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Roman Reigns is your NEW Intercontinental Champion. It was a hard fought victory and Roman had some people to thank for helping him get to where he is… A Grand Slam Champion.

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Even by Roman Reigns’ standards, the last two weeks have been almost unbearably difficult. Not only did the former WWE Champion suffer a brutal attack at the hands of Braun Strowman, he suffered the loss of his brother, Matt “Rosey” Anoa’i. Despite this, however, Reigns will still compete against Strowman at WWE Payback this Sunday, and he spoke with to discuss the well-wishes he’s received, how his family is holding up and whether he thinks he’s up to facing The Monster Among Men this Sunday at all.

WWE.COM: It’s been a tough two weeks for you personally and professionally. On the personal side, sends its condolences to your family. How are you doing and how is everyone else doing?

ROMAN REIGNS: Right now, it’s one of those situations where it’s a lot of mixed feelings. When you live in a big family, it’s always great to be able to come together, but to have to come together to send off a brother — and not only was he my brother, but in our family, even when you’re cousins, we’re all so close that we feel like brothers. That’s the type of connection we have in our family. It was an extremely sad weekend, and it’s still really tough. Everybody’s grieving. But to see our family come together and have a hundred-plus family and friends come together to celebrate my brother’s life really meant a lot. It just continually picks up our family and keeps us moving on.

WWE.COM: Obviously, as you just stated, you have your family around you. Can you talk about some of the support you’ve received from the WWE Universe and other Superstars during this time?

REIGNS: It’s crazy because it almost felt like Christmas times three. I don’t think I’ve ever received so many text messages from family and friends, especially within the company. So many guys in our locker room have reached out to me and sent their condolences and told me if there’s anything I need, don’t hesitate. I truly believe that. And talking to some of my family, that’s not just a saying. That’s real life. They want to do anything they can, whether it’s sending flowers, checking on me to try and talk, try and get down here to help out with any different thing we have to do with the services of a funeral. It’s really nice to be able to hear from all them. And, of course, through your social media, and Twitter is my main source of that, I’ve been overwhelmed with so many prayers and so many thoughts out there by my fans in the WWE Universe. Whether you’re a Roman Reigns supporter or a critic, everybody seems to understand the magnitude of the situation, and when it comes down to it, it’s a part of life but I think everybody gets it. Everybody’s been very sweet and really come to try and help me through this hard time. It really has helped.

WWE.COM: Well, once again, we’d like to reiterate our sentiment. We wish your family the best during this hard time.

REIGNS: Thank you. I just want to thank everybody who’s reached out. All my fans, everybody has been so supportive. This is a tough time but like everything in life we can learn from it and get better from it. My only hope now is that I can continue to represent my family and represent my brother and continue to push our legacy. He was my number one fan. He never missed a match, he never missed anything I did in the ring, he always had great advice for me and always reached out to talk. Payback and 2017 and any chance I get to go in that ring I’m representing him.

WWE.COM: Speaking of which, last time we saw you on Monday Night Raw was the incident at the hands of Braun Strowman with the ambulance. How are you feeling as you recuperate from that attack?

REIGNS: Physically, I’m as beat up as I am emotionally. This has been two of the roughest weeks of my professional career and life. I’ve never experienced a loss this close since it’s my only blood brother, but I’ve also never experienced a beatdown like Braun Strowman gave me. It’s unfortunate, because whatever point he’s trying to get across, he’s handling it the wrong way. And whether he thinks he’s a monster or not, I’m the top dog, I’m the big dog in this yard. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I already took out the greatest legend of all time. If anybody should be worried, it should be Braun Strowman. He’s got a whole storm that’s about to come his way.

WWE.COM: It was obviously announced that you will still face Braun Strowman at WWE Payback. Are you up to the challenge to face him on Sunday?

REIGNS: I’m beaten, I’m bruised, I’m hurt inside, but it comes down to the big fight. That’s what I do. When I step in that ring and my opponent steps in that ring and that bell goes ding, ding, I’m the one that holds it down. I’m the one that shows it’s my yard. I don’t have to jump people in the backstage, I don’t have to blindside people, I’ll face Braun eye-to-eye and put Braun down where he belongs because I’m the best in the WWE, I’m the best in the whole world, and at Payback this Sunday, I’ll show it.

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This week’s WWE interview segment on SportsCenter featured Roman Reigns for the second time.

