Paul Heyman Goes Long On Roman Reigns And Their ‘Uncompromising Pursuit Of Greatness’

Roman Reigns was done with WWE. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, and absent any protocols to keep him or his family safe, Reigns made the decision to walk away from the WWE ahead of a scheduled WrestleMania 36 match against Goldberg.

“He considered himself retired. He wasn’t coming back,” Paul Heyman tells Uproxx Sports.

“I was executive director of Monday Night Raw, and Roman was assigned to SmackDown. But every week I heard all the SmackDown writers and producers and personnel saying, ‘God, I just wish Roman would come back.’ And I would ask, has anybody talked to him? Yeah, he says he’s retired. He’s not coming back. No way. Thanks a lot. Done. Finished. Goodbye. So the fact that he came back for this run, for what we have accomplished, is nothing short of a miracle because as far as he was concerned, he was out.”

Without his return, we don’t get the Tribal Chief, a title run right up with the best of them, and very possibly one of the greatest long-term stories in professional wrestling history.

The latest subject of A&E’s “Biography: WWE Legends” series, Reigns was approached by A&E to document his life, his WWE journey, and his run to the top. In a move that matches their onscreen dynamic and to ensure the direction of the documentary matched his passion for everything he’s involved in, Reigns tapped Heyman as the director.

“I was blessed with the opportunity to collaborate with the top star in the entire industry, the WrestleMania main event eventer, the biggest box office attraction in sports entertainment, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, on a biography that documents what it’s like for him to be living that life at this very moment,” Heyman continues.

For Heyman, his creative direction was to give insight into how special this particular moment is and everything that led up to it.

“This is not just another top guy. This is the person that disrupted the status quo,” Heyman says. “This is a man of such vision and pursuit of greatness that he lifted this entire industry out of the pandemic and into unfathomable heights.”

Everything about this documentary is unique. From the presentation, at times showing Heyman behind the camera speaking with Reigns, to the subject. It’s more than detailing how Reigns got to where he is. It’s a story about family, the Bloodline and the deeper meaning behind everything we’ve seen on television over the past decade.

The story features commentary from top stars in the industry, with Hulk Hogan, the Undertaker, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Triple H, and John Cena weighing in on Reigns’ greatness. It follows him throughout life, with an introduction to the Usos, his football career, and eventually his journey to WWE.

Reigns’ story details his run with the Shield, resistance to moving out on his own, and his conflict with becoming a ‘good guy’ on television. But for every setback — we see the real-life letdown after Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract at WrestleMania 31 — it was all part of the process in the development of the Tribal Chief.

“Roman Reigns could never have gone from being the Big Dog to becoming the Tribal Chief if he didn’t live those moments, if he didn’t have those successes, if he didn’t suffer from those failures,” Heyman continues.

Heyman calls being part of the Tribal Chief run one of his “life’s greatest honors.”

“It’s an uncompromising pursuit of relevancy and greatness together at the same time, at all costs,” Heyman says. “We’re going to propel this industry into the future and innovate and do things that have never been done before while respecting the past. That level of respect for the culture, of the roads paved before us, and the desire to pave new roads that others will follow is unlike anyone I’ve ever met.”

In the biography, Reigns details how this run doesn’t happen on his own. He speaks on the moment he took the Universal Championship and the top spot, and how at that very moment it was time to form the Bloodline. It was time to get the Usos involved, and as they reached great heights, how it was time to bring in Solo Sikoa.

“What goes into (making this so successful)? Love, respect, and a matching desire to achieve greatness and to top what we’ve done before. The discussion that we always have is if we can watch ourselves from a televised show a month ago and we can stand watching that, we haven’t improved enough. We haven’t grown,” Heyman says.

“That’s the level of growth that Roman Reigns wants. And I love that. I’ve always felt that way. I’ve always wanted to push, push, further and further to disrupt. And then to disrupt the disruption. The goal is to be better tomorrow than you are today, and better two days from now than you are tomorrow, and this biography captures that. You see how much we crave going after a level of greatness that is yet to be achieved.”

Heyman has worked with the best of the best, but speaks of Reigns in glowing terms. He says it’s “quite rare” to have someone equally invested in achieving greatness and constantly pushing toward that.

“It’s why so many things in sports and in entertainment are temporary. It’s why once the chase is over and the person achieves the goal, you’re on to the next thing,” Heyman continues.

“The old story of the moment the referee’s hand hits three, the crowning of the new champion, the promoter sits back and goes, ‘What a payoff to that moment. Okay, let’s see who’s next.’ And it’s immediately thinking of the replacement who’s next to win that title. And that’s never been us. We’ve always taken the position of this is the number one act in the entire industry. And how do we move that forward? And who do we add to the mix and include in this run and what are their contributions to make this run even greater?”

What makes the story of the Tribal Chief great has been a perfect blend of timing, components of real life coming into play, and everyone knowing their role.

“Knowing your role is, to me, the most important thing. If you’re the lead in this story on this show for this moment, and you’re carrying the story on the mic, then everything around you should scream, listen to what this person says. The spotlight should be on you,” Heyman says.

“So if I’m there for support, if I’m in the same frame as Roman Reigns and he’s speaking, then my job as the supporting player in this scene is to let you know that what he’s saying has great meaning. My reaction will help designate what your reaction is. In other words, I know my role and if everyone else knows their role, my God what a story we can tell.”

Heyman’s role with Reigns is another reminder of his impact on this industry. Every star that came before him and his role behind the scenes in creating some of the most captivating television in wrestling history is why he’ll be forever immortalized as part of the WWE Hall of Fame class this year in Philadelphia.

He admits he’s turned down the WWE Hall of Fame multiple times because he never really wanted to do it while he was still actively pursuing other accomplishments.

“My goal now is to make everyone regret putting me into the Hall of Fame this year,” Heyman says. “Because the run from ’65 when I was born to 2024 pales in comparison to what I do from 2024 on. Otherwise, what am I doing? I’m accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award and I’m doing a run that people go, ‘Hey, he should have gotten out while the getting was good.’ And that’s not me.”

Heyman says he’s accepting this year because it’s in “Philly and that’s a unique opportunity.” He says his kids have been nagging him to go into the Hall of Fame and this year offers a unique opportunity to do it while in the middle of a historic run.

“Roman Reigns is headlining both nights of WrestleMania. So to accept this Hall of Fame award while still ruling from the Island of Relevancy is such a unique opportunity, I’d be a fool not to accept it,” Heyman says.

The other part of his decision to join the Hall of Fame comes from the respect he has for Triple H, also known as WWE’s Chief Content Officer, Paul Levesque.

“Perhaps most profoundly to me, at least, I’m the first person that was named to the Hall of Fame and headlining the Hall of Fame when the Hall of Fame class is the responsibility of Paul. I have the greatest amount of respect imaginable for the job Paul Levesque has done as the Chief Content Officer. The shoes he has to fill, the expectations he has to surpass, the accomplishments that he has to follow and now top is a weight that he carries with class, style, and dignity. And I admire not only the job that he does, but the manner in which he does it,” Heyman continues.

“So for me to have turned down this enormous honor that Paul Levesque bestowed upon me, of being the very first person he named to be inducted into his class, let alone headline, to turn that down would, would dishonor Paul Levesque and the job that he’s done and the man that he is. It would discredit him. It would disrespect him, and I will never do that. I will forever be appreciative that I’ve witnessed this era, that I’ve been a part of it, that I’ve been allowed to contribute to it. And let alone be a driving force behind the biggest star, Roman Reigns. And I will forever be appreciative of the fact that I have a chance, by accepting, to demonstrate my level of respect and admiration for Paul Levesque himself.”