A four-time WrestleMania main-eventer, “The Big Dog” has defeated legendary Superstars including Triple H and The Undertaker at WWE’s biggest show of the year, while he also headlined the annual extravaganza on two occasions against Brock Lesnar.
Those achievements, combined with his reigns as WWE Champion, Universal Champion, Intercontinental Champion, United States Champion and Tag Team Champion, mean the former Shield member is among the most decorated title holders of the last decade.
When you consider that WWE inducts factions, as well as individual Superstars, into the Hall of Fame, there is a very real possibility that we could one day see Reigns and his fellow Shield members become two-time Hall of Famers.
In this article, let’s take a look at 10 photos that show how much Reigns has transformed as a WWE Superstar from the early days of his career.
#10 Roman Leakee photo shoot
Before his days as a Shield member and WrestleMania main-eventer, Roman Reigns went by the ring name Roman Leakee in WWE’s FCW developmental system between 2010 and 2012.
As you can see from the picture above, his character and appearance was very different from the person he would go on to portray later in his career.
The highlight of the Leakee persona came when he teamed with Mike Dalton (now known as Tyler Breeze) to win the FCW Tag Team titles.
#9 NXT evolution
When former WWE developmental star Calvin Raines left the company, Corey Graves suggested to Roman Leakee that he should change his name to Roman Reigns.
Reigns’ new name debuted in August 2012, coinciding with the rebranding of FCW to NXT, and he went on to defeat CJ Parker in his NXT television debut in October 2012.
#8 The Shield’s debut
Heading into the Survivor Series 2012 pay-per-view, much of the talk surrounded CM Punk and the potential end of his year-long WWE Championship reign ahead of his Triple Threat title defence against arch-enemy John Cena and the up-and-coming Ryback.
In the end, everybody was left talking about three relatively unknown Superstars – Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose – who made a huge impact in the main event by triple-powerbombing Ryback through the announce desk, helping CM Punk to retain his title.
Fun fact: As well as wearing questionable turtle neck attire, The Shield were originally supposed to carry shields with them for their debut. However, Vince McMahon felt it made them look weak, so the idea was dropped on the day of the PPV.
#7 Tag Team Champions
After taking out major Superstars including John Cena, Randy Orton and Sheamus, one of The Shield’s first milestone moments as a trio came at Extreme Rules 2013 when all three members of the villainous group won titles on the main roster for the first time.
Dean Ambrose defeated Kofi Kingston earlier in the night to win the United States Championship, while Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins began their dominant reign as Tag Team Champions by defeating Team Hell No duo Daniel Bryan and Kane.
#6 Royal Rumble spotlight
When it comes to the Royal Rumble and Roman Reigns, many fans will immediately think of his unpopular 2015 triumph, which set up a WWE Championship match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 31.
However, his first major Rumble moment actually came one year earlier in 2014 when he eliminated 12 Superstars to break Kane’s long-standing record of 11 eliminations in a single Rumble match.
The end of the 30-man encounter saw Batista eliminate Reigns, much to the frustration of the fans in attendance, who were desperate to see Daniel Bryan win that year’s match.
#5 Slammy Award win
WWE ended its annual Slammy Awards ceremony in 2016, and it is no wonder why when you consider the negative reaction that Roman Reigns received following his 2014 victory.
The former Shield member was voted by fans as the Superstar of the Year in 2014, defeating other nominees Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose, John Cena, Seth Rollins, Daniel Bryan and Bray Wyatt.
The Slammy Award certainly helped to cement Reigns’ status as one of WWE’s top Superstars, but the somewhat surprising result led to lots of questions about whether the outcome was a fix.
#4 WrestleMania failure
Much like their match at WrestleMania 34, the majority of fans expected Roman Reigns to follow up his 2015 Royal Rumble success by defeating Brock Lesnar in the main event of WrestleMania 31 to win the WWE Championship.
As it turned out, Seth Rollins cashed in his Money In The Bank contract towards the end of the match, making it a Triple Threat, and he pinned Reigns to become the first Shield member to claim WWE’s most prestigious title.
Despite the defeat, the mere fact that WWE’s decision-makers chose Reigns to headline WrestleMania said a lot about his future as one of the company’s main attractions.
#3 WrestleMania success
While WrestleMania 31 was considered a setback for Roman Reigns’ character, he got back on track at the next two WrestleMania events, which ended with “The Big Dog” picking up statement-making victories over Triple H and The Undertaker, respectively.
Reigns’ appearances on the episodes of RAW after those WrestleManias were also memorable, as he soaked in boos from the crowd on both occasions before cutting two character-defining promos:
WrestleMania 32: “I’m not a bad guy. I’m not a good guy. I’m THE guy.”
WrestleMania 33: “This is my yard now!”
#2 Leukemia announcement
One of the most emotional moments in WWE history took place in October 2018 when Roman Reigns relinquished his Universal Championship after announcing that he had been diagnosed with leukemia for the second time.
Four months after his announcement, Reigns returned to WWE television and revealed that his leukemia was in remission.
#1 SmackDown Superstar
Roman Reigns was the highest-profile name who moved from RAW to SmackDown in the 2019 Superstar Shake-Up.
Granted, the roster changes did not count for much due to the introduction of the ‘Wild Card Rule’, which enabled Superstars to appear on both RAW and SmackDown, but it was still notable that WWE decided to make Reigns the face of the blue brand following his three-year association on RAW.
In October 2019, Reigns was officially confirmed as a SmackDown roster member again after the draft, and he immediately began feuding with long-term rival Baron Corbin.