Back in January, Roman Reigns won the Royal Rumble. The Philadelphia crowd, already enraged by Daniel Bryan’s unceremoniously early exit, ate him alive. Even an appearance from The Rock wasn’t enough to save it, which gave us that great picture of a befuddled Rock dealing with hearing boos for the first time in more than a decade.
On Monday, Roman Reigns knocked out Vince McMahon with a Superman Punch and defeated Sheamus to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. The crowd response was a little different this time, and it speaks to the value of context, and of heroes only being as strong as their villains. Also, Daniel Bryan wasn’t hanging around as a better option.
In all seriousness, it was a big moment for Reigns, and he took a few minutes to explain it to the crowd after Raw went off the air. Jump to the 2:15 mark.
“Hey, for real, though, it wasn’t that long ago at Royal Rumble … y’all know what it was, it was rough. But a lot of my progression, and a lot of my focus and motivation came from that night, so in a weird hindsight way, thank you so much, guys. Hey, life ain’t fair and sometimes you’ve gotta get kicked in the ass to get better, and that’s what happened. And that’s why we’re here now. Thank you so much, I’ll never forget tonight.”
He ends it with a birthday wish for his daughter. Roman might’ve mastered the toughest part about being John Cena: making his character difficult to like, but making it easy to like the man behind it.