In a new profile from ESPN, Roman Reigns opens about his decision to step away from WWE at the start of pandemic two years ago. Reigns — who is immunocompromised after twice being treated for leukemia, and whose wife was pregnant with twins at the time — pulled himself from an already announced match with Goldberg at WrestleMania 36 to take an indefinite leave of absence from the company.
He told Marc Raimondi his conversation with McMahon about his decision “wasn’t a good one.”
“We didn’t have enough information [about COVID-19]. We didn’t have a proper protocol for protection. I think I made the very smart choice in stepping back and kind of game planning and figuring this thing out and seeing where it went.”
Reigns and family were comfortable at the new Florida home he calls a “compound.” The ESPN piece points out the 36 year old has been smart with the money he’s made throughout his career, and didn’t need to return to WWE. In order to do so, he wanted to do something “groundbreaking,” and “history-making.”
That involved working with Paul Heyman. Raimondi documents the real life connection between Heyman and Reigns, which stems from the former’s days working as a promoter in the territories and booking Roman’s father, Sika. Their vision was what we’ve seen play out on screen since Reigns returned and debuted The Tribal Chief character:
Over phone conversations, Reigns and Heyman laid out this concept of a vulnerable-yet-iron-fisted leader who sometimes showed kindness and mercy. But as soon as he became insecure, as soon as he felt that power slipping away, “The Tribal Chief” would bring the hammer down.
It translated from concept to screen so well because in order to secure his star’s return, Vince McMahon gave Heyman and Reigns permission to lead their own creative. Roman is quoted as saying:
“I just knew if I’m gonna make this what it needs to be, I have to be able to connect to it. And nobody can really write that for me. I have a writer and they do put stuff on paper. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to use it and/or even want to look at it. So, it just depends. A lot of times I will read it, and if I’m not into it, then I’m just not into it. And I’ve gotta make it mine.”
Check out Raimondi’s entire ESPN piece here.