WWE World Champion Roman Reigns on making history at the Royal Rumble

Scott Fishman

Ever since Roman Reigns won the WWE World Championship on Monday Night Raw, there has been a target on his back.

It’s one versus all.

The 30-year-old competitor must take this mentality into the Royal Rumble 8 p.m. ET. Sunday, Jan. 24 on pay-per-view and WWE Network. There, Reigns must overcome 29 other superstars to retain his title. The odds are not in his favor, but he is ready. You can believe that.

“If there is a match I’m prepared for experience-wise, it’s the Rumble,” Reigns said. “The battle-royal-style match has been good to me. In the past two years, I have collectively been in there an hour or so, if not more. I have the elimination record for not the actual match, and I’ve won it before. So I like to think I have a lot of good things going for me. You just never know what can happen. You never know who is going to be in the Rumble. It’s 29 other guys. This event has a history of great debuts, comebacks, surprises, things that will make you laugh, things that will make you jaw drop. It’s going to be a great night hopefully for me.”

The popular superstar’s accolades this early on in his career is impressive. However, the ascent to the top wasn’t without obstacles. The football player turned grappler enjoys a good challenge and meets each one head-on. His strive to be the best has helped him as champion fulfilling all the obligations being the top dog entails.

“I’ve been running pretty busy, even in The Shield days,” Reigns said. “I think WWE did a good job of preparing us. From pretty much day one we were doing a lot of stuff all the time. We had the shows, behind the scenes work and a lot of media. Then, when we broke up and went into singles mode, it intensified even more so. I was already running that super hectic schedule already. So it kind of prepared me. There have been times I’ve been in seven or eight segments in one night. So if you can handle that, you can handle anything. The main difference is the gear bag. It’s just so heavy. But it’s the best kind of heavy. I love lifting this.”

Caught in a whirlwind of responsibility inside and outside the ring can be overwhelming. Reigns has even more added pressure with some of the biggest names including Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan, John Cena and Seth Rollins on the sidelines.

“We are a little banged up as a roster right now,” Reigns admitted. “That happens. This is a physical performance that we go out there and do. Everybody knows that it’s definitely not ballet. So we know what we signed up for. The good thing is it allows people to step up. I’m not the only guy on this roster. There are plenty of guys who have been helping me and the company out tremendously. Plenty of guys you probably haven’t heard about in a while — or at all. Just like any other sport, any time a guy goes down it is unfortunate and brings the next man up.

“That creates a great opportunity for both men,” Reigns continued. “A newer guy gets to step up and get on this level. Then there is the guy who got hurt that has to rebuild to come back and evolve and start fresh. You see it all the time. When you see a guy come back after getting hurt, you see it in his face and eyes. The refresh factor is so crucial. We don’t ever have any time off. There is no off-season. Unfortunately, an injury can recharge your batteries.”

Reigns attributes much of his success not only to a steadfast work ethic, but the people who have his back at home and on the road.

“Even before winning the title I’ve always received great advice and been mentored properly,” Reigns said. “I have been prepared for such a vast track and too handle all these things. I have been reassured to trust myself. It becomes even if you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, you know what you’re doing. I was born to do this. This is the life I feel like I was supposed to live. For me, the person that helps me out and gives me the most is my wife. That is who pushes me and reassures me. I have a strong foundation. I have a strong support system, and that starts with the woman I love the most (wife Galina). She helps me and allows me to live this crazy life. She captains the ship on our own. She takes care of our household, our daughter and our livelihood that allows me to go out and live this circus life. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do.”

The WWE Universe has been there for every step of Reigns’ journey in sports entertainment, from developmental to the main roster. Much like any emerging superstar, he has his off nights, but he makes sure to learn from them. After going solo Reigns has also dealt with a polarizing reaction at times, with criticism directed to his work on the microphone. His strengths have been his athletic ability and letting his actions do the talking.

“Everything is a process,” Reigns said. “We have to remember this is a show. We have storylines. Believe me, nobody wants more than to show up to the building and do what he wants to do than me. I’d love to just show up and say,’ This is what I’m doing. Thank you. I’ll see you out there.’ But it is a process. It’s a creative process, which I love. I love to be able to collaborate with people and bounce ideas and brainstorm together. That’s the most important thing. Sometimes you have to do what is best for the team, and you have to earn equity with respect and trust.

“Then when it gets to that point where you can let your hair down and run with the ball, you do that. Fortunately for me, I stayed the course. You’ve seen some bad stuff, some decent stuff, and what I like to think, some great stuff. It’s all about growth and progression. There is no off-season, so we have plenty of time and platforms with the shows we have to put that out there and show the evolution of a character and personality. That’s where I’m at now. I’m just trying to be me and have fun because fun reflects. People see that and enjoy themselves as a result.”

All eyes are on Reigns and his feud with The Authority made up of Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Vince McMahon. He enjoys working with the WWE chairman. After all, it’s not every day when your job involves punching your boss in the face.

“It’s been incredible,” Reigns said. “Behind the scenes and in front of the camera is a little different. There are a lot of ways to describe Vince McMahon. He is an incredible man. He has the biggest plate to load up in WWE. He has so many things on his shoulders. He is pretty much the WWE champion every single day with his responsibilities. He has a tremendous drive and work ethic that is unmatched. He has been doing this for so long. They say he is 70. I don’t believe it. I think it’s more like 40 by the way he looks. The shape that he is in. It’ s been incredible to be out there with him and build crowds with him and to share the ring with him.”

Professional wrestling runs through Reigns’ veins as a member of the famed Anoaʻi family. The Samoan bloodline includes the likes of his father Sika of the Wild Samoans and brother Rosey. Reigns also has an impressive list of cousins ranging from the Usos to The Rock. He was excited to find out the Hollywood heavyweight will be part of the WrestleMania 32 festivities in April.

“He is The Rock,” Reigns said. “This is where it all went down for him. This was the slingshot into what he is doing now. So he has always held that deep in his heart. He knows where he belongs and where his family is. To have the biggest live event and the biggest gathering in the world, why wouldn’t we have The Rock? As far as what he will do, what can’t he do? We can throw him into trunks to have him wrestle. He can come in like he did last year and cut a promo. He can bring his guitar and go out there to sing for an impromptu concert. We do a little bit of everything that day. So I think there is always a spot for him. He has been the host before. So he has worn many hats within this business. You just have to tune in to see what he is going to do next.”

With the road to WrestleMania kicking off Sunday at the Royal Rumble, Reigns has his eyes set on headlining once again. The master of the “Superman Punch” and the spear is focused on making the impossible possible.

“If it involves the main event of WrestleMania, that’s the key to me,” Reigns said. “I have to get through this Royal Rumble. I’m going through 29 competitors defending the WWE championship. It’s never been done. I got all the odds against me, and I’m number one. So if somehow I can pull off a miracle and get through this, I don’t care who I wrestle. If you’re defending the WWE championship at WrestleMania, you’re going to have a high-end and well-known opponent. That’s all I can ever ask for. Just being in the event is a great honor.

“To be in that main event defending the WWE championship is mind-blowing. It doesn’t seem real.”