Before the interview, ESPNews rolled a WWE hype package for the Big Three matches at Extreme Rules – A.J. Styles challenging Reigns for the WWE Title, Chris Jericho vs. Dean Ambrose in an Asylum cage match, and Charlotte vs. Natalya for the Women’s Title.

Coach asked Reigns what he thinks about facing Styles for the second time at Extreme Rules. Reigns said he has a lot of respect for Styles wrestling all over the world “competing against some of the greatest talent in the world for a bunch of different promotions.” But, Reigns said, now Styles is with “the company, WWE.” And, since they’re on SportsCenter, Reigns joked that it’s not going to work between them since Styles is about the Georgia Bulldogs and he played for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Reigns was asked how he’s handling being the top champion with everyone looking at him on a nightly basis. Reigns said he comes to work ready to go 52 weeks per year, he’s excited about the responsibility, and having his family on the road with him is a big help.

Asked how the influx of NXT talent to the main roster has affected things, Reigns said it’s created a completely different locker room environment. Reigns said when The Shield came in four years ago, it was a bunch of “old dogs” in the locker room. Now, he feels like it’s his locker room and his arena. Reigns welcomed everyone from NXT to come join what he’s leading on the main roster.

As for advice he would give to upcoming stars, Reigns said, “Believe in yourself.” He said there are so many different platforms now for people to “run their mouth,” which could be a distraction from not believing in what you’re doing.

Reigns talked about being in the main event of WrestleMania for the second straight year. He said it was a blessing to be in that position. Asked what it was like being in the ring with Brock Lesnar last year and Triple H this year, Reigns said it’s dealing with two different approaches. He credited Lesnar for being one of the only wrestlers on the roster more powerful than himself in the ring, while Hunter is more cerebral.

Sports Center Interview – May 17, 2016 by RomanReignsNet
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During Wrestlemania Week, WWE Superstars and Divas along with fans from around the world ascend on a city and take it over. This year, Superstars such as Roman Reigns have little to no time to take in the views of Dallas before it’s time for interviews and meet and greets. The stars barely get quiet time because of so many fans are out looking for the perfect selfie or autograph. Roman has been very busy when it comes to preparing for the biggest night of the year. He did interviews such as WAND 17, the video posted above and appeared at Wrestlemania Axxess. Soon it is time for the fanciest night in WWE, all of the superstars get dressed up for the special night when the Hall of Fame Class of 2016 will be inducted. If you missed any of the interviews so far, check out the highlights from Wrestlemania Week below.

Wrestlemania Media Day Digitals
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Roman Reigns Talks Wrestlemania 32
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Roman Wants No Bad Vibes For Wrestlemania Match
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CSN Chicago Interview

Hall Of Fame Red Carpet

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At WrestleMania 32 on Sunday, Roman Reigns will challenge Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but there has been speculation about his potential heel turn in the main event.

One way to turn Reigns heel would be for him to attack The Rock following a victory over The Game. During a promotional tour for WWE’s partnership with Snickers, Ring Rust Radio asked Reigns if The Rock would come out during his championship celebration if he were to win.

Reigns answered candidly, teasing a possible attack and heel turn if The Rock were to show up:

“We haven’t spoken too much about wrestling each other,” said Reigns. “We speak, and I do see him quite a bit. We usually exchange different ideas, share different tips and advice.

“If I do win on Sunday, there are only a couple of people I want to see, and that would be my wife, daughter, mom and dad. It would be my immediate family. If he comes out there, I might be on high alert, and he might get it, too.”

Over the last several months, a vocal portion of the WWE Universe has rejected Reigns as the top face in the company. To combat the negative reactions, WWE officials should embrace the hate and turn Reigns heel after he wins the world title.

With The Rock being one of the most popular wrestlers in the history of the industry and a mainstream superstar who has transcended the sport, Reigns attacking him from behind because he thinks The Rock is stealing the spotlight would be the perfect catalyst for The Big Dog’s character change.
A portion of fans support Reigns, but the reactions from crowds in top wrestling markets indicate that there are still many who don’t want him as the face of the brand moving forward.

Instead of trying to use The Rock to get Reigns over with the WrestleMania 32 crowd in Arlington, Texas, having Reigns turn his back on his family and align with Vince McMahon or The Authority would be the ideal way to embrace the negative reactions.
There is still a chance that McMahon and the WWE officials believe in Reigns as the top face moving forward and won’t deviate from their plans. With that said, Reigns’ comments about attacking The Rock and the recent booking of the No. 1 contender suggest a change in character may be coming.

