Will Roman Reigns vs AJ Styles finally earn The Big Dog some respect?

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It's no secret the WWE have tried just about everything they can think of to get Roman Reigns 'over' with the WWE Universe. The fact they've pushed so hard is a huge part of the reason that the crowd turned on him in the first place.

Go back to The Shield era Reigns, and you'll hear positive crowd reactions, even immediately post-Shield, the crowd were mostly behind him. It was only really after his return from hernia surgery, late 2014, that the WWE Universe began voicing their objections to his perceived push. From there, crowd reactions just got worse for Reigns and, after Seth Rollins' injury caused WWE to make Reigns their immediate plan A, those objections went stratospheric.

So what are the objections? Well, the main one seems to be that The Big Dog has been pushed before he's 'earned it'. He doesn't have the long, successful indie career behind him that the names touted as more deserving have. He can't change that, and while he's acknowledged that it put him at a disadvantage when he arrived in WWE (through the FCW developmental strand) in 2010, he also stated clearly that it gave him the incentive to work harder.


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His work rate certainly doesn't seem to be in question. In the 'Destruction of the Shield' DVD Paul Heyman commented that 'No-one is more coachable than Roman Reigns, and he picks it up like that'. In fact, look at just about any interview with someone in the know and you will hear them talk about Reigns' work ethic and, most of all, the speed of his improvement.

Which brings us to the second objection; Roman Reigns isn't good enough in the ring. I can see where this came from. There's no doubt at all that when the Shield first appeared on the main roster, in 2012, Reigns was green, something unfortunately highlighted by the extremely talented and experienced pro wrestlers he was teamed with.

Sadly, many fans seem to have taken a mental snapshot of those days and refused to believe evidence which contradicts it. The truth is, Reigns has been improving steadily since his arrival in WWE, gone is much of the awkwardness of his early appearances and his move set has increased alongside his competency. He's good. Sorry if that's an unpopular thing to say in the current climate but it's true.

The current feud with AJ Styles has been a stroke of genius on the part of WWE. The chemistry the two of them have built has led to some great promos and some great encounters in the ring.

There are few people who would argue against AJ Styles as one of the current best pro wrestlers, and Reigns is holding his own in this feud. Let me be clear, I'm not suggesting Roman Reigns is on a par with AJ Styles skills wise, but he isn't carrying him, as some of the most critical sections of the internet have suggested, they are working together and it's really very good.

The most interesting thing is the effect this feud is having on the crowd. The boos when Reigns enters the ring are just as loud as ever, although some cheers are creeping in. But during matches with Styles things get a lot more mixed.

There have been duelling chants of AJ Styles - Roman Reigns, and even some boos directed at Styles. It's not universal acceptance by any stretch of the imagination, but it's more progress than any other tactic WWE have tried. It's certainly an improvement on Jerry Lawler shouting 'It's fun to boo Roman Reigns, he doesn't mind'. Delivering consistently good matches against a well-respected opponent may just be the key to turning the opinion of the booing masses.

There are, admittedly, still issues with Reigns, many of them caused by WWE themselves. His mic work is often cited as a problem, and it's hard to argue with that - most of the time. But that's a scripting issue, a problem of authenticity. Given something to say that has an ounce of integrity or someone to work with that he has chemistry with, and Reigns is fine on the mic. Not amazing, not brilliant, but fine. He'll improve with time.

There are many calls for Reigns to be turned heel, but I disagree. WWE have him set in as the Cena-esque company guy who loves the brand but doesn't always agree with the management. Considering a major section of his fanbase is the younger viewers (and, let's not avoid the issue, a fair few of the mums as well), long term this role is a good fit for him.

He is vocally family friendly, popular with make a wish and seemingly keen to devote his time to the good causes WWE are rightly proud to work with. He has the legacy WWE have tended to favour, wrestling dynasties don't come much bigger than the Anoa'i family, he has the look WWE like, and he's PG friendly. From a company standpoint, he is pretty much everything WWE could ask him to be. 

Love him or hate him Roman Reigns will be a great ambassador for WWE for years to come.

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Roman Reigns
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