An interview with Roman Reigns where he made some comments about CM Punk got wrestling fans riled up yesterday. The Tribal Chief deployed a savvy mix of truth and possible fiction to set-up a potential conflict with the currently retired Punk.
It wasn’t the only podcast Reigns has done recently where he blurred the lines of kayfabe and ‘reality’. He made remarks while on After The Bell with Corey Graves last week that certainly have a grain of truth to them, but also serve to build up his new heel character and give lots of people a reason to want to fight him.
The “nobody can do what I can do” swagger was a thread throughout the conversation with Graves. There was a stretch where they talked about the burden of being one of WWE’s big stars, which doubled as a version of John Cena chiding the locker room for being complacent:
“Being on top is every day, all day long - you don’t turn it off. You’re that guy every single day, and it has to be that way. Everybody wants to be on top... but when the work comes, they start b****ing and moaning about it. They start complaining. And it’s like, ‘you said you wanted to be the guy, but you don’t want to work on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,’ you know what I mean? You don’t want to work Saturday, you don’t want the double-shot, you don’t want to do the media before AND after the show, you don’t want to do the flight all the way across the country to do the hit for ESPN, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of different things that keep you away from home that make this a 24/7, 365 day a year job...
“I don’t think everybody, as far as talent, understands that. And whenever they do get a taste of it, it’s shocking. And I’ve seen some of the boys go from, ‘man, I want to be pushed, I want to be the guy, I want to have the responsibility’ to being in the locker room like, ‘I think I kind of like it right here doing what I’m doing, being on TV once a week, make a good living, be able to be with my family the rest of the week.’ They don’t want to be in a situation - not all of them, not saying this is everybody. That’s what makes our locker room special, is we do have a lot of hungry performer, but it’s very rare for some to taste the idea of doing everything, being on every single show, being dead tired all the time, and enjoying it, and being willing to do it year-in and year-out.”
Cena - and Roman’s 2017 program with the 16 time WWE World champ - was specifically referenced later when Corey asked if anyone stood out and impressed him while he was away from the company from WrestleMania 36 until SummerSlam. Reigns is careful to shout out a several by name... after a long silence and some shade the entire roster:
“Nah, otherwise I wouldn’t have to be back, know what I mean? If it was all just perfect, there wouldn’t be a need for me. The fans wouldn’t have been calling for me to come back, the company wouldn’t need me. If it was really all good, I might still be at home.
“I think there are some people who are showing some glimmers, but as far as - the people who are doing good now? They were doing good before I left. Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins - actually, Drew [McIntyre]’s stepped up. He’s done - I couldn’t imagine this being my opening title run, to have deal with it through a pandemic. So a lot of respect out to Drew. Randy’s always been Randy. He seems like he’s a little less lethargic, and he’s got a little pep to his step and he’s enjoying himself. That’s always been a thing for Randy; if Randy’s having fun, it translates. If he’s not [laughs] you can definitely see when he’s not. He doesn’t care. If he’s not into it, you’re gonna kind of see it. But he seems like he’s into what he’s doing. Someone like Keith Lee. I was in there at Survivor Series with him this past year, so I kinda already knew what it was gonna be with him, and I felt him, and I felt his presence out there, so I had a general idea that he’s legit.
“When they are doing their job is when I won’t have to do mine anymore. Just like - John said the same thing to me in one of his promos, you know? And we haven’t seen him in a while, right? And we don’t rarely see him, and when he does, it’s just kind of what he does and he’s gone. In order for me to leave, someone has to really come and hold it down. In order for me to go do whatever I want to do after this? Someone has to be able to show they can maintain and handle the responsibility to where I’m not needed. As long as I’m needed, as long as this company needs me, I’m gonna be here. But somebody’s gotta step and up and do that. And we have guys who can be there, they just haven’t gotten themselves there yet. And I’ll help ‘em as much as possible, but I’m not going to give it to you. You’re gonna have to pry it from these cold, dead hands [laughs], from this kung fu grip. They’re gonna have to take it from me, man...”
He’s not lying. The company’s not fine. Reigns may not be Cena or his movie star cousin, but he’s the brightest star Vince McMahon has at his disposal these days.
Roman’s proving it with these interviews. The chip on his character’s shoulder is evident, but he’s still playing locker room leader while heeling it up. This is a gimmick that works for all kinds of fans, and allows for feuds with all kinds of wrestlers.
WWE isn’t ready for life without Reigns. But the Tribal Chief is doing all he can to put them in a position where it can be.