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Roman Reigns

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Roman Reigns
Roman Reigns in Lafayette.jpg
Reigns in April 2014
Birth name Leati Joseph Anoaʻi[1]
Born (1985-05-25) May 25, 1985 (age 30)[1]
Pensacola, Florida, United States[2]
Residence Tampa, Florida, United States
Spouse(s) Galina Becker (m. 2014)[3]
Children 1
Family Anoaʻi
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Joe Anoaʻi[2]
Roman Leakee[2]
Roman Reigns[2]
Billed height 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)[4]
Billed weight 265 lb (120 kg)[4]
Billed from Pensacola, Florida[4]
Trained by Afa Anoaʻi[5]
Sika Anoaʻi[5]
Florida Championship Wrestling[2]
Debut 2010[2]

Leati Joseph "Joe" Anoaʻi (born May 25, 1985) is an American professional wrestler and former professional Canadian football player. A member of the Anoaʻi family, he is currently signed to WWE, where he performs under the ring name Roman Reigns.

After playing collegiate football for Georgia Tech, Anoaʻi started his professional football career with brief off-season stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL) in 2007. He then played a full season for the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos in 2008 before his release and retirement from football.

Anoaʻi then pursued a career in professional wrestling and was signed by WWE in 2010, reporting to their developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling. Reigns made his main roster debut in 2012 with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose as the Shield. While as part of the group, Reigns is a former WWE Tag Team Champion (with Rollins), tied the WWE record for most eliminations in a Survivor Series elimination match with four in 2013, and set the record for most eliminations in a Royal Rumble match with 12 at the 2014 match.

After the dissolution of the Shield in 2014, Reigns assumed the role of a main eventer, albeit with some fan backlash. In singles competition, Reigns is a former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, the 2015 Royal Rumble winner, and the 2014 Superstar of the Year. Reigns has headlined multiple pay-per-views for WWE, including WrestleMania 31, the highest-grossing WWE event.

Football career

Joe Anoaʻi
No. 99
Career information
Status Retired
CFL status International
Position(s) DT
Height 6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
Weight 280 lb (130 kg)
College Georgia Tech
Career history
As player
2007 Minnesota Vikings*
2007 Jacksonville Jaguars*

Edmonton Eskimos

*Offseason and/or practice squad member only
Career stats
Tackles 9
Knockdowns 0
Sacks 0
*CFL statistics only

Anoaʻi played football for three years at Pensacola Catholic High School and one year at Escambia High School. His senior year, he was named Defensive Player of the Year by the Pensacola News Journal.[1] He then attended Georgia Institute of Technology, where he was a member of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team. There, he was teammates with future National Football League (NFL) wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Anoa'i was a three-year starter beginning in his sophomore year and was also one of the team captains as a senior.[1] After recording twenty-nine tackles for loss and twelve sacks in 2006, Anoa'i was named to the first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).[6]

After going undrafted in the 2007 NFL Draft, Anoa'i was signed by the Minnesota Vikings in May 2007, but was released later that month.[7][8] The Jacksonville Jaguars signed him in August 2007, only to release Anoa'i less than a week later before the start of the 2007 NFL season.[7][9]

In 2008, Anoaʻi was signed by the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL).[10] Wearing the number 99, Anoaʻi played for one season with the Eskimos, featuring in five games, of which he started three.[10][11] Anoa'i's most notable game came against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in September, where he tied for the team lead with five tackles and had a forced fumble.[12] After the Eskimos released him on November 10, 2008, Anoa'i retired from the sport of football.[10]

Professional wrestling career

World Wrestling Entertainmment/WWE

Florida Championship Wrestling (2010–2012)

