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This Day in Wrestling History (May 25): Happy Birthday Roman Reigns!

29 years ago today in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Soldat Ustinov & Boris Zukhov defeated the Midnight Rockers (Marty Jannetty & Shawn Michaels) to win the AWA World Tag Team Championship. Zukhov would leave for the WWF five months later, with Doug Somers taking his place on the team.

27 years ago today in Osaka, Japan, Salman Hashimikov defeated Big Van Vader to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. On the same show, Jushin Thunder Liger defeated Shiro Koshinaka to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.

22 years ago today at a WWF TV taping in Erie, Pennsylvania, a 16-year old Jeff Hardy made his WWF debut in a losing effort to the 1-2-3 Kid. On the same taping, Brian Lee made his WWF debut as the fake Undertaker managed by Ted DiBiase. The angle set up the real Undertaker's eventual return at Summerslam.

17 years ago today at a RAW is WAR taping in Moline, Illinois (WWE Network link), Jeff Jarrett defeated The Godfather to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship.

The win comes two days after Jarrett's tag team partner, Owen Hart, died of blunt force trauma due to a harness accident at the Over the Edge PPV. Hart was booked to win the title from Godfather. On the same episode, the Acolytes (Bradshaw & Faarooq) defeated X-Pac & Kane to win the WWF Tag Team Championship.

14 years ago today, WWE premiered WWE Confidential on Spike TV.

A departure from other WWE programming at the time, the series hosted by Mean Gene Okerlund offered behind the scenes looks into WWE talent in and outside the ring and occasionally broke kayfabe.

The show lasted for just under two years before being pulled by Spike TV. The show sort of lives on through its Youtube series WWE Outside the Ring, which began running weekly since February 2012. It also lives on through interstitials on the WWE Network's live stream.

13 years ago today, World Wrestling All-Stars presented its final event, The Reckoning, from Auckland, New Zealand. The event aired in the United States on June 8.

  • Rick Steiner defeated Mark Mercedes.
  • Teo defeated Puppet the Psycho Dwarf and Meatball in a three-way match.
  • Devon Storm defeated Konnan.
  • Chris Sabin defeated Jerry Lynn, Johnny Swinger, and Frankie Kazarian in a four corners match to unify the TNA X Division and the WWA International Cruiserweight Championships.
  • Sabu defeated Joe E. Legend.
  • Jeff Jarrett defeated Sting to unify the NWA and WWA world heavyweight championships.

7 years ago today, WWE presented RAW from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

The show was originally to have taken place at the Pepsi Center, but the building got double booked with Game 4 of the NBA's Western Conference Finals, and after a contentious battle with Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke, WWE moved their show to Los Angeles.

In the show's main event, the "Lakers" (John Cena, Batista, Jerry Lawler, MVP, and Mr. Kennedy—more on him in a moment) defeated the "Nuggets" (Randy Orton, The Miz, Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase, and the Big Show).

It was Mr. Kennedy's first match back with the company since dislocating his shoulder the previous August. It was also his last match with the company. Kennedy, real name Ken Anderson, injured his wrist in the bout. He also claimed in a 2010 interview that Randy Orton complained of Anderson being too careless in the ring during the bout. Orton got in the ear of Cena, who then got in the ear of Vince McMahon who then released Anderson just four days later.

4 years ago today, Chris Jericho was indefinitely suspended one day after desecrating a Brazilian flag prior to a match with CM Punk at a WWE event in Sao Paolo. In Brazil, this was an arrestable offense, but Jericho was given the option to apologize and did so. WWE issued the following statement:

"Chris Jericho has been suspended indefinitely due to an irresponsible act of denigrating the Brazilian flag at a WWE event in Sao Paulo on May 24. The WWE has apologized to the citizens and the government of Brazil for this incident."

Jericho would return to WWE television on June 25, immediately following his suspension.

Today, it's a happy 26th birthday for Taylor Michael Rotunda, best known to wrestling fans as Bo Dallas. Taylor, a member of the famed Rotunda family (his brother Windham, aka Bray Wyatt, who turned 29 two days earlier, and father Mike both wrestled in WWE), is a three-time FCW Florida Heavyweight Champion, twice Florida tag team champion with his older brother Windham, and is a former NXT Champion. Last summer, Taylor married former NXT developmental talent Sarah Backman.

It's a happy 31st birthday for Leati Joseph Anoa'I, but you may know him as the reigning WWE heavyweight champion of the world, Roman Reigns.

Born to the famous Anoa'I wrestling family (his father Sika and brother Rosey both wrestled), the half-Samoan, half-Italian Leati is cousins with former wrestlers Yokozuna, Rikishi, Umaga, and the Tonga Kid, as well as first cousins once-removed to the Usos, and a non-biological cousin of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson).

Before getting into the family business, Anoa'I played football for Pensacola Catholic High School and Escambia High School in his senior year. The Pensacola News Journal defensive player of the year went to Georgia Tech and played on the same Yellow Jackets team that featured future NFL wide receiver Calvin Johnson. He recorded 29 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in his senior year in college, and was named to the all-ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) first team.

