While it’s not possible to see the world through Roman Reigns’ eyes, you’ll soon be able to wear his sunglasses.
Reigns has teamed up with Shady Rays, who has created a new sunglasses brand with his personal tribal tattoo on the arm of the shades. A portion of every sale is donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, a very personal cause for Reigns, who is in remission after two experiences with the disease.
“We’ve created something that represents me and my culture,” said Reigns, Joe Anoa’i outside the wrestling ring. “This is a product I believe in. In addition, at the charities’ level through LLS, we’re promoting and raising awareness, and doing what we can to help families through a very difficult time.”
Reigns and Shady Rays teamed up with famed tattoo artist Mike Fatutoa, who used his expertise to infuse a piece of the WWE star’s heritage into the sunglasses. Reigns was first drawn to Shady Rays through CEO Chris Ratterman’s unwavering desire to use his product to give back to the less fortunate.
“Shady Rays uses their platform to promote a product and way of life with a positive outlook, which is exactly my goal,” Reigns says. “There are all kinds of struggles. The world and social media can be so toxic, so it’s really important to share the positive moments to create hope. I’m proud to shine the light on the good.”
Honesty and authenticity are central to Reigns’ outlook on life. That’s no different from the way he’s modeled his current persona in WWE as “The Tribal Chief.” The predominant theme throughout pro wrestling’s existence has been the battle between good and evil, but Reigns adapts the formula with his “Head of the Table” character.
“Although the ‘Tribal Chief’ and ‘Head of the Table’ make me look like a bad guy, I still make it a point to stay very authentic,” Reigns says. “I’m trying to shed a different light on the top executive in WWE. For so long, the man in that position was a superhero, someone who was bulletproof. This is different. When I saw the struggle and the burden, I thought that could be something that people had to deal with. We all bond through adversity, we all bond through struggle. We all understand the fall and the process involved in getting back up. So that’s what we’re doing, showing a different take on it than at the highest possible level.”
Reigns is nearing the one-year mark of his reign as universal champion. During that time, he has never met anyone with the charisma or humor of his current opponent, John Cena, whom he will meet at SummerSlam on Saturday.
“There’s no denying that John is doing a great job in Hollywood,” says Reigns. “It’s very encouraging to see how he’s transitioned and showcased the performing arts he learned in WWE. But come SummerSlam, if he’s in the ring with me, John will wish he stayed in Hollywood.”
Cena surprisingly returned to WWE at last month’s Money in the Bank pay-per-view, where he interrupted Reigns during a post-match promo following his in-ring win against Edge. The moment was sensational, perfectly executed by Cena, as well as Reigns, who had an expression of sheer dejection on his face as he watched Cena parade around his ring.
“Once his music caught on, I knew there would be a magnifying glass on us, and that’s exactly what you want,” says Reigns. “I knew that moment would mean a lot. And it’s been like that ever since we’ve been on our way to SummerSlam.
“John is sharp with his insults, he is a great live performer and a maestro of the crowd, but not everything he says is true. I don’t say things just to get a great response, I get a great response because people agree with what I say. Facts are all over my promos and we’re constantly working on a compelling story. No one can do what I’m doing now.”
Reigns, an 11-year-old pro, has never been more effective than now. In terms of presentation and efficiency, it fits in all areas. Reigns has the most intense matches, really gripping interviews and makes every segment on screen feel hugely important. In addition to Paul Heyman and The Usos, he is associated with the most talented ensemble in wrestling. Reigns is in the midst of a heyday that has no twilight in sight, but he remains well aware that there is a greater purpose in his life than what he achieves in WWE.
“I enjoy entertainment and the whole philosophy of WWE – putting a smile on people’s faces – and that became even more intimate after I shared my story and my battle with leukemia,” says Reigns. “I love the great matches and the adrenaline rush of a live mic and the banging of the crowd, making memories with The Usos and Paul, but nothing compares to being with these kids and being able to positively impact their day. That is the true purpose of all this. I’m blessed to be able to make such a difference in the world that goes deeper than my career. That is the goal in my life.”
Now 36, the former college soccer player turned wrestler has become a beacon of hope and perseverance for children, especially those diagnosed with cancer. Unexpectedly, this role manifested itself organically. As a father, Reigns was always proud of raising his five children, although he never expected to be able to give voice and strength to children around the world.
“I have a connection with kids all over the world,” Reigns says. “That’s why I shared my story, and that’s why I wanted to do it honestly. If there was anyone who could join my story, I’d love it. Then I was blessed enough to be able to come back and chase my dream, and I felt this was a crucial opportunity to share a positive success story. I have a responsibility to spread those positive stories and be a positive force to the young people who are going through them.”
His passion for inspiring others is fully manifested every time he is around a child.
“I’ve always had the goal and ambition to do something special, first in football and then in WWE,” said Reigns. “I never knew how my life would fall into place, but I am blessed. God has looked over my path and I am in a position where my family is happy and healthy, I can protect them and I am blessed with an opportunity to positively impact the lives of others. That is why it is very important to shed light on awareness.
“So much progress has been made in the field of blood cancer in the drugs and oral chemotherapy, which has made the process more comfortable for the patients and their families. So much of that is for adults, so there’s still constant work to make that better for kids.”
While he is currently healthy and successful, a deep look into his journey reveals how he continually rose above struggles, doubts, and even illness. He hopes his partnership with Shady Rays will help raise awareness for LLS.
“The mission behind Shady Rays is real, which is why I’m connecting with them,” says Reigns. “And this goes so deep. We all have a struggle, but it’s worth being here in this life and this world. I am very grateful to be here and I hope that everyone continues to find new ways to embrace all the adversities they have overcome in their lives.”
More Wrestling Coverage:
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.