In July 2010, Anoaʻi signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and was later assigned to their developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).[2] He debuted on September 9, 2010, using the ring name Roman Leakee, in a loss to Richie Steamboat in a singles match. Further losses to Idol Stevens and Wes Brisco ensued, before he gained his first win on September 21 over Fahd Rakman. He continued competing in FCW throughout the remainder of the year, wrestling mainly in tag team matches.[13] On the January 16, 2011, episode of FCW television, Leakee was a competitor in a 30-man Grand Royal, but was eliminated.[14] Later in 2011, Leakee formed an alliance with Donny Marlow and the pair unsuccessfully challenged Calvin Raines and Big E Langston for the FCW Florida Tag Team Championship on July 8.[15]

In 2012, Leakee pinned FCW Heavyweight Champion Leo Kruger during a tag team match on the January 8 episode of FCW television.[16] On the February 5 episode of FCW television, he defeated Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins in a triple threat match to become the number one contender to the FCW Florida Heavyweight Championship.[17] He failed to win the championship when he lost to champion Kruger the following week.[18] Leakee later won the FCW Florida Tag Team Championship with Mike Dalton and would later drop the titles to CJ Parker and Jason Jordan.

After WWE rebranded FCW to WWE NXT,[19] Anoaʻi, with the new ring name of Roman Reigns, made his NXT debut on the October 31, 2012 episode, defeating CJ Parker.[20]

The Shield (2012–2014)

The Shield in January 2013

Reigns made his main roster television debut on November 18, 2012, at the Survivor Series pay-per-view alongside Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, assaulting Ryback during the triple threat main event for the WWE Championship, allowing CM Punk to retain the title.[21] The trio declared themselves "The Shield" and vowed to rally against "injustice". They denied working for Punk, but routinely emerged from the crowd to attack Punk's adversaries, including Ryback and WWE Tag Team Champions Team Hell No (Kane and Daniel Bryan).[22][23][24][25] This led to a six-man Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match at the TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs pay-per-view, in which Reigns, Ambrose, and Rollins defeated Team Hell No and Ryback in their debut match.[26] The Shield continued to aid Punk in January 2013, attacking both Ryback and The Rock.[27][28] On Raw on January 28, it was revealed that Punk and his manager Paul Heyman had been paying The Shield and Brad Maddox to work for them.[29]

The Shield then quietly ended their association with Punk while beginning a feud with John Cena, Ryback, and Sheamus that directed to a six-man tag match on February 17 at Elimination Chamber, which The Shield won.[30][31][32] The Shield had their first Raw match the following night, where they gained success against Ryback, Sheamus, and Chris Jericho.[33] Sheamus then formed an alliance with Randy Orton and Big Show to face The Shield at WrestleMania 29, but The Shield emerged victorious in their first WrestleMania match.[34][35] The following night on Raw, The Shield attempted to attack The Undertaker but were stopped by Team Hell No.[36] This set up a six-man tag team match on the April 22 episode of Raw, which The Shield won.[37] On the May 13 episode of Raw, The Shield's undefeated streak in televised six-man tag team matches ended in a disqualification loss in an elimination match against Cena, Kane and Bryan.[38]

On May 19 at Extreme Rules, Reigns and Rollins defeated Team Hell No in a tag team tornado match to win the WWE Tag Team Championship.[39] They made their first televised title defense on the May 27 episode of Raw, defeating Team Hell No in a rematch.[40] On the June 14 episode of SmackDown, The Shield's unpinned/unsubmitted streak in televised six-man tag team matches came to an end at the hands of Team Hell No and Randy Orton, when Daniel Bryan submitted Rollins.[41][42] Reigns and Rollins defeated Bryan and Orton at Payback to retain the WWE Tag Team Championship.[43] Further successful title defenses followed against The Usos on July 14 during the Money in the Bank pre-show and The Prime Time Players (Darren Young and Titus O'Neil) at Night of Champions.[44][45] On the September 23 episode of Raw, Reigns was pinned for the first time while on the main roster courtesy of the Usos when the Shield participated in and lost an eleven-on-three handicap elimination match.[46]

