By Graham GSM MatthewsOctober 15, 2021
Universal champion Roman Reigns is at the head of the table and the top of the WWE mountain heading into a super-sized SmackDown.
Friday nights belong to Roman Reigns, and tonight’s super-sized SmackDown, airing on FS1 from 8 p.m. ET to 10:30 p.m., will be no exception.
The universal champion of 400-plus days is intent on making a statement ahead of his upcoming title defense against archrival Brock Lesnar at Crown Jewel on Thursday. It’s been a rocky road for Reigns en route to Saudi Arabia, but he promises to prevail and ensure he stays put at the head of the table.
It’s been a career year for Reigns on SmackDown, a show he has carried on his back since returning at SummerSlam 2020 following a five-month hiatus. He captured his second universal title a mere week later and has conquered every challenger who has stepped up to face him.
Having been synonymous with the success of SmackDown on Fox for the past two years, Reigns remaining on the blue brand in the recent WWE draft was academic. From the exceptional promo work to the masterful storytelling to the amazing matches, everything about his character is firing on all cylinders, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight to his historic run of dominance.
Ahead of a special, star-studded SmackDown on FS1, Reigns caught up with Bleacher Report to discuss his rivalry with Lesnar, why he bleeds blue, his iconic entrance music, standout matches of his from the past year and more.
What He’s Looking Forward to as Part of the Super-Sized SmackDown
It’s commonplace for SmackDown to be stacked with star power, but it isn’t everyday that the show is two-and-a-half hours long.
Reigns is ready to confront Lesnar one last time before they clash for the Universal Championship at Crown Jewel. The episode will also feature Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch, Sonya Deville’s return to the ring against Naomi and more King of the Ring and Queen’s Crown tournament action.
He looks forward to “completing the process” on what is essentially SmackDown’s go-home show for Crown Jewel. He recognizes that Lesnar is his strongest—both literally and figuratively—opponent to date and doesn’t plan on taking him lightly.
“I don’t know if there’s another competitor or opponent on [Brock Lesnar’s] level of legitimacy and certainly a huge threat to everything I’ve done for the last year and a half,” Reigns said. “To complete this process, take it home and then get out there to Saudi Arabia and knock out Crown Jewel. Hear that, ‘And still Universal champion,’ jump on the jet, head back to Wichita to knock out another SmackDown. To me, it’s like a weekly process, and you get in that groove and it’s on to the next thing. What’s the next thing?
“Completion becomes a nice box to check, but at the same time, it’s about being on the road in Ontario in the L.A. area. It should be an awesome time with great energy, and where we are now, going through a pandemic and the uncertainty we’ve all sort of faced as a society, I think we have to take advantage and enjoy the little things, the little parts of being a human being and just interacting and having gratitude for what used to be the normal things in life.”
Appreciating Having Audiences Back but Hating Travel
WWE has been back on the road for its shows since July, and it’s still surreal to hear a reaction—any reaction—from the fans every time.
Reigns consistently gets one of the loudest pops of everyone on the roster any time he walks toward the ring. He sorely missed performing in front of fans during the empty-arena era and hasn’t taken that for granted since returning to the road.
“I appreciate being in front of a live audience—there’s no question,” he said. “It makes everything better about what we do, all the way from the energy to the affirmation to the physicality. It doesn’t hurt. It still sucks doing what we do in the ring from a pain standpoint and the physicality portions of it, but when you’re in front of nobody, it feels terrible. continue reading
For the past 410 days, Roman Reigns has held the WWE’s Universal Championship. In that span, he’s successfully defended the belt against numerous legends. He’s adopted a new entrance theme song that makes him feel like the impossible-to-defeat final boss of your favorite video game. He’s appointed wrestling legend Paul Heyman as his Special Counsel. He’s formed the Bloodline alongside his cousins, Jimmy and Jey Uso. He’s become known as the Tribal Chief and the Head of the Table. Roman Reigns has done many things in those 410 days that have equated to one of the most impressive title runs that we have ever seen in the WWE. And he’s not done. At Crown Jewel, airing Thursday, Oct. 21 at 12 p.m. on Peacock, he faces one of his toughest tests yet, an angry, cut-off flannel wearing version of Brock Lesnar.
One thing is for sure though, Reigns remains unfazed, regardless of his opponent. He’s stacked two legends in Bryan Danielson and Edge on top of each other at WrestleMania 37 to pin them both at once. Just last month at Extreme Rules, he emerged victorious over Finn Balor despite him bringing back his fan-favorite “Demon” persona. Back in August at SummerSlam, he spoiled John Cena’s comeback to the ring when he pinned the all-time great for the three-count. Given Reigns’ continued dominance, it isn’t entirely surprising that he doesn’t appear shaken by his next opponent, even if Lesnar has proven to be one of the most feared professional wrestlers of all time.
