Leati Joseph Anoa’i is much better known as his wrestling alias, Roman Reigns. Born in Pensacola, Florida in 1985, Anoa’I is of mixed Italian/Samoan heritage and holds family relationships with WWE legends Rikishi, Yokozuna, and Umaga amongst others. Despite his strong wrestling lineage, Anoa’I began his career in the world of professional football.
Reigns had played collegiate football for Georgia Tech after graduating to the big leagues and competed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2007 but regrettably was released shortly after being signed.
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed him next but then released him one week before the start of the 2007 NFL season. Undeterred, Reigns did have a full season with the Canadian Football League as a member of the Edmonton Eskimos. Despite the fact that he had a good run that season, the Eskimos eventually released him in 2008 and he hung up his football gear for good.
Like most budding WWE Superstars, Reigns started his career in the WWE developmental territory of Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW). Here he was known under the ring moniker of Roman Leakee and had an unsuccessful start, losing to Richie Steamboat, Idol Stevens and Wes Brisco.
He later then wrestled in tag matches with various partners, but was never able to snag the FCW Tag Team Championship. Things started looking up for Leakee however, as he won a triple threat match against Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins to become the number one contender for the FCW Heavyweight Championship.
Leakee was unsuccessful in gaining the FCW Heavyweight title from Leo Kruger, but he did snag the Tag Team Titles eventually with partner Mike Dalton. The two eventually dropped the straps to CJ Parker and Jason Jordan.
WWE then changed FCW into the popular NXT and Leakee officially became Roman Reigns. He then went on a winning streak defeating the likes of Parker, Chase Donovan and Gavin Reids.
Reigns made his major league debut at the 2012 Survivor Series, appearing alongside former rivals Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins collectively calling themselves “The Shield”. The Shield began helping CM Punk in many encounters against the likes of Daniel Bryan and Kane and Ryback. It was later learned Punk had the Shield on his payroll to defend him.
The Shield was a force to be reckoned with, winning a slew of bouts against various high-powered teams including players like John Cena, Ryback, Sheamus, Chris Jericho, Randy Orton and the Big Show.
Rollins and Reigns’ luck continued as they won the WWE Tag Team Titles in a tornado tag match at the “Extreme Rules” Pay Per View. They then successfully defended against Bryan and Orton, The Usos and the Prime Time Players (Titus O’Neil and Darren Young).
Reigns was pinned for the first time as a member of the main roster of Raw by the Usos, as part of an 11 on 3 handicap elimination match. However, the two did not lose the Tag Team Titles until a later match on Raw against Golddust and half-brother Cody Rhodes.
Reigns’ success was not over, however. He was the sole survivor for his team at Survivor Series and had the distinction of being the only Shield member to have defeated former employer CM Punk. Adding to his success was the fact that at the “Royal Rumble” Pay-Per-View, Reigns entered at number 15 and set the record for the most eliminations at twelve men.
The Shield did show some dissention within the ranks as two of the men Reigns eliminated in the Rumble were his Shield teammates. Despite some difficulties, the trio were able to stay cohesive and then engaged in a feud with the Wyatt Family.
The Shield then turned face after feuding with Kane and eventfully defeated the Big Red Machine in a six-man tag team bout which pitted the Shield versus Kane and the New Age Outlaws (Road Dogg and Billy Gunn).
At the time, the Shield had been associated with Triple H and the Authority (his wife Stephanie McMahon). As faces, the Shield severed ties with the Authority, prompting Triple H to re-form Evolution, his old faction reuniting old mates Randy Orton and Batista.
The Shield defeated Evolution on more than one occasion and Batista then departed from the WWE under the guise of retirement. Despite this, Triple H’s cunning shone through as he was able to get Rollins to betray the Shield and join him and the Authority.
Reigns continued after the collapse of the Shield as largely a solo performer eventually acquiring a tremendous level of success most argue was more than his talent deserved.
He started off on the losing end of two WWE Heavyweight Championship attempts which eventually led to a feud between him and Randy Orton. Reigns did eventually beat Orton during a Raw episode.
