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WWE

The Shield stands victorious after Survivor Series.

Roman Reigns is in trouble.

Even after a few years atop WWE, tying Hulk Hogan's record of headlining four straight WrestleManias, Reigns seems shakier than ever in the eyes of its fans. That's because the company once again decided against staging his ultimate coronating moment — conquering the unconquerable Brock Lesnar — at two of those WrestleManias. And while it was understandable that WWE would opt for Seth Rollins' unforgettable Money in the Bank cash-in a few years ago, when Reigns was still unproven in the main event, it was baffling that Vince McMahon would again deny his chosen one this year. If there was ever a way for Reigns to dethrone Lesnar, that was it: His face masked by his own blood, his howl defiant and unbroken after six F5s and every other brutality Lesnar could throw at him.

It's probably because Reigns winning this year seemed like such a sure, dreaded thing that the shock of him not doing so has sowed doubt among WWE fans. And because those fans generally don't care for Reigns in the first place — feeling he's just the latest case of McMahon forcing his will upon them — that doubt has metastasized. The usual boos of opposition have given way to chants for literally anything else, even walkouts. Fans just seem frustrated. It's almost as if they're shouting, "What are you doing with this guy, and why are you wasting our time with him?" Of course, those sentiments have been articulated much better online. After Money in the Bank, where the ever outspoken Chicago met Reigns' match against Jinder Mahal with more hostility than just about any crowd in his career, Vice's Ian Williams said flatly, "Fans don’t want to see Roman Reigns and it no longer matters where he is in the card. ... Reigns does not, will not, and perhaps cannot get normal reactions anymore."

There's a chicken-and-egg element here, too: McMahon reportedly called an audible on Reigns defeating Lesnar at WrestleMania because he worried the Superdome would boo him out of New Orleans. Reigns is booed because of how badly McMahon books him, and McMahon books him even more badly because he's booed. So, naturally, after four years of this, Reigns is in a bad place. He's amassed a resume of terrific matches — AJ Styles, Seth Rollins, Braun Strowman, Daniel Bryan, the first one with Lesnar — but outside the ropes, he's toxic. And, in all likelihood, he'll continue to be.

One route to saving Reigns, however, is on his way back to WWE: Dean Ambrose. Reigns' former Shield brother, the one who didn't turn on him, has always brought out a likability in Reigns that probably stems from the two being good friends in real life. (I'm sure Ambrose being kind of a goof helps, too.) The few weeks after Rollins left The Shield, when Ambrose and Reigns were vengeful brawlers and drinking buddies coping with his betrayal, were fun as hell. Ditto their run together the following year, which culminated in them facing each other for the WWE World Championship at Survivor Series.

Somewhere in that bond with Ambrose could be the key to saving Reigns. It could be as lazy as another Shield reunion: Last fall's was the first time fans didn't instinctively boo when they heard Reigns' music. It could be Ambrose's long-rumored (and needed) heel turn: Ambrose is such a naturally rotten bad guy that he could give fans no choice but to cheer for Reigns. Or it could be Reigns who turns: His on-screen friendship with Ambrose has been so genuine that destroying it could ensure Reigns really goes bad, and doesn't just get cheers from fans who are happy WWE finally found a decent direction for him.

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Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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Features editor for The Citizen and auburnpub.com. I also cover local arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.