If Reigns turns heel in the main event of WrestleMania 32, even the biggest haters will have to give WWE credit for making the right move for the future. When the fans are eventually ready to cheer for Reigns down the road, the company can turn him face organically.

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Leading up to the big event, Sporting News spoke with Reigns about the WrestleMania 32, his past year in the WWE and today’s wrestling audience.

SPORTING NEWS: As we talk right now, we’re three days out from WrestleMania 32 and your WWE Championship match against Triple H. Where are you at right now in preparation when it comes to physical training as well as the mental preparation that goes into a match like this?

ROMAN REIGNS: For me, I’m right there in the middle of everything. It hadn’t stopped for me. This isn’t a new thing for me and this week of the year. I’ve been doing this every single week just about. I’ve only missed, I think, two weeks, due to the nose (he underwent nasal surgery for a deviated septum) and that was just a month ago or so. But before that, I’ve been on the road five days a week for about 50 weeks this year. It’s kind of like clockwork; I’m just going to stick to what I’ve been doing, stick to my routine, get in the gym, make sure everything’s on point, everything’s healthy, everything feels good. Other than that, I’m ready to roll.

SN: How much different of a performer are you right now compared to this time last year?

RR: Well, I have a full year under my belt so I would think I’m a much more experienced performer. I’ve been in this type of situation before. Just coming back this year, and to be able to do all of these cool things again, to have these relationships, meet different people and have these partnerships like I have today with Snickers who is the presenting sponsor of WrestleMania. These are the great opportunities that WrestleMania brings.

SN: People can go online to and YouTube as well and watch the videos of you and other WWE personalities. Tell me about what you’re doing with Snickers.
RR: It’s just kind of a play on emotions. Who are you when you get hungry is the question that we’re asking. It’s funny because you kind of see a different side of everybody. We have all kinds of different hunger emotions. Are you irritable? Are you like Triple H? Are you a princess? Are you like Paul Heyman? Are you a complainer? There’s just all different types. If you’re getting hungry, do us all a favor: Just take a bite. That’s all you have to do. Just take one bite.

SN: I was really hoping when I saw the video of you and your hungry side that I was going to see your dad, I was going to see a wild Samoan and he turned into you.

RR: (Laughs) I pitched that we do cutbacks of me with pigtails and some crazy little girly hair-do, just something completely off the wall and wacky but they didn’t listen to my creative process that day.

MORE: Steve Austin’s greatest moments

SN: I know it’s been talked about so much, everything that went down last year from the Royal Rumble to WrestleMania to now. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned over the last year when it comes to your journey in the WWE and leading up to this match?

RR: I think just taking everything in stride. Being a WWE performer and doing all the different things we get to do, it can wear on you and you can learn a lot of stuff about yourself. For me, it always reminds me to just stay humble. Just be yourself, love what you do and enjoy the ride. Before you know it, I’m not going to be able to tie these boots up and do what I do in the ring for my whole life. We’re all getting older so I’m trying to live in the moment and enjoy everything that’s being thrown at me.

SN: Come Sunday, there will be about 100,000 fans at AT&T Stadium. Can you take a moment to soak it in as you go out there for the match?

RR: I think we all have to. I think that’s what’s important is to not let just how massive this event is get in your head. Just to stay focused and when it comes down to it, that ring that we wrestle in, it’s still the same size. The ropes, they’re going to be the same. As long as we go out there and do our jobs and have fun, it’s going to be a great night.

SN: These are going to be some of the most avid WWE fans from around the world at WrestleMania. What do you think your reception is going to be when you come out?

RR: Loud. Very very loud.

SN: Do you think it’s going to be negative?

RR: It will be probably both. I get a pretty good mixed reaction but whatever I’m doing, they seem to be pretty loud. So whether it’s cheers or boos, that’s what one thing I can typically count on. They’re going to be stirred up no matter what.

SN: We’ve seen this reaction before with yourself and with some others like John Cena. Where the product is today and the current fans, is there such a thing as a true babyface and a true heel where one guy is going to be loved and one guy is going to be hated?

RR: I think it’s tough. We had Daniel Bryan who’s just a phenomenal performer. Everybody was behind him, just a great underdog. And how could you not cheer a guy like that? But then we do have situations like myself and guys like John Cena who do get that mixed reaction. I think it’s just a part of it now. Everybody has an opinion. Everybody has a right to voice their opinion. I think that’s what’s so great about this. It’s not necessarily who’s getting cheered 100% or who’s getting booed the whole time. We agree to disagree and we all just have fun and everybody goes in it to get what they want out of this. It’s really just entertainment. It’s a performance. It’s a story that we tell. If you’re down for the roller coaster ride, please come out and have fun. You paid your hard-earned money; let’s go out, make some noise and make it exceptional.

