WWE Universal champion Roman Reigns recently spoke to Ryan Satin’s Fox Sports to discuss all things pro-wrestling, including how he always wanted to be a heel, and how pumped he is that this year’s Mania is returning to Tampa. Highlights are below.
On WrestleMania 37 being moved back to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa:
I just think it’s awesome. I think the commitment the WWE has to the communities that we pinpoint, those locations, means a lot to the economy and what we do for a city. Obviously, it was terrible being in a pandemic, going through these COVID times, but to not be able to put on a WrestleMania for Tampa was tough and to have to do it in the PC was – I wasn’t there – but it was quite different for everybody else, I know. So, to be able to go back and bring that experience to the Tampa Bay area … I’m not exactly sure how it’s all going to go down as far as the attendance and all that. I know they’re still working that out, safety and keeping all the protocols up to par. Beyond that, obviously, is gonna be number one. It just feels good being able to go back to Tampa Bay and say we’re going to be able to do it.
On having fans back for the show:
It would mean everything, to be honest. It’s been tough. My whole career has been based off of reactions. Everything is due to interactions. That’s kinda always been my measuring stick. Even when the fans hated me, it was still louder than everybody else. Everybody else can complain. They can bitch and complain about, “Oh, I don’t get this opportunity,” or “I should be like this,” or “I should be here,” “I should be the main event.” But, when it came down to it, my reaction was always way louder than everybody else’s. There’s only one guy. Cena. That’s it, for obvious reasons … and he’s no longer here any more. That’s the difference is we don’t have that. So, you have to be able to pull out different tools. You can’t be a one trick pony, and I feel like people called me that quite a bit during the first part of my career. Limited move set, what have you. Being in this time, in these pandemic times, you gotta be able to pull out different layers to your performance, different attributes and show different tools. And that’s what I’ve done over the past six months is show a different side of me as a performer. Completely change the dynamics to my matches and the way people perceive my storytelling in-ring. Added so much more dialogue; to now everybody cuts a promo while they’re wrestling … and they can’t! Because I’m the one that’s doing it at the top level.
On his character change:
Yeah, I watched a couple of the shows. I did not follow it thoroughly. I tried to use as much of the time to be with my family and just really focus in and be present here at home, but on a few of the shows that I saw, I was just like, “Man, this is trash.” Like, you know what I mean? And that’s me, from the very top, thinking this because I always want to be way better than everybody else. This is no disrespect to what they were doing. They were busting their ass working really hard. But, for me, I was like, “Man, I just know when it’s time to pull my trigger, I know exactly what I want to do. I know exactly the kind of stories I want to tell and the different tools I want to utilize in order to connect with our crowd, our audience that’s watching at home. But, I knew it was all based off of emotion. I knew I had to be emotionally connected to what I was doing to be able to wear the skin of the character that I’m trying to convey to our audience. So, that was the most important thing is that I could completely focus in and concentrate 100% on what I was trying to do and the emotions that I was trying to convey throughout my narratives.
On possibly facing the Rock at a future WrestleMania:
I think it’s great. I think any time our fans are buzzing on a matchup, or buzzing on an event, I think that’s important. That’s what it’s all about is that water cooler talk, that fantasy warfare. Creating that escapism for our audience to discuss and debate and criticize and bring positive energy towards. So, I would definitely think this one would be the one to wait for – and they might have to wait for it. Especially due to the lineup that you just spoke about. This year, obviously we’re in Tampa. Next year, we’ll be in Dallas, and then we’ll go to Hollywood for [WrestleMania] 39, and I think it just makes sense. He’s the biggest movie star in the world. He’s the biggest box office attraction for the big screen out there. To be able to take that and match it up with the biggest box office attraction in sports entertainment, within the wrestling ring, I think some magic would be made. And not only that, this wouldn’t be possible – I’m in my prime. I’m at my peak physical condition as far as in that ring, athleticism, the whole nine. I can slip and slide. I can do anything in the ring I want to do, I just choose not to do it all, you know what I’m saying? But, none of this would be possible if Dwayne wasn’t in great shape, you know what I mean? If he was just out there playing dad roles and was fat and did not take it. But, he busts his ass every single day. Every single week you see these new workout videos coming and he’s just clanging and banging, doing his thing, lifting all weights. We wouldn’t be able to step foot in the ring together if he wasn’t in phenomenal shape and if he didn’t take care of himself and he didn’t keep himself prepared for peak performance. So, hats off to him. That’s motivating stuff for everybody, I think. I think that’s why he’s on the level that he is. People tap into him for inspiration. It’s encouraging for someone like me, or anybody in my line of work, to have that longevity, to still have that physical capability to be healthy, to continue to grow physically and emotionally as a person. It’s inspiring to see.
Says he always wanted to be a good bad guy:
I’ve always wanted to turn heel. I didn’t feel like I should have been the babyface out of the Shield group. We all agreed, we thought it should have been Seth, and then keep me as a bad guy. But, you know, it just happens the way it happens, the numbers lined up the way they did. Things were starting to work as a good guy for me. Then, obviously, it took a toll here and there. There were some nights where there were some loud boos. People take that response and they run with it, because sometimes, it was at the shows that were big and that were seen. The pay-per-views – the Royal Rumble in Philly. Just about everybody gets booed in Philly, you know what I’m saying? Philly is so loud they’re gonna boo Daniel Bryan one day. That’s how Philly works. It’s just Philly. But, like, people aren’t there every single week to see all the live events, to see how well the live events would be doing or the tours would be doing. We’d be selling out houses and I’d be the top babyface, crowd going nuts, cheering the hell out of me. So, it was one of those things where it was like, “Man, I want to do this because I know I can tap into a different level of character work. I know I can create so many more layers as a performer if they allow me to do this, but the numbers just wouldn’t let me. Like I said before, the response, no matter what, was always big. And in this day and age, I think, controversy has always sold, but, if you don’t have a certain level of negativity coming at you, you might not be doing as good as you think you are. If you don’t have that many haters. I think Kobe said it, “You gotta have some haters.” That’s the key to success sometimes. But, I think the true key to that success is how you handle the haters. How you, in your psyche, you can allow them to affect you or not affect you. But, yeah, man, I wanted to for a long time. When the opportunity came I jumped on it. It was kind of a team discussion. Obviously, you gotta have the big man involved and gotta have the blessing from him. But, it just all seemed to work out with perfect timing. I think we’re in a point where we’re in a time frame, being in a pandemic, no crowds, no tickets sales, let’s just create this content and take care of our television providers and our audiences watching at home. Let’s take a chance. If this ain’t the time to gamble, then I don’t know when is. So, I’m glad we did.