Roman Reigns has been over like Rover since turning heel in 2020. Fans had long responded more positively to Reigns when he showed heel characteristics but flogged him when he was being pushed as a face. Ergo, the warm response to his “Tribal Chief” character had perhaps been what the people were asking for, all along: Reigns unleashed. His Universal Championship title reign began at 2020’s Payback event. Since then Reigns has reinvented himself, and the Friday Night SmackDown brand, with strong character work in the Tribal Chief saga, where his complex but villainous persona dominates those around him mercilessly in a bid to stay on top of the card. This makes the impending Edge vs Roman Reigns showdown all the more intriguing.
Reigns’s story is a Jacobean drama played out in the squared circle, and the industry has embraced this version of him excitedly.
However, rumors have persisted in recent weeks that World Wrestling Entertainment has a face turn in the works for Reigns. Given his success under his new persona, this would quite reasonably seem like a mistake waiting to be made. There, is, quite literally, a Wikipedia page documenting the various ups and downs in WWE fans’ reception to Reigns. Yet, the current Edge vs Roman Reigns story contains all the necessary ingredients to Build a Better Babyface out of “The Tribal Chief” himself.
Edge vs Roman Reigns – A Good Villain
Given that Edge started his long history in the WWE playing a vampire, it’s no wonder he is so good at being a bad guy when called upon to do so. “The Head of the Table” has committed, or commissioned, his lackey Jey Uso to commit acts of brutality against enemies like Kevin Owens, Daniel Bryan, and the Mysterios. However, as meme-able as the image of Reigns tossing Dominik Mysterio like a beanbag in a game of cornhole is, Edge manages to take the violence up a notch even from Reigns and The Usos. While Reigns is no stranger to kendo sticks and steel chairs, on the July 2 broadcast of SmackDown, Edge brought out a distinctive and very heel-ish prop. As he had done to Reigns at WrestleMania 37, Edge trapped Jimmy Uso in a crossface submission lock with an assist from a broken chair leg across his mouth.
Edge masterfully upped the intensity, a massive feat when intensity is Reigns’s brand. In roughly one year, Reigns has put down big names like “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt, Braun Strowman, and Daniel Bryan. Just when no viable contenders for Roman Reigns’s Universal Championship seemed to exist, the 31x champion Edge stepped up, embodying unbridled viciousness and feral intensity. Anyone watching SmackDown for the last two weeks would readily believe that Edge can take Roman to his limits, as no one else on the roster currently can.
“The Rated R Superstar’s” ample aggression may outstrip Reigns just enough to make him look empathetic, as was the case in Bret Hart and Steve Austin’s classic WrestleMania 13 bout. The heel’s and the face’s fortunes reversed, with the globally revered and superhero-like “Hitman” coming off as a brute while “The Texas Rattlesnake’s” bloodied face garnered the sympathy of the crowd, sealing his growing popularity. Having his adversary unload on Reigns in an effort to coat him in the crowd’s pity has been tried before, such as his match against Wyatt at 2015’s Hell in a Cell. However, Reigns’s character work has grown since then, which will be an asset in creating moments of extreme contrast with Edge.
Family is a loaded word when uttered by Reigns’s character. He continually protests that his actions, no matter how morally ambiguous or even reprehensible, are done in the name of family. The Anoai/Fatu/Maivia/Johnson family are truly an inextricable part of the history of the WWE and pro wrestling in general, and the “Tribal Chief” character is determined that their family makes their mark in the 21st century WWE climate.
Reigns professes that he genuinely cares about cousins Jey and Jimmy Uso, but time and time again, he seems only to be interested in using family loyalty to manipulate the brothers into doing his bidding. While Jimmy has called him out on this in the past, he now seems to have joined his cousin’s regime as an enforcer like his twin. This is how he ran afoul of Edge on July 2’s episode of SmackDown, ending up at “The Ultimate Opportunist’s” mercy in the ring.
This incident could prove to be game-changing. Reigns has acted in The Usos’ favor, before, but Edge threw down the gauntlet with his attack on Jimmy, setting the ground for Reigns to, for once, actually act in the name of family loyalty. Defending Jimmy would be a noble motivation. Perhaps motivation is the very thing that Reigns’s previous face role was lacking: after The Shield, his only cause to fight for was himself, and for a variety of reasons that was a cause that WWE fans couldn’t find a believable reason to get behind. Fighting for family is the ultimate in believable motivations.
Edge vs Roman Reigns – In Closing
It seems risky to turn Roman Reigns face when he is breaking such ground with his new heel character. However, with an assist from a delightfully feral Edge, and thanks to Reigns’s own growth as a performer in the last year, it just might work.
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