SN: When it comes to that roller coaster ride and as your progress in the business, does your family give you any advice?

RR: All of time. That’s the great thing about my family is it’s so big and we have so many different men and women that have experience with this business and this company. For me, I’m always trying to learn, I’m always trying to get better. Obviously, there’s some things based off the year we’re in and the generations we’re dealing with, it’s a little bit different. The crowd and the company and the business in general has changed and it’s always evolving. There’s always something that you can learn and something you can teach. Hopefully, I’ll continue to learn and gain in this experience.
SN: I know you’re family was at WrestleMania last year and, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe they were sitting at ringside. They didn’t seem to happy last year come the end of your match and you not leaving as champion. Are they going to be right there again?

RR: Oh yeah. Actually, I have more family this year. All of my siblings and all of my nieces and nephews will be there. So we’re definitely going to be represented by numbers. It’s going to be a great event. Last year, it was rough. It wasn’t so much the outcome. As long as I’m healthy and I finish and everything’s fine and I’m able to walk out of there and still be a father, a son and a brother, then my family is happy. Last year, it was pretty brutal. It’s not easy to watch your son get thrown on his back a whole bunch of times by Brock Lesnar. He’s on his own level. It was pretty tough for my mom to watch that but we made it through.

SN: I always see these signs that say “If John Cena wins, we riot”. Is it going to be this year “If Roman Reigns doesn’t win, the Samoans riot”?

RR: That’s what they don’t want. (laughs) I better win! Do everybody a favor and let me win this title. Otherwise, we’re going to be handing out Snickers to my whole family.

SN: Outside of your match, what’s the one thing in particular that you’re looking forward to seeing on this show?

RR: The whole card. And not only that, not just the wrestling matches because we have so many great ones. We have Brock Lesnar taking on Dean Ambrose in a street fight. You say street fight, Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose —that just says it all there. We have a Hell in a Cell with Shane-O-Mac (Shane McMahon) and The Undertaker. That alone is just a phenomenal match and should be a hell of a story. We also have performances. It’s so much more than just wrestling. We have outside performers coming in, musicians, artists. So it’s always a cool opportunity to meet new people and be surprised. I’m not sure of everything that’s going to happen. It’s that big that we can’t know everything. I’m looking forward to it.

SN: Do me one favor: Don’t let your buddy Dean Ambrose go too wild with that chainsaw.

RR: Oh man. I’m hoping that he turns it up a little bit. I was hoping he was going to turn it on Monday and start cutting the ring in half or something. I was surprised. I figured he was going to really start tearing that whole set up. I can’t guarantee anything on his behalf. He’s crazy.

SN: He has to hold off on that until Sunday when he cuts the announcer’s table in half.

RR: I hope he doesn’t break everything. I’m hoping to destroy some things out there too. He can’t take all the fun.

Brian Fritz has previously covered pro wrestling and MMA for AOL FanHouse and The Orlando Sentinel. You can find more of his work including podcasts at E-mail him at and follow him on Twitter @BrianFritz.

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Count Roman Reigns among the people who is excited that WrestleMania is coming back to Orlando in 2017. The WWE superstar grew up in Pensacola and currently resides in nearby Tampa with his wife and 8-year-old daughter.

But Reigns has this year’s WrestleMania event on his mind right now as he faces Triple H for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship in Dallas on April 3.

Question: You’re a Florida guy, you grew up in the state and still live here. What’s it like for you to have WrestleMania come to Orlando next year?

Answer: “I’m so pumped. Every WrestleMania is cool no matter where you’re at. For me, I live in Tampa and to be home, to be in Florida, and I’ve always been a Florida boy. I’ve always felt the responsibility to represent your hometown and where you come from. I’m a proud Floridian. I’m a proud Pensacolean. We represent the 850 and it’s phenomenal that I can do it with the WWE family now.”

Q: The last time WrestleMania was in Orlando was eight years ago. What were you doing eight years ago?

A: “Eight years ago … I was still playing football, I believe. That was 2008? I was possibly in Canada playing football at the time. (He played one season with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.) I was in the last bit of my career in football.”

