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Bar is set high for Roman Reigns
By PATRIC LAPRADE - SLAM! Wrestling


Roman Reigns is ready for the spotlight. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea

With his singles career taking off, Roman Reigns has set the bar high for himself. Positioned as a top babyface, Reigns will be in the main event of WWE Battleground in a couple of weeks, challenging for John Cena's WWE World title in a four-way that also includes Kane and Randy Orton and the fans in Montreal at Raw Monday night will get a chance to see an ascending star.

Reigns is more than a regular wrestler. He's a father, he comes from one of the biggest wrestling families of all-time and when it comes to his future, he knows exactly what he wants.

But getting to main event status came at the price of The Shield calling it quits.

Over the last two years, The Shield made quite an impact on the WWE roster. Romans Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose showed that they could deliver match after match, improving month after month. They proved to the powers-that-be that guys from developmental can quickly succeed on the big stage.

Some people think that The Shield should have been kept together and others think that it was the right time to disintegrate the trio, with Rollins betraying his allies to stand beside Triple H, Randy Orton and the Authority.


Reigns agrees with both philosophies.

"I could have really seen The Shield closing down every single show for the next three years. I think we had that ability and that we were that hot," Reigns told SLAM! Wrestling. "I think it's an understatement that the vast majority of the fans loved The Shield. But we didn't have too many opponents left to face. Possibly the Wyatts, but you can't really go above Evolution, especially after beating them twice. Between myself, Dean and Seth, we're doing the exact same thing The Shield was doing, but we're doing it on our own now."

Asked if he was where he wanted to be after two years, his answer makes you realize that the way someone is booked will often make a difference at the end of the day. In this case, it might have helped three different individuals.

"It's one thing to think you're going be there and it another to train and hope and pray," said Reigns. "Fortunately for us when we started with The Shield, we were kind of propelled right in the spotlight. They put a rocket onto us and within The Shield we were able to take off. I knew that whenever the split would happen, all three of us would be doing something special. I'm proud to say that fortunately for me I'm in the position I'm in, that fortunately for him Seth is in the position he is in and the same with Dean. We all came out looking good and smelling like roses I think from The Shield's break-up."


If it is just Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose, is it still The Shield? Photo by George Tahinos
Now that he has split from the faction, the sky is the limit for Reigns. He has been touted as the next superstar for quite some time now and splitting The Shield is the first step in that direction. But it doesn't seem to scare Reigns, who definitely wants to achieve big things in the WWE.

"I always watch, learn, see what works and then make it my own and make it better than anybody would ever imagine it would be. I want to raise the bar, to be the actual best performer, to be the best man possible, to be the biggest WWE superstar the world's ever seen," he explained. "Those are my goals. I want to be the top guy, to run this company, to run the locker room and just make this product better in general."

In recent years, the successes of guys like CM Punk, Cesaro and The Shield are without any doubt one of the reasons that WWE has put so much time and money into its one-year-old Performance Center.

For Reigns, working FCW and NXT was a positive experience.

"It definitely helped. I've always been the kind of guy who was thrown in the fire. I was always been able to learn pretty fast," remembered Reigns. "It taught me all the basics that I needed to know, taught me a lot of things about being in the locker room, around the boys, the producers and the office."

That being said, nothing is like performing in the big leagues. You can be the best hitter in the minors, but the next level will always be different, no matter what you have learned before.

"I think when I got to be on the road, it was a big learning experience. You don't really know until you get there," said the former WWE tag team champion. "As much as a veteran on the indie scene, travelling all over the world and wrestling for other promotions, there's still a lot to learn from whenever you get to developmental until you get to the actual show, with the WWE. For me it was getting on the road, seeing the system, the schedule, getting use to everybody. When I got used to everybody, I felt they got used to me."

Reigns comes from one of the greatest wrestling families in the history of professional wrestling. His dad is former Wild Samoan Sika. His uncle is the other half of the Samoans, Afa. His brother is former WWE tag team champion Rosey.

Like almost every second- or third-generation wrestler, his immediate family is never too far away, watching up close and personal his evolution on the WWE roster.

