Roman Reigns is one of the top guys in WWE, and clearly someone Vince McMahon wants to succeed. In an interview with CBS Local Sports, Reigns revealed what qualities McMahon values most in WWE talent. If anyone would know that in the current WWE landscape, it would be the Big Dog.
But first, some context. Much of the interview had to do with the treatment of ethnic minorities in pro wrestling. WWE’s celebration of Black History Month this year has so far involved videos of WWE Superstars including Reigns, Sasha Banks, Titus O’Neill, and Seth Rollins visiting the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, and talking about what they learned. Reigns said he thinks the closest thing pro wrestling has to civil rights pioneers is Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas:
“At that time, there weren’t an abundance of African American wrestlers. And the business … it was a lot more secretive. Nowadays it’s a lot different to be able to break in, and the mystique is not as thick as it used to be. There used to be a bit of a secrecy, almost like a fraternity, about being a professional wrestler. To be able to break in and keep that foothold, I think that’s awesome.”
Reigns said the minority wrestler who has influenced him the most would have to be his dad, Sika of the Wild Samoans. Looking at the careers of the Anoa’i family’s Samoan Dynasty — from Afa and Sika to Rikishi to the Rock to Umaga to Roman and the Usos and Nia Jax today — shows an interesting microcosm of how the WWE has treated nonwhite performers over the decades.
Announcers were banned from mentioning Roman’s Samoan heritage early in his singles push, but that’s obviously not the case anymore, and may have had more to do with avoiding accusations of nepotism than anything about race. Reigns says that Vince and the WWE care about the content of wrestlers’ characters more these days:
“I think I’m a great example of [WWE’s evolved treatment of minorities.] I’m a multi-racial man. I don’t think [success in WWE] has anything to do with your color or your background. It’s the man that you are and what you stand for, and obviously the performer that you are. That’s one thing that Vince deeply wants to be embedded in his guys, in his superstars, that they’re good people.
“That’s one thing he’s always told me from the beginning is, ‘I don’t care if you’re the greatest wrestler in the world. I don’t care if you’re the most charismatic talker in the world, but I do care if you’re a good person and I think that’s all that matters.’ When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what you look like, how big you are, what color your skin is or hair or eyes, if you’re a good person, you’re a good person.”
So it turns out Vince wants The Guy to also be a good guy (not a bad guy!)
Reigns also talked the return of co-branded PPVs, praised Seth Rollins’s record-breaking gauntlet match performance, and vaguely addressed the rumors he’ll be facing Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania, but the interview mostly left me imagining that quote in the Mr. McMahon voice.
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