Today, at the Night of Champions PLE, marks Roman Reigns 1,000th day as the WWE Undisputed Universal Champion. This milestone is a throwback to a bygone era when long title reigns were more commonplace, but it somehow found its place in the current fast-paced and ever-changing landscape of today's wrestling.
Ironically, Reigns' achievement is all the more remarkable due to the unpredictability that surrounds it, something to which the WWE hasn't experienced in over a decade. Nobody could have foreseen the company pushing Reigns to the top, especially considering that he was once met with little more than eye-rolls when his entrance music hit.
Nobody could have predicted the extent to which Reigns would be protected as champion, leading to the creation of another world title specifically for Raw, just to ensure the appearance of a weekly champion. The entire situation is fascinating.
In this era of wrestling, where fans' attention spans are short and the competition extends beyond other wrestling promotions, the WWE faces a new set of challenges. Capturing the audience's interest amidst the distractions of smartphones and social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram are now where competition lies. However, whenever Reigns' music hits now, fans are compelled to reach for their phones, not to be distracted by them, but to document a moment in history. The days of eye-rolling have become a thing of the past for Reigns.
Reigns is the biggest star in the company.
Those eye-rolls have now been replaced with an awestruck reverence as fans, either in the form of cheer or jeer, acknowledge him where they wouldn't have before. And yeah, that's on the nose, but whenever Reigns shouts “ACKNOWLEDGE ME” to every crowd he appears in front of, he knows there was a point where no one would.
No one cared about ‘The Big Dog” when he came across as a pooch. No one cared about Reigns coming through the crowd draped in Shield garb and music without his fellow members with him.
WWE attempted to mold Reigns into their desired main star, employing tactics that lacked authenticity. It's a mistake that WWE has repeatedly made, aiming to recreate the success of the company’s first mega-star, Hulk Hogan.
This persistent approach is ingrained in the company's formula. Hogan, as the cornerstone of WWE, will forever remain the blueprint for WWE's attempts to establish a new top-guy, whether or not it aligns as the best course of action for that person's character or not.
Every attempt to rebuild Reigns as their top guy was yet another set-back for his character. The creative team threw every adversity, every hurdle, and every tactic at him in hopes of molding him into a fan favorite. But time after time, the fans resisted. They refused to be swayed or manipulated, standing firm in their refusal to embrace Reigns as the chosen one.
Then, when nobody was paying close attention —literally — WWE made a surprising move. In the midst of a global pandemic, with empty arenas and no live audience in sight, they changed the trajectory of Reigns' character.
If there was a silver lining to be found in the pandemic, it lies within the necessity for innovation and fresh perspectives. People were compelled to approach things with a newfound creativity, veering away from the comfort of repetition. WWE, too, had to adapt and revolutionize their methods of engaging the audience in the absence of a physical crowd. This unprecedented situation presented an opportunity to take daring risks, as there was little at stake without the immediate feedback of the fans. It was in this context that Reigns was allowed to be transformed into a captivating heel, ascending as the preeminent star of the company that we all know now.
Whether it was desperation, innovation or both, WWE has been completely caught off guard by Reigns' transformation. The stark contrast between the current fan engagement and the previous fan indifference is something they could never have anticipated. Much like Reigns holding the company's main title for 1,000 days.
Wherever this prolonged story goes, Reigns has done his job as a top-guy — and then some. He has surpassed all expectations, overcame bad, outdated booking decisions and yet, ironically, resurrected an ancient one simultaneously.
This 1,000-day reign may fall on Night of Champions but it’s really all about the night of one champion.