wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: How Many Opponents Has Roman Reigns Had?

August 1, 2022 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Roman Reigns WWE SummerSlam 2022 Image Credit: WWE

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

Hey, ya want a banner?

I’ve been told I should promote my Twitter account more. So, go follow me on Twitter.

M.N.M.N.B. is counting on me to count:

How many different opponents has Roman Reigns had since debuting on the main roster?

There have been 105 in total, and here they are, in more-or-less chronological order based on their first match with the Head of the Table:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYU7WqHFa1E

1) Daniel Bryan, 2) Kane, 3) The Ryback, 4) Mike the Miz, 5) Randy Orton, 6) Sheamus, 7) John Cena, 8) Chris Jericho, 9) Big Show, 10) Axl Keegan, 11) Percy Watson, 12) Scott Dawson, 13) Justin Gabriel, 14) Great Khali, 15) Zack Ryder, 16) Brodus Clay, 17) Tensai, 18) Kofi Kingston, 19) Billy Gunn, 20) Road Dogg, 21) The Undertaker, 22) Jimmy Uso, 23) Jey Uso, 24) R-Truth, 25) Christian Cage, 26) Adrian Neville, 27) Corey Graves, 28) Xavier Woods, 29) Rob Van Dam, 30) Mark Henry, 31) Dolph Ziggler, 32) Darren Young, 33) Titus O’Neil, 34) Cody Rhodes, 35) Goldust, 36) Big E Langston, 37) CM Punk, 38) Rey Misterio Jr., 39) Antonio Cesaro, 40) Jack Swagger, 41) Bray Wyatt, 42) Erick Rowan, 43) Luke Harper, 44) Alberto Del Rio, 45) Alexander Rusev, 46) Wade Barrett, 47) Curtis Axel, 48) Drew McIntyre, 49) Fandango, 50) Heath Slater, 51) Jinder Mahal, 52) Damien Sandow, 53) Dave Batista, 54) Triple H, 55) Seth Rollins, 56) Jamie Noble, 57) Joey Mercury, 58) Brock Lesnar, 59) Kevin Owens, 60) Konnor, 61) Viktor, 62) Braun Strowman, 63) Bo Dallas, 64) Tommy Dreamer, 65) Bubba Ray Dudley, 66) D-Von Dudley, 67) Rhyno, 68) Tyler Breeze, 69) Dean Ambrose, 70) AJ Styles, 71) Karl Anderson, 72) Luke Gallows, 73) Finn Balor, 74) Sami Zayn, 75) Big Cass, 76) Charlotte Flair, 77) Shane McMahon, 78) Samoa Joe, 79) Jason Jordan, 80) Elias Samson, 81) Sunil Singh, 82) Dash Wilder, 83) Baron Corbin, 84) Bobby Lashley, 85) Akam, 86) Rezar, 87) Buddy Murphy, 88) Shinsuke Nakamura, 89) Ricochet, 90) Damian Priest, 91) Keith Lee, 92) Matt Riddle, 93) Tommaso Ciampa, 94) Big Van Walter, 95) Bobby Roode, 95) Johnny Nitro, 96) Otis Dozovic, 97) Edge, 98) Dominik Mysterio, 99) Angelo Dawkins, 100) Montez Ford, 101) Erik, 102) Ivar, 103) Rick Boogs, 104) Jeff Hardy, 105) Bill Goldberg

Here’s a shout out to the most obscure professional wrestler on this list – by far – Mr. Axl Keegan. Keegan was a Boston-area independent grappler who debuted in 2005 and signed a WWE developmental deal in 2012. He never made it out of the farm leagues, but he did have one match with Roman Reigns, when the Shield appeared on Episode #43 of NXT to face Keegan, Percy Watson and a pre-Revival/FTR Scott Dawson.

It’s also worth noting that, a little while back, I answered more or less the same question for M.N.M.N.B., just replacing Roman Reigns with John Cena. Cena’s number of unique opponents is higher than that of the man who most view as being his successor. The Doctor of Thuganomics had wrestled 182 different individuals since leaving developmental.

Tyler from Winnipeg‘s dream match is a reality:

Did Kevin Nash ever lock horns with Billy Gunn?

Yup.

These men have had two and only two singles matches during their careers, though there’s no way for you to see either one of them as far as I know. They both occurred during a 1994 WWF tour that mostly covered Europe but also included a couple of shows in the Middle East. On February 7, Diesel pinned Billy Gunn in Jerusalem, and then on February 8, he pinned him again in Tel Aviv.

