ESPN ran an article speaking with those who have taken on The Undertaker at WrestleMania over the years. Roman Reigns was among the names, defeating Taker at WrestleMania 33.
Reigns noted Vince McMahon broke the news to him, but said Undertaker nearly gave it away the week prior. “The Big Dog” also said once he found out, he immediately wanted to lose the match, obviously that’s not how Vince saw things.
“I remember the conversation with Vince,” Reigns recalled. “I saw Taker like a week prior, and he almost gave it away, but he did good in covering it up. He could tell I didn’t know yet. When Vince explained it to me, I was just in awe. It’s something that everybody who gets into the business wants, to get into the ring with The Undertaker. And I remember the first thing I thought was that I wanted to put him over. I wanted to lose. Immediately, that was my instinct. Out of respect.
“I knew he was in pain, but I didn’t know he was going in [for hip surgery] soon after that or else I would have crafted that story a little differently. So I knew it was on me to try to help carry it. The movement of the match. Orbit around him. But I thought it would have been a better story if I was on my back at the end. Obviously, it didn’t go that way.”
Thanks to the Undertaker: The Last Ride series, it was well documented that Taker wasn’t not great physically before their match, causing a few missteps in the match. Undertaker has talked about how disappointed he was in himself with how things turned out. Reigns himself felt like he didn’t put forth his best effort either, shedding a few tears that night.
“When I went through gorilla [position] and he was still in the ring, I was just tucked off from the ramp into this little tiny holding area where people do last-minute [preparations] before a match,” Reigns remembered. “I just sat in one of these little chairs and I cried. It was such an emotional overload, for bad reasons and for good reasons too. As a perfectionist, I think Mark can agree that we had such an awesome story. If it had all went perfectly … aw man, it would have been so fire. But the opportunity to main-event a WrestleMania with Taker, I was so grateful. But the perfectionist in me could not let it go.
“It ate me up. It still bothers me a little bit. I remember my cousins [The Usos] and I skipped out on the after-party, and I didn’t get back to the hotel until like 2 a.m. because we drank all night and talked. I probably shed a few more tears that night too. I had so many hopes and aspirations to take advantage of that man’s time and do right by him, and I just felt like I failed that situation. And it just lit a fire under my ass. I don’t think I had a bad match since.”