On Sunday, Roman Reigns will take on Randy Orton at SummerSlam. It will be the first singles pay-per-view match for Reigns since the breakup of The Shield, one of the most dominant trios the WWE has ever seen.
"I'm ready to go. I'm tired of waiting," says Reigns. "I feel good [about the match]. I wrestle five to six times a week and [the matches are] all by myself, so my engine's ready to go. I'm running on pretty much full cylinders here. It's just about getting out there and doing it now, but I couldn't be any more ready than I am."
He had to get some staples in his forehead a couple weeks ago. That came after a Last Man Standing match against Kane, but Reigns has proven his durability during his short time with the company. Heading into SummerSlam, Reigns says he's at 100 percent.
"[The staples] were good to go the next night. The staples are out [now]. It's funny, because when they get ready to go, they get a little bit sore. With them being sore, I was still dumb enough to hit them from time to time. I actually almost pulled one of them out. That would have set back the healing process."
He was once chased naked by bees. At WrestleMania AXXESS in April, Reigns alluded to a time in his life when he was chased, naked, by bees.
"Me and my cousins were just playing football. They had a big chain-link fence across the street with a small, wooded area. Somehow, being kids, the ball went over there and it was my turn to fetch. I'm going through these woods, trying to get into this bush to get the ball and you're doing your best Entrapment, like you're going through the lasers and stuff.Trying to not get stung by any thorns or anything.
"Finally I get the ball, I'm going to throw it long, told somebody to run a rail, and I just feel this little fire sensation on my hip. I'm like, 'What the hell was that?' And then another one. And then one on my butt. Next thing I know, I'm like 'Holy crap, I got bees in my pants.'
"Literally in a matter of seconds, [I was] down to all my man parts in my hands, running around. And everybody's laughing at me, I'm going crazy, sprinting around these oak trees, trying to get my clothes off. I just sprinted and ran and jumped in the pool in the backyard. It was definitely a moment for everybody to laugh at me."
As for his opponent on Sunday, Reigns doesn't have to worry about the unknown. "I wrestle so many nights a week and I'm either wrestling Kane or Randy in those matches, so there's a bit of a rapport there. I've been in the ring with so many guys and I've been in the ring quite a bit with Randy. The WWE live events are ... a little bit different from what you see on TV. It seems to flow better; more matches, longer wrestling."
The live events are where the majority of the WWE roster get their experience. Reigns, a full product of the WWE's developmental system, gets to cut his teeth on those live crowds in a different town every night. By contrast, the current WWE "minor league" system, NXT, almost always runs out of just one location: the intimate NXT Arena at Full Sail University, where a dedicated, regular crowd shows up to cheer for their favorites. Reigns spoke about the differences in NXT crowds and the live WWE house shows.
"A lot of [NXT] guys do [experience the WWE live events]. They get put on our loops, they do the live event shows and they come to TV, so they are getting that experience. I would love a situation of NXT running their own [touring] house shows and traveling and drawing big crowds and wrestling in front of them, because there is a huge difference and you learn how to manipulate the crowd, how to work with the crowd, how to get them to do what you want when you need them to do it."
Reigns is still in the process of winning fans over. This means more mic work and more on-camera time by himself. He says that a complete package -- in-ring work, microphone skills and charisma -- is crucial to success in climbing to the top of the card. "When you're in a spot that I'm in -- or even higher, the spot I aspire to be in -- not only do you have to talk, and [sometimes] open up RAW, or even close it down [with] talking, or somewhere in the back [cutting a promo], there's a good bit of talking involved."
"Personally, for my character, I started as the silent but deadly type. Sort of a badass, not have to say too much. [Now] it progresses from week to week. But when you're in that type of spot, it's not only what you're doing on [WWE TV], it's doing different stuff. You have to do different opportunities where you have to do different stuff. Those are the things I enjoy.
"Everybody wants to be on top. Everybody wants to ascend, to be the top guy. So they start doing all the stuff that they have to do. Not everybody wants to be busy every single day. I'm that guy. I'm a workhorse. I'll take anything and everything I can get and I'll do it with a smile on my face."
Reigns decapitated a Johnny Manziel this week. One of those things Reigns was asked to do this week was his impromptu appearance on SportsNation, where he destroyed cardboard cutouts of Lance Stephenson, Johnny Manziel and LeBron James. "You can't see it on the clip, but Manziel's head just went rolling a good five feet. That was pretty cool, to take Johnny Football's head off."