Despite an impressive senior season, Anoa'I went undrafted in the 2007 NFL Draft. He would be picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Minnesota Vikings, but was cut less than a month later. He would be signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but would be cut just before the start of the 2007 NFL season.

In 2008, he would sign with the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos. He would play in just five games for the club, starting in three of them. His highlight game came in September 2008 when he recorded five tackles and forced a fumble. Anoa'I was released in November 2008, after which he retired from football.

Leati joined WWE in July 2010 and was assigned to Florida Championship Wrestling, their developmental territory at the time. Leati, then known as Roman Leakee (later shortened to Leakee) would wrestle primarily in tag team bouts for the first year or so. In January 2012, Leakee defeated FCW Florida Heavyweight Champion Leo Kruger in a tag team match. The next month, he defeated Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose in a triple threat match for a shot at the Florida Heavyweight Championship. He would lose his title match to Kruger the following week. In June, Leakee and Mike Dalton would win the FCW Florida Tag Team Championship from Corey Graves and Jake Carter. They would hold them for just a month before being defeated by CJ Parker and Jason Jordan.

Following the FCW rebranding to NXT that summer, Anoa'i was renamed Roman Reigns. He would wrestle just three bouts on NXT programming, defeating CJ Parker, Chase Donovan, and Gavin Reids in singles bouts.

Leati joined the WWE main roster at the 2012 Survivor Series as Roman Reigns. He along with former FCW rivals Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose assaulted Ryback during the triple threat main event for the WWE Championship, allowing CM Punk to retain the championship. The next night, the threesome called themselves The Shield, a group who vowed to fight the injustices that plagued WWE. Though they denied working directly with CM Punk, they were always around taking out Punk's adversaries, including Ryback and Team Hell No, whom they would defeat in a six-man match at TLC. The Shield continued to assist Punk through January, attacking The Rock and Ryback; Punk's association with The Shield ended when it was outed that Paul Heyman had paid off The Shield and Brad Maddox to work for them.

The Shield wrestled primarily in six-man tag team matches for the next few months, going unbeaten on television until May 13, 2013 when they were disqualified in an elimination tag team match against John Cena and Team Hell No. Six days later, Reigns and Rollins defeated Team Hell No in a tornado tag match to win the WWE Tag Team Championship. Just over a week later, they defeated Hell No in a rematch on RAW, but Hell No would get a measure of revenge in June when the duo and Randy Orton became the first trio to pin or submit The Shield when Bryan submitted Rollins. Reigns himself would not suffer a pinfall loss until September when the Usos pinned him during an 11-on-3 handicap match.

Around that time, The Shield began working with the Authority. Reigns and Rollins would hold the tag titles until October 14 when they were defeated by Cody Rhodes and Goldust in a no disqualification match. After failing to regain the tag titles later in the month at Hell in a Cell, cracks began to form in the group, as Dean Ambrose was the only member of the group with a championship. At Survivor Series, Reigns scored four of the five eliminations in their tag team match and was the sole survivor for his unit. The Shield were defeated at TLC in a three-on-one handicap match against CM Punk, but Reigns would defeat Punk in early January. Later that month, Reigns would make Royal Rumble history when entering at #15, he eliminated twelve men (two of them being his Shieldmates), a single match record. He would be the eventual runner-up of the match after being eliminated by the returning Batista. The next night, The Shield took on John Cena, Sheamus, and Daniel Bryan, with the winning team entered into the Elimination Chamber. The Shield were disqualified when the Wyatt Family interfered on their behalf. The Shield and the Wyatt Family met at the Elimination Chamber PPV, with the Wyatts winning. There was further dissension within the group, but they reconciled.

The Shield would feud with Kane, and by extension, the Authority. The feud essentially turned The Shield face. After quickly disposing of Kane and the New Age Outlaws at Wrestlemania XXX, they feuded with a reformed Evolution. The Shield defeated Evolution at Extreme Rules and Payback; both groups would dissolve following Payback, with Batista quitting the WWE, and Rollins turning on The Shield and aligning himself with The Authority.

Reigns, now a singles competitor, found himself in the hunt for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. After failing to win the title at Money in the Bank and Battleground, Reigns feuded with Randy Orton, culminating with Reigns defeating Orton at Summerslam. He then turned his attention to Seth Rollins, the man who betrayed the Shield. They were set to meet at Night of Champions (Reigns even scored a win over Rollins less than a week before the event), but Reigns would develop an incarcerated hernia, requiring immediate surgery. Reigns was ruled out of action indefinitely, and Rollins was declared the winner via forfeit at Night of Champions.

Roman returned in December to accept the Superstar of the Year award at the 2014 Slammy Awards. Six days later, he interfered on behalf of John Cena in his match against Seth Rollins, attacking both Rollins and Big Show. Reigns would score multiple wins over Big Show over the next few weeks, but never via pinfall or submission.

