As the holiday season winds down, fans of professional wrestling in Virginia will have two opportunities to check out live World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) action. On Dec. 30, Monday Night Raw will be broadcast live on the USA Network from the Richmond Coliseum, and on Jan. 4, 2014, the Superstars and Divas of WWE will present a non-televised event at the Hampton Coliseum. Tickets for both events begin at just $15 and can be purchased at the venue’s box office or any Ticketmaster location. Just before the TLC pay-per-view, Roman Reigns, known as the powerhouse of the dominant trio “The Shield,” took some time to discuss his blossoming career.
Jonathan McLarty: To start off, I'd like to say congratulations to you for winning multiple Slammy Awards recently.
Roman Reigns: There were so many different categories, so it was nice to be in the mix and actually capture a few.
JM: What would you like to pass on the members of the military who are reading this interview?
RR: First of all, thank you. We WWE Superstars have a lot of gratitude for our Armed Forces. The fact that they fight for our freedom and allow us to live this life that we live as Americans – we can’t thank those guys and girls enough. It’s a pleasure and an honor to entertain them.
JM: As a member of the Anoa’i family, you have been surrounded by wrestling your entire life, but you also played football for some time, advancing to the practice squads of the NFL and Canadian Football League. Was football your first passion, or just something you wanted to tackle first before making the jump to wrestling?
RR: Wrestling was always the first thing I wanted to do. My dad, my uncle, so many cousins, and my brother – I’m from a family where it seems like everybody’s doing it or has done it. It was my first love and first passion. Growing up in Pensacola, Fla., it was a pretty big football town. I think just about every kid down there took a crack at football. I gave it a shot and actually enjoyed it. Football in high school was a really big deal down there in the panhandle. I was able to get a full ride at Georgia Tech and play ball for the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference), so it worked out really well. It’s unfortunate that it came to an end when it did, but an angel on my shoulder allowed me to crack into the business now. I love what I do, being on the road and being able to entertain people all over the world. I get to see places I’ve never seen. It’s a blessing 100 percent.
JM: With so many famous family members (ie: The Rock, Afa and Sika of the Wild Samoans, Rikishi, The Usos, etc.), did they have a hand in influencing your wrestling style, or did you look to someone outside of the family?
RR: My natural movement, it’s hereditary I’ll say. We all are able to move and do pretty athletic things. My family is the majority of the influence, but going down to FCW (Florida Championship Wrestling, now NXT – WWE’s developmental program) and wrestling all of those guys down there – Dr. Tom Prichard, Joey Mercury, Bill Demott, Norman Smiley, Steve Keirn. Even to this day, talking to Triple H and with all of these resources we have here. When it comes down to it, I try to create a different style. A little more brutal. You can watch fight scenes or MMA and see how they move. There have been a lot of things that influenced me, but I can only be me. That’s what I try to focus on, making everything my own.
JM: Is there a story behind the large tattoo on your right arm?
RR: There is an extreme amount of culture in that. It’s all Samoan tribal patterns. The artist who did it is Mike Fatutoa, one of the best Polynesian tribal artists. He’s been doing it for a long time. It represents my whole family and where we come from. It’s something close to my heart – my story.
JM: You, along with fellow Shield members, have been on the WWE main roster for only 13 months now, but you’ve done a lot in that period of time. What has stood out as your favorite moment so far?
RR: I have to say WrestleMania. I look around and there are guys who have never performed on that stage. Just to say that we did that our very first year and opened the show. That’s a big deal for all three of us. There are a lot of cool moments we have had. When we wrestled The Undertaker, Kane and Daniel Bryan in London (during a recent European tour) – there’s a shot of us flying in on a helicopter. What some people don’t know is that we did a live event earlier that day. We opened that show and then we jumped on a helicopter and flew all the way to London. We went out there and wrestled three of the biggest stars of all time. The next night, we put (The Undertaker) out. That was a surreal moment. WrestleMania and working with The Undertaker are phenomenal moments that I won’t forget for the rest of my life.
JM: The Shield always enters from the crowd. What are the pros and cons of making your entrance from the stage (“Gorilla Position”) or from the crowd?
RR: I enjoy the crowd. When you walk through the curtain onto the stage, you have a different point of view looking at the house. When we come down the stairwells, that’s a different view in its own right, too. It’s so unique for us. I’ve read on social media and different interviews that, now, people are specifically trying to buy tickets on that particular side of the arena. They’re trying to get seats on the row that we’re walking down because it’s such a cool moment for people to size us up and get a feel for what we look like a foot away. We’re trying to put on a show that can’t be duplicated by any other form of entertainment. I like to think that’s a staple for WWE at this point with The Shield.
JM: Have any of the fans gotten out of hand during your entrance?
RR: A couple of people here and there get excited and a little too touchy. They’re all pumped up and want to slap your arm, but they’ll get your neck. I’d much rather have a fan that’s super excited than sitting on their butt. If you can get them up, moving, and excited – that’s what it is all about.
JM: Did you take notes on the Spear from Edge and Goldberg matches?
RR: Even to this day, watching matches, I don’t watch the maneuvers. I feel like I am athletic enough to do any maneuver. It’s not the moves, but what you do between them. The mannerisms are where the money is. A spear is a spear. I’d like to think that I deliver the best one ever seen, but that’s up to the fans to judge. It did help playing football all of those years.
JM: Would anyone find Roman Reigns doing karaoke?
RR: The funny thing is I’ve done karaoke before. I have actually broken down karaoke. I have a plan. The first time I did it, it was just terrible. I was thinking, “I’ll hear the words and can sing along,” but no. You literally just read the words. It’s very difficult to keep up reading and singing at the same time. I have a new game plan for the next time I do karaoke. You have to have a song that you know. I would say, right now, a song I feel comfortable singing in front of a crowd would have to be “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” by Hank Williams Jr.
JM: What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
RR: I have to go with Rocky Road. I’m a big chocolate guy, but I’m a Rocky Road type of guy too. You have the marshmallows, the fudge, almonds – it makes for a good mix.
JM: What do you have planned for 2014? There seems to be some dissension with you and Dean Ambrose.
RR: As far as The Shield – for the past 13 months, it seems like we’ve done it all. People are going pretty nuts about what we’ve done, but there’s so much left to do. Whether we’re working together or fighting each other, there’s just so much more to see. It’s going to be the year of The Shield, whether we’re together or not.
Jonathan McLarty is a contributing writer for The Flagship, as well as a local sports and event photographer. Connect with him on Twitter (@JonathanMcLarty) and view his photography at McLartyPhoto.Zenfolio.com.