“I’m better at this art form than everybody else. And I stand on that. That’s the totality of it. I’m not just talking about, ‘Oh, his spots are so good and he counters real well.’ That stuff don’t mean anything to me,” says Reigns. “When you tally it all up, nobody touches me in this business.”
At a time in pro wrestling where the landscape is constantly changing and WWE has what feels like its first legitimate competitor since the ‘90s (although Reigns would disagree) in AEW, Reigns has been a constant. For over a year, he has been hoisting the Universal championship belt over his head in victory. And that doesn’t seem like it will be changing any time soon. continue reading
By Justin Barrasso
Even with a new edge to his character, Roman Reigns takes great pride in being someone kids can look up to—especially those who, like him, have been diagnosed with cancer.
While it is not possible to see the world through the eyes of Roman Reigns, you will soon be able to wear his sunglasses.
Reigns has partnered with Shady Rays, which has created a new brand of sunglasses that feature his personal tribal tattoo on the arm of the shades. A portion of every sale is being donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a deeply personal cause for Reigns, who is in remission after two experiences with the disease.
“We created something that represents me and my culture,” says Reigns, who is Joe Anoa’i outside of the wrestling ring. “This is a product I believe in. Plus, we’re contributing on a charitable level through LLS, promoting and creating awareness, doing whatever we can to help families through a very tough time.”
Reigns and Shady Rays collaborated with famed tattoo artist Mike Fatutoa, who used his expertise to embed a piece of the WWE star’s heritage into the sunglasses. Reigns was first drawn to Shady Rays by CEO Chris Ratterman’s unrelenting desire to use his product to give back to those less fortunate.
“Shady Rays is using their platform to promote a product and a way of life with a positive outlook, which is my same exact goal,” Reigns says. “There are all sorts of struggles out there. The world and social media can be so toxic, so it’s very important to share the positive moments to create hope. I take a lot of pride in shining the light on the good.”
Honesty and authenticity are central elements of Reigns’s outlook on life. That is no different from the way he has modeled his current persona in WWE as “The Tribal Chief.” The prevailing theme throughout pro wrestling’s existence has been the battle of good versus evil, but Reigns is tweaking the formula with his “Head of the Table” character.
“Even though the ‘Tribal Chief’ and ‘Head of the Table’ can make me look like a bad guy, I still make it a point to remain very authentic,” Reigns says. “I’m trying to shine a different light on being the top guy in WWE. For so long, the guy in that position was a superhero, someone that was bulletproof. This is different. Seeing the struggle and the burden, I thought that could be something people connected with. We all bond through adversity, we all bond through struggle. We all understand falling down and the process that’s involved in getting back up. So that’s what we’re doing, showing a different view of it from the highest level possible.”
Roman Reigns isn’t the typical lead performer in WWE — and that’s by design.
He stunningly returned from a nearly five-month hiatus last year at SummerSlam. It was the start of a character overhaul. He went from the babyface “Big Dog” to WWE’s heel “Tribal Chief” and “Head of the Table.” The character, whose story has roots in Reigns’ Samoan family’s deep history in wrestling, has become a WWE game changer and one of the industry’s best storylines.
For six years Reigns tried presenting himself in the same way as past babyface WWE champions — similar to that of John Cena, his opponent at SummerSlam on Aug. 21 (8 p.m. Peacock) at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas — only face great pushback from the audience. WWE’s current Universal champion has now chosen to do it his way and break the mold in the process.
“I think I’ve absolutely changed up the dynamic of the top guy,” Reigns said in a Zoom interview. “Being the face of WWE, and the way I’ve displayed it and the way that we’ve betrayed it.
“As opposed to lying about it and being this superman, bulletproof character who’s got these flamboyant colors on. And come running out to the ring [and] everything’s happy go lucky and saying a whole bunch of stuff with this loud charisma that doesn’t really make that much sense, but sounded good because he had great energy. I did it differently and I made it very real and authentic. I’ve showcased the burden of what it’s truly like to be the face of a billion-dollar company.” continue reading
By JIMMY TRAINA
The WWE goes out of its way to be PG, so when something PG-13 makes it on air, it’s pretty shocking.
That happened a few weeks ago when WWE Universal champion Roman Reigns cut a promo on SmackDown comparing John Cena, his upcoming opponent at SummerSlam on Aug. 21, to the missionary position.