There are a couple of interesting historical notes regarding these matches. For reasons I don’t fully understand, though Billy was on this tour, Bart Gunn didn’t make it for some reason. If it was due to injury, it must have been a relatively minor one, because he wrestled in the United States on February 2 and then again on February 18. Also, on the two cards mentioned above, Billy Gunn worked double duty, facing Adam Bomb in the opener and then wrestling Nash several matches later. This is because Marty Jannetty had been Diesel’s scheduled opponent, but Jannetty was fired by the company and sent home halfway through the tour. Billy stepped up to act as the replacement.

Aside from that, Nash and Gunn have shared the ring on only two other occasions. Their next match also occurred in 1994. It was a dark match held as part of a September 28 Wrestling Challenge taping, with Diesel, Shawn, Michaels, and Tatanka defeating The Smoking Gunns and Lex Luger in six man tag team action.

The two would not meet again until August 8, 2011 in Cave-in-Rock Illinois for a Juggalo Championship Wrestling show called Legends and Icons. The match saw Nash and X-Pac – with Scott Hall in their corner – score a victory over the New Age Outlaws. As of this writing, the entire show is on a popular streaming video website that has a name which rhymes with “Blue Rube,” but I’m not going to link to it because I’m not certain whether the upload is authorized. (Shaggy 2 Dope, fire up your DCMA notice.)

David is looking back at the height of the pandemic, a time we are all nostalgic for:

Do you feel the recent heel turns of Roman Reigns and Kenny Omega would have worked if there was a normal crowd there at the time? With Roman, people were already booing him as a face, so is it possible they might have started cheering him when he went heel, as he is a lot more interesting now. In Kenny’s case, since he helped start the company and was seen as the best before AEW started, I think a lot of the fans would still cheer no matter what he is doing.

Yes, they would have worked, and in fact with Reigns we have proof that it’s continued to work as fans have returned. Despite the grief that they get from certain corners of the wrestling community, the fact of the matter is that these two guys are professionals and could make just about anything work – within reason – particularly because they’ve both got a couple of great minds for the business coaching them behind the scenes (Don Calls in the case of Omega and Paul Heyman in the case of Reigns).

Wrestling Fan Since 1977 hears the thunder roll:

How come Thunderbolt Patterson never gets mentioned as one if the best Mid-Atlantic wrestlers ever? I loved his look.

There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that he never wrestled for the WWWF/WWF. You would think that wrestling for the WWF would have nothing to do with being considered a great Mid-Atlantic wrestler, but the fact of the matter is that WWE currently writes almost all of professional wrestling history, even when it has nothing to do with their product. Even when promoting archival footage from other territories, they have a tendency to focus on guys who would later become stars on their roster. Patterson doesn’t fit that bill, so the E ignores him.

The second reason is that Thunderbolt missed wrestling on a high level during what should have been some of the peak years of his career, as he did not endear himself to many people making booking decisions. He was very vocal about the racism he faced in professional wrestling and about his thought that wrestlers should unionize. I respect the hell out of the guy because he stood up for what he believed in, but that was not the sentiment of most promoters or most of his fellow wrestlers at the time. Thus he missed a good period of time during which he could have cemented his legacy in larger promotions.

Paul is inciting a riot:

I was new to ECW and, I believe the first time I saw it was the four-way dance when Chris Jericho was the TV Champ and Shane Douglas won it due to Francine turning on Pitbull #2. Fast forward to Pitbull #2 versus The Franchise and Pitbull #1 was in a halo for his broken neck. I’ll never forget after Pitbull #2 was blinded by Francine that Pitbull #1 climbed in the ring and the most shocking thing I’d seen to date happened: Douglas shook him by the halo and threw him down.

Then all hell broke loose! I don’t know how, but I can’t seem to repeat the feat and find the video anywhere. Why? Second, credit has to be given to Joel Gertner (question for another day) for the balls for him to start to announce “Winner..and still..ECW Television Champ” while everyone is fuming in that ring and/or fans trying to get into it. As if Douglas didn’t already have nuclear heat, Gertner was getting his own. I think I heard Bubby Ray Dudley yell at him to shut the F up! But who attacked him first? Then after being pulled apart Gertner AGAIN starts to say “Winner and still…” who then attacked him the second time?

If you can find the video, anyone who has not seen it must. Its a moment when the fans were getting smart but still so invested that they nearly tore Douglas apart.

The match and angle Paul is referring to took place on October 5, 1996 at the ECW Arena as part of a card that was originally promoted under the name “Ultimate Jeopardy,” though it was broken up into smaller chunks and aired as part of ECW’s weekly syndicated television. Exact air dates may have varied from market-to-market, but most databases list the episode featuring the Douglas/Pitbulls encounter as airing on October 15. If you are looking for the video, it does appear to be available to those with Peacock Premium, where it is listed as Season 4, Episode 42 of ECW Hardcore TV. (That list is, of course, completely arbitrary, because wrestling shows were not actually organized into “seasons” at the time.)

