The Rise of Roman Reigns as WWE’s modern megastar

In this writer’s opinion, there’s absolutely no doubt that the best thing in WWE right now is Roman Reigns. He has an incredible, multi-layered, and deep character. It seems quite likely that his story is just going to get better in the months that follow. While fans and critics alike agree that he’s brilliant right now, it wasn’t always like this in the pre-pandemic world.

While there was always a legion of Roman Reigns’ fans in every city and his merchandise sold like hotcakes, there were just as many haters. Every victory had its share of detractors. A vocal section of the WWE Universe thought Roman Reigns was forced upon the viewers, and that he was overrated. So what changed?

In a recent interview, Triple H spoke about what the recent change in Roman Reigns’ character has done for the Universal Champion.

“[The change in Roman Reigns’ character] has shown [him] to be a major star, a household name. When you talk levels of The Rock, Stone Cold, or John Cena, this is Roman Reigns taking his place in the list of those names as one of the true greats of his generation.”
Since Roman Reigns returned at WWE SummerSlam 2020, fans witnessed a huge change in his character. Surely, this change could have happened at any time. Roman Reigns always had this potential in him. What makes it so special now? Why is it only now that he truly is the “Head of the Table”, the “Tribal Chief”, and the main man in WWE? Let’s take a look at why Roman Reigns has established himself as the successor to WWE’s all-time generational greats.

Roman Reigns has a lot in common with WWE’s megastarsThe Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and John Cena
The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and John Cena
Let’s look back a bit and talk about the other three people that Triple H alluded to in the aforementioned quote. When The Rock debuted as Rocky Maivia, he was considered a blue-chipper and the first major third-generation talent. He debuted as a standard babyface and everyone assumed it was bound to work. He got a massive push. But at the same time, he received a huge backlash from the fans.

Strangely enough, the fans fell in love with his character when he turned heel. This writer honestly thinks that The Rock is truly the best there is at what he does. To be able to go into any city, any arena, and insult people to get them to love him, even more, is something incredible. The Rock is still one of the best ever to talk on the microphone whenever he makes WWE appearances these days. Post-WWE, his career, and his persona are genuinely even more inspiring.

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After spending some time in WCW and ECW, Steve Austin debuted as The Ringmaster when he came to WWE. He was awarded the Million Dollar Championship by Ted DiBiase and management probably thought that he’d be a massive star. But the fans didn’t really care about him that much for a while. It was the now legendary ‘Austin 3:16′ promo that put him on the map. Austin cut that promo after beating Jake The Snake Roberts in the King Of The Ring tournament finals in 1996. After this, he was on fire. He had, in this writer’s opinion, the most incredible character ever in WWE. He remains one of the absolute favorite superstars for a large portion of WWE’s fanbase.

John Cena had a slightly different curve. After that incredible main roster debut against Kurt Angle where he ran with Mr. McMahon’s Ruthless Aggression motto, fans seemed to really like him. He got the nod from several senior superstars in the back as well. But soon thereafter, things stagnated until he took on his wildly successful Doctor Of Thuganomics character. For many fans, this was a super interesting and entertaining version of John Cena. But when the company changed its programming from the more risqué material to the PG era, he went back to being a clean babyface. While there were always a few people who didn’t like Cena, he truly carried the company on his back for many years.

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If you look at them all, they went through different phases in their careers, but there’s something that connects them all. The Rock, John Cena, and Steve Austin took a part of themselves and dialed it up to a 100 to really connect with their characters. They really lived their character, and most importantly, they were excellent on the microphone. This helped them to connect with their audiences, which is how all three men became the defining stars of their respective generations.

So let’s get down to it – what truly makes a WWE Superstar an icon? What makes them transcend sports entertainment to become a phenomenon, a global megastar, and a top marquee name? For this writer, it comes down to their ability to talk and their ability to act.

It isn’t enough for WWE Superstars or pro-wrestlers in any company for that matter to just be brilliant in the ring. There are a ton of wrestlers who are exceptional in the ring, but how invested are they in their characters? Can they make others invest in their onscreen personas? Can their characters be a reason why people want to come to watch an event, or buy merch? If the answer to everything is a yes to any WWE Superstar, then they may have what it takes to become a true megastar.

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Today, if there’s anyone for whom all of the above stands true, it is most definitely Roman Reigns. Ever since his return, his character development has been excellent. The Tribal Chief’s acting has been incredible and his promos have entered the must-see category. People want to know what Roman Reigns will do each week, what he’ll say, and whom he’ll feud with on the “island of relevancy”. Roman Reigns’ statements are becoming a part of pop-culture, which is a recurring trait in WWE’s megastars.

As Triple H implied in a quote that was mentioned several paragraphs ago, Roman Reigns is ready to take his place in the pantheon of the generational greats. A lot of WWE fans can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for Roman Reigns.

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