The wrestling world was turned upside down last November when rising star Ryback was attempting to claim the WWE championship in a triple-threat match with reigning champion CM Punk and former champion John Cena. Ryback was close to winning the title and completing an amazing rise to the top of the WWE Universe when, suddenly, three black-clad men jumped out of the crowd and powerbombed Ryback through a table. CM Punk retained the title, but the real story was the debut of The Shield. Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns announced to the world the next night their intentions to fight injustice in the WWE and The Shield has been doing that ever since.
“We’re hungry and we all have a common bond,” said Reigns. “We can change the game. We took the ball and we ran with it.”
While Ambrose and Rollins did much of the talking in the promo, Reigns was without question the most intimidating figure among the three and his display of power time and time again against Ryback erased any doubt of his physical ability.
The purpose of the attack on Ryback by The Shield stems from the group seeing Ryback as a monster who beat up a bunch of locals to earn his spot, unfairly, at the top of the WWE.
“We turned the tables on him,” said Reigns. “We showed him it can go both ways.”
Just weeks after depriving Ryback of the WWE title at Survivor Series, the Shield headlined the company’s TLC pay-per-view and Reigns scored the pinfall to give the Shield its first victory in the faction’s first match against Ryback and Team Hell No, Daniel Bryan and Kane.
“It was awesome,” admitted Reigns. “It was our debut match and to headline the TLC pay-per-view, it was something I’ll never forget. We’re trying to do something special and that was a great opportunity.”
BEHIND THE MUSCLE …
Reigns stands 6-foot-3, 265 pounds and is the muscle behind The Shield. But there is more to Reigns than just the man who power-bombed Ryback to right an injustice. Reigns played football for Georgia Tech and was first-team All-ACC his senior season. The defensive tackle went on appear on the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars rosters before taking his talents to Canada to play in the CFL. Then Reigns, whose real name is Leati Joseph “Joe” Anoa’i, decided to take part in the family business. Reigns is the latest member of the famed Samoan-American wrestling dynasty and Reigns’ father, brother, uncle and cousins are all wrestlers as well.
“This is something I take very seriously,” said Reigns of his family’s wrestling legacy. “Everyday I represent something that was happening before I was born. Everyday is a test, a challenge.”
Upholding that legacy is what drives Reigns.
“I want to be the face of this company and make the WWE Hall of Fame,” said Reigns. “I want my dad and uncle to induct me into the Hall of Fame.”
Reigns’ father Sika was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of the Wild Samoans in 2007. Reigns said that while he likes to live in the moment, he has found an entirely new level of connection with his family.
“I’ve bonded with my family (since joining the wrestling industry),” said Reigns. “I have a whole new understanding that drives me to succeed.”
MAKING THE JUMP …
When Anoa’i decided to enter into the wrestling industry, he set out to transform into the wrestler Roman Reigns. The first thing Anoa’i did was commit to a new lifestyle.
“It starts with creating good habits,” Reigns admitted. “You have to ask yourself, ‘are you willing to sacrifice?’ You have to be driven to succeed.”
Reigns weighed roughly 320 pounds when he left the NFL and ventured to Canada to play defensive line. Now, however, Reigns realizes that, while slimmed down on the scale, he is a better athlete at 265 pounds for what he does now in the ring.
“I was probably more powerful then at 320 pounds, but I am more explosive now,” said Reigns. “I am a different type of athlete now that I’ve added athleticism.”
Reigns said he has worked out every day and made the necessary sacrifices to be successful in the business. But simply sacrificing and changing a lifestyle won’t guarantee success in the wrestling business. Reigns, like so many other aspiring grapplers, started out in the developmental leagues, traveling around on the FCW circuit where he won tag-team gold before facing Ambrose and Rollins on the NXT circuit. The three would then team up under a common goal to make an impact on the WWE scene.
“That was our intention,” said Reigns of teaming up with the other two member of The Shield. “We were three younger guys trying to do something special. Hopefully we will inspire people as well.”
The daily grind of the WWE hasn’t been too much of a change for Reigns, who is used to traveling from his football days.
“(The road) is not too bad,” said Reigns. “It’s a lot of waiting, but I enjoy it. I enjoy seeing new places.”
Reigns noted that he traveled with NXT and FCW, but the WWE’s road trips are on a much bigger scale.
“You are wrestling in bigger events, which I love,” said Reigns. “I get to travel around, train and wrestle at night. It’s a dream.”
So what does the future hold for Reigns and The Shield? The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket will take part in the Royal Rumble pay-per-view before coming to Atlanta for Monday Night Raw on Feb. 4. Reigns said he didn’t know who he may face when the WWE comes to Atlanta and that is the beauty of the business. Reigns eventually wants to be the face of the company but right now the Shield is the biggest thing going in the WWE.