Roman Reigns’ Bulletin Board Material

You never want to give an opponent bulletin board material.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the cliches in sports about “bulletin board material,” when someone gives their opponent extra motivation and can end up with egg on their face in the process. Being a native of Western Pennsylvania, one famous example of this in steel city sports culture was the 2005 season when the Steelers finally won the “one for the thumb,” the fifth Super Bowl championship in franchise history. While they would repeat the process a few years later under Mike Tomlin, the team was in a much different place in 2005. Bill Cowher, who was just inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame a few weeks ago, had nearly a 15-year tenure as the head coach with levels of success, but had yet to secure the elusive Super Bowl ring. The Steelers were a sixth seed that year, putting the odds against them, as they would have to go on the road if they wanted to make it to the Lombardi trophy. As the story goes, the night before the AFC championship game, a battle against division rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, Cowher showed his players a clip of Bengals receiver, T.J. Houshmandzadeh wiping his cleats with the Terrible Towel when the Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh a month earlier. The black and gold towel, a rally item of Steelers fans, is considered mandatory for those that support the team. A quick note side, the concept of the Terrible Towel was invented by the legendary late broadcast Myron Cope, who donated the trademark of the towel to a school for severally handicapped children so every sale of the towel has kept the school funded for years.

For whatever reason, when an opponent insulted the towel in the past, the Steelers were able to make a comeback and win in the biggest game possible. Houshmandzadeh regretted his insult of Cope’s towel as the Steelers avenged the regular season defeat with a 31-17 playoff win before they went on to win the Super Bowl that year.

Clearly, Houshmandzadeh shouldn’t have given his opponent bulletin board material.

In an interview with Ariel Helwani to promote this weekend’s Summer Slam card, Roman Reigns provided some bulletin board material when he spoke on CM Punk, who is set to debut on tonight’s edition of Rampage in his hometown of Chicago. Reigns referred to Punk as “people that thought they were better than they actually were” and added that punk “wasn’t as over as John Cena” or “didn’t move he needle like The Rock.”

Joe Anoa’i, the real-life Roman Reigns, seems to be a nice guy, he uses his position as a star in wrestling to help charities, and he’s a great representative for WWE. I’m not trying to take anything away from his accomplishments, but his statements about CM Punk are just silly and make him look bad in the interview. I’ve written entire articles about the misuse of CM Punk in the WWE so there’s no reason to repeat every detail here, but just the broad points prove how ridiculous Roman’s statement was during the interview. As we know, WWE brass never wanted to run with CM Punk, and even when he had a world heavyweight title run earlier in his WWE tenure, he was often booked in the middle of the card as secondary to the WWE championship. It took Punk legitimately willing to leave the champion when his contract expired in 2011 before the promotion gave him the opportunity to be the top guy. On the flip side, because Roman was the chosen star, management spent years trying to push him as the next John Cena and it completely flopped. Granted, Reigns has done the best work of his career in the past year with the heel turn, but he really shouldn’t be the one to comment on who is as good as they might think they are as a draw. How many other wrestlers got a continuous push for 4-5 years the way that Reigns did?

It’s ironic that Reigns mentioned that Punk “wasn’t as over as John Cena” since he wasn’t really given the chance to get to that level. When CM Punk cut the pipe bomb promo, it was the first time in a decade that main stream media outlets were talking about professional wrestling, and as I’ve said before, the WWE had a chance to make Punk a main stream star, a rare opportunity based on the past two decades of the industry. Punk beat Cena in a tremendous bout at Money in The Bank that year and it was one of the most memorable moments of the modern era. Plus, it proved that John Cena can go bell-to-bell in the ring. But then what did management do? They completely killed off any of the momentum that Punk had from the pipe bomb promo. They had him lose the WWE title a month later and a month after that Triple H pinned him. If the rebel loses to the authority figure and then the member of management goes back into semi-retirement, the narrative is that the corporate team won. You could definitely argue that there was a time when CM Punk was as over as John Cena, but if he wasn’t then it was based on the fact that the script was written to make sure it didn’t happen.

As far as moving the needle like The Rock, outside of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who is retired from in-ring action, who exactly is going to move the needle like The Rock? Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair can boost ratings for a week, but they are commonly associated with Raw so even the two biggest stars of the previous generation won’t move the needle like The Rock. What’s ironic is that Roman Reigns won’t move the needle like The Rock either.

The bottom line is, Roman Reigns’ comments do nothing to help the perception of himself or the WWE. If he’s right and CM Punk doesn’t move the needle for All Elite Wrestling then it was expected so it’s not as though it’s an accomplishment for WWE. On the other hand, if CM Punk does move AEW’s numbers than Roman has egg on his face for these comments. I doubt Reign’s comments will make a difference to CM Punk, but those statements give fans even more of a reason to rally behind AEW as a promotion. Let’s be honest here, the WWE is the billion dollar corporation that released dozens of wrestlers during a global pandemic while the company touted record-setting profits on the conference calls. At the very least, despite some of the critics’ valid points about AEW, the company has good will with the fans because it seems that Tony Khan genuinely wants to improve the sports entertainment industry. It’s generally agreed upon that All Elite Wrestling is on an upswing and has momentum as they are getting ready to sign two of the biggest stars of the modern era with the addition of CM Punk tonight and Daniel Bryan in a few weeks. Does Roman Reigns really want to give fans more of a reason to want to see an alternative to corporate wrestling?

You never want to give an opponent bulletin board material.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta