This is something that’s bugged me since the official College Gameday Twitter announced on Wednesday: I cannot figure out why Roman Reigns is the guest picker at TCU.
TCU’s campus is a less hostile environment for the current face of WWE than a typical wrestling crowd; Roman Reigns is currently the most divisive wrestler in the company, supplanting John Cena as the choice of company head Vince McMahon roundly rejected by a not-insignificant portion of the audience.
An aside — when audience backlash began mounting against Cena circa late 2005, I never would have guessed he’d go on to be a genuinely hilarious comedic actor. I watched Blockers last week, and Cena steals the show.
Back to the topic at hand: Maybe Cena’s a good template for Roman Reigns to gain traction among an audience not clad in Bullet Club shirts. Still, tabbing him for this particular Gameday was just odd.
Reigns has college football credibility, having earned All-ACC honors as a defensive tackle at Georgia Tech under his birth name, Joe Anoa’i. His Georgia Tech background’s well-established outside of wrestling — much more so than in WWE, which is a shame. I enjoy watching old Mid-South Wrestling and WCW shows wherein avid Oklahoma Sooners fan and Hall of Fame broadcaster Jim Ross weaves wrestlers’ college football backgrounds into the narrative.
Anyway, Roman Reigns’ Tech pedigree is recognized among college football media. The Universal Champion even visited the Yellow Jackets this summer, surprising them with new uniforms.
So … what’s his connection to TCU?
Based on what I could find, the most tenuous suggestion is that Gameday has adopted a wrestling theme for DFW. In 2014, the show debuted a new season at AT&T Stadium with former North Texas linebacker and WWE champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as the guest picker.
More likely: WWE hosts its Hell In A Cell card Sunday in San Antonio, a short flight from DFW, and Reigns’ appearance on Gameday is good, free advertising to an audience with some crossover. Were I a TCU fan, however, I would be disappointed that the guest picker did not represent my university. The campus ties of a mystery picker contributed to the aura of the show when it gained peak popularity in the 2000s.
Using the segment as a veritable commercial also speaks to the contemporary tone of Gameday (POWERED BY THE HOME DEPOT!), a show that after a quarter-century on the road, could use a shakeup. Destinations such as James Madison, North Dakota State and even a power-program that rarely hosts Gameday, like Ole Miss, provided the most memorable atmospheres of recent years.
A whole season visiting new and unlikely destinations — the Southern-Jackson State rivalry game; Lafayette-Lehigh; Pullman, Washington — would make for a cool dynamic the show’s never explored. Doubly so if the guest pickers represent the campuses visited.