; everyone should be able to admit that it is John Cena 3, Roman Reigns 0.

Granted, it is not as if we have ever been given reason to believe that Reigns could carry his half of a rivalry built mostly by promos. The best interview Reigns has ever done lasted all of five words and punctuated ten-minutes of constant and vociferous crowd heat (the night after WrestleMania 33); that was the perfect promo for him because, let's face it, he has always been a “less is more” guy on the mic. Perhaps WWE thought he was better equipped and have repeatedly sent him out there to battle with Cena expecting that he would eventually return serve. You have to wonder what the higher-ups without tunnel vision for their plan are thinking now. If Vince McMahon is the head coach and Reigns is the star player of his basketball team, The Chairman just sent The Big Dog out to unleash the three-point range he has been working on in practice only to find that his go-to guy cannot hit the broad side of a barn from downtown when it counts.

Reigns has been downright embarrassing. Nothing that he has said, certainly not a cheap, random burst of curse words, has been interesting and most of what he has said has not even landed with the audience for which it was intended. His delivery has been the awkwardness of “sufferin' succotash” levels of awful. Does anyone else get uncomfortable for other people when they are royally screwing up or doing something stupid? That is the kind of reaction that Roman is getting from me; I actively feel bad for him that he has been that bad.

WWE deserves some of the blame here. Roman has charisma, but they know in Titan Towers as well as we know watching at home that his charisma has yet to translate to lengthy monologues. His charisma is best showcased via his attitude and his body language, as evidenced by the entirety of his nearly five year WWE career. Cutting promos made John Cena a star; being a hard-charging badass made Reigns a star. Talking for several minutes is clearly not Roman’s strength and it never has been, so one certainly has to wonder why WWE has insisted on exposing it so badly as his greatest weakness. There is precedent set for a non-talker being a legitimate top draw in the last twenty years and his name was Bill Goldberg in late '90s WCW; it would not hurt the product to allow Reigns to be more Goldberg and less Cena and, should WWE insist that there be more of a promo aspect to The Big Dog’s presentation, then they can do what they did for Brock Lesnar and provide Roman with a manager. These past few weeks, though, have purposefully stimulated a discussion about Reigns being bad in the promo department; and that is a puzzling creative choice.

Forget the idea of WWE not playing to Roman’s strengths and even forget the concept of Roman being buried by Cena and what harm those things could hypothetically do to The Big Dog both now and in the future. That apologist-viewpoint is both fair and valid, but here is the obvious fact of the matter: Roman Reigns has not developed one of the primary skills necessary to thrive in his roster position and the main person to blame for his being so atrocious on the mic in non-Twitter length promos is Roman Reigns himself.

This may be a different, evolved era for the product, when the role of “The Man” is handled by committee with WWE itself as the primary draw, but WrestleMania remains poised to echo across eras and there will accordingly be for the foreseeable future an expectation that comes with headlining one, much less three straight “Showcases of the Immortals.” The only other stars besides Reigns to accomplish three in a row are Cena, Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and Triple H. Argue at your leisure that Roman's win/loss record or month-to-month track suggest otherwise; by traditional measures, Reigns has been pushed as “The Guy” when it matters most. Three years into his run as at least one of the top stars in WWE, you would have expected that he could find an extra gear with his promos, especially when being so outright challenged to do so.

Reigns may well go out there next Sunday and steal the show with John Cena in all-time classic fashion, as he has routinely shown himself capable of in the past, but he has failed where Batista, Bryan, Styles, and others have succeeded when tasked with selling a rivalry with words…and that’s a problem. Cena vs. Reigns is supposed to be a clash of generational equals but, now that Cena and WWE have brought it so squarely into the forefront again that Roman really is not Cena’s equal, it feels more like a battle between Cena and a superstar of this current generation whose ceiling is a better version of Randy Orton. In and of itself, Reigns vs. Cena is still a huge match and one that rightfully is generating a ton of excitement from the fanbase, but Roman’s inadequacies so blatantly resurfacing has been disappointing.

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