It has now been eight months since the August 28, 2020 episode of Friday Night SmackDown. That was the night when Roman Reigns – fresh off his return at SummerSlam 2020 – officially aligned with Paul Heyman. The rest, as they say, is history. Since that memorable night, Roman has embarked on a warpath on SmackDown; the brand which has become his “Island” with Reigns ruling over said island with the despotic, iron fist of Chiefdom. For years, fans had been clamoring to see a heel Roman Reigns. Outside of his initial run with The Shield, where Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Reigns were antagonists acting in the name of a flawed perception of justice, you would have to look back to a very brief stint in NXT towards the start of the decade to find a prior example of a heel Roman Reigns. Now, however, he is exceeding all expectations – which was already high – and is proving himself to be an exceptional heel. Let’s take a look at the arguments for why Roman Reigns is the best thing in the WWE right now.
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) May 1, 2021
Roman Reigns Actually Feels Like a Tribal Chief
As we all remember, prior to his becoming Tribal Chief, Roman Reigns was the Face of the Company. Ever since the breaking of The Shield in mid-2014, Roman Reigns had bared the torch previously held by the Hollywood-bound John Cena. Despite being a dominant and triumphant babyface for six years before the turn, there were elements of goofiness, coupled with bad booking, which prevented Roman from being perceived as the Samoan Badass that he truly is. Promos such as the infamous “sufferin’ succotash, son!” attack on Seth Rollins on an episode of SmackDown and the “Roman and the Beanstalk” story he used on Big Show damaged babyface Reigns before he could begin. They were lines better-suited to John Cena who, for years, had been dubbed “Super Cena” during his run as Face of the Company. This is in reference to Cena’s image as the clean-cut, everyday hero who fights evil at every corner. if Cena was Superman, Roman was Batman; an anti-hero who, while on the side of the angels, does not act as they do.
Nowadays, Roman only talks with an air of serious, legitimate authority unmatched by anyone in the WWE. He does not even need to do much of the dirty work in trash-talking exchanges anymore; the Tribal Chief is above that. He has both Paul Heyman and cousin Jey Uso to do that for him. This is how it should be. If you hope to speak to a Chief or a King, you do so through his minions; hoping said Chief/King believes you worthy enough of his time. If he does not wish to entertain you, then forget about it. This is what has excellently played out throughout the run of the Tribal Chief, most recently with Cesaro, who Reigns repeatedly ignores the existence of.
He Has Never Felt So Dominant
Roman Reigns has not been pinned since December 15, 2019, when King Corbin defeated Reigns in questionable circumstances at TLC 2019. Since then, any defeat has come in tag team matches where he has not been the one to take the fall, such as on December 4, 2020, when Roman and Jey Uso lost against Kevin Owens and Otis, with Roman being disqualified for keeping Owens in the Guillotine despite not being the legal man. It has been a period of sheer dominance for Reigns. Roman does not even wrestle every week anymore, making his presence within matches feel all the more special, only adding to the dominating image he has successfully created over the past eight months.
In what you would think would be counter-productive in making Reigns a dominant heel, he no longer wins clean with every match. Many of his victories – especially against Kevin Owens and most recently against Edge and Daniel Bryan – have come with the assistance of his right-hand man, Jey Uso. Yet, even with this added element of dirtiness to the Reigns character, it has not taken away from his dominance. In fact, it has only succeeded in making him appear even more invincible. Roman Reigns has built up a near-decade-long reputation of being someone near-impossible to beat. Now that he, too, has embraced the same heelish tactics long-used against him, beating Roman Reigns has become an impossible task. No one on SmackDown right now looks capable of beating Reigns and this, in turn, has only helped Cesaro; who now feels like a last, underdog hope chance at ending Reigns’ era of dominance as Tribal Chief.
His Alliance With Paul Heyman Has Been Excellent
Typically, when a wrestler aligns with Paul Heyman, they vacate any verbal responsibility. Paul Heyman is usually the guy who does the talking for someone who is either incapable of doing so, or simply requires a mouthpiece to mask their weaknesses on the microphone. Brock Lesnar is the prime example as, for nearly two decades, Paul Heyman has acted as his advocate – with Brock talking very little in this time. This is to prevent Brock – a notorious introvert who struggles to talk in front of a live audience – from hurting his own, undisputed reputation as a Beast. With Roman Reigns, Paul Heyman’s role has been different; almost diminished. Roman, despite having Heyman in his corner, does much of the talking; with Heyman there to issue threats when Roman feels the opponent beneath him. Whereas having a muted Heyman in your corner feels almost a waste, it has proven to be anything but – with this partnership being both a breath of fresh air and, quite simply, excellent.
Roman Reigns’ ability as a talker has always been underestimated. Roman Reigns’ microphone ability has never been the problem – it was the scripts he was working from which were the problem. As covered with the aforementioned “Sufferin’ Succotash” and “Beanstalk” promos, Roman Reigns suffered from bad creative. Now that he has more control; is in a role he is better suited for, and has Paul Heyman to back him up, Roman is demonstrating that he has literally all the tools required to be one of the all-time great heels.
Roman Reigns Follows Through On His Promises
On last week’s episode of Friday Night SmackDown, Roman Reigns promised to banish Daniel Bryan from SmackDown. This became the added stipulation of their WWE Universal Championship match this week; should Daniel Bryan lose, he is banished from SmackDown. Bryan, the white meat babyface that he is, agreed to the stipulation – confident of ending the Tribal Chief’s reign of terror. Roman fulfilled his promise to both Daniel Bryan and the WWE Universe – sending the former multi-time WWE Champion and certified future Hall of Famer packing from the blue brand he had helped spearhead since 2016. A heel who can back up what he says is a rare commodity in the WWE – for Roman Reigns to regularly achieve this speaks volumes to the trust in Roman and Paul in their building of this character. This current Tribal Chief incarnation of Roman Reigns and this era of SmackDown, which he leads, will go down as one of the great eras of the blue brand. Long may it continue.
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