Q: Does it feel like it’s been that long since the transition from football to the WWE?

A: “No, not at all. Sometimes I don’t even think about up to eight years. Sometimes I limit myself to five years back because that’s around when I broke into the business, almost six years ago. That’s what’s crazy — time is flying. Sometimes I feel like it’s just me because we’re on the road and we’re bouncing from town to town, different time zones all over the world. But it’s not, because you have everything at home, and it’s flying by there too. It’s madness. My little girl is 8, so life feels like it’s passing me by.”

Q: Did you ever think at this point of your career you would be getting ready to main event your second WrestleMania?

A: “When I first started wrestling, I was just focused on not getting wedgies from the trunks. (laughs) There were many moments where thinking about main eventing WrestleMania wasn’t even in the mind frame at that point. There’s so many things to adjust to in this life, inside the ring, outside the ring. Once you think you’ve figured it all out, then something pops up on you. For me, the main goal was always to work for that top spot, to be in a place that you can make a difference not only for yourself but for everybody else. In the position I’m at, that’s where you can make things happen. That’s where you can build that future for your family and create a lot of good times for everybody if things are done properly.”

Q: Last year, you were in the main event against Brock Lesnar. This you’re getting ready for the championship match against Triple H. Does it feel any different going into WrestleMania this year compared to last year?

A: “Yeah, I was talking to my cousins (WWE tag team The Usos) about that the other day. It’s kind of crazy because I’m not nervous by any means, but it’s a cool calm because I feel like my experience level has risen. Everything that I did last year, I absorbed it like a sponge and took note of everything and how I felt. Now I’m going into this with the opportunity, and know what I’ve done before and know what I need to do. Now it doesn’t feel as bad. I guarantee — just like any other performance — as soon as it’s getting close, as soon as those boots go on and I start throwing that vest on, the nerves are going to come. Hopefully, they don’t hit too heavy because [if there’s] a day where they can come in on a different rate, it’s a day like WrestleMania.”

Q: Last year’s WrestleMania against Brock Lesnar was so physical. How long did it take you to recover from it? You guys were really throwing some haymakers at one another.

A: “Yeah, and that was the thing for me — the physicality part, I’ve always done well with that. Fighting a guy like Brock, it’s like being out there with a big bear. It can be rough from time to time. I signed up for the physicality. I’ve been running into people my whole life, playing football and every sport under the sun. For me, that’s what made it a little easier. It wasn’t that you had this tricky, complicated, in-and-out story. It was more of what you see is what you get. I told myself, ‘Just go out and dance with that bear for a little bit and you’ll be fine.'”

Q: What has this last year been like for you? There were a lot of people that thought you were going to win the championship last year at WrestleMania and you didn’t. [Seth Rollins won the title in a surprise finish.] Since then, you’ve won the championship twice and you’re going for it again. The reaction from the audience is still mixed depending on what shows you go to.

A: “That’s what’s cool for me — the old football persona hadn’t really left me and sometimes it feels like home games, sometimes it feels like away games. Pretty much whenever I’m out there it seems to be pretty loud, so as long they’re reacting, they’re paying hard-earned money. I had a job where money was a struggle and we didn’t have the opportunity to go out and eat and do things that we wanted to do. I say if you earned your money, no matter how you did it, you should spend it how you want.

“If that’s what brings you joy, if you want to boo me, boo me. If you want to cheer me, cheer me. Either way, I’m going to go out there and do my thing. I’m going to have fun, I’m going to bust some [expletive] and try to do it again the next day.”

Q: Why do you think you’re still getting that negative reaction from some people? It seems like the most vocal people are mostly guys.

A: “I think there’s a few different reasons why. You could name a bunch of them. I don’t think we could actually put a finger on one and say this is the reason why. Typically if you hear the boos, it generally is grown men my age and I’m not really in this business for the grown men. (laughs) I’m in this business for the families. That’s what we are; we’re a PG product. We’re a family-based product. We’re here to entertain families and give them enjoyment. If you’re a 30-year-old man and you want to flip me off at a kids show, then, hey, like I said, you paid your money but just be careful because you could get kicked out.”

Q: Has it ever bothered you when it comes to the reaction from the fans or it is something you’ve been able to put aside?

