When rumors of a John Cena heel turn began circulating a few years ago, everyone and their grandmother had ideas on how the WWE should book the face (no pun intended) of WWE’s conversion to the dark side.
That’s when the idea of John Cena defeating The Undertaker at WrestleMania to end the streak, as well as the Deadman’s career, was born. I’m not quite sure who had the idea first, but many people, myself included, thought this was the perfect opportunity to make John Cena the most hated man in WWE.
You could compare that moment, at least the idea of it, to Hulk Hogan joining the NWO at WCW’s Bash at the Beach 1996 pay-per-view. Not only was this one of the most shocking moments in the history of the business, it also signified a shift in the entire culture of professional wrestling.
In many ways, being the bad guy became the cool thing to be. Bad was good, and if you were too good, you were effectively signing your own death warrant with the crowd. From that moment on, a large portion of the audience began to cheer for the bad guys while booing the good guys.
Hulk Hogan and his cronies spray painted “NWO” on the backs of our heroes, yet NWO shirts flew off the shelves. Stone Cold Steve Austin received overwhelming approval while committing some of the most dastardly acts to ever occur on WWE television. The Rock insulted everyone on the microphone, including crowd favorites, to the sound of massive ovations from the audience.
Speaking of The Rock, Hulk Hogan wasn’t the only person to turn heel and set the wrestling world on fire in 1996. When Rocky Maivia, the whitest of white meat babyfaces, did not get over with the crowd, WWE called an audible. When fans began to chant “Die Rocky Die,” Vince McMahon decided to go with the flow and give the audience what they wanted: something to be mad about.
Not long after, The Rock was one of the biggest stars in all of entertainment, transcending the world of professional wrestling and entering the hallowed ground that is mainstream pop culture.
Now imagine if Vince McMahon and the WWE decided to just keep going with the plan, assuming that fans would eventually get behind the Rocky Maivia character? No one knows if Dwayne Johnson would have ever blossomed into the star that he is today, but in hindsight, it’s very clear that they made the right choice.
Enter Roman Reigns. Reigns, a good looking guy who has really developed into an excellent in-ring performer, does not elicit the crowd response that WWE would like. More often than not, despite being positioned as WWE’s biggest good guy, Reigns receives one of the loudest negative reactions from the crowd of anyone in the company.
Sounds familiar, right? Roman Reigns is Rocky Maivia in 1996. Now, there is only one play in the pro wrestling playbook that we need: turn Roman Reigns into the most diabolical villain in WWE.
Then you have The Undertaker. The Undertaker, perhaps the biggest and most successful character in WWE history, is nearing the end of his career. His body is starting to give out on him, and even though he only performs a few times a year, he does not appear to have many matches left.
A large portion of the fanbase hates Roman Reigns. Many of whom do not want to see him wrestling The Undertaker at all. The idea that Reigns could possibly defeat The Undertaker at WrestleMania sends a lot of people into a frenzy.
Photo Credit: WWE.com
You see where I’m going with this. Roman Reigns defeating The Undertaker, in the most controversial fashion, no less, would establish Reigns as the biggest heel and most hated character in WWE. Many people would say that Reigns is already the most hated performer in the WWE, but this would be the gasoline on the fire that is Roman Reigns.
Imagine if Roman Reigns came out and destroyed The Undertaker, similar to the way Brock Lesnar abused and defeated John Cena at the SummerSlam 2014 pay-per-view. Fans would be irate.
Add that to the emotions that the WWE Universe will already be feeling as The Undertaker walks back to the locker room from what is presumably his last ride, and you’ve got Bash at the Beach 1996 all over again.
Roman Reigns has a great look, a magnetic personality, and is highly skilled in the ring. He’s got more size than most of WWE’s current roster, as well as a powerful and explosive moveset. He’s got all the tools necessary to be the perfect heel.
Here’s where things get funny. If WWE decided to go through with something similar to the plan I’ve laid out above, Roman Reigns could potentially be the biggest babyface in the entire company by WrestleMania 34.
If Reigns kicked ass as a heel for a few months, the portion of the fanbase that boo during his entrance every week would slowly start to cheer him over time. It wouldn’t take long before the cheers got so loud that WWE had the mega-babyface star that they have always wanted him to be.
I’m not saying that Roman Reigns is the next Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, or The Rock. What I’m saying is that he deserves a chance to be the biggest star he can be, because he has all the tools needed to be the next professional wrestling icon.