WWE initially took the John Cena approach with Roman Reigns.
Former WWE writer Brian Gewirtz sat down with The Masked Man Show and spoke about his experience working with Vince McMahon and his hesitancy to turn John Cena heel. He also commented on Roman Reigns and what differentiated him from the 16-time WWE Champion. Here is what he said:
"When it came to Roman [Reigns], the model was John [Cena], right? Because there were plenty of times when the writers would come in and be like, ‘Can we just turn John heel?’ With the, ‘Let’s go Cena, Cena sucks. Can we do it? Can we pull the trigger?’ And it was something Vince [McMahon] never wanted to do. He considered it, he always considers all ideas but ultimately he didn’t wanna do it and I think in the end he was like, to put it bluntly, he was like, ‘Thank God I didn’t listen to you,’ as far as turning John heel because John was the standard-bearer and made a ton of money for the company and Make-A-Wish and merchandise and everything, you know?
And Vince I think considered that as, by not turning him heel, that saved the company — not saved the company but made a lot more money within 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. We don’t have –’ and I don’t know, I can’t speak to this exactly but like, whenever we wanted to turn John, it was like, ‘Okay, who’s going to replace him? Who’s gonna be the guy that’s gonna 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 always 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, ‘Let’s go Cena, Cena sucks’ with Roman. It was pretty heavily boos even if you’d always get the reports from the live events and it would be like, ‘Oh, the crowd popped for the finish and they popped on his entrance and yeah, there was a section of people booing but blah, blah, blah.’ At some point, obviously that mindset of, ‘We gotta keep Roman babyface, we gotta keep John Cena babyface’ shifted and in this particular case, it’s like similar to when [Hulk] Hogan turned heel in WCW."
Gewirtz, who now works alongside Dwayne Johnson at his Seven Bucks Production company, would continue on to say that putting Reigns with Heyman was the right decision and that he can tell how much Roman is enjoying this new role.