A: “There’s nothing to complain about as far as reaction, because we’re storytelling here and not everybody is going to have the same opinion about the story. My only concern is you’re setting a bad example. I’ve seen grown men flip me off and there were children right there. There’s a guy who got kicked out of one of the shows because I’m pretty sure he was drunk. He’s going nuts, screaming and cussing, acting like a fool when there’s children right next to him. That’s something we have to keep in mind. A lot of times, these pay-per-views and Monday Night Raws, they’re on school nights so it is a lot more of a grown-up feel. I think if you pick and choose and just think with logic, everything will be all right. That’s just one thing, you have to be concerned with the example we’re setting. At a show, I’m not the only role model. These kids are sitting next to these other grown-ups and they’re seeing how these people act. That’s just a reflection of what they see and they probably act the same way.”

Q: How is your nose and what surgery did you have on it?

A: “My nose is doing a lot better. I can breathe and it’s straight so that’s good. That was what we were hoping for is to knock out two birds with one stone. I had a deviated septum which, if you’re not familiar with that, it’s pretty much the middle part that divides the nose so it’s kind of the inside of the nose. It was broken pretty much into an S or a V-type look. So one of my nostrils was smaller than the other.

Due to travel, I go in and out of allergies. Anytime I would get any type of allergies, it makes your nostrils swell up and you can’t breathe and you get congested. I pretty much couldn’t breathe out of one nostril at that point and then it would close up the other one so I pretty much had half a nostril to breathe out of. So we needed to get that fixed. They went in and fixed the deviated septum. The outer part of my nose had been crooked and hit so many times over the past six months that it bowed on me so they went ahead and straightened that out for me. That way we wouldn’t have to do this all over again and take another two weeks or three weeks off. It was something I just needed to get done, that way I could breathe and continue to perform.”

Q: Was there a concern about the timing of it? It obviously needed to be done, but it’s WrestleMania season and you never know what can happen when you go under the knife.

A: “Yeah, the timing wasn’t great by any means, but it was one of those necessary things. That was the toughest part. When is the best time to do this? Well, it definitely ain’t before Mania but it’s not like this thing turns off. That’s the problem we have is there’s no time to rest because we have no offseason. We have a lot of content to fill. It makes for a lot of workdays. For me, I just tried to fit it in when it was going to be the best time for me. I think we were able to nail that because we were able to do some cool stuff storyline-wise which allowed me enough time to get it fixed and to recharge my battery. I’ve been running for a solid year and a half now and that can add up when you don’t have an offseason.”

Q: The last couple of times you’ve been on TV, you’ve come down the ramp like everybody else instead of through the crowd. (Since his WWE debut, Reigns had come to the ring through the audience.) Is that going to be the norm going forward?

A: “I think so. I think we’re getting to a point now where it’s full gas pedal down, no BS, trying to get to that ring as fast as possible. That’s where the business is going to go down so I think that’s going to be the best bet, that straight shot to get in there.”

Q: Your cousin The Rock is going to be a part of this year’s WrestleMania. Do you think the two of you will ever have a match?

A: “I don’t know. That depends on what goes down in Dallas I would think. You have to tune in — check it out.”

Q: Do you want a match with him?

A: “He’s The Rock. He’s the biggest movie star and biggest name in Hollywood right now. Why wouldn’t I want to punch that in the face a couple of times?”

Q: And you got to punch [WWE Chairman] Vince McMahon in the face [last December]. That would be quite the two-fer.

A: “Yeah that’s the big head on my wall right there, that’s the big trophy. He’s a madman. He’s 70 years old and I think he’s going on 25. I was surprised he didn’t just shake that punch off because he’s done just about anything and everything and dealt with some craziness in his day. He’s a great trooper for that.”

Q: Can you get a picture of that moment and have him autograph it for you?

A: “Actually, I might have to use that suggestion. (laughs) That’s what might have him fire me if I try to do that. You can hit me in the face all you want, kid, but I’m not signing that!”

Credit: Orlando Sentinel

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For World Wrestling Entertainment megastar Roman Reigns, it was never so much about if as it was when.

It was never a question of if he would follow the genetic path of greatness that came before him. Reigns (born Leati Joseph Anoa’i) comes from a long line of proud and successful Samoan pro wrestlers. His father, Sika Anoa’i, and his uncle Afa Anoa’i, formed the legendary tag team The Wild Samoans. His brother, Matthew Anoa’i, enjoyed a successful run with WWE during its famed Attitude Era as Rosey. The bloodlines don’t end there. Reigns is also cousins to legends like the late Yokozuna, WWE hall of famer Rikishi, the late Umaga, The Tonga Kid, The Usos, and arguably the greatest professional wrestler in history in “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson.

