Roman Reigns is not a stranger to adversity.
Nor is he a stranger to looking it straight in the eye, fighting, and coming out of the other side.
“I’m in remission ya’ll.”
Four simple words that meant so much, to so many, when he announced on RAW this past February that his latest battle with leukemia was being won.
It was a moment fans around the world questioned they would see when Reigns broke character in October last year to reveal his battle with the illness.
What has happened the subsequent months has been nothing short of remarkable.
From that emotion-filled return, another Wrestlemania moment, a role in ongoing silver screen hit Hobbs & Shaw, getting to tag with The Undertaker – to name but a few, it’s been like a career highlight reel over the course of six months, and something that is not lost on the Big Dog.
“It’s hard [to put into words], it’s extremely humbling to see this full arch of extreme adversity to just pure joy and love of being in the moment.
“After everything from me taking my leave, and my time away from the ring and being surrounded by loved ones and strangers alike sending nothing but positive vibes and allowing me to know I am not alone in all this.
“I feel great. I have leaned up a little bit and got rid of some of that water weight of me and just dropping about 10 pounds has made me feel a lot better. It’s nice to feel in a good place health wise, regardless of the career, just from a life standpoint it just feels good to not have that stress of worrying about little things that add up to be big things.”
And now, he is writing a new piece of history, as the latest cover star in the WWE 2K video game series. This is no ordinary cover though – as for the first time there will also be a woman adorning it – Becky Lynch.
A huge proponent for female empowerment, Reigns wouldn’t want it any other way.
“A lot of people will think I wanted the cover by myself, but I’m so proud of where we are and what we are doing,” he said.
“I think it’s great we are showcasing strong females and they can doing anything. There’s not a wall Becky Lynch hasn’t kicked down.
“I’m here with my little girl now and I want her to have those types of role models. She sees these women and what they stand for and they are trailblazing.
“If you know me personally, you’ll know I learned to be a man from a woman. I learned from my mother. My mom has always been my superhero, no one has more respect for women than me, and I’m so proud of my co-workers and what they are doing.”
The cover also gives Reigns the chance to fulfill an ambition that has nagged him since seeing his brother from The Shield, Seth Rollins front the 2K game two years ago.
“This is one of those situations where you want something but you don’t want to cross the line of feeling greedy,” he explained. “I’ve been lucky enough to have some really cool opportunities but to be honest a couple of years ago when Seth had the cover, I was a little jealous, man. You saw the commercial and the trailer, and him just burning it to the floor, it was so cool. I was such a fan of the way that turned out and to see my brother like a complete star in that trailer – I was like ‘man, I want to do that now’. When I saw that I said that before my days were done I got to get me a 2K cover.”
WWE 2K20 will include several franchise firsts alongside streamlined gameplay and a variety of popular modes. The story-driven, objective-based 2K Showcase: The Women’s Evolution will follow the careers of the Four Horsewomen –Becky Lynch, Bayley, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks. Controls will be streamlined to allow new players to jump into the game more easily, while experienced players will still enjoy a challenge.
In addition, WWE 2K20 players will be able to compete as both male and female Superstars in MyCAREER and Mixed Tag matches, while last year’s popular WWE Towers returns with exciting new challenges, including a story-driven Tower centered around the career of Roman Reigns.
As for Reigns now, he is just looking forward to being the best he can be.
“It’s a blessing to be able to do what I love and that’s what I try to focus on, always looking at everything as if the worst case scenario shows the glass half full, always putting a positive spin on things,” he said.
“Me and my family are in a good place and now I just want to focus on performance. Focus every ounce on entertaining and continuing to grow as a performer, and as a young man to be able to put myself in a position where there are no excuses, nothing holding me back, I just want to capitalize on all my potential and take every opportunity.”
For more information on WWE 2K20 see wwe.2k.com
Two athletes from last year’s historic WWE tryout in Jeddah have begun training at the Performance Center.
Faisal Kurdi and Hussain Aldagal, both from Saudi Arabia, reported to WWE’s Orlando training facility several weeks ago after being selected from nearly 30 athletes who took part in the Jeddah tryout.
That was the same tryout attended by current NXT Superstar Mansoor, who won the 50-Man Battle Royal at WWE Super ShowDown.
Kurdi boasts a background in amateur grappling, Muay Thai boxing and mixed martial arts, and has placed in championship competitions in the Middle East. He stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 182 pounds.
The 6-foot-3, 211-pound Aldagal has previous athletic experience in volleyball and bodybuilding. Outside of his athletic endeavors, he is also a civil engineer.
The WWE rolled into Saudi Arabia again this weekend with another spectacular show.
With practically the whole of the men’s roster at the event it was always going to be jam-packed with action – and plenty to discuss.
Now the dust has settled on Super ShowDown in Jeddah, here are some of the main talking points post-event.
For those watching the event on TV it seems the crowd noise and enthusiasm, or perceived lack of it, often jumps out as a talking point and is used as a stick to beat the events in Saudi Arabia with.
Truth is, the crowd is hot. There is plenty of passion, and plenty of noise. The pops for Triple H and Randy Orton were excellent; Seth Rollins got plenty of support, as did Kofi Kingston.
Fans were wild for Goldberg and Undertaker (particularly the entrances), and of course their own hero Mansoor.
Naturally, there are quiet points, but that mirrors every WWE show you will ever see – anywhere. Cards are designed with peaks and troughs, that’s just the way it is.
Are you going to get the same reaction for Orton v Triple H as Lars and the Luchas – quite simply, no.
So while fans overseas may talking about it, truth is whether it be at live events or promo activities the fans in the Kingdom are wild.
It’s fun, everyone would like to see it more. End of.
MANSOOR’S BATTLE ROYAL WIN
When this happened part of me cringed inside. The NXT rookie defies all odds to usurp some huge names from RAW and Smackdown to win the biggest Battle Royal in WWE history, in front of his home fans.
It is pandering in the extreme. But, do you know what, does it matter?
In the grand scheme of WWE storylines this will have no real impact, and for the reaction of the crowd it was more than worth it.
Children literally crying with joy, the sight of one of their own living out their dreams.
That emotion, on any level, is pretty special.
Let’s hope for Mansoor this can now provide a springboard for him in NXT.
This is not something that can be solved quickly, we have to face facts, look at the progress and trust the process.
Let’s look at what’s happened so far.
First event in Jeddah – no female involvement.
Event two in Riyadh – Renee Young on commentary.
Event three in Jeddah – Renee Young on commentary, Natalya and Alexa Bliss taking part in community activities.
Of course, we all want to see female talent competing in the ring and that will come. In neighbouring UAE, it took some time before Alexa and Sasha Banks stepped into the ring, and it will be the same here.
The day will come.
THE USE OF LEGENDS
This is a tricky one.
It’s clear that some of the talent requests are not coming directly from WWE themselves and that that Saudi authorities are requesting certain superstars.
So far in the three shows, we have seen Triple H and Undertaker perform on all three, Shawn Michaels and Kane saw in-ring action last November, and this weekend saw the return of Goldberg. Oh and we’ve had a non-wrestling spot for Hulk Hogan in there too.
Sadly, among those names, only Triple H still has the ability to hold-up a match of any kind of length and impact – as he proved again at the weekend.
The Undertaker remains a loyal and treasured worker for WWE but needs some in-ring support to really make things work. He didn’t get that from Goldberg – who in fairness to him was likely suffering concussion after a serious whack on the turnbuckle.
The point of all this being, fans don’t want to see two legends limping through sloppy matches, and while some may need to appear on the card, it needs to be alongside talent who can nurse them through a match. We don’t need to see anyone getting hurt.