Folks, are we stupid?
That's a serious question; really, are we stupid? I mean, I'm a college educated writer with 10 years casual and 3 years professional experience. I've been known to play along with Jeopardy and sometimes even win. I mean, I don't feel stupid, or at least that stupid. But really guys, it's entirely possible that we might not have been able to see through the biggest long con in WWE history, and that is really fucking stupid.
WrestleMania 32 was, simply put, a very bizarre show. In fact, I've never seen anything quite like it in my twenty years as a wrestling fan. It seemed, as the Women's Title (a quick aside, those two words feel amazing clicking on my keyboard) match came to it's incredibly offensive close, the entire show seemed to come completely off the rails. The crowd was still high on Zach Ryder's win, but after seeing Ric Flair interfere for the umpteenth time in as many months, fans in the arena and at home knew that their biggest fears were about to be confirmed.
Roman Reigns would cinch the WWE World Heavyweight Championship by scoring a pinfall victory clean in the ring against then champion, Triple H. The celebration would be scored by the symphony of nearly 100,000 people booing him out of the building. In defiance, Reigns would hold the championship high above his head, displaying the biggest shit-eating grin I've ever seen. It was as though he finally accepts his place among the WWE Universe and he couldn't be happier.
“The Roman Reigns Boo-a-thon” would continue into Monday Night Raw where Roman "Clifford the Big Red Dog" Reigns displayed the same demeanor and repeated his antics from Sunday. By holding the belt high above his head and delivering the dickhead performance of the year, Roman looked more like a high school quarterback that had just banged the biggest slut on the cheer squad after winning his district's player of the year award.
It was magical.
For what seems like an eternity, seemingly the entirety of professional wrestling journalism has revolved around the idea that WWE is dead set on pushing Roman into the main event scene, so much that would sacrifice a Wrestlemania main event to put the belt on him, despite him getting booed at nearly every appearance leading up to the show.
If wrestling is about telling about a story, the fable being told is somewhat straightforward: Roman overcomes the odds to defeat authority. But what if that isn't the tale. What if we're looking at this all wrong. Is it possible that WWE has made morons out of all of us and played us for chumps? Perhaps this was all planned from day one.
Consider for a moment if you will rule number one of the Eric Bischoff doctrine: controversy creates cash, and lately nothing has been more controversial than Roman Reigns. Despite the enormous push back against him, numbers leading up to Wrestlemania haven't been as awful as expected. WWE Network subscribers are rising, albeit not as fast as WWE would like. But most importantly, we're still talking about it.
Roman Reigns has, for all intents and purposes, been a complete and utter disaster. At this point, even a hard heel turn isn't going to be enough to turn momentum in his favor. Yet, much like a train wreck involving multiple fatalities, we can't turn away. With heavy hitters John Cena, Randy Orton and Seth Rollins missing in action, putting someone in the position as Roman Reigns has seen himself in these last six months creates a very volatile and negative atmosphere, one that the WWE universe can't get enough of.
This question of “will they/won't they,” in regards to the big belt helped WWE coast into Wrestlemania. There were those in the Universe, myself included that were convinced that there was a near zero chance that Roman would leave champion. As I learned Sunday night, near zero doesn't mean zero.
We in the internet wrestling community need to remember a very important fact; Vince McMahon and company aren't stupid. There's no way they can't interpret the malaise that exists towards Roman as a character and the fans general feelings towards him holding the belt. Roman Reigns is Eva Marie.
Eva Marie's ascension in NXT is precedent setting for Roman's victory on Sunday. Recently, an NXT storyline involved the most hated female wrestler on the NXT roster facing one of the most popular women on the roster, Bayley for her NXT Women's Championship. WWE even went the extra mile, having Michael Cole provide a crooked ref for the occasion, making the whole thing a grand affair.
For those out of the loop, Eva Marie is hated by the WWE universe for much the same reasons as Roman Reigns. While not terrible to look at, in the ring both are absolute embarrassments, showcasing a level of ring awareness seen during the training portions of an early episode of Tough Enough. On the mic, both are complete disasters. For fans, possessing neither of the talents required of a successful professional wrestler is a sure fire way to get booed.
While the Eva Marie storyline clearly didn't go anywhere, it may have just been a dry run. Perhaps the boos raining down on Roman are manufactured. Is WWE playing the long game with Roman, giving us a bland, colored John Cena only to flash a hugely memorable heel turn, cinching his place in the WWE annals of history? If this is indeed part of some “New Coke” level plan, WWE is certainly taking one hell of a gamble.
Recent numbers indicate that viewership for the post 'Mania Raw is down nearly 3/4 of a million viewers from last year. That is a huge number of absent viewers for the biggest show of the year. Oh, and those inflated subscriber numbers? Those included people using the free trial to get a free viewing of Wrestlemania, the same show that saw the champion booed out of Dallas. The revelation of the inflated numbers is the same reason the stock has taken such a hit over the last few weeks.
The thought that WWE has pulled one of the biggest cons in history is certainly an interesting one, one that I must admit that even I find hard to fathom. However, in an period where we are still trying to process what exactly it was we witnessed this last Sunday, I'll grasp at any straw I can to make sense of one of the most confusing eight hours in the history of professional wrestling.