Bobby Roode is two weeks into his main roster run on SmackDown Live, and so far it’s looking good for him. The former NXT champion made his debut on August 22, and now fans are waiting to see what happens with him on the blue brand.
But something funny happened on the road from NXT to SmackDown Live.
Roode is apparently now a babyface. The man that was so good at being so bad on WWE’s developmental brand is now popping the crowd and working heels on Tuesday nights. While it’s unclear where he will go from here, it does seem that the company is moving him in a new direction.
Is it the right direction, however?
WWE fans are likely split on this, mostly because Roode is such a natural heel. To imagine that an antagonist of his ability would suddenly switch with no warning seems ridiculous at best. But that’s not stopped WWE from booking him much differently than he was in NXT.
Only time will tell if the change is good for him.
This had to happen sooner or later.
In this modern era of WWE, heels just cannot remain heels for long. The more popular a villain becomes, the more likely it is that villain will turn babyface at some point. Merely inhabiting a character and playing the part is not enough anymore; fans want heroes, despite any argument to the contrary.
Fans booed Roode, but they wanted him on their side.
Now he is, and he’s more popular than ever. His gimmick lends itself to cheers, and it always has. Roode has lived in his own little world since coming to NXT; it’s a world in which he is ultimate perfection, and everyone else is just standing in his immense shadow.
Fans will either hate a guy like that, or they will gravitate to him because they just love how entertaining that guy is. The latter is true for Roode.
Roode’s new direction is good because SmackDown Live needs another strong babyface. Randy Orton, AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura are the three strongest protagonists on SmackDown Live, but there is room for one more.
The babyface Roode’s possible matchups include Baron Corbin, Kevin Owens, Rusev and Dolph Ziggler. Any of those opponents could work Roode, and look better as a result. Fans love Roode, and they will rally behind him despite which heel he works.
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Roode is perfect in this new spot, and as long as Jinder Mahal is WWE champion, it’s a great spot to be in.
Fans want to see Roode do well; feuding for the WWE Championship is as good as it gets. That feud may or may not be in the cards right now, but it’s one that would work on every level. Roode doesn’t need much time on the mid-card, he’s ready now.
One more main event star is a good thing for WWE, and for Roode, who’s worked hard to get it.
So what’s the plan here?
Roode is a heel. Period. It’s true that he can do anything, and it’s true that he’s talented enough to get over regardless of who he works with. But Roode was born to be a heel, and to book him any other way is not playing to his strengths.
Roode’s gimmick was working. There was no need to change it.
Now the entire dynamic of his character has been thrown off. Does he continue to live in his imaginary world in which he is the king, or does he begin rubbing elbows with other babyfaces and shaking hands with the crowd?
Does SmackDown Live truly need more babyfaces, or should it go with a heel that has the potential to be the best heel of the program?
Roode can get heat, no matter how popular he is. Fans love him, but that will change the first time he destroys Sami Zayn or Tye Dillinger. Roode is popular, and it’s fun for fans to sing along with his entrance music.
But will they still be singing once Roode sneak attacks AJ Styles and eventually takes his United States Championship?
Roode is entertaining; there is no doubt about that. But he’s also a natural born heel. That’s the role he must play on SmackDown Live, especially if Mahal loses the WWE Championship to Nakamura at some point.
Roode versus Nakamura would take on a whole new meaning on the blue brand because of their history in NXT. Roode took the NXT title from Nakamura, and that would directly play into their feud on the main roster. Fans know that Roode will work his way up, but they also know he’s bound for the main event.
Nakamura could be waiting for him when he gets there.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, iHeart Radio, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at boinkstudios.com
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