Reigns believes in conditioner. As with all things related to the Internet wrestling community, there are a fair number of memes and running jokes related to Reigns. Notably: his immaculate, luxurious hair. Inquiring minds want to know: what's his hair-care regimen?
"People may get mad about this: I don't do that much. I wash it a couple times a week, but pretty much every night, I put in some leave-in conditioner. I want to say it's like a Moroccan-type, argan oil conditioner of some sort. I don't know, I just use it, I don't really know the details on it. [That] and some water, and then at the end of the night, you wash that out, take a shower, brush it, tie it up. I think that's one thing that actually helps: when I'm not wrestling, I tie it up, so it's not getting dried out and tangled up. A little bit of leave-in conditioner goes a long way."
Staying moist in the ring is a team effort. On the topic of hair and personal hygiene, professional wrestlers are well-known for having wet hair when they come to the ring ... and in some cases, being dripping wet in general. The three members of The Shield were among the moister members of the WWE roster, so I asked Reigns about what exactly happens before they come out to make them so wet. It's not a moment for bonding, apparently.
"We're all together, but I'm not wetting anybody else's ... Seth [Rollins] is not wetting our hair for us. We just take water bottles up there [to our entrance position in the crowd]. A lot of times we go up there with what we call a Headset Brother. Actually, lately it's been a Headset Sister. She or he has the lowdown on when it's time to go out, but yeah we bring water bottles. You already have all that leave-in conditioner in. When it's time, you wet it up and go."
Bo Dallas is the moistest of the moist. No member of the WWE roster is more wet than Bo Dallas. "Oh, man," says Reigns, laughing. "Bo ... I really hope this becomes a thing and he takes all the heat off [The Shield members] for being wet. He is ... it's ridiculous how wet he gets. He wears a merch shirt. It looks like he's got one of those surf shirts on, like he's at a water park or something. It's ridiculous. I think me and Seth would be the second-wettest.
"We have have had a discussion, a group of us, talking about who's the wettest. I said, 'I usually bring, I dunno, a couple water bottles.' And [Bo] was like, 'Bro, try five.' He dumps five water bottles on his head before he goes out there."
Reigns may break character for cuteness. Since The Shield split, Reigns has been blazing his own trail, garnering the approval of the WWE Universe. He's even been getting grabbed up in loving bearhugs by adoring fans as he makes his way to the ring. That's one of the dangers of making his entrance through the crowd, rather than down the entrance ramp like everyone else.
"If I remember correctly, it was a little girl, maybe 8 to 10 years old. I was walking down and I was going to talk from the crowd, so I was walking halfway down [the stands] and right as I get to the spot that I wanted to talk from, I just feel these little arms wrap around me, down near my sternum. I almost broke character. [I got] the biggest smile and started laughing. I think they may have cut away and went to the ring, but it was the cutest thing ever."
Do not smell his water bottles. As for the strangest thing he's experienced during his through-the-crowd entrances? "There was one time, I had a water bottle, I was still drinking it -- this was when we were still with The Shield, it was at a live event. A lot of times we'll just drink water as we're coming down the steps. I think I had just finished one off and then I poured a little on my head and slung the bottle into the crowd.
"Later on that night as we're driving, I'm still going through my feed on Twitter and the girl who caught it, she tweeted me about it. She was saying how she was smelling the bottle, kind of something creepy. Asking me if I used cherry Chapstick. That was kind of weird."
Favorite exercise? "Right now, I would say bent-over barbell rows, for the back."
Favorite ab exercise? "I like where you're in that upright position where your legs are hanging and you do leg swings. But you're not really swinging them, it's a controlled movement."
Favorite movie? "Right now, I would say The Wolf of Wall Street. But it could change next week."
Favorite animal? "Probably a lion."
Favorite pizza topping? "Pepperoni. I love bacon, too. That's a tough one. We'll go pepperoni, though."
Favorite album? "Currently, I'd have to say Shooter Jennings, Electric Rodeo."
Favorite sports team? (Other than the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets) "49ers."
Favorite ice cream flavor? "Rocky road."
Favorite 90s sitcom? "Maybe Friends?"
Finally, does Reigns consider himself to be a good kisser? "The best. Duh."