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Roman Reigns made headlines this past weekend, though they had nothing to do with his main event win last night at WrestleMania Backlash. In fact, with Reigns not being pinned or submitted since December 2019, The Tribal Chief winning matches on pay-per-views are far from a headline.
Possibly leaving WWE to transition into Hollywood, however, is.
At a recent WWE live event in Trenton, N.J., Reigns cut a heartfelt promo after the show about his “new phase” in life.
“I’ve been here a couple of times in the past 10 years,” said Reigns. “I’m starting to work into a new phase in my career, and I honestly don’t know if I’ll be back here again. If that’s the case, I just wanna say thank you for all these years of support.”
Reigns’ poignant remarks were followed by a report from Dave Meltzer of “Wrestling Observer Radio” (h/t Wrestling Inc) that Reigns has signed a new deal with WWE that will see him work far fewer dates.
“At the end of the day, we know how this works. This is a young man’s game,” Reigns told Michael Kay in November. “You can’t fall down your whole life, you have to get to a point where you can transition. Where you can continue to connect and create new, fresh, evolved content for your fanbase and your supporters. I think I have the ability to do that,” said Reigns, who has been Universal champion for 611 days. Reigns recently defeated Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship in the main event of WrestleMania 38.
“At the end of the day, it’s about being thrown in that fire and seeing how you do. I have a pretty good track record of being thrown in the deep end. If that’s what happens in Hollywood, I’m looking to swim.”
Reigns’ transition to Hollywood has been one of the worst-kept secrets in wrestling, as there have been reports in the past of multiple suitors in Hollywood interested in both Reigns and top women’s star Becky Lynch. Reigns made his film debut in the 2019 blockbuster hit Hobbs and Shaw alongside his cousin—and gold standard for the wrestler-actor crossover—Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Rock’s own transition to Hollywood came with tension between the all-time great and WWE. Rock’s contract expired with WWE in 2004, and the promotion shockingly made little-to-no effort to renew.
“The company and I are at an odd crossroad. It was an oddly quiet ending, without any interaction or communication from the front office or the old man. Surprising to say the least, especially after eight years,” Rock told Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Cagesideseats.com) after his deal expired.
The Rock’s exit wasn’t WWE’s only acrimonious split in 2004 as both Goldberg and Brock Lesnar had one of the ugliest exits in WWE history. Goldberg and Lesnar’s WrestleMania 20 match was sabotaged by leaked reports of their impending departures. That saboteur was WWE, and it led to Madison Square Garden turning on what should have been a dream match between Lesnar and Goldberg, with Shane McMahon infamously leading “you sold out” chants just to be sure.
But amid the crossover successes of The Rock, John Cena and Batista, Roman Reigns now finds himself in a new era of of WWE. It’s a far less territorial WWE that sees the value of its stars crossing over. Top star, and WWE women’s tag team champion, Sasha Banks was recently featured in The Mandalorian, and she projects to be another case study of the modern-day transcendent star in WWE. Even Cody Rhodes, who is currently in the best position to supplant Roman Reigns, has expressed interest in acting outside of pro wrestling, and rest-assured he’s in the right company if he wants to get the most out of that aspiration.
WWE’s mentality on stars leaving for greener pastures, particularly in Hollywood, has not only changed over the years, the company seems to be co-opting it. Now presided over by WWE President and Chief Revenue Officer Nick Khan—a former super agent from Creative Artists Agency (CAA)—Roman Reigns’ Hollywood transition isn’t seen internally as a betrayal, but rather part of the plan.
“We have big plans to help him cross over, which we think will be great for him, and certainly great to do with him,” Khan told “The Town” last month.
Nick Khan, and members of WWE’s current administration including Head of Revenue Strategy and Development Scott Zanghellini, were also high-ranking staffers of top talent agency CAA where they developed strong connections to Hollywood. WWE has the pieces in place to give its top stars all the tools they need to successfully transition into Hollywood before returning as even bigger stars who can bolster WWE’s viewership on television and streaming.
For over a decade, WWE has seemed in need of creating a top full-time star to supplant the likes of Cena and now Roman Reigns. WrestleMania has been headlined by a part-timer for the last eleven consecutive years as WWE continues to struggle to create its next crop of full-time main eventers. But with the promotion now all too happy to facilitate its top stars transitioning to Hollywood, WWE seems less inclined to find its next full-time star and instead make all of its biggest attractions part-timers.