Reigns in November 2013

In August, The Shield began working for chief operating officer Triple H and The Authority.[47][48] On the October 14 episode of Raw, Reigns and Rollins lost the WWE Tag Team Championship to Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a No Disqualification match, following interference from Big Show.[49] At Hell in a Cell, Reigns and Rollins failed to regain the tag team title in a triple threat match.[50] Tension began to appear within The Shield, especially between Reigns and Ambrose, as Ambrose was the only member left with a championship.[51] At Survivor Series, Reigns was the sole survivor for his team in the traditional five-on-five elimination tag team match after eliminating four opponents.[52] After losing to Punk in a handicap match at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs, Reigns defeated Punk in a singles match after a distraction from Ambrose on January 6, 2014, making him the only member of The Shield to have beaten Punk.[53] At the Royal Rumble pay-per-view, Reigns entered the Rumble match at number 15, and set the record for most eliminations in a single Rumble with 12. He eliminated both his Shield teammates, and was the runner-up in the match after being eliminated by Batista.[54] The next night on Raw, The Shield competed in a six-man tag team match against Daniel Bryan, Sheamus, and John Cena, with all three members of the winning team qualifying for the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. The Shield lost the match via disqualification after The Wyatt Family interfered and attacked Cena, Bryan, and Sheamus. The Shield wanted revenge and a six-man tag for The Shield against The Wyatt Family at the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view was arranged, in which The Shield lost.[55] Despite more tension,[56] The Shield reconciled in March.[57]

In March, The Shield began feuding with Kane, which turned all members of The Shield into faces (fan favorite characters).[58] Over the next few weeks, The Shield continued exchanging assaults with Kane, who was joined by the New Age Outlaws, leading to a match between the two teams at WrestleMania XXX, which The Shield won.[59] The feud with Kane also prompted The Shield to sever ties with Triple H, who reformed Evolution to counter them. The Shield defeated Evolution at both Extreme Rules and Payback.[60][61] After Batista quit WWE the following night, Triple H initiated "Plan B" which involved Rollins turning on The Shield and aligning himself with Triple H and The Authority.[62]

Singles competition (2014–present)

Roman Reigns in April 2014

After Rollins turned on the Shield and began a feud with Dean Ambrose in June, Reigns began working as a singles competitor.[63] On the June 16 episode of Raw, Reigns competed in a battle royal to qualify for a spot for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship ladder match at Money in the Bank; he won by last eliminating Rusev.[64] At Money in the Bank, Reigns failed to win the title.[65] At Battleground, Reigns participated in the Fatal Four-Way match for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which Cena won to retain the title.[66] The following night on Raw, Triple H had planned on announcing Randy Orton as the number one contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but Reigns attacked Orton, causing Triple H to lose faith in him and replace him in the title match. This prompted a feud between Reigns and Orton which culminated with Reigns defeating Orton at SummerSlam.[67] After Seth Rollins injured Dean Ambrose in storyline, Reigns attacked Rollins during Rollins' "eulogy" for Ambrose. This led to a scheduled match between Reigns and Rollins at Night of Champions. However, Reigns had a legitimate incarcerated hernia which required surgery days prior to the match. As a result, Rollins was declared the winner via forfeit and Reigns was ruled out of action indefinitely.[68][69]

"Reigns was a greener-than-grass wrestler who WWE identified as the Face of the Performance Center Machine – taking raw talent without the "bad habits" from the independents and trying to manufacture a WrestleMania Main-Eventer".

James Caldwell of the Professional Wrestling Torch Newsletter, in February 2015, on Reigns' background compared to that of his Shield teammates[70]

