The Big Dog, The Tribal Chief, Leati Joseph Anoaʻi, Leakee, Leader of The Shield, The Head of the Table, the Face of the WWE — no matter what name you know him by, Roman Reigns is one of the biggest names, if not the biggest name, in sports entertainment today.
But exactly how much do you know about The Big Dog?
Behind the titles, the hair, the tattoos, the muscles, and the amazing 2020 win streak, there’s a life story of shocking depth and triumph. If you’re a fan of WWE stars and have found yourself googling “WWE Roman Reigns,” you’ve come to the right place. This article will walk you through everything you need to know about WWE superstar Roman Reigns.
A Wrestling Dynasty
Roman Reigns was born with the name Leati Joseph Anoa’i on May 25th, 1985, in Florida. At the time of this article, that means he just recently turned 36 years old.
He was born into somewhat of a wrestling dynasty. While not quite a vast a dynasty as The Guerreros or The Harts, Roman’s father, Sika Anoa’i, and his brother are former wrestlers. But it doesn’t stop there; his extended family members include such big wrestlers as Umaga, Yokozuna, Rikishi, and The Rock.
You might have noticed something about all of the people listed above — the exotic names and unique look that they share with Roman Reigns. This comes from the family being heavily mixed race. Roman shares a half-Italian, half-Samoan background, which accounts for his distinct dark features and tribal tattoos.
Roman Reigns’ First Love
Despite his prominence in WWE, wrestling wasn’t Roman’s first love. Throughout high school, he found himself drawn to football. He played for three years at Pensacola Catholic School, where he was named “Defensive Player of the Year.”
Joe Anoai didn’t stop his football career in high school. He attended the Georgia Institute of Technology and played on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team. From there, he went on to get signed by the Minnesota Vikings, which he — and the world — thought would be the start of a promising career in professional football.
An Enormous Setback
While Roman Reigns was externally in the best shape of his life, there was a war raging inside of him. the same year he was signed by the Minnesota Vikings, he received a diagnosis that would change his life — Leukemia, a form of blood cancer.
After his diagnosis, he was dropped by the Minnesota Vikings. Later that year, he was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he was quickly released from that team too. While Roman went on to play for the Edmonton Eskimos just the next year, one has to wonder if getting dropped by two teams two years in a row soured his appreciation for the NFL.
Roman Reigns’ Rapid Acceleration
After his cancer went into remission, Roman Reigns finally came onto the WWE scene in 2010. He rose up through developmental quickly. He was signed to their development territory FCW at first signed as the ring name Roman Leakee.
Roman was popular in FCW, winning their top title several times. In 2012, WWE rebranded FCW as NXT and began using it as a supplemental show to the titanic Monday Night Raw and Friday Night Smackdown. He started strong as a heel (or villain) with the name Roman Reigns.
Romans’ rise to the big time as a scene-maker in main plots came as part of WWE heel tag-team The Shield. The Shield consisted of other rising superstars Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins and portrayed a dark law-enforcement/mercenary type faction who could be bought and sold to do the bidding of higher-ups such as Triple H.
The Shield would wear intimidating uniforms and attack people both inside and out of the ring. Needless to say, this brought Reigns a sufficient amount of hate to make him one of the top heels in the company.
Controversial Face Push
However, from 2014 to 2020, Roman Reigns was pushed as a babyface (or hero). But WWE chairman Vince Mc. Mahon didn’t want to stop there. He had plans for Roman Reigns to become the top babyface of the company, and therefore the face of professional wrestling.
This is a tall order and requires the correct person for the job. The most famous person to do this in the past was the legendary Hulk Hogan. The closest thing to this in recent years is John Cena: a large, friendly-faced, child-friendly good guy who can basically play the role of a superhero.
However, there was a problem. John Cena looks something like the hero from a Saturday morning cartoon. Roman does not.
This decision proved controversial.
While children liked Roman, many critics and seasoned wrestling fans just didn’t buy the push. Roman’s intimidating stature just made more sense as a heel. The older patrons didn’t enjoy being told who to root for.
While undergoing controversy, Roman Reigns made the most of his time as the face of the WWE. He won the WWE championship several times and participated in several legendary matches.
Another Battle With Cancer
In 2018, Roman’s Leukemia came back. At the time, he was serving as the reigning WWE champion and was forced to drop the belt. It was at this time that Roman told his cancer diagnosis to the world.
Roman Reign is very lucky to take a pill version of chemotherapy and not need to opt for radiation. He’s stated that it has some “nasty” side effects but isn’t nearly as bad as radiation therapy.
In February of 2019, less than half a year after his diagnosis, Roman returned to the ring. His cancer had gone into remission.
Roman Reigns Returns to Heel
Since 2020, Roman has truly found his place in the WWE. He revealed a new “Tribal Leader” persona, combined with a new look, new entrance music, and a new attitude. This new Roman is unapologetically villainous, cocky, self-centered, and will do anything to get ahead.
Roman plays this persona extremely well — people believe it. He is now able to combine his adeptness at playing the villain from the beginning of his career with the popularity and star power he gained from 2014-2020.
One of Roman’s most popular gimmicks to get the crowd to hate him made use of his presence in a wrestling dynasty. He claimed he was the “Head of the Table” and the “Tribal Leader,” commanding the dynasty with an iron fist. He bullied his cousin — babyface wrestler Jey Uso — under the guise of familial rivalry.
This got under the skin of many wrestling fans. Something about family drama calls into mind the worst moments in people’s lives. Roman is quickly joining the ranks of legendary heels such as Rowdy Roddy Piper, Edge, and Ric Flair, who the crowd loved to hate.
Roman Reigns’ net worth is estimated to be around 12 million dollars. He’s shown an adroitness at private investing, with his investments reaching over 2.2 million dollars. He’s one of the highest-paid wrestlers in the WWE and makes over 1 million dollars every year.
Roman Reigns’ wife is Galina Becker. She was an athlete in high school and college as well, attending Georgia Technical Institute, where she met Roman Reigns. She has also worked as a fitness model, although her main focus nowadays is her children.
The couple had their first child together in 2008. Their daughter, Joelle, was born before Roman had even joined the world of professional wrestling.
In 2016, they had a set of twins boys, completing their family of five. Galina used to be very active on social media, developing friendly relationships with several superstars from the WWE universe, but she deleted her accounts after 2016. This was most likely to focus on parenting.
While many sports stars find their lives wracked with scandal and controversy, Roman Reigns has mostly been able to keep his private life out of the limelight.
Now You Know Roman Reigns
The next leader in a dynasty, a cancer survivor, a football player, a champion, a hero, a villain, an investor, and a father.
Roman Reigns has played many roles over the course of his career. Some would say it’s a miracle that he’s achieved the status she has today.
Roman still has to live with the threat of cancer looming over his head. He never knows when it’s going to come back. However, he’s stated he’s optimistic and is determined to make the most of his career.
While Roman was a great football player, he would have quickly been forgotten in the NFL. His transition to his true calling — the WWE — ensured that he would stay in the minds of wrestling fans for decades to come.
For another article on someone who’s at the top of their sport, check out this article on Lebron James.