The risqué line was enhanced by Reigns’s fantastic delivery.
While many people, including myself, loved the creative shot Reigns took at Cena, the WWE ended up editing the line out of its replays and social media video clips.
“There’s a portion of my career where I’d either read a script or I’d try to adjust a script as much as possible,” Reigns said, “but for a while now, especially since I came back from my little leave at the beginning of the pandemic, since SummerSlam, I’m not scripted. I say what I want to. I say what I feel. If it comes out of my mouth, it’s my verbiage. I come up with it. I deliver it. And that’s why it’s been the way it’s been, because it’s mine.
I don’t know why they edited that out. I think it did raise some eyebrows, but I don’t get in trouble. The gimmick is as close to being real as possible. Even if they tried to say something to me, I wouldn’t have cared anyway. What are they gonna do? Not have me on SmackDown next week? Like I did before SummerSlam during last summer, I’ll go home. It doesn’t matter to me. Let’s see how it goes without me.”
To hear that Reigns isn’t scripted is pretty significant, and it shows the faith the WWE has in his being the top guy in the company.
Reigns, of course, was not scripted on the SI Media Podcast, and later in the interview he issued an important clarification, saying, “Let’s throw a little respect on missionary. I think we can all agree that any position is a good position.”
There has also been a lot of speculation about Reigns’s main-eventing next year’s WrestleMania in Dallas against The Rock. However, with WrestleMania in Los Angeles two years from now, Reigns threw out a different theory.
“Do we do it now or do we wait until we’re in his backyard of Hollywood? It just adds to the narrative. It adds another dynamic to speculate on. Obviously, AT&T Stadium, Dallas, home of the Cowboys, 100,000-plus fans can be in attendance, that’s obviously an awesome scenario, but SoFi Stadium, brand-new facility out there in L.A., hmm, that makes quite the argument in its own right.”
Other highlights from the SI Media Podcast interview with Reigns:
- Why he doesn’t have a desire to be famous
- Is he one of these celebrities who doesn’t shower often?
- His thoughts on John Cena’s The Suicide Squad
- How hard it is to keep it together when Paul Heyman is cutting a promo
- Stephanie McMahon’s backstage reaction to taking a spear at WrestleMania in 2017
You can listen to the full SI Media Podcast below.
Roman Reigns appears on The Pat McAfee show to promote SummerSlam and he talks about his rise in WWE and life challenges.
Galleries: The Pat McAfee Show 8/11/2021
Triple H Gives His Take on a Successful ‘Money in the Bank’ here are excerpts from the interview:
WWE delivered an outstanding Money in the Bank pay-per-view on Sunday, creating memorable moments and laying the foundation for the development of new stars. The card finished on the highest note possible, with the legendary John Cena emerging to interrupt Roman Reigns and send the crowd home overjoyed following his memorable return.
Beginning with Friday’s SmackDown, WWE’s shows have been permeated by a distinct spirit and energy thanks to the return of a live crowd. This was palpable during Cena’s return at Money in the Bank, which was perfectly timed to take place after a lengthy match—and its aftermath—featuring Reigns, Edge, and Seth Rollins.
“There are lots of moving parts in a match like that,” Levesque says, speaking with Sports Illustrated on Monday afternoon. “Roman Reigns and Edge needed time for their story to play out, and you want people to invest to the point where they forget about anything else. Seth Rollins needed time to make his point. You need to allow all the moments time to breathe. The goal for everyone involved is to be so good you make people forget about everything else.
“Those rumors you might have heard about who could show up, or what may happen, our goal is to make you forget about those. Be so captivating out there that you make people focus only on you. Get everyone so caught up in the moment, and that’s what Roman, Edge and Rollins did. Then, in this case, when you’re focused entirely on what’s happening in the ring, that’s when Cena comes out.”
Levesque was impressed with how Reigns helped elevate that moment for Cena with his reaction to the surprise appearance. The scene saw Reigns, who has been carrying the company throughout the pandemic as its champion, watch Cena, this returning conquering hero, staring on with a perfect blend of exhaustion and frustration in the ring.
“Roman is the biggest star in WWE, he’s the biggest star in the industry,” Levesque says. “He perfected his craft at a really hard time to do so with no fans. He put so much into his character work, and his reaction to Cena was as powerful as the moment itself.
“Watching that, I couldn’t help but think back to how long he’s been doing this and some of the tougher times he’s been through. Right now, he’s performing on a whole other level. He’s at the point where he is no longer thinking about the character, he just is.”
credit: Justin Barrasso @ Sports Illustrated