Despite Reigns’ best efforts to break free of the family business and make it as a professional football player, his destiny eventually came calling.

“I can only speak from my experience and no,” Reigns said with a chuckle during a telephone interview when asked if wrestling was ever not an option for him.

“There was no way to avoid it,” added Reigns, who faces WWE World Heavyweight champion Triple H at WrestleMania 32 in Dallas, Texas, on April 3.

But before he was delivering Superman Punches, he was delivering bone-crunching tackles in the other sport be both loves and excels at, pro football. Reigns was a standout high school and college football player who even toiled in the National Football League and in Canada with the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos, where he played in 2008.

“I don’t regret anything in football,” Reigns said. “I still love the game, I still love to watch it. It’s even better now to watch it as a fan.”

Reigns said he believes he just never found his fit in football.

“I tried to find that NFL team … you’re always searching, you’re looking for that team, that team that’s going to change your life. For me, WWE was my team. It just took me a while to find that and to realize it, but they’ve always been there since the day I was born. I’ve been in this wrestling family since Day 1. There ain’t no getting out of it now.”

In fact, Reigns said, it was before departing for Canada and the CFL that he began to seriously contemplate going into the family business.

“Going into Canada, I was starting to have those thoughts of, ‘OK, if something magical doesn’t happen up here, something really great that’s going to build a foundation either up here, or able to propel me back down south to the NFL, then I don’t know if I want to invest anymore energy into football,’ because I had played it for so long,” Reigns said. “I had played it since seven years old, essentially. After just years and years of just the same stuff, the same chasing that ball, playing the same techniques.

As you progress through each level of football, it becomes less about sport and more about money, he explained. “The sport kind of takes a different toll on you and I was ready for a change by then.”

Reigns came home to his calling in 2010 when he signed a developmental deal with WWE. There, he would spend the next two years cutting his teeth before he found success with fellow developmental talents Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins when the trio formed The Shield. The trio would soon get the call to the main WWE roster and proceed to enjoy tremendous success. The Shield would be dissolved in early 2013, with all three men going on to enjoy varying degrees of singles success.

Reigns, who has twice won the WWE World title, is now staring down the barrel of his second straight main event WrestleMania match. Lofty stuff indeed for someone only six years into his career and only three years removed from developmental.

“Sometimes it doesn’t even feel real,” admitted the very likable Reigns when asked if he ever stops to contemplate what he’s accomplished so far. “I try not to look on the accolades or the things that I’ve done. I try to focus on, ‘What can you control?’ ‘What’s the next step?’ ‘What’s going to help you out for tomorrow?’ But it is really cool to be able to look back and think, ‘Wow man.’ … (There have been) so many great opportunities, I’ve met so many cool people, built so many great relationships, I’ve been able to see damn near the whole world.”

It’s something, he said, he wouldn’t have been able to handle during his football days.

“Six years ago, seven years ago, when I was in Canada, I don’t know if I would have even been ready for all of this, let alone be living a life where I’m actually doing all of this. Every single day that I wake up is a blessing. As long as I wake up, I feel like I can whatever it is because that’s the way we work here. You have to be ready for anything, you have to be willing to pick something up on the fly, even if you don’t have any experience. Everything that I’m doing now is just to gain even more experience and continue to build this foundation that I stand on.”

That foundation, while certainly solid when it comes to his successes so far, has become a bit shaky when it comes to notoriously fickle wrestling fans. Reigns, at times, finds himself on the receiving end of boos, sometimes when least expected, which is unusual for someone being billed as a good guy.

For his part, Reigns is at a bit of a loss to explain the love-hate relationship fans have for him.

“It’s a tough one because there is no one answer,” Reigns said. “There is no one reason why someone would want to boo me. Maybe they don’t like what I wear, how I sound, maybe I did something to offend them, but for me, it’s hard because I’m under the microscope and I’m dealing with a lot of different things and there’s a lot of things flying my way. For me, I can only continue to stay within myself and worry about the things I can control and the things I can control are, Am I healthy?; Am I showing up to where I need to be on time?; Am I here to perform and do my job? If I do that, then our fans, they can cheer me, they can boo me, as long as we all show up to the arena, everything will be fine. We’ll be able to create that awesome experience, create that energy.”

Reigns also said he has a huge number of supporters, whom he hears just as loudly and clearly.

