WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns was on a recent episode of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with Jimmy Traina ahead of his SummerSlam match against John Cena. At the beginning of their feud, Reigns rejected a match with Cena and called Cena a “nostalgia act” and compared Cena doing the same gimmick since 2005 “like the same thing over and over, like missionary position every single night.” Reigns revealed to Traina that his promos are no longer scripted.
“There was a portion of my career where I’d either read a script or I would try to adjust a script as much as possible,” Reigns noted. “For a while now, especially since I’ve come back from my little leave during the beginning of the pandemic since SummerSlam, I’m not scripted. I say what I want to. I say what I feel, and if it comes out of my mouth, it’s my verbiage. I come up with it. I deliver it, and that’s why it’s been the way it’s been because it’s mine.
“I don’t know why they edited that out, and I think it did raise some eyebrows, but I don’t get in trouble. The gimmick is as close to being real as possible. Even if, even if they try to say something to me, I wouldn’t have cared anyways. What are you gonna do, not have me on SmackDown next week. Like I did before SummerSlam during last summer, I’ll go home. It doesn’t matter to me. Let’s see how it goes without me.”
Reigns vs. Cena has been made official after more of a war of word between the two. Reigns spoke more on his promo process.
“Everything’s a bit of feel. Obviously, this is my job, so I have a game plan,” Reigns said. “I’m attached to the creative process, so we’re always brainstorming. We’re always coming up with new material, but it’s all on the delivery. You can have the coolest lines of all time, but if you’re not connected to it, you’re not within the skin of what you’re trying to do, it’s not going to come off, right. So you have to really put yourself in that position and try to deliver it accordingly.
“It definitely wasn’t something that was holstered throughout the week or the month or anything like that. I have to be in that process. I have to be on location, in the mode because there are huge differences between who I am in real life between Joe and Roman. I’m a father and a husband. That’s the priority, but when it’s time to go to SmackDown or time to go to a WWE event, I have to put on that whole Head of the Table mindset, that whole tribal chief skin and try to display that as authentically as possible”
Since the beginning of Reigns’ new character, Paul Heyman has been by his side where they have developed their own dynamic. Reigns reveals the two requests he had when he came back last summer, and he reveals if it can tough to keep a straight face when Heyman gets going on the mic.
“It can be tough at times,” Reigns admitted. “Huge kudos to Paul and his experience, his career, the path that he’s carved out within this industry, and also leading this industry for a portion of that time and taking it to different thresholds and extremes that had never been done before. It’s constantly trying to be emulated, but it’s just never gonna be the same, but I think that’s just goes to show that the experience and the level of performance that he provides and that adds just a great weapon in my arsenal to be able to have someone like Paul Heyman, which there I don’t think there’s anyone like him.
“He’s a one of one. There’s no doubt about it. To be able to have him in my corner to bounce ideas off of, to riff and brainstorm about the creative, whether it’s a line, whether it’s a delivery, there are a lot of times where I’m like, ‘Paul, listen to this. What do you think?” He, straight up, ‘That’s not you, or, yes!’ And he does a great job. I can’t call it a coach because sometimes, there’s obviously different coaching methods, but Paul has this unique sixth sense of knowing when to deposit a confidence coin in a performer and just give you that one little set of affirmation, where you’re just like, I am the man!
“You’re on the cusp of having that full, let’s go out there and crush this thing in front of millions of people, and he can just say one little thing to where you, without question, believe in what you’re doing. I’m sure I could do it, but I don’t think I would want to do this without him in my corner, and he’s one of very few. I had two requests. I wanted to work with Michael Hayes, that’s my guy. He’s been with me from The Shield days and even before that with my family, and a lot of the people around me have been in relation and in close contact with my family, even before my time as a performer, back when I was just a kid. They have a great history with my family, and they’ve taken to me like family, like blood and those are two guys who are critical in my process, Michael Hayes and Paul Heyman.”
Reigns later recalled his position in the company in 2017. He explains how he worked as a performer despite not having much power or control backstage, as well as if there is concern with pushing the envelope creatively.
“I’m sure there was maybe a little more concern, but it’s that main event tight rope where you have to be able to push envelope, but you also have to be professional and stay within the confines of what we’re trying to do and the audience that we’re trying to reach,” Reigns explained. “And then also the example that we have to set. You have to you have to think about those things, and I think that’s where it’s important, and I will say, I don’t want to give them too much credit here, but that’s something I think that was special about Cena and his career is to be able to transition from that Ruthless Aggression to the PG turn right that went on through the middle of his career, that’s a challenge.
“It’s not easy to go out there and entertain, especially when there’s a good portion of our audience that are middle 30s. It takes some skill, and it takes some creativity to be able to connect with an audience but not just smash f-bombs and turning things sideways and chugging beers. And it’s no discredit to those guys who did that before me. That was the barriers and the boundaries of the performance back then. If that was the case now, I would probably be pushing the envelope just like they did, but we’re all playing the game as the rules are set for each individual.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.