At the 2015 Royal Rumble, Roman didn't have a record-breaking performance like the previous year, but the #19 entrant would score six eliminations, including the final three (Big Show, Kane, and Rusev) to win the match. Just over a week later, he suffered his first singles pinfall loss when he was defeated by Big Show. The win gave him a Wrestlemania main event against WWE world champion Brock Lesnar.

Though some trace it to the previous summer, positive crowd reaction to Roman Reigns was diminishing rapidly, especially following the Royal Rumble match. Many people claimed the Superstar of the Year award vote to be rigged, but wrestling journalists Mike Johnson of PWInsider and Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Newsletter both stated that the fan vote was legit. Reigns would be voted the most overrated wrestler of 2014 by Wrestling Observer Newsletter (he would win it again the next year). Critics from wrestling pundits and performers themselves began pouring in, calling him out for his limited moveset, forced promo delivery, and his polarizing persona and attitude. Many claimed he was not fully prepared for his rocket push. Anoa'i himself reacted to such claims, saying that his critics were non-wrestlers who couldn't lock up.

After Reigns kept his spot in the main event of Wrestlemania by defeating Daniel Bryan at Fastlane, both Bryan and Paul Heyman endorsed Reigns in what was called by "shockingly transparent promos... attempting to illustrate [his] greatness". Reigns would be defeated at Wrestlemania 31 in the WWE title match, but not by Lesnar, but by Seth Rollins, who cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase near the conclusion of the bout.

After briefly feuding with Big Show and failing to win the WWE Championship from Seth Rollins, Reigns began feuding with Bray Wyatt after he had cost Reigns the Money in the Bank briefcase. Though Wyatt defeated Reigns at Battleground, the feud continued into the fall, with Reigns defeating Wyatt in a Hell in a Cell match in October.

The next night, Reigns won a fatal four-way match to become the #1 contender for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, but just over a week later, the title was declared vacant when Seth Rollins injured his knee while competing in a match in Ireland. A tournament was commissioned to crown a new champion, and Triple H offered Reigns a bye into the final in exchange for joining the Authority. Reigns declined. He would win the tournament, defeating Alberto Del Rio and Dean Ambrose at Survivor Series to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship for the first time. Triple H tried to offer congratulations, but Reigns speared him; it was a trap. Sheamus ambushed Reigns, and cashed in his Money in the Bank, defeating Reigns just five minutes later.  Reigns would lose the rematch at TLC thanks in part to Sheamus and the League of Nations. Post-match, Reigns would assault the League and Triple H.

The night after TLC, Reigns was granted a WWE Championship rematch by Mr. McMahon, with the condition that Roman's career was over if he lost. Roman would overcome interference from McMahon, Alberto Del Rio, and Rusev to defeat Sheamus and retain the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. After successfully defending again on January 4 (with McMahon as the special referee), it was announced that Reigns would defend the WWE Championship in the Royal Rumble match. Roman entered first and would get five eliminations before being attacked by the League of Nations. Reigns would eventually return, but would be ousted by the match's eventual winner, Triple H.

After Reigns defeated Dean Ambrose and Brock Lesnar in a triple threat match for the right to challenge for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, the match was set for Wrestlemania 32, where Triple H defended against Reigns. In March 2016, Reigns abandoned the crowd entrance he had used since his Shield days for a more traditional entrance (from the entrance ramp). At Wrestlemania 32, Reigns defeated Triple H to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion for a third time.

Crowd reaction towards Reigns continue to remain mixed, leaning negative despite his perceived "hard-luck underdog" story, seeing as WWE "[bent] over backwards to create new obstacles for him... at the expense of almost everyone on the roster". Many websites have reported WWE taking drastic measures to hide fans' disapproval of Reigns, including editing anti-Reigns signs, taking said anti-Reigns signs away, piping in cheers, and muting crowd reactions. It's done little to curb reaction; ESPN's David Shoemaker went so far as to call Reigns "the most despised wrestler WWE has had since it turned Sgt. Slaughter into an Iraq-sympathizing traitor in 1990". Multiple ex-WWE performers, including Stone Cold Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, and his cousin Rikishi, have all called for a Reigns heel turn. Reigns himself responded to criticisms saying that WWE is a "kid's show" and he wasn't wrestling to impress "grown men" who boo him: "Continue to be ready to boo. You're going to be mad for a long time. I'm not going away."

Following Wrestlemania 32, Reigns declared himself to be "not a good guy, nor a bad guy, but the guy", indicating perhaps a tweener turn. Additionally, Dave Meltzer said that WWE's new gimmick for Reigns is that he was being positioned as a guy people actually like, but they only boo him because it's fun to boo him; Meltzer said that in reality this was far from the truth.

Reigns would successfully defend the WWE World Heavyweight Championship against AJ Styles on consecutive PPVs, defeating him at Payback and Extreme Rules; following Extreme Rules, Reigns was attacked by a returning Seth Rollins; the two are expected to meet at Money in the Bank in June.

Leati is married to Galina Joelle Becker; the couple, married since December 2014, has one daughter together, with whom he appeared with in a public service announcement in June 2014. The seven-time Slammy Award winner was ranked the #4 singles wrestler in the world by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in the most recent PWI 500 last year.

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