When The Star Gets Suspended


By: Connor Lenahan

You’re going to have to bear with me for a second. Imagine the ESPN explosion if LeBron James or Steph Curry was suspended for steroid use. Or if it was Aaron Rodgers, or Bryce Harper. We see suspensions come down fairly regularly – although with less frequency as of late. But the biggest names in sports normally don’t get popped for violating the rules.

Roman Reigns just bucked that trend.

Roman Reigns has been positioned as the heir apparent to John Cena as the headlining star of WWE. He’s what the company hopes turns into a Samoan Hulk Hogan, beloved by everyone. Up until Sunday night he was the reigning WWE World Heavyweight Champion, although his life and career has taken a 180 in the previous 48 hours.

Reigns lost his championship to storyline-rival Seth Rollins on Sunday night at the Money In The Bank event. Reigns has been pushed hard as a hero as of late, and the seams of the story show. The crowd has outright rejected him as a star, and the tide continues to turn against him as Reigns received a 30 day suspension for violating the company wellness policy.

There isn’t a definitive answer as to what he did to violate the policy, but marijuana use – the most likely cause for most wrestlers – essentially carries a fine. 30 days suggests performance enhancing drugs, and when you factor in that Reigns is the face of the company two things come to mind.

  1. It’s somewhat insane that Roman Reigns would get himself into this kind of a situation after spending two years as the main character on WWE programming. If he came out with a defense of “I wasn’t aware of what I was taking,” that would be one thing, but Reigns took the fall immediately this afternoon. “No excuses.” This was a man on increasingly thin ice with a crowd chomping at the bit for a different lead guy. Giving the company cause to question your reliability in wake of extremely poor reception from fans is downright idiotic. No excuses indeed.
  2. This is actually a really good look for WWE today. Their handpicked star failed a test and actually got suspended. The NFL can’t escape this, but WWE is scripted and not a sport. They have their own world and rules. Yet they took this seriously, bumping off a crazily-marketable character that is currently involved with the biggest storyline the company has to offer. Again, this is fascinating, because it also allows them complete cause to call an audible on Reigns as the main guy – seen on Sunday in effect when Seth Rollins defeated Reigns for the title, only to lose it to Reigns’s former tag-team partner Dean Ambrose. The former trio was set to fight against one another at once after years of build up, but focusing things down to Rollins and Ambrose has the chance to have an energized crowd unlike anything of late.

This is all incredibly nerdy wrestling fan talk, but this comes back to WWE’s life as a living television show. Game of Thrones throws out seasons fully baked and hope they hit. WWE can and now has to adapt on the fly. Losing someone of Reigns’s caliber is almost unprecedented (Randy Orton, a longtime star, was suspended 60 days a few years ago) and somehow makes WWE more watchable overall. What a truly weird outlet it is, to improve (potentially) by massive subtraction.