"They're always talking to me. My dad after every show and every performance, he's calling, critiquing me, telling me little things that I could do, how to maximize my presence on TV," said Reigns. "They've been around for so long and training guys too, that they know how it works, the formula and what works for a superstar. They're giving me as much advice they can. But they also explained to me that when the time comes, it's up to me, it's up to me to be me, it's my heart, it's my career. When it comes down to it, I have to believe on the stuff that I'm doing. But I've just had a tremendous amount of help and I have a great team now."

However, the Anoa'i wrestling family (Reigns' real name is Joe Anoa'i) is actually more than four people. Aside from his immediate family of his father, uncle and brother, Reigns has many cousins who ended up working as professional wrestlers. Among them are Great Samu, Tonga Kid (Tama), Rikishi, Umaga, and former WWE champion Yokozuna, who all worked for the WWE and who can all be found on the WWE Network.

Is there anything in the water around the American Samoa islands?

"It's just easier for us, it's hard to explain. I could say it's in my blood, but that doesn't really explain it," considered Reigns. "And it's not just my dad and uncle, I have so many cousins, my brother and if you look at it we have very similar movement pattern. So I watched them and emulated them with my own physicality and athleticism so for me it's a little easier to pick stuff up because I've been watching it for so long and watched so many of my same family, who are similar athletes to myself do it."


Roman Reigns and John Cena had a moment during the Money in the Bank bout for the WWE World title -- a sign of things to come? Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
Rikishi's sons, Reigns' second cousins, are better known to the WWE Universe as Jey and Jimmy Uso. Being in a heel faction, he had to wrestle against his cousins many times and Reigns believes it is easier for them to work together, maybe not in the beginning though.

"I mean yeah, I would say so. There's always a chemistry there. And we wrestled a lot. I mean I've experienced them more than anybody -- bless their hearts -- but yeah, anytime we're in the ring, we can feel each other, we can flow," he said. "We're on a completely different level because it's so much more than friendship that we have, you know, we grew up together, so that's where it comes from. I feel myself less nervous now, not only nervous for myself but for them as well. Once we had a few matches down under our belt, I had a better idea of what to expect, but at first I was a bit for nervous."

Reigns, 29, also has a young daughter, Joelle, who will turn seven next December. Part of the "Importance of Being a Dad" campaign, Reigns explained how his daughter sees him as a pro wrestler.

"She's so young now, she's just now getting to the point of really asking those questions," Reigns said. "She's always been so supportive. She's always been fascinated by the girls on Disney Channel and the actors and performers. It's something she always wanted to do and then she sees me doing my thing on TV and I think it makes her proud to see me do the things that I do."

Like so many pro wrestlers before him, being on the road that much and raising a child is not always simple.

"I know she's missing me. A day and a half to two days a week isn't enough. So whenever I'm home, I try to maximize every minute, every second we have. They don't get too much of you, so when they do you got to give them every bit of you."

This Monday, Reigns will be in beautiful Montreal, the first time the city hosts Raw in nearly two years. Unbeknownst to many fans in attendance, many of Reigns' cousins like Samu, Tonga Kid, Rikiski (as Alofa) and Yokozuna (as Kokina) first made a name for themselves in Montreal and caught the eyes of many fans back in the 1980s. Reigns will surely try to live up to his name and be the next Anoa'i member to connect with the vivid Montreal wrestling fans. And his campaign of seduction has already started.

"I can say 'merci,' I think, 'oui,' but not much more. It's a beautiful language to listen to, but when you're 20-something years old and hearing it for the first time in Montreal or in France, that such a fluid language that a big dumb American like me could never pick up in a day or so. It's a great language and every time I'm hearing it it means that I'm out in the world so that makes me happy too, that means I'm travelling and I'm doing my thing," concluded Reigns.

RELATED LINKS

  • Roman Reigns bio and story archive
  • Roman Reigns on Facebook
  • Twitter: @WWERomanReigns

    Pat Laprade will be at Bell Center Monday night. So if you're there and see him, make sure to greet him. He'll be the tall guy with the crutches! He can be reached at patric_laprade@videotron.ca, on his Facebook page and on his Twitter account.