Reigns and Lesnar Have Undermined WWE's Vision of What it Means to be a 'Role Model'
While in college I worked at the medical center in my hometown. My days began with running post-birth specimens to the lab and ended with shoving bodies into our freezer. The job didn’t pay as well as those higher up on the hospital food chain, but I often had the chance to comfort patients, their families and in general, feel like I made a difference.
When another orderly in our department moved on to becoming a nurse -- which wasn’t unusual as most of us were studying healthcare in some way -- he was often seen as the ‘one who got out.’
Sure, they were still one of the guys and knew what it was like to wear our red polos, but a point always came when they stopped coming around, ceased being one of the guys, and was just another nurse; higher on the totem pole and no longer “one of them lazy, khaki-wearing slackers.”
In many ways though, that former orderly was one that made good and represented the potential of us all. This is why that, when one inevitably faltered, our department would take it pretty hard. One particular ‘graduate’ was found to be stealing medications from the floor, no more than a year into his tenure as a nurse.
The man lost his job, lost his nursing license, and wasn’t heard from again. Yet, the orderlies were constantly reminded of how someone who was “one of you guys”, as the nurses would say, messed up as expected.
That’s how the world works: If you falter and depreciate the value and worth of your company and those who look up to you, then everyone pays the price.
Yet, nobody seems to have a good explanation for Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, and each man’s infraction against the supposed WWE drug policy. Their breaking of the rules differ -- Reigns broke internal policy, Lesnar broke larger policy with UFC -- each one is a prime example of how the rules of the real world only apply in Vince McMahon’s reality when it is convenient.
The internal politics, as well as the outside view of how WWE handled both situations is fraught with double standards. Lesnar is, by and large, immune to any and all discipline due to the sheer amount of money WWE pays him, along with the all too readily-played “he’s just a part-time performer” card. Lesnar is also a dichotomy of how WWE treats and wants their product to be represented, paired against the realities of this man as a role-model.
No other performer on the WWE roster is given as much leeway, as Lesnar swears on live television, works a same-y, boring style, and appears on the cover of this year’s edition of the WWE 2K videogame series.
WWE sees Lesnar as a role-model, or at the least given the facade of one. Not just any WWE superstar gets their own children’s halloween costume, after all. Brock is rewarded over and again with the perks of being the top man in the company, yet has done nothing to deserve such a standard.
The consumers are lied to, the other performers left alienated, and WWE continues to send the message that their own rules and regulations are simply for show and have no reflection of values in the real world. The simple fact is that Brock wasn’t punished for his substance violation before his UFC fight -- or any assured violations he would have while working in WWE -- because it’s too late to go back.
The same is true in regards to Roman Reigns; too much time, money, and effort has been laid upon the Roman Reigns character at this point, and there is no going back. This is why a man who broke the rules and made a mockery of the dedication and work of his fellow wrestlers is continually rewarded, most recently with the United States title.
WWE assumes fans have forgotten about the Reigns drug violation, because WWE doesn’t respect the intelligence or maturity of their audience. The consumer will continue to consume, and if they don’t like the product they’ll leave, inevitably cycling back months or years down the road and having forgotten what rubbed them so raw in the first place.
In the meantime, the spice -- and the action figures -- must flow. WWE will continue to push Lesnar and Reigns as their best and most deserving, ignoring fan reactions and the common sense of crowd reactions versus their own fantasy land booking decisions.
In the end, it doesn’t matter that they both reflect poorly upon the product, the company, and their peers. Up is down. Right is wrong. Philanthropy is a marketing tool. Money trumps doing the right thing in WWE.