Reigns then feuded with his former Shield affiliate turned rogue, Seth Rollins. Reigns was awarded a clean win over Rollins during another Raw episode but he regrettably suffered a hernia which required him to forfeit another match with Rollins at the “Night of Champions” Pay-Per-View.
After recuperating from surgery, Reigns appeared on Raw during a match between John Cena and Rollins. The Big Show had interfered on Rollins’ behalf and Reigns interfered on Cena’s behalf, giving Cena the victory. Naturally this led to a feud between Show and Reigns.
Reigns and Show fought many times with Show often being on the losing end, propelling Reigns’ momentum. His success continued by winning the 2015 “Royal Rumble” Pay-Per-View.
His feud with Rollins continued to percolate as Rollins interfered in yet another Reigns-Show battle, this time causing Reigns the win. Later, at WrestleMania 31, Rollins cashed in his Money-In-The-Bank Ladder contract and participated in the main event against Reigns and Brock Lesnar. Reigns was pinned by Rollins in this bout.
After a lengthy series of bouts against Show and Rollins, Reigns became involved in a re-kindled long-lasting feud, this with the Wyatt family.
The first instance of their conflict was when Reigns lost the Money-In-The-Bank Ladder match due to interference from Bray Wyatt. Wyatt defeated Reigns in a bout at the “Battleground” Pay-Per-View with the assistance of Wyatt Family member Luke Harper.
Reigns then teamed with old friend Dean Ambrose and faced Wyatt and Parker with Reigns and Ambrose being the victors. Shortly thereafter, Reigns and Ambrose were attacked by new Wyatt Family member Braun Strowman. Finally, the Wyatt-Reigns feud ended when Reigns emerged victorious after a brutal Hell-In-A-Cell match.
Rollins, the reigning WWE Heavyweight Champion at the time suffered a knee injury as forced to vacate the title prompting a tournament. Reigns won the tourney after besting the likes of Big Show, Cesaro and Alberto Del Rio. Earlier on however, Triple H had tried to coerce Reigns to join the Authority by offering him a bye in the tournament which Reigns refused. After he won the WWE Heavyweight Championship, he speared Triple H but was attacked by Sheamus who had cashed in his Money-In-The-Bank contract and pinned Reigns, making Reigns the Heavyweight Champion for an embarrassing 5 minutes.
All was not lost as the next night on Raw, Reigns defeated Sheamus and became WWE Heavyweight Champion again despite interference from Vince McMahon, Rusev and Del Rio. After some successful title defenses, the tide turned against Reigns after he lost the belt to Triple H at the “Royal Rumble” Pay-Per-View event despite lasting nearly one hour in competition.
Things changed at WrestleMania 32 where Reigns successfully defeated Triple H in the main event, securing the WWE Heavyweight Title for a third time around. Alter several successful title defenses, Reigns lost the title to old rival Seth Rollins at the “Money-In-The-Bank” Pay-Per-View event.
Reigns was subsequently suspended for violating the WWE’s wellness policy for drug testing and substance abuse. Upon his return, Reigns tried to acquire the WWE Championship and WWE Universal Championship to failing efforts.
Reigns then set his sights on the Untied States Championship and challenged the then titleholder Rusev to a match. Reigns would eventually defeat Rusev and emerge US Champion at the “Clash of Champions” Pay-Per-View and defend it against Rusev again in a Hell-In-Cell Match.
Reigns is presently the WWE US Champion and has unsuccessfully attempted to gain the WWE Universal Championship he has sought after earlier in his career to become a potential two-title holder.
Whether you feel he is deserving of his huge push or not, it cannot be denied that Reigns has had a tremendously successful career in the WWE and is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down in the future.
Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Balsky for contributing the above wrestler profile.
Dr. Stephen Balsky is a chiropractor currently in practice in his native Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He has been a wrestling fan since age 13 and is very passionate about the product, especially the “old-school” 80’s – 90’s era. He completed his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree in 2015 and currently is also working part-time as a professor in both business and healthcare.