For what it’s worth, according to Shane Douglas in many shoot interviews after the fact, one of the reasons that they were able to get away with doing this is that the legitimate broken neck Pitbull #1 had previously suffered was fully healed by this point. Prior to this, he was actually wearing a halo for medical reasons, though he had been scheduled to get it removed a week earlier and Paul Heyman convinced him to delay the removal so that they could milk some sort of angle out of the device being attached.

To answer Paul’s direct question, the first person to go after Joel Gertner when the Quintessential Stud Muffin tries to announce Douglas as the winner of the match is none other than Tod Gordon. When Gertner gets attacked a second time for trying to pull the same bullshit, it’s by a different Paul . . . namely Paul Heyman.

Casey from PortsUnknown will blow and then chunder:

Has Sami Zayn ever won a match with a Blue Thunder Bomb? Actually, has anyone? They’re always shocked at the kickout, but I can’t remember a victory at all from one.

And I think you might have answered this one before, but . . .

With finishers being protected (for the most part), why does every man and his dog has The Spear as a finisher? Not everyone throws a Pedigree down, so why can everyone use The Spear as a match ender?

I suspect that there are quite a few people reading this who don’t even known while a Blue Thunder Bomb (a.k.a. Blue Thunder Driver) is referred to as a Blue Thunder Bomb. That’s the case because the move was popularized, if not outright invented, by Japanese wrestler Jun Akiyama, who has used the nickname “Blue Thunder” for many years. And, yes, Akiyama has won more than his fair share of matches with his maneuver that has been adopted by men like John Cena and Sami Zayn.

And to answer Casey’s question more directly, Sami Zayn has won at least one match with that move. Go check out the January 23, 2018 episode of WWE Smackdown. On that card, then-WWE Champion AJ Styles was required to face Zayn and Kevin Owens in back-to-back singles matches as part of the build towards Styles defending his championship against the two in a handicap match at the Royal Rumble later in the month. On that particular episode of Smackdown, Styles quickly tapped out Owens with the Calf Crusher in their match. However, he could not get the better of the former El Generico, who defeated him with a Helluva Kick/BTB combo.

Moving on to the second half of the question regarding the Spear, it is true that professional wrestling etiquette usually holds that nobody should use anybody else’s finisher. However, that rule is relaxed somewhat when it comes to wrestlers who are in different promotions, and generally a wrestler’s move is going to be up for grabs once he retires.

Apply all those rules, and the reason we seem to have a lot of people doing spears right now comes down to promotional and historical oddities.

The man who really popularized the move – at least under that name – was Bill Goldberg. Around the same time, Edge started doing the move as well. They were in separate, rival companies, so this was cool. Not long after, Rhyno started doing the maneuver as the Gore, and he was ALSO in a different promotion.

By 2003, all three of those men were on the WWE roster at the same time, and they all had enough history with the move that everybody seemingly decided they could coexist with it.

Fast forward to the ascension of Roman Reigns, the most significant modern purveyor of spears. During his rise, Goldberg, Edge, and Rhyno were all nowhere to be seen, which cleared him to utilize the move. However, over time, all three of those guys made their returns while Reigns was still on the roster, and, again, because of their histories with the move and because of Goldberg and Edge’s statuses in the business nobody was going to tell them that they couldn’t do it.

Night Wolf the Wise is copping a ‘tude.

May 2002, the last Golden Era of wrestling: The Attitude Era came to an end. Myself and many others were fortunate to be around when wrestling was at its hottest and most popular. I was wondering if you could give us your opinion on the state of wrestling 20 years removed from that time? Where do you think wrestling stands today? Is it better off then it was 10,15 years ago or no?

First off, I disagree with your marker for when the Attitude Era ended. In my mind, Attitude goes out the door with the heel turn of Steve Austin at Wrestlemania XVII. That seemed to be the fan consensus for many years, though I do now see some individuals tying the end of the era to the transition in the company name from WWF to WWE. Mania XVII is the more logical capper in my mind, though, since the Attitude Era was Steve Austin and Steve Austin was the Attitude Era, and that was the conclusion of his mega-hot run. Plus, the Attitude Era is almost inexorably linked to the Monday Night War, and the 2001 edition of Wrestlemania occurred just days after the cease fire in that war.

In any event, the real question is whether wrestling is better off than it was twenty years ago.

The answer to that question is . . . maybe? As with many things in this column, it depends on your criteria.

On one hand, professional wrestling is significantly less popular than it was during the Attitude Era. Television viewership, live event attendance, and just about every other business metric is way down from the glory days of the late 1990s.

On the other hand, the reduced audiences may really not matter that much, because wrestