Two words: Roman Reigns. Two words: “I’m next.” It’s amazing the power that just two words can have, isn’t it? Of course, we’re talking about the man who delivered one of the all-time great promos in just five: “This is my yard now.” However many words he chooses to use, Roman stands behind them and delivers on them. This time, one could be forgiven for thinking he’s somehow managed to turn back time itself.
“Vince’s golden boy” ... “Shoved down our throats”. These phrases dominated the narrative of Roman’s detractors all the way up to 2018. Now, they’re back. In the past few days it’s been explained that Roman was never really over, that he was only getting pity cheers. House show reactions are ignored, and once again there are claims that the televised shows have cheers piped in. Full disclosure: there were faint chants of “you both suck” when Roman and Goldberg faced each other in the ring on Friday night. It was also incredibly obvious that this was a small group, and the chants did not catch on. It’s arguable that the only reason they could be heard at all was that much of the audience had fallen silent in anticipation of what Roman would say—which was met by cheers, just as his entrance music had been.
The funny thing is, prior to Super ShowDown, everything was different. One thing you have to understand about Roman; everyone claims to know what’s going to happen. They knew that he would immediately come back and challenge for the Universal Title. (Nope.) They knew that once he moved to SmackDown he would take the WWE title from Kofi. (Didn’t happen.) Once The Fiend had the Universal Title, it was obvious that Roman would be the one to win it back from him. (Demonstrably not.) This most recent claim actually spurred a counter suggestion, that instead of having Roman vs The Fiend, they could have Roman vs Goldberg. That, people said, would be the better match. Now that they’ve gotten what they wanted, it’s suddenly not good enough. Maybe because challenging Goldberg also means challenging for the Universal Title? We’ve gone from people complaining that the Elimination Chamber would be boring and predictable to being outraged that they skipped a match no one seemed to want. Roman didn’t earn the shot, they say. Maybe not in traditional sense, but who earns an open challenge? Because that’s largely what this is: Goldberg threw down the proverbial gauntlet, and Roman was the one to pick it up.
More disturbing is the vitriol that’s started to appear in the last day or so. A series of tweets first wishing injury on Roman, then defending the statement because they don’t want him to die. Another claiming that he’s in violation of the wellness policy, and being given steroids by WWE. Has wrestling fandom really sunk (back) to this? It’s fine to be passionate about a show, but this kind of hatred is bordering on obsession. It’s the kind of thing that tends to spill outwards, leading to supporters being harassed, and the stance that certain demographics don’t matter. I’ve often been accused of spreading negativity, but the fact is that this sort of thing should be called out. Until we collectively say that this is not acceptable, people like this are going to have the last word, and that’s bad for wrestling fandom as a whole.
Two final words: Be better.