In April 2018, Roman Reigns found himself locked in a cage with Brock Lesnar, battling over the Universal Championship at Greatest Royal Rumble in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
After around nine minutes of back-and-forth action, Reigns Speared Lesnar so hard the cage wall gave way, allowing “The Beast” to retain the title for technically being the first man to escape.
“It was an electric finish and the live crowd ate it up, but that is just one of many moments myself and Brock Lesnar can create,” Reigns said. “It’s what makes people excited when they see a couple of alphas facing off—the measure of destruction, physicality, intensity and that level of energy we bring to table.”
Lesnar and Reigns are on a collision course yet again. The two will clash in the main event of WWE Crown Jewel this Friday morning (New Zealand time). It will be their seventh match together, and their second in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but this time the dynamic has well and truly been flipped.
“The direction of where each personality has been, and where it is going, all the way through to the alliance of Paul Heyman—everything has changed with me and Brock,” Reigns said.
“In the past Brock was probably the most prestigious Universal Champion we have had, definitely in terms of title reign—but that pales into comparison against what I have been able to achieve in the last year-and-a-half. Being a full-time performer and being able to showcase weekly on SmackDown, and then every month, and sometimes more, being able to defend that title on every major pay-per-view from the big four down, has made a big difference to where we are both at.
“A lot of things have changed for me and Brock but one thing that hasn’t is our physicality in the ring. Brock has done well against me years ago, but anything recently I think I have had the upper hand, and that upper hand lies with me in so many ways.”
Mohammed Abdu Arena on the Boulevard (home to WWE Crown Jewel 2021) has a capacity of around 20,000 people. The potential for a WrestleMania or SummerSlam-size audience is a welcome change for Reigns after the Covid-19 pandemic forced events to be held in the WWE Performance Center and WWE ThunderDome in 2020.
“There is a huge difference in the WWE product when you compare it to having live fans, as opposed to having the ThunderDome,” Reigns said. “That was us as a product trying to do the best we could with the circumstances and continuing to deliver an experience for our fanbase. There is nothing like being in front of a live audience though—wrestling in front of no one sucks. It is something we had to adapt to and make work, but it hurts. It does not feel good.
“I can legitimately tell you then when you have a sold-out arena, or a stadium jam-packed full of people going nuts, that energy and those positive vibes are like a Superman shot. You can be suffering with food poisoning, throwing up, on the floor, then your music will hit, and you’ll struggle your way to the curtain, but as soon as you step through it, and you hear that live reaction it all goes away. I could have a broken arm and walk out there, and it would probably feel fine and like I can still do my job.
“That’s the energy and excitement the live crowd brings, and Saudi Arabia is no different. We only get over there a couple of times a year and it has been a while now due to the pandemic, so I am expecting crazy, crazy energy out there.”
Crown Jewel will be the last event of 2021 before the WWE Draft comes into effect. Win or lose against Lesnar, Reigns will remain on SmackDown but there are some fresh faces from Raw coming to join him.
“I’ve not had enough time to dig into the Draft, due to all the messiness and drama that’s been going on with Paul and Brock, but the one notable name on everyone’s mind because he’s such a big star, and built so much momentum, especially though the pandemic, and carried the Raw brand for quite some time is Drew McIntyre,” Reigns said.
“You don’t have a guy with the build, the experience, the tenure, and accolades that are quickly stacking up, shift over to SmackDown and not take notice. He is title hungry. He’s one of those guys who you could say is a top guy, but he’s not the top guy, and I think that bothers him. I have told him before, and I know he doesn’t like that number two label, but that’s the reality of the situation. Him and all the other guys are fighting it out for number two, as long as I am healthy and I continue to have air in my lungs that’s the way it’s going to stay.”
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) October 2, 2021
WWE Crown Jewel airs live this Friday, October 22, from 5am (NZDT) on Sky Arena and WWE Network.