Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Perspective From A Roman Reigns Fan

If you haven't heard the news, I put together a separate post with the videos from WWE that will explain why he is stepping away for the time-being, and why he had to vacate the Universal Title.

With that in mind this is as good of an opportunity as any to explain again why I am such a big Roman Reigns fan again.

It started long before wrestling as I am a big college football fan. Mom is from west Alabama, and as such we were raised as Alabama (BAMA) fans despite being born just south of ATL. Dad, in part to be a contrarian to his friends who were UGA fans in high school, rooted for Georgia Tech. Because of this my family has always supported both teams.

To be clear, there is no competing loyalties here. I am a BAMA fan through and through, but I like and support Georgia Tech as well. Mom has gotten season tickets to Georgia Tech in the past though, and I have seen a bunch of games at Bobby Dodd Stadium (which is a really cool experience I might add).

Due to this Georgia Tech (GT) connection, I first became aware of a defensive lineman #96 Joe Anoa'i. He was a solid player, and all that. Had a cool look as well, but the thing that put it over the top for me was they always talked about how he was part of the "Samoan wrestling family."

I noticed he didn't end up making it in the NFL, and he was out of sight out of mind for several years.  That's the nature of the college football fandom really. If your favorites don't make it big in the NFL they kind of fade away. Not that you forget them completely, but they just aren't brought to mind in the same way those who are on your TV every Sunday are.

So here we are several years later, and Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns have jumped the rail and eventually became The Shield as we know them. While I don't remember the exact timeframe of all this I remember a couple of things distinctly.

  • The Shield is pretty cool.

  • Dean Ambrose is supposed to be the focal point.

  • Seth Rollins is the former Tyler Black, and I've heard a lot about him.

  • Roman Reigns is my favorite one.

  • Hold up, Roman Reigns is Joe Anoa'i?! How did I not know that?

That's how it started. Just like he became one of my favorite Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets due to the wrestling connection, he became one of my favorite wrestlers due to the Georgia Tech connection. From that point, he was kind of the "hometown guy" for me even though he's from Pensacola, FL.

Fast-forwarding a bit, The Shield went on to be a bigger deal than I ever would have imagined. This eventually led us to one of the great turns you will see in wrestling when Rollins stabbed Dean and Roman in the back.

At some point during all of this I specifically remember sitting at church before our Wednesday night service. I was looking at my phone, and saw on PW Mania that Roman Reigns was apparently the new chosen one.

Without rehashing the great Roman Reigns Twitter War, we know that the ascension was rocky for him between the crowd wanting someone else (Daniel Bryan mainly), his initial weakness on the mic, the hernia situation that led to emergency surgery, etc.

Through it all he was still my guy. I wanted to see him succeed, I saw improvements that others refused to see, and I defended him strongly during the Roman Reigns Twitter War.

Eventually, despite the continued presence of the mixed reaction in the arenas, Roman grew into the performer he had the potential to be. He became The Guy (on screen and backstage as evidenced by the outpouring of support from other WWE Superstars), he became The Big Dog, after seemingly retiring The Underaker it became HIS Yard. The mic work improved dramatically, and he was in some absolute in-ring classics with the likes of Brock Lesnar, AJ Styles, and BRAUN Strowman to name a few.

It was great fun for members of the Roman Empire even with the lingering narratives of how he "didn't earn his spot" or whatever tired nonsense continued to get trotted out. The Universal Title victory at SummerSlam 2018 was a huge cause of celebration as well.

Unfortunately, we entered last night with some trepidation as there were rumors that Roman was injured, that the main event of the problematic Crown Jewel was in danger, and that in the worst case scenario he would be forfeiting the Universal Title.

As it was my anniversary, I wasn't actually in front of the TV. We went to pick up the kids after our dinner, and they wanted to finish their movie. There were only 30 minutes left so we figured it wasn't a big deal. We stayed, I hopped on my phone hoping to find confirmation that Roman wasn't injured, and that everything was cool.

Instead we found out a far worse scenario than "Roman vacates title" (even though he did), and were shocked to find that he was a) a cancer survivor, and b) that his leukemia that he beat 11 years ago had returned.

I was absolutely floored. We all know that cancer is a cruel and uncaring disease, but even at that you don't expect to see someone who is at the absolute pinnacle of their industry have to deal with it. We got home, and watched the opening segment which culminated with that heart-wrenching Shield pose with Dean, Seth, and Roman. My son was coincidentally wearing his Roman Reigns Americana shirt even!

It was surreal and still is to be honest. Even while I Tweeted that wrestling "wasn't as fun without Roman in it" I thought of what was far more important, his health and the impact this would have on his family which includes a wife, and three young children.

I cannot imagine how hard this must be for them, and as much as I'd love to see Roman Reigns back out there Superman Punching, and Spearing the competition I want Joe Anoa'i to have a happy, healthy life with his family FAR more.

That family is living out an absolute nightmare, and whether Roman Reigns is able to return as he promised or not my thoughts and prayers will remain with them.

This is another stark reminder of how fragile life is, and I hope that it allows all of us to take stock of what we have instead of letting the negativity and cynicism creep in which is a constant battle for me.

Roman Reigns will always be The Guy, and I wish him nothing but the best. It will be an absolute blast if he beats this thing and returns "home" to WWE, but if not...it was a heck of a ride!

Believe That.