When Roman Reigns came out to announce his leukemia had returned on the Oct. 22 episode of Raw, he introduced himself by his real name, Joe Anoaʻi. Upon his return on the Feb. 25 episode of Raw, Reigns continued as Joe when he revealed that his leukemia was in remission.
By pulling back the curtain and letting fans into the real-life tribulations of Joe Anoa'i, it's fair to wonder whether he can ever be Roman Reigns to the same extent. The character Roman Reigns was one of the most divisive characters in WWE with a vocal minority voicing their displeasure over Reigns' push but many still supporting Reigns with cheers and money. When he returned a couple of weeks ago, he was showered with love and support as both Joe and Roman.
Appearing on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast, Reigns discussed blending his real life persona with his WWE character.
"If you're there every single night, there are plenty of nights where I get cheered. There's only a few places where I get heavily boo'd and a lot of times that will be on the live broadcast or certain areas," said Reigns. "Typically, it's mainly around TV. If you go to a live event -- I've read articles where people will note the type of reactions (superstars) get and they'll note that I got a primarily positive pop. And you'll see in the comments, 'Ah, they're making that up.' People who only tune in every once in awhile, that's the only experience they have. So for me to hear (the positive reaction upon returning) wasn't crazy. The fact that it was in Philly and there was so much reality tied into it...I'm half-Roman and half-Joe now."
Reigns continued, discussing wanting to inject more of Joe into the Roman character, adding layers to the man fans see on screen.
"I don't want to be the guy who comes out there and everyone gets super sad and it gets heavy all the time. I want people to have fun. I want to create escapism," he stated. "I was like, 'Let's get into these storylines and take all this positivity sent to me and shift it and send it to people in need.' Also, within the storylines, because we have introduced Joe, I felt like there was a lot of Joe in the promo with me integrating the characters with who I am in real life and who I am on stage. For me to mix them, it allows me to laugh at Roman a bit and have more fun. I'm a bit of a clown, I act up and we goof off a lot. If I can add that in the next couple of years, the layers of being chilled out and a little more comedy, I think it'll be pretty neat."
Reigns has been making the media rounds since returning to television on Feb. 25. In a recent interview, Reigns discussed wanting to protect his daughter from those who may have questioned his leukemia.