When Roman Reigns made his return to WWE programming back at SummerSlam, fans quickly picked up on the fact that "The Big Dog" had changed up some aspects of personality. Over the next seven days, he aligned himself with Paul Heyman, solidified his heel persona and used some underhanded tactics to win the Universal Championship from "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt and Braun Strowman. During a new interview with Corey Graves on After The Bell podcast, Reigns explained that this new persona was first formed back when he was in NXT working in promo classes with "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. Fans saw glimpses of it in Reigns' initial "Thoroughbred" gimmick in NXT.
"That's what I had envisioned a long time ago, and it took a very scenic route to get here," Reigns said. "It's still tough for me to brag, but that's what I love about I'm doing now is if I don't want to, 'Paul [Heyman], tell them. Tell them what I am. Remind them of who I am, read that resume right quick.'
"That's something that's nice about adding a layer to it, being able to play off somebody," he continued. But there's no doubt, I'm just doing what I set out to do back in NXT, back at FCW."
Reigns said Rhodes understood what he was trying to go for with the character all those years back. He then explained why he added Heyman into the mix.
"This is something I wanted to do," Reigns said. It was an opportunity to be able to connect a lot of dots. It was kind of a bit of a lure as well to get me back in. But for me, to know I wanted to go down this route, I needed something... I didn't want to just show up, look different and talk different. I needed a whole new presentation and we are going to continue to gradually do that. I thought what better way than to align myself with essentially a high-powered attorney. If you take the top athlete in the world and mixed him with a head mafia boss character, that's who I am. The mob boss will go out there and do the hit himself but you've got to have somebody dotting the 'I's" and crossing the "T's" for you who understands the ins and outs and can add that new layer to the whole character and the personality."
Reigns will make his first defense as Universal Champion this Sunday at the Clash of Champions pay-per-view against his cousin, Jey Uso.