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Roman Reigns: Can Great Samoan Heritage Produce a Great WWE Champion?

While the WWE fans are still warming up to the idea of Roman Reigns becoming “the man” to replace John Cena as their tried and true hero, the man who will become the new World Champion is showing off a bit of his Samoan heritage with each passing live show. The idea that he continues to talk about it allows me and millions of older wrestling fans walk through history to not only remember the great Samoan influences on the business when we were younger, but to also revisit the great Anoa’I blood line the WWE has fostered of the years.

I miss the days of the Samoan wrestlers and the influences of other cultures in the business. The days when the Wild Samoans (Reigns’ father is none other than Sika Anoaʻi) had the great Capt. Lou Albano at their side – the intimidating look and the fear fans had when they walked toward the ring. Given the fact the Uso’s (whose father is Rikishi) are the most dominant tag team in the company today, I’d say the Samoan influence on today’s promotion is alive and well. But let’s not mistake the impact of the 1970s and 1980s as being the same as things are today – there is no comparison.

The Samoans may have been the greatest tag team in the business before the onslaught of the Road Warriors in the mid-1980s. Afa and Sika spent time in Mid-South Wrestling, the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). The Samoans held 21 tag team championships around the world. Completing their larger than life image, the duo engaged in outrageous behavior such as nose picking and eating raw fish during interviews

And as I have heard in many circles over the years, they may have been one of the last truly hated heel tag teams before the walls of Kayfabe were torn down. If intimidation was their only key to success in the business, the Samoans were masters at it without having to say a single word.

As they stated out in the WWF before the ascension of Hulkamania, Afa and Sika made their Madison Square Garden debut on January 21, 1980 in a WWF Tag Team Championship match against Tito Santana and Ivan Putski, who retained their title. In the upcoming months, both men became contenders for Bob Backlund’s WWF Championship, but neither man won the gold. They, however, won their first championship in the WWF, the tag team championship, by defeating Santana and Putski on April 12, 1980.

They reigned as champions for approximately five months, until dropping the title to Backlund and Pedro Morales in a two out of three falls match at Showdown at Shea. Because Backlund was already the reigning WWF Champion, the team had to forfeit the title, and a tournament was held to crown new tag champions. On September 8, 1980, the Wild Samoans defeated Tony Garea and Rene Goulet in the tournament finals to win the title.

Their reign lasted for one month, until they lost to Garea and his new partner, Rick Martel. The Wild Samoans feuded with the champions for the rest of the year, but they were not able to recapture the gold.

Now that the Anoa’I family has come full circle again with another superstar in the making, I wonder why the WWE is trying so hard to make Reigns the “New Cena” of the next generation.Wouldn’t the WWE (more importantly Vince McMahon) be better off pairing Reigns with a manager to help him hone his skills. It has worked for Brock Lesnar, who by no means gives the fans a thrilling promo, but he is intimidating nonetheless and can get away with it because of the presence of Paul Heyman.

If Lesnar’s contract situation is not resolved and he leaves the WWE (which he should), would Heyman and Reigns be the lottery ticket the company needs? Reigns is better suited as a heel champion (in my opinion) but lacks guidance on camera. Heyman is the perfect bridge to make the heel turn happen.

The WWE is void of managers and valets in this day and age. If the company is willing to revisit the roots of its future champions, hopefully it would be willing to explore the past to ensure Reigns, like his father and uncle before him, receives the best push he can get. In this case the company must align him with the best mouthpiece in the business.

Maybe then, the WWE fan base will be more accepting of a champion that has all but been shoved down their throats.

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