Reigns returned to television on the December 8 episode of Raw when he accepted the 2014 "Superstar of the Year" Slammy Award.[71] Six days later at TLC, when Big Show interfered in John Cena's match against Seth Rollins, Reigns attacked both Big Show and Rollins, leading to Cena's win.[72] This started a feud between Reigns and Big Show, which resulted in Reigns defeating Big Show multiple times by count-out and disqualification.[73][74][75] On January 25, 2015, Reigns won the 2015 Royal Rumble match after entering at number 19 and eliminating six other wrestlers. During the match, The Rock made a surprise return to help Reigns eliminate Big Show and Kane.[76] On the following night's Raw, Reigns acknowledged being part of the Anoaʻi family for the first time on WWE television.[77] On the February 2 episode of Raw, Reigns lost to Big Show, marking the first time Reigns had lost via pinfall in a one-on-one match on the WWE main roster.[78] Also on that episode, to clear up the "controversy" of the Rock's intervention in the Rumble, Reigns agreed to put his WrestleMania title shot on the line, with his opponent being determined as Daniel Bryan.[79] Reigns' feud with Bryan culminated at Fastlane, where Reigns defeated Bryan to solidify a WrestleMania main event title match against Brock Lesnar. Bryan endorsed Reigns after the match.[80][81] At WrestleMania 31, after Reigns had wrestled Lesnar for fifteen minutes in the main event title match, Seth Rollins cashed in his Money in the Bank contract to change the ongoing match into a triple threat. Rollins then pinned Reigns to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship.[82] After WrestleMania, Reigns would reignite his feud with Big Show after Show interfered in his Triple-Threat Match against Ryback and Randy Orton on the April 6th edition of Raw. This led to a Last Man Standing match between Show and Reigns at Extreme Rules, which Reigns won.[83] At Payback, Reigns failed again to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against Rollins when he lost a Fatal Four-Way match that also included Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton.[84]

At Money in the Bank, Reigns would compete in the Money in the Bank ladder match in which he failed to win after Bray Wyatt interfered, attacking Reigns while he was trying to retrieve the briefcase.[85] Later that night, it was announced that Reigns would face Wyatt at Battleground, where Reigns would be defeated by Wyatt, after former Wyatt Family member Luke Harper would attack Reigns, with Harper later reuniting with Wyatt.[86][87] On the August 6 edition of SmackDown, Reigns challenged Wyatt to a tag team match at SummerSlam, with Reigns and Ambrose facing Wyatt and Harper, which Wyatt accepted.[88] At SummerSlam, Reigns and Ambrose defeated Wyatt and Harper.[89] On the August 24 episode of Raw, Reigns and Ambrose fought Wyatt and Harper in a SummerSlam rematch. During the match, Braun Strowman made his WWE debut, joining the Wyatt Family and helping Harper and Wyatt attack Reigns and Ambrose.[90] This would later lead to a match at Hell in a Cell where Reigns defeated Wyatt in a Hell in a Cell match to end their feud.

The following night on Raw, Reigns won a Fatal 4-Way match to become the number-one contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. However, on November 4, at a house show in Dublin, Ireland, then-champion Seth Rollins legitimately injured his knee in a match against Kane and vacated the title. A tournament would be held, with the final match taking place a Survivor Series to crown a new champion. Reigns defeated Big Show on the November 9 episode of Raw to advance to the quarterfinals. He then defeated Cesaro the following week to advance to the semi-finals. At Survivor Series, Reigns defeated Alberto Del Rio to advance to the final, where he defeated Dean Ambrose later in the night to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for the first time. However, after his victory, Sheamus cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase and pinned Reigns after executing two Brogue Kicks to win the title, ending Reigns' championship run at five minutes fifteen seconds. The following night on Raw, Triple H announced that Reigns' rematch against Sheamus would take place at the TLC PPV in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match.

Persona and reception

The Roman Reigns character was established by WWE as the "powerhouse" and "heavy hitter" of the Shield, as well as an "exceptional athlete".[91] Noted as the least talkative of the Shield members,[92] in mid-2013, Reigns' character was tweaked from "the quiet muscle who was given one or two lines" to being "ultra-confident" and only needing "a few words to make his point" and a source of leadership with "quiet strength". This was essentially a part of the character regardless if he was portraying a face (good guy) or heel (bad guy).[93] CM Punk revealed that he was constantly reminded to make Reigns look "really, really strong" during his match with the Shield at the December 2013 TLC event, despite the Shield being scripted to lose.[94] Reigns was awarded the 2013 "Most Improved" Wrestling Observer Newsletter award.[95] The first major sign of a future push for Reigns came during the 2014 Royal Rumble match when the final two competitors were Reigns and Batista. Reigns finished as the runner-up at this event and was cheered by the crowd in attendance despite having been a villainous character for more than a year.[96][97] Anoa'i later acknowledged the positive reaction from the extremely vocal audience as a "cool situation" and a "surreal moment".[98] In mid-2014, Stone Cold Steve Austin said that he saw great potential in Reigns,[99] while David Shoemaker of Grantland wrote that Reigns had "mystery and intensity", as well as "superstar written all over him".[100]

