On a recent episode of The Masked Man Show, David Shoemaker and Kazeem Famuyide had on former WWE writer and executive producer of “Young Rock” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Roman Reigns came up on the podcast, and Shoemaker asked Gewirtz what was The Rock’s reaction to getting booed at Royal Rumble 2015 when Reigns won The Rumble.
“It was sort of the same unspoken but spoken moment that I had with John Cena when the two of us watched ‘Marine’ privately in the offices of WWE,” Gewirtz recalled. “At the time, we watched it, and we just sort of gave each other a look. And then John’s like, ‘Let’s go get something to drink.’ It was kind of similar, a little bit, with the Royal Rumble that year, and if you notice, Dwayne, DJ, The Rock, he’s expert at reading the crowd.
“His connection to the audience is what he’s most proud of and why he comes back and why we’re doing our NBC show too. If you look at his facial expression, he will never be one to, like if the crowd is going one way, he won’t just ignore it. He kind of had the same look on his face if you noticed.
“It’s in all the stills too where he’s kind of listening to the audience reaction similar to his match with [Hulk] Hogan in Toronto at WrestleMania 18 where he’s like, ‘Hmm, interesting.’ We didn’t talk about it extensively afterwards, but it was obviously there. You’re not blind. We’re not going to sugarcoat it and go like, ‘Yeah, that Philly crowd. What are you going to do? Anyways, the audience really loves him.’ We heard it.”
Gewirtz explained that Vince McMahon’s approach to Roman Reigns was similar to how he treated John Cena. Gewirtz recalled many times when there was a push to turn Cena heel, and while McMahon had considered it, the end result made him convinced he made the right decision. Gewirtz believes that McMahon took the same approach with Reigns, but he noted that Reigns was getting different crowd reactions than Cena.
“Don’t get me wrong about Vince, he is the man and nobody works harder and nobody’s had more hits than him and continues to,” Gewirtz noted. “His work ethic and his passion for the business is unparalleled by anybody who’s ever worked in it, but sometimes, we all get tunnel vision, and I think when it came to Roman, the model was John because there were plenty of times where the writers would come in and be like, ‘Can we just turn John heel?’ With the ‘Lets go Cena, Cena sucks,’ can we do it? Can we pull the trigger, and it was something Vince never wanted to do.
“He considered it. He always considers all ideas, but ultimately, he didn’t want to do it, and I think in the end, he was like, to put it bluntly, ‘Thank God I didn’t listen to you’ as far as turning John heel because John’s the standard-bearer and made a ton of money for the company, and Make A Wish, and merchandise and everything.’ And Vince, I think, considered by not turning him heel, not saved the company but made a lot more money with him sticking to his vision as a babyface as opposed to taking the short-term approach by getting a pop in the ratings or a spike in interest by turning him heel. And I think the problem was I think he took that approach with Roman as well. I think it was the ‘don’t listen to people, trust your gut. Roman’s a babyface. He’s the new face of the company.’
“I can’t speak to this exactly, but whenever we wanted to turn John, it was like, ‘Okay, well who’s going to replace him? Who’s going to be the guy that’s going to go on the talk shows and be able to be the face of the company and want to do that kind of stuff as well,’ which is also a challenge. So that might have something to do with Roman, but obviously, at some point, you can’t ignore the reactions. And it wasn’t ‘lets go Cena, Cena sucks’ with Roman. It was pretty heavily boos, even if you always get their reports from the live events, and it would be like, ‘Wow, the crowd pop for the finish, and they popped on his entrance. And there was a section of people booing.'”
Gewirtz compared Reigns’ heel turn to Hulk Hogan’s heel turn noting that the decisions were the right one. He praised Reigns for his commitment to the role noting that he is enjoying his work with his character.
“At some point, obviously that mindset of we got to keep Roman babyface like we got to keep John Cena babyface, shifted and in this particular case, it’s like similar to when Hogan turned heel in WCW,” Gewirtz said. “That was the right move to make and teaming him with Paul, that essentially established it.
“Do you remember that time when he was a tweener where he’s like, ‘I’m not a good guy. I’m not a bad guy. I’m just the guy,’ and it was neither here nor there in terms of what he was supposed to be. So you come down with Paul Heyman and again, it’s all about commitment. You commit to being a heel, that’s going to be such a more highly effective way to convey that character than just kind of let the audience decide.
“Sometimes, we need to decide and kind of plant the flag in the ground and let the audience react to it. I’m so happy for Roman to be able to be a heel now and thrive like that because you’re seeing it. He’s loving every second of it. You could tell, at least that’s what it seems like.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit The Masked Man Show with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.