What Does Reigns’ Hiatus Mean For WWE?

(Photo Credit: WWE)

A few waves were made online when reports surfaced that Roman Reigns, the current WWE champion, is scheduled to work a fewer number of events going forward after he inked a new contract with the organization. Specifically, The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer noted that Reigns isn’t advertised for a majority of the events that are scheduled within the next few months.

Could this be an indication that Roman might be winding down his full-time career?

I have to say, anything is possible, but I highly doubt that Roman Reigns is going anywhere, as far as a commodity for the WWE corporation. If that’s the case then the majority of the speculation is moot. On the flip side, just considering the possibility of the company without Roman Reigns for an extended period of time does expose some of the potential flaws in company philosophy.

Again, to be clear, Roman isn’t going anywhere. The guy was shoehorned into a role as the next John Cena instead of being allowed to become the first Roman Reigns, and now that he was able to evolve as a performer, he’s doing the best work of his career. Roman is in the prime of his career and is in a position to continue to make top money for at least the next few years so it wouldn’t make sense for him to leave the featured spot right now.

That said, the office, particularly during the forced baby face pushed, overlooked several key talents that were more over and at a peak in favor of Reigns. It might seems silly to say this now when Braun Strowman is controlling his narrative in front of fifty fans in a small venue, but in 2018, he was poised to be the most over star on the roster. At Wrestlemania that year, Brock Lesnar beat Roman in the main event. Braun won the tag titles with a fan from the audience. Bray Wyatt, who was still one of the top merchandise sellers despite the WWE’s best efforts to minimize his status, was very popular, but was ultimately used to put Roman over during their feud a few years ago. Samoa Joe had a very brief tenure in the main event scene because regardless of how over a performer got with the audience, they were secondary to Reigns.

Ironically, but not surprisingly, when management turned Reigns heel to allow for a more organic presentation to his character, he became the top star that they tried to force toward the audience previously. So yes, after six years of a failed baby face push, the WWE finally has its corporate star as a top heel. Obviously, Roman checks all the boxes for the publicly traded company. He’s an extremely talented performer, he’s a good representative for the organization, and he’s tailor-made for main stream media appearances.

The downside of all of that is that several very talented performers had their momentum sacrificed so that nobody shined brighter than Reigns during the baby face push that flopped. As a result, the company’s level of legitimate star power is minimal. Without Roman Reigns as the center piece, who does the WWE have on the current roster that is a money-drawing star? Granted, the argument could be made that even the concept of drawing money is secondary in the modern WWE because of how much cash is guaranteed through its television deals, but the fact remains that those deals expire in a few years so the promotion will need the star power.

As I’ve said several times before, I really think that the vast majority of the WWE business plan was based on the short-end money that would sacrifice more potential revenue in the future. Again, outside of Roman Reigns, how many stars has the WWE made in the past five years? All the biggest names are either part-timers or stars from the past that draw based on nostalgia. Even as recent as this year in the WWE, the structure of the product made it very clear that if an angle didn’t involve Roman or Brock, its importance to the product was rather minimal. Proof the the company’s lack of legitimate money-drawing stars was that 57-year-old Stone Cold Steve Austin had to work the main event for one of the shows to boost ticket sales for the stadium.

The much bigger problem with all of this is, if Roman Reigns isn’t on the show, who gives the fans a reason to tune in? More importantly, how does the WWE draw for these stadium shows in five years?

The total focus on Roman and Brock has already had an effect on the program because there aren’t credible contenders for the championship. Drew was hindered by a feud with Jinder Mahal last year and then was booed for a Happy Corbin rivalry that was meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Sure, Drew is a very good competitor, but is there a demand for him in the title picture?

Truthfully, this is a wise move for Roman Reigns. If he has the leverage to get a better deal for himself then he should do it. If he can save the extra toll on his body by working less events and skip the travel then it’s a smart decision for him. Maybe the company will present some of the athletes that are getting over with the audience in a better way in the future to allow for more depth on the roster. Assuming Roman isn’t featured on some pay-per-views within the next few months, outside of ticket sales, the actual PPV aspect won’t be affected. Keep in mind, the Peacock deal pays the WWE a guaranteed amount of money for each event regardless of the amount of people that actually watch it. In many ways, the company has a “safety net” as far as the “premium live events” during the duration of the Peacock deal.

Still, the scenario of the WWE product without Roman Reigns reveals how thin the roster is in terms of star power, which is also ironic because the argument could be made that the current roster might have the most in-ring talent in the history of the company. The concern is how does the WWE land a deal anywhere close to their current record-setting TV contract after their deal expires in 2024? The ratings are sluggish and quite frankly, Raw doesn’t maintain its numbers against other sports competition.

Right now, this news amounts to Roman taking a few months off, and to be fair, the heel title reign has worked so well that there’s no reason to rush anything. He’s not stale as champion, but as mentioned, doesn’t have any credible challengers so it might be better if a contender was pushed during his time away for a potential title bout at Summer Slam. Based on the direction of Raw, it looks like Cody might be the guy to dethrone Reigns, which could be the right decision, but that doesn’t do much for the bigger picture. The modern era of WWE was built around Brock, Roman, and nostalgia. The biggest takeaway from the Roman Reigns hiatus might be that management should focus of how they present, Bron Breakker, Gable Stevenson,and Rhea Ripley for the future.

What do you think? Share your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised on Twitter @PWMania and Facebook.com/PWMania.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta