June 27, 2020
After opting not to perform in the ring during the COVID-19 pandemic, the WWE superstar talks about preparing for a return to the ‘new normal’ in wrestling
Roman Reigns (real name: Leati Joseph Anoai) has reason to claim that he is one of the most prolific names in sports entertainment, be it his controversial career graph, his immaculate success inside the ring, or his inspiring story of beating leukaemia and returning to action. Earlier this year, the former WWE champion made the headlines for opting out of performing in the ring for WWE due to COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in the USA, even though the sports entertainment outfit was deemed an essential business.
When Reigns pulled out — he was set to face-off against veteran wrestler Goldberg in a championship bout at Wrestlemania before being replaced by Braun Strowman — there was speculation over whether it was for health reasons or if he had a fallout with his employer.
However, the 35-year-old clarifies that he is in perfect health, and that he took the decision as his wife (former athlete and fitness model Galina Becker) was expecting twins, and he did not want to expose his family to the virus.
In an exclusive interview with MetroPlus, Reigns talks about balancing fatherhood while keeping his fitness routine intact at home as he prepares to make a comeback into the ‘new normal’ that awaits him at WWE.
Congratulations on the twins. How has the last couple of months been as a father?
It’s been tough… it is hard to get two babies coordinated and on the same schedule, so that they don’t keep you up all night! They seem to have this little trick they like to play at about 6.30 in the morning, that is when I really wake up bright-eyed and ready to go… but it has been great. It has been a great blessing to have two more additions, and to be able to expand our family tree.
How important was it for you to clarify that you were not performing during the pandemic, because you did not want to put your family at risk?
For me, I just had to make a choice for my family. The company (WWE) has done everything that they can to make it the safest work environment possible. It is not the workplace that I was necessarily concerned about.
The decision was taken mainly because each performer travels so much, and we are all such a diverse group and from all over the place. I’m not convinced, and I can’t trust the fact that everybody is taking it as seriously and locking themselves down at home like I am. I trust my life with my co-workers every time I step foot in the ring, but I just can’t put the same trust when it has my children, my wife and my family involved.
But I don’t want it to come off as I am taking a stand against the company at all, because I love the WWE. I’ve been a part of this company just since I was a little boy. That’s why I always take it so personally when I represent them.
So when you do decide to come back, are you ready to compete, with no live audience, if the current status quo persists?
I’m ready to smash people if you know what I mean. I’ve been training my butt off during this pandemic.
As far as performing in front of an empty arena is concerned, it is tough and I really commend all the guys and girls who are doing it. Everything that I have ever learned was in order to get a reaction and to interact with our fans… so that is the hardest part.
But when it comes down to it, I am gonna get in there and compete at the highest level… hopefully for a title. More specifically, the Universal Championship. If not, I will be there to prove that I’m not just the top of the mountain, but I am the mountain. I am [WWE’s] biggest star, regardless of if I am on the show or not… so I have everything to prove and everything to lose as well.
You are hugely popular in India and fans even want you to act in Bollywood films. Is that something you see yourself doing?
I’m in love with storytelling and creation. Obviously, being with WWE has opened the gates. India is just one of the best examples, you know. The love and support has been unbelievable, and it has afforded me so many different opportunities and painted me in a light that has just been so special.
I cannot thank the Indian WWE Universe enough. I’ve been over there twice, and it has been very special. The way the Indian people received me once I got tagged in, it was just the next level of reaction and acceptance, so I can’t thank you guys enough for always being so good to me.
That type of love drives me forward to continue to want to be an entertainer, whether it’s in WWE, Hollywood or Bollywood. If there is a way to entertain, distract and create escapism, I’m all for it.