Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

“I’m Not Playing a Character. I Am The Character” – WWE Evil: Roman Reigns (Review)

4 min read

, the first original WWE series for , which also happens to be produced and narrated by John Cena, explores eight iconic WWE characters that occupied the ‘dark side' with great impact. It's only fitting that this series concludes with the premiere heel in WWE, and possibly all of professional wrestling, ‘The Tribal Chief' . Out of all the WWE Evil subjects, Reigns' transition to the dark side is the most recent, but his impact rivals, if not surpasses his fellow subjects. Also, his journey from Vince McMahon's hand-chosen favourite to the ‘Island of Relevancy' is a natural one, fuelled by WWE's missteps, disrespect from fans, and a desire to unleash what's within. Director flourishes by staying true to the narrative and adding the necessary additions to enhance the final product.

Evil's finale kicks off by diving into the roots of Roman Reigns, where many of the eventual Tribal Chief's seeds were planted. Reigns recounts being born into the wrestling business as part of the famous Anoa'i family – and his cousins Jimmy and Jey Uso share how their cousin's alpha male attitude has always been prevalent with stories like Reigns throwing a basketball over a fence.  It's also here the current Undisputed Champion states that he always felt: “I was destined to be somebody.” The brief exploration into The Tribal Chief's childhood effectively provides audiences with many of the foundations they now witness on WWE television. Highlighting how Reigns' early words in the documentary: “I'm not playing a character. I am the character,” are apropos.

Since late 2018, one of the more well-known aspects of Reigns' career is his battle with leukaemia. In WWE Evil, his battles with leukaemia – which were undoubtedly devastating – are used as transition points for how Reigns ultimately became ‘the guy' (or villain) of WWE. His first bout of leukaemia came after having signed with the Minnesota Vikings – ending his football career but paving the way for his career in professional wrestling. He would eventually join Jimmy and Jey Uso in WWE's then developmental territory, FCW, where he would portray a heel. Almost immediately, Reigns was viewed by many in WWE as a blue-chip prospect thanks to his incredible look, family pedigree, and natural athleticism. This perception would help him join Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose in the popular a**kicking faction, . But WWE's eagerness to anoint him as the next top singles babyface would prove to be another stumbling block.

The fan rejection of The Big Dog was one of the more fascinating stories in professional wrestling, and Evil does a wonderful job recapturing the truly volatile hatred that Reigns had to endure – through little fault of his own. The episode recaps these years by showing moments like the RAW after WrestleMania 33 (where Reigns defeated The Undertaker). However, what makes these recaps all the more impactful is the excellent insight from various interviewees, particularly WWE Vice President/WWE Creative member Ed Koskey. Koskey gives the Vince McMahon perspective by describing how Reigns' appearance made him the ideal WWE superstar and how Cena's success made WWE (and McMahon) persevere with this new babyface experiment. But what Koskey also does, is acknowledge the error of their approach. Alternatively, other interviewees powerfully provide the emotional element of this episode and allow us to sympathise with our subject, as they explain he did little to deserve the boos. It went so far that fans even booed Reigns after he recovered from his second battle with leukaemia – leaving him hurt and pondering his future.

“After nearly a decade, as his love-hate relationship with the WWE Universe finally released the demon within.” – John Cena

Coming full-circle, the current incarnation of WWE's top star is then spotlighted and celebrated. We see how all the elements that have always existed within Reigns are finally on display. A point hit home by David Shoemaker stating, “He's purely who he is.” But by aligning himself with Paul Heyman and utilizing the unjust hatred he received from fans, he has cemented his position on the evil side of WWE. It's a wonderful conclusion to the episode and a great illustration of the cream rising to the top.

Reigns' journey to the dark side makes up the bulk of this episode, and the success of his current persona is simply a satisfying finale. It's a captivating and surprisingly emotional episode that's only briefly let down by WWE shifting the blame onto fans as opposed to their own creative when it comes to Reigns' earlier failures. However, this is expected in a WWE-driven vehicle. Overall, this is a fitting culmination to WWE Evil, and in true pro wrestling fashion, it concludes by dangling the carrot of a future showdown between Roman Reigns and The Rock.

All pics, videos, and tweets are courtesy of WWE, Peacock, and Paul Heyman.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *