Facts About Roman Reigns Only Hardcore Fans Know

Roman Reigns is arguably the most polarizing act in the history of professional wrestling. His singles run as a babyface from 2014 until 2020 was major in terms of his strong positioning and booking, but will be remembered as inconsistent with how WWE fans reacted toward him at the time.

In terms of business, those years were lucrative for WWE as the company signed billion dollar television deals, licensed their product in a multitude of different directions, and sold the rights to their own streaming network -– all with Reigns as the face of the company. Today, Reigns continues to sit at the top of the food chain in WWE, but within a character that lines up more authentically with his personality and makes his star power jump off the television screen. The Roman Reigns charisma has always been at the forefront of the act, but now it's harnessed in a way that is both critically acclaimed and box office successful.

Reigns has had a unique journey to get to where he is as the top of the most successful wrestling promotion in the world. This is the untold truth of that journey.

Roman Reigns, football player

Football was a major part of life for Roman Reigns before his career in the WWE, and he took a unique path in an attempt to play the game at the highest level possible.

Reigns — back when he was just Joe Anoa'i – was a star for Georgia Tech in college and played alongside legendary Detroit Lions NFL wide receiver, Calvin Johnson. Johnson had high praise for Reigns on the football field and his wrestling career. "It's awesome to see him doing that, just taking that thing over," Johnson said on "The Rich Eisen Show" (h/t Fightful). "That was Joe though. He was great at what he did when he played on the football field, so I expected nothing less." Reigns signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2007 as an undrafted free agent. His first leukemia diagnosis came during a team physical and he was released from the team soon after. 

Reigns didn't let his pro football aspirations end there. Reigns continued his dream by joining the Canadian Football League in 2008. Reigns played a full season in the CFL for the Edmonton Eskimos (now Edmonton Elks), but only played five games for the team. After that season, he was not re-signed by the team and retired from the game to pursue professional wrestling.

Roman Reigns and professional wrestling royalty

Roman Reigns has the blood of professional wrestling loyalty running like a river through his veins. Reigns comes from the Anoa'i family and has fathers, uncles, brothers, and cousins that all saw success in the professional wrestling business.

Reigns is the son of Sika, who was a member of The Wild Samoans tag team with his brother, Afa. The Wild Samoans are former tag team champions in WWE, Mid-South Wrestling, Stampede Wrestling, and various other promotions.

Reigns' brother was Rosey from the Three Minute Warning tag team and his cousins are The Usos, a longtime staple of the WWE tag team division. Reigns was cousins with former WWE Intercontinental Champion, Umaga. Umaga was also a part of the Three Minute Warning tag team with Reigns' brother. WWE Attitude Era star Rikishi is Roman's uncle, and Reigns' cousin is Hollywood superstar and former WWE Champion, The Rock.

Overwhelmed? Even members of the family are. Lance Anoa'i, MLW wrestler and member of the family said he even gets confused at the family lineage. "Even for a wrestling fan, even my own family is confusing," Anoa'i told MuscleManMalcolm (h/t Sportskeeda). "There's just so many of us. My grandfather is WWE Hall of Famer Afa, The Wild Samoans. My dad is one-half of The Headshrinkers, Samu. My uncles are Rikishi, Umaga, Yokozuna, Manu. My cousins Roman Reigns, The Rock, The Usos, Jacob Fatu. Man, the list is just so big."

Roman Reigns had his first match against the son of a wrestling legend

Roman Reigns and Steamboat? Absolutely, just not the Steamboat you're thinking of. As a champion and mainstay star of WWE for the last seven years, Reigns has had his fair share of encounters with wrestling legends like The Undertaker, John Cena, and Goldberg, but his first match ever also check a legends box, but in a unique way.

Reigns had his first professional match against Richie Steamboat, the son of WWE Hall of Famer and wrestling legend, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. The match took place for FCW, WWE's developmental brand, in 2010. Reigns was not victorious in the match.

In FCW, Reigns worked many other matches against future WWE stars including Big E, Shad Gaspard, Damien Sandow, Bo Dallas, Bray Wyatt (formerly known as Husky Harris), and others. It's unimaginable to think about given the stubborn babyface push Reigns got on the main roster as a singles star, but he worked as a heel at the start of his career in developmental. During his time in FCW, Reigns won the FCW Florida Tag Team Championship with Mike Dalton as his partner.

Roman Reigns in bright pink sunglasses

Like most pro wrestling fans under the age of eight in the 1990s, Roman Reigns dreamed about wearing the bright pink Bret Hart sunglasses as a kid. In an interview with Yahoo Sports ahead of WrestleMania 31, Reigns talked about Bret Hart's glasses and influence on him. "Every time he'd come out with that leather jacket and give his sunglasses away to a kid in the crowd, I used to dream about being that kid," Reigns said. "That hair, all that gear ... He seemed like a standup guy. A really nice dude. He is a very cool dude."

In an interview with WWE Deutschland, Natalya followed up on those comments and said that Bret appreciated those comments. "I showed Bret the interview," Natalya said. "Bret said, 'All the years of hard work and the bumps and the bruises, to be able to inspire the next generation and Roman, to be able to inspire someone that's at the top of their game,' he said, 'it just means everything to him because it makes him feel like all of his work wasn't for nothing.'"

Roman Reigns' favorite WrestleMania match is surprising

Roman Reigns has worked in the main event match of six different WrestleMania shows, but his favorite one is a surprise and one that he'd likely not want to do again — WrestleMania 31 against Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. 

In an interview with Bleacher Report, Reigns talked about that match with very high regard. "I'd probably not want to do it again because it was brutal," Reigns said. "I was a much younger man back then. But that match, to me, was an instant classic unlike, really, any other sports-entertainment match. I think if you're a grown man and you're on the fence about wrestling and you're like, 'I don't know, this is choreographed. This is like soap-opera stuff, right?' I would suggest you watch that match. It just depends who's doing it. There's a little bit of something for everybody."

Reigns vs. Lesnar at WrestleMania 31 was Roman's first WrestleMania singles match. During the match, Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and pinned Reigns to win the title. This was the first time a cash-in occurred at a WrestleMania.

In addition to WrestleMania 31, Reigns and Lesnar would main event WrestleMania together at WrestleMania 34 and then again at WrestleMania 38.

The Shield and the forgotten triple threat

Roman Reigns will always be remembered for his run with The Shield in WWE alongside Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. The trio were a staple act in the company from 2012 until 2014 and the group defeated multiple legends of the business, successfully won two matches in a row against Evolution, and had a classic six-man encounter with fellow peers in the company, The Wyatt Family.

The Shield triple threat match was a dream match for many fans of the WWE, and that dream was realized at the Battleground PPV event in 2016. On that night and in a match with a blistering pace, Dean Ambrose defeated Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins to retain his WWE World Heavyweight Championship. It was a match that many remember, but was not the only triple threat between those three men.

Reigns, Rollins, and Ambrose competed in the forgotten Shield triple threat match on January 12, 2012. The match took place in the FCW Arena in Tampa, Florida and was for the right to become number one contender for the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship. Reigns was victorious in the match, but did not go on to win the title.

Reigns was always attached to the Roman name

Roman Reigns is now synonymous with main events and the tops of most WWE wrestling cards, but it wasn't always a name that was in play for his character. Can you imagine anything else at the top of the WrestleMania marquee? Reigns started as Roman Leakee and then pivoted to only Leakee, before adopting the name Roman Reigns. The Reigns name origin is an interesting one that didn't start with Reigns himself. Reigns credits one of WWE's flagship announcers and at the time, in-ring performer, for a unique tweak to what Reigns had planned.

Reigns was always attached to the name, "Roman," and spoke in detail about getting to his name during an interview with Chris Jericho on the "Talk Is Jericho" podcast. "I knew I wanted Roman," Reigns said. "I liked Roman. I wanted Roman only and they were like, 'no, you need a last name.' And there's actually another guy in FCW by the name of Calvin Raines. He spelled it like rain, like a raindrop. I was going through it and Corey Graves, he was down in FCW, still working at that time, he's actually one of my good buddies and our families are like really good friends. He told me, he was like, 'hey, I heard you saying 'Roman Raines.' What if you spelled it like, Reigns, like a king Reigns. And I was like, 'whoa, I like that.'"

Roman Reigns was not originally pitched as a member of The Shield

Nobody can think of The Shield without Roman Reigns, but he was not originally pitched to be a member of the group. In an interview on the Colt Cabana "Art of Wrestling" podcast (h/t Cageside Seats), CM Punk spoke about coming up with the idea for The Shield and the young talent that he wanted to be involved with it.

Punk's choices were Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero). Rollins and Ambrose were names on the independent wrestling circuit before joining WWE. Hero had a storied history with Punk with a run of matches across the country and a legendary TLC match for the IWA Mid-South promotion that lives in independent wrestling folklore. 

Ohno was eventually removed from the group in favor of Reigns. "I'm willing to do the heel stable thing, but why don't we pick three guys from FCW that are ready instead," Punk said to Cabana. "So I took the idea to Hunter, I took it to Vince, they agreed. Vince was immediately like 'who do you have in mind?' And I said '(Dean) Ambrose, Rollins, Chris Hero, or Kassius Ohno.' Hunter shot down Hero. They wanted Roman Reigns. They came to me and they were like 'what about Leakee?' I didn't... it wasn't my hill to die on. I said 'sure' because it made sense to me."

Reigns beat cancer not once, but twice

Roman Reigns is a multiple time world champion professional wrestler, but also a multiple time cancer survivor. Reigns publicly revealed a battle with leukemia in October of 2018 during an episode of "Raw." Reigns dropped the WWE Universal Championship that night and left the company until returning cancer free in February of 2019 after undergoing oral chemotherapy treatment.

Though not as public, Reigns defeated an earlier bout of leukemia in 2007 during his football career. The cancer was found during Reigns' time with the Minnesota Vikings. He spoke in tremendous detail about his first cancer battle during an interview with SagerStrong. Reigns said that his mother was a major influence and figure behind him getting healthy.

"It's funny because, with my wrestling career, we started out as a group called The Shield and we wear tactical vests, it's like a SWAT team looking mentality, and a lot of times they have those hooks on the back to where if something happens your teammate can kind of drag you through. At that time my Mom was my teammate, she kind of grabbed me by that strap and dragged me through the process and made sure everything was ok, because I don't think I was truly prepared at that point to soak it in and absorb it."

Roman Reigns is the longest reigning champion in over 30 years

Reigns and the word championship go hand in hand at this point in his career, but he's currently on a historic run with the world title. Reigns has held the WWE Universal Championship for over 700 days and has mowed down top challengers like Jey Uso, Rey Mysterio, Kevin Owens, Riddle, Cesaro, Daniel Bryan, Edge, and others along the way. He won the title in a match against Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman at the Payback PPV in 2020 and has been champion ever since.

This championship run is the longest since Hulk Hogan's title run ended in 1988 and he added the WWE Championship to his waist at WrestleMania 38. Reigns beat Brock Lesnar in the main event of that show and unified both the WWE and Universal World Championships. Reigns has not been pinned since the TLC PPV event in 2019.

Bruno Sammartino holds the all-time record for longest world championship run in WWE at 2,803 days. Hulk Hogan, Bob Backlund, and Pedro Morales also have runs of over 1,000 days with the world title.

Roman Reigns as a leading Hollywood man

Well, if The Rock and John Cena can do it, why not Roman Reigns? Like his WWE predecessors, Reigns has his sights on working in Hollywood once his career in professional wrestling dies down. In 2022, Reigns signed a new contract with WWE that calls for him to work less dates than ever before. Reigns spoke to "The Michael Kay Show" on ESPN (per Bleacher Report) about a move to Hollywood and said he wants to dabble in that space so he can use the tools that he's learned as a pro wrestler. 

"I want to use these tools that I've learned," Reigns said of attempting an acting career. "I'd like to think that along the way I've picked up so many skills and experienced so many things that are going to help me ... This is a young man's game. You can't fall down your whole life. You have to get to a point where you can transition and continue to connect and create new fresh and evolved content for your fanbase and supporters ... I have a pretty good track record with being thrown into the deep end. If that's what happens in Hollywood, I'm going to swim." 

Reigns acted alongside The Rock in "Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw." In the movie, Reigns played the role of Mateo, the brother of Hobbs (The Rock). Reigns also was a guest star on "Cousins For Life."

Roman Reigns punched a clock, working 9-5 before working for WWE

Roman Reigns the civilian? That's incredibly hard to imagine knowing what we know about him. Spears and Superman Punches just don't get the same pops in traditional work settings like offices or retail stores like they do in a wrestling ring, do they? Like most people, though, Reigns worked a 9-5 job and punched a clock prior to finding superstardom as a wrestler in WWE. 

Reigns worked for a furniture store that his sister owned and spoke about his time doing so with ESPN on "First Take" (h/t PWTorch) "I was just working nine-to-five," Reigns said of his time before WWE. "I knew I wasn't supposed to be putting on the furniture shirt. I was supposed to be doing something else. And I didn't know what it was at that point, but I knew WWE could possibly be that team I was looking for. Thank god I was right. They helped me out and gave me an opportunity and I'd like to think I hit my head on the goalpost."

With six WrestleMania main events, multiple championship wins, and countless memorable matches under his belt, hit his head he most certainly did.