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    Monday, October 12, 2020

    Roman Reigns Brought Me Back to Wrestling

    Roman Reigns and Paul Heyman on WWE SmackDown

    Man, both my wrestling knowledge and writing are rusty, but here goes nothing.

    A long, long time ago, when everyone first seriously treated and addressed COVID-19 like the pandemic it truly was before the whole world stopped because of the pandemic, I took a break from wrestling. I didn’t just stop writing reviews for this glorious website—I actually stopped consuming any wrestling-related content, my first break from wrestling since... ever. This never happened before.

    It all started when WWE fired a huge chunk of their talent during a health crisis. As someone who barely survived a retrenchment, I took the news personally more than I should. I can imagine how devastating it feels to lose a job in these times. While the people that got fired eventually found new homes, I still can’t get over how heartless the firing was. 

    And the worst part? WWE admitted in a statement that they have half a billion dollars in available cash and debt capacity reserved to “manage the challenges ahead.” What’s more, WWE is being projected to still generate record-breaking profits by the end of the year. So what the fuck was the point of firing a bunch of people at the worst possible time?

    So I said, fuck WWE, fuck wrestling. Wrestling is stupid anyways. There’s a bigger world outside of wrestling and I started exploring that world. 

    For a while, I had an American Ninja Warrior high which led me to binge-watch Ultimate Beastmaster and other obstacle-centric reality game shows. This brought me to my current obsession: Survivor. With 40 seasons to catch up on, I was set for the next few years. I bid goodbye to my Netflix account for the meantime.

    So yeah, that was me literally a week ago. Now I’m here writing about wrestling again. And the kicker is that it’s about Roman freakin’ Reigns.

    Why Roman Reigns Brought Me Back

    It's simple: because it gave me the hope that every hardcore wrestling fan needs every now and then. You know what I mean, right? 

    Like, remember in 2011 when everything sucked and then one RAW later, CM Punk sat on the stage area and cut one of the best promos in wrestling history? I wasn't even on a break then and it gave me hope that things will get better in WWE. And for a while, it was—before they ruined it again with Kevin Nash and that goddamn text message. But do you see what I mean?

    Roman Reigns returning to the WWE was itself a huge deal. As one of the big names who voluntarily took a hiatus from WWE because of health concerns, seeing him back must mean that he felt confident working for the company again. Maybe they were really stepping up their COVID-19 protocols to the point that the immunocompromised top star felt it was safe to come back.  

    And in a weird way, that gave me the confidence to go back and watch as well. Seeing WWE give Roman Reigns all the right tools to build a legacy of his own is the hope I'm talking about. 

    Reigns finally got rid of the goddamn vest! That's something that always turned me off about him. It's like seeing someone drive a big-ass Harley with training wheels on the back. Who knew going topless made someone look cooler? God, this year is fucking weird.

    The fact that they're trying to erase the Big Dog moniker and replace it with one that's a million miles better, the Tribal Chief, is also something I can get behind. Good fucking riddance. Owning an entire island and leading a warrior tribe is way better than owning a mere piece of grassy-ass land at the back of a suburban home. Now that's a persona I can totally believe in. 

    Needless to say, Roman Reigns looks and feels like a proper megastar the WWE—and the fans as well—have always wanted. I can't even remember the last time someone breaking bad got everyone buzzing. Stone Cold? The Rock? Even Daniel Bryan heeling it up last year wasn't as buzzworthy, probably because we already know how good he is in any role. 

    I guess all these years of keeping Reigns face only for him to turn heel have now finally paid off. It took them long enough to get the formula right but it couldn't have come at a better time when the company's in shambles because of COVID-19. Roman Reigns turning heel and giving him the best storyline today will definitely bring back fans in droves. It worked on me.

    I'm at that point in my life where I prioritize my hobbies less. So to see something this bold and explosive from the promotion that brought us Retribution is impressive enough for me to say, "I guess wrestling's back in my life." At the risk of praising an evil corporation, I have to give credit to WWE for executing a storyline like Roman Reigns vs. Jey Uso in these trying times. I have no choice but to enjoy wrestling again. Don't look at me, I don't make the rules.

    Sure, they’ll probably ruin this one, too, in one way or another, so I’ll just enjoy the ride as much as I can. And I think that's basically the reason why I came back: because once a wrestling fan, always a wrestling fan. 

    Wrestling Will Never Stop

    Jon Moxley and Kenny Omega on AEW Dynamite

    Wrestling is stupid, that much is clear, but so are we wrestling fans. No matter how hard we try to un-love the characters, the storylines, and even the promotions, there's always that one earth-shattering event that will bring us back. 

    After catching up on the things I've missed, I don't feel bad about watching wrestling anymore. I now realize that there’s no such thing as an “ethical” wrestling company, or ethical consumption, for that matter. That was a fun afternoon of epiphany that I'll never take back. So the least you can do is own it and enjoy whatever it is you're consuming. I still want to feel good, dammit!

    In a perfect world, WWE would stop their operations for the safety of everyone in their company. In a perfect world, WWE talent will be treated as proper employees and no one will take their goddamn side money away.

    Sadly, that perfect world doesn’t exist and we’re stuck in this hellhole of a timeline. So fuck it, let’s just enjoy the show. Let’s just hope they’re administering the right tests, observing the proper protocols, and providing the necessary medical assistance to those infected. This isn’t exclusive to WWE, really. I hope the rest of the promotions out there are doing the same thing. 

    In order to stay sane, you just have to choose which part of wrestling to love and which part to ignore or criticize. Besides, there are far more choices out there when it comes to wrestling. If there’s one thing the pandemic taught me, it’s how to broaden my perspective. It's time to enjoy wrestling again with the same starry-eyed lens I used to back when I was a struggling high schooler. 

    I did exactly that by starting to watch AEW from Double or Nothing. I know it’s a tall order to backtrack one entire year of content, but it’s also exciting to explore yet another wrestling universe not owned by Vince McMahon. Now I know how cocky Joey Janela is, how good the Young Bucks are, how talented Kenny Omega is, and how bonkers Jon Moxley can be. Cero Miedo, indeed. 

    And if there’s another thing the pandemic taught me, it’s the importance of doing more. I plan to watch more, write more, and enjoy more. So yeah, I guess I’m a wrestling fan again. If the world’s gonna end soon anyway, I might as well die enjoying the things I love. And I have the Tribal Chief Roman Reigns to thank for.

    Photos from WWE.com and AllEliteWrestling.com


    Ricky Publico (@TeetotaleRicky) is Smark Henry's resident SmackDown reviewer...  for better or worse. A known lover of wrestling tournaments, he's a sucker for well-executed promos and fast-paced matches. While he enjoys nitpicking shows, he now prefers enjoying wrestling for what it is instead of stressing himself over things he can't control. He's still anxious about the future, now more than ever. 

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    Item Reviewed: Roman Reigns Brought Me Back to Wrestling Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Ricky Jay Publico
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