“As for the reasons why these things happen, I don’t know,” he said. “I do know I have a lot of supporters. These people have my back. There’s nothing that anybody can say negatively to me that will make me believe you are correct. It’s just your opinions,” he said, adding that his football background comes in handy with crowd reactions and reception. “I’m an ex-football player, so I’ve been in a home environment, I’ve played in an away environment. As long as I know the supporters are still by me, even if they’re not in the arena, I hear them on social media and I know they’re out there. If you’re riding with me, it’s going to be a good ride. If you’re going against me, we’re sorry for what’s going to happen next.”

So focused is Reigns on his job and at becoming an even better wrestler and star, he said he doesn’t let the negativity or adversity change him as a person.

“Not as a person. never as a person,” he said. “I know who I am, I know where I come from and where I want to go. At the end of the day, I’m a dad. I’ll never forget who I am.”

As a performer, Reigns believes that adversity has played into his favour.

“I think it’s helped me,” he said. “That’s what’s cool about what we do. It’s a story, there’s no applause sign. This isn’t on set. This is live, it’s raw. We call it Raw, but it is raw. Emotions come out in the moment. There is no real way to compare that to anything and for me, I think it made me better, it made me learn faster. I was thrown into the fire, thrown into the deep end. And you can either sink or swim. And that’s how you get better. You apply that heat that’s being thrown at you.”

The next heat coming Reigns’ way is coming in the form of a 14-time world champion who has almost single-handedly rewritten the book on success and longevity. Reigns faces wrestling legend-turned corporate executive Paul (Triple H) Levesque, a man with nearly as many WrestleMania appearances under his belt as Reigns has years on Earth.

At nearly 50 years of age, the man known as “The Game” continues to defy Father Time, all while inspiring every single performer in the company, Reigns said of his opponent at the massive AT&T Stadium.

“Nobody’s molded and had a bigger impact on the business, I don’t think, than Triple H in the past 10 to 15 years,” Reigns said. “He’s pretty much done all of the hard work, the nitpicking, day in, day out. He’s been in the ring, he’s been travelling, being the face of the company essentially … always promoting, always working, always thinking about the business, always thinking about the future, building NXT and on top of that, playing the whole suit role and the whole office role, but still getting in the gym, still looking great, still can go, still a great athlete, still a competitor.”

Triple H sets the bar high for others, Reigns said.

“That’s a mix of good genetics — probably like 10% genetics and 90% work ethic — and to be able to tangle up with that, there’s a lot of things I can learn from him,” he said. “The youth of this business, no matter who you are, you’re going to learn from Triple H and you’re going to pick his brain and you’re going to get better for that.”

Having twice tasted – albeit briefly – the life as a WWE World champion, it’s something Reigns admits leaves a lasting taste in one’s mouth.

“I think once you’ve had the title, that’s all you really think about,” he said, before his trademark sharp wit emerges. “The first one was like … they were saying something stupid like a five-second reign. It was at least eight seconds for sure. They’re stealing seconds away from me man.”

Then he turns serious.

“When I had that championship, when I ended up beating Sheamus again on Raw in Philly, it was incredible. The weeks following that, everywhere I went, ‘What’s up, champ?’ ‘How you doing champ?’ I legitimately felt like life was better. When you’re WWE champ, life is better. There is something about being the WWE champion that makes your day-to-day life cooler, better, more fun … It’s a real thing. I know it’s a TV show, but there is something very real life about it and that’s why I haven’ been fulfilled yet.

“It’s weird to say, I’m a two-time champion — hopefully three-time after Dallas — there is huge enjoyment to have that title on your shoulder, to travel the whole world to defend it every single night in a different town, all over the country, all over the world, to be able to have that responsibility, man there’s nothing like it.”

Reigns is excited at the prospect of earning his third world title in front of a record WWE crowd, probably close to 100,000 people.

“We always re-run the prior year’s WrestleMania before every show,” Reigns said. “And we’ve seen that one from last year in Santa Clara. We’ve seen that one day after day before every single show. It’s crazy that it’s going to change. There are going to be new moments, there are going to be new highlights. It just gets bigger, longer and it’s just a greater show every single year. You run into a situation like Dallas, it’s just, ‘How can we top this?’ We’re in the business of outdoing ourselves. How do we do that again? That’s my main question that I’m running into? This is just going to be the biggest event of all time. Where do we go from here man?”

Destiny, it would seem, is still calling for Roman Reigns.

WrestleMania 32 is available live and only on the WWE Network on April 3. For details, go to


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