Roman Reigns recently did an interview with Mike DeStefano of complex.com and was asked about AEW…
DeStefano: Generally speaking on the professional wrestling landscape right now, it’s not really a direct comparison but it seems like there’s finally a viable competitor to WWE for the first time since the Monday Night Wars. That period gave us the NWO, Rock and Austin, and the list goes on. But that era sparked each company to up their game. Do you have that mindset at all currently? Is having AEW in the rear view that sort of extra motivation for you to perform that much better or make sure those moments you make are that much more impactful for the fans?
Reigns: No. I mean, not for me personally. This is one of those subjects that’s very subjective and there’s a lot of passion and tribalism that really sways and creates an unbiased opinion. But I can only speak from my perspective. I’m one of those guys who will compete at anything. Like, ‘I bet you I can eat that cookie faster.’ I want to be the best at anything that I choose to do. We pull up on lawn mowers, we cut the yard in half, I’m going to beat you. My side will look better than yours. So me, I don’t see the real competition [with AEW] because I think their fan base legitimately is a hardcore fan base. So there’s like a ceiling and a built-in ground to that viewership. [The WWE is] trying to connect with everyone. We’re trying to connect with the mainstream. We’re trying to pull in the casual fan. We’re trying to engage the new viewer, while also servicing our hardcore fan base and give them compelling stories to fulfill them as well. I don’t know if I’ve said it before, but I’ve said it before, when the audience is probably the biggest character in your show, that’s strange to me. You’ll hear it all the time, the reviews and the comparisons. I think because they are the new kids on the block, they’re the cool kids in town I guess because of how premature and how novel it kind of still is, I think there still being babied by these hardcore wrestling fans. Which is fine. That’s great. I don’t think anybody’s going to ever, especially from a performance standpoint say, ‘Oh no, there’s more opportunities out there? That sucks.’ So it’s not a bad thing. It’s a great thing for professional wrestling. It’s just a weird argument because there’s so much bias and there’s so much, ‘I’m on this side and I’m not gonna open my mind to the other side.’ And it goes both ways.
Reigns was also asked about CM Punk…
DeStefano: I wanted to ask you about someone specifically on that side of things, CM Punk. He’s gone by the Best in the World. You arguably are that right now in wrestling. I know you guys worked together in some capacity years before, but is there a part of you that wishes you could go toe to toe the way things are set up now and have a big match with him or something like that?
Reigns: So I answered a question similar to this a while ago, and it falls back to what our audience wants to see. If our audience wanted to see it and they were clamoring for it, couldn’t shut up about it, and all the stars aligned, as a businessman and as a performer who was trying to seek out the very best for the audience and try to captivate, I wouldn’t say no. But I mean, on a personal level, it doesn’t do anything for me. That’s not going to elevate me at all. He’s older now. I haven’t really seen a full match. I’ve seen a clip or two. And to me, a step or two has been lost. Then also he got his whooped in the UFC. I don’t think anybody really believes someone 200 pounds soaking wet with no explosive bone in their body could ever really do anything to me. I’m 6’3”, 265 pounds, a legitimate athlete who can throw some weight around and has been on the gridiron at the highest level. D1. All ACC. I probably would’ve maintained in the NFL if my health issues didn’t happen when I was 22 years old. So, I mean, when it comes down to it, I’ll throw him and pretty much the rest of that roster out the club no problem. They’re just little brothers, you know?
ComplexCon returns to Long Beach Nov. 6 – 7 with hosts J. Balvin and Kristen Noel Crawley, performances by A$AP Rocky and Turnstile, and more shopping and drops. Secure your spot while tickets last! For the past 410 days, Roman Reigns has held the WWE’s Universal Championship.