"Every critic I've ever had, they weren't wrestlers [laughs]. Every wrestler I've ever had critique me, they were always into my stuff or what I'm doing out there. For a non-wrestler, someone who doesn't even know how to lock up, and if we did lock up, they wouldn't know what to do, for them to critique any of us, it really does pop me".

Anoaʻi in an interview published in January 2015[98]

"I don't think I'm headbutting with [hardcore fans], I feel like they are headbutting me. [...] One thing that kind of confuses me is that it is a performance, it is a show, there is a storyline. When people start doing the 'He deserves this, He deserves that', really did Brad Pitt deserved [sic] to be Achilles in Troy?".

Anoaʻi in an interview published in March 2015[101]

After the Shield disbanded, Reigns (unlike the other ex-Shield members) retained much of the Shield's aesthetic including ring attire, theme music and ring entrance.[102][103] It was noted in July 2014 that Reigns was receiving "a vocal seal of approval" from live audiences.[104] Despite this, comparisons were made between Reigns and John Cena; wrestler Mikey Whipwreck commented in 2015 that WWE had the Reigns character "talking and kind of trying to be like John Cena" on televised shows, which Whipwreck predicted would become "very polarizing". Whipwreck also said Anoa'i did not have the ability to either "protect his character and how it comes across" or "put his own spin on his character".[105] Commentators from the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter variously criticized Reigns in 2014 and 2015, writing that he is "already getting the John Cena type treatment. He has the look that women love and the kids because he almost has the look of a superhero [...] His in-ring work is decent for what he can do but his moveset is very limited".[106] Also noted was his "forced promo delivery",[107] as well as his "petulant and annoyed body language and facial expressions" for a top babyface acting as a "turnoff to many fans".[108]

In response to reports that Reigns was set to receive a main-event push leading into WrestleMania 31, critics from the Wrestling Observer, Pro Wrestling Torch, Grantland and WrestleView raised concerns from late 2014 to early 2015 that Reigns, despite being "not fully ready", was "being pushed too hard, too soon" while WWE tried to make him their next "flagship star", "no matter how fans reacted".[107][109][110][111] His quick ascendancy up the card was compared to Diesel's in 1994–1995.[109] WWE was also criticized by staff for having Daniel Bryan and Paul Heyman endorse Reigns after Fastlane with "two shockingly transparent promos... attempting to illustrate Reigns' greatness".[112] In response to comments that Reigns was "not ready" for the top spot, Triple H said that no one is ever ready to be thrust into that position.[113][114] while Paul Heyman said detractors were "blind to how talented this young man is [...] He has adapted to this business as fast as anyone I've ever seen".[115]

Reigns' win of 2014 Superstar of the Year Slammy Award garnered surprise to the point of accusations of WWE vote-rigging, but both PWInsider and Dave Meltzer stated that the fan vote was legitimate.[116][117] A month later, Reigns finished in second place for Wrestling Observer Newsletter's annual "Most Overrated" award.[110] In an interview published in January 2015, Anoaʻi described himself as "kind of getting like a mixed vibe from time-to-time", with "a lot of love" and "hate in the middle of it".[98] During the 2015 Royal Rumble match, Reigns was booed during and after the match, despite portraying a heroic character and being endorsed by The Rock.[118][119] Writing a few months after the Rumble, Paul Heyman suggested that the negative reception Reigns received was due to the fans being led to believe that fellow Rumble participant Daniel Bryan - who had been eliminated midway through the Royal Rumble match - would make a "miraculous comeback" at the event, leading to Reigns being seen as "the guy standing in Daniel Bryan's way".[120] Triple H acknowledged the negative fan response to Reigns on televised shows, but said that Reigns received more favorable responses at house shows.[113] WWE reportedly confiscated anti-Reigns fan signs both pre and post-WrestleMania 31.[121][122] Matt O'Brien of WrestleView said in March 2015 that "the past year has just been us talking about [Reigns] having potential, but he hasn't really grown. If anything, the breakup of the Shield has exposed him".[109] Also in March, Jason Powell of said regarding Reigns, "I can't remember a WrestleMania main-eventer not speaking on the go-home show. They really went out of their way to protect him".[123] Also, Dave Meltzer was asked if there had been anyone less over than Reigns while main-eventing WrestleMania. Meltzer answered, "No, there has never been".[124] At WrestleMania 31, Pro Wrestling Torch described Reigns as receiving "universal boos" and middle fingers, as well as noting that Reigns needed security for his entrance through the crowd. The WrestleMania main event match between Reigns and Brock Lesnar was well received by professional wrestling media outlets such as Pro Wrestling Torch and the Canadian Online Explorer and the event itself was reported to be the highest-grossing WWE event in company history.[125][126] On the post-WrestleMania Raw, Reigns was booed by fans throughout his main event six-man tag team match even though he failed to win the championship the night before and still portraying a face character.[127]

Despite the fan backlash in early 2015, Reigns' post-Rumble performances were widely praised by reviewers. David Shoemaker of Grantland said that Reigns had "exceeded all expectations" from after the Royal Rumble to Extreme Rules.[128] This sentiment was echoed by critics from and Rolling Stone, who felt that Reigns had "delivered big in three consecutive pay-per-view matches" at Fastlane, WrestleMania and Extreme Rules,[129][130] including "a star-making performance" at WrestleMania where Reigns "proved that he belongs".[131] In April 2015, The Miz speculated that the backlash against Reigns was due to fans wanting to cheer someone who was 'made' by the fans, as opposed to someone pushed by 'the system'.[132] As 2015 progressed, Reigns continued to face negative crowd reactions at PPVs such as Money in the Bank and SummerSlam.[133][134]

In November 2015, Reigns entered a tournament for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship; Forbes analyzed Reigns as being the "runaway favorite" to win.[135] After progressing from the quarter-finals, a Pro Wrestling Torch writer wrote, "This is main event-level and Reigns is still wrestling as if he’s part of a three-man unit able to tag out and get a breather."[136] For the tournament's conclusion at Survivor Series, Reigns received mixed reactions from the crowd on his way to winning his first WWE World Heavyweight Championship, and boos during his exit after losing the title minutes later.[137] After Survivor Series, a Pro Wrestling Dot Net writer questioned who the Roman Reigns character is supposed to be, saying he's "unsure [if even] Roman Reigns knows who Roman Reigns is...he has no moral compass or consistency as a character."[138]

Personal life

Anoaʻi is half-Samoan and half-Italian.[139] Both his father, Sika Anoaʻi, and his brother, Rosey, were professional wrestlers. As a member of the Anoaʻi family, he is a cousin to former professional wrestlers Yokozuna, Rikishi, Umaga, The Tonga Kid, and first cousin once-removed to The Usos and The Rock.[11][140]

Anoaʻi married Galina Joelle Becker in early December 2014.[3] He has a daughter, with whom he appeared in a public service announcement in June 2014.[141][142]

At the Georgia Institute of Technology, Anoaʻi majored in management.[1]

In wrestling

The Shield prepare to perform their triple powerbomb on Kane
Reigns executing the Superman punch on Brock Lesnar

Championships and accomplishments

Collegiate football

Professional wrestling

Reigns as one-half of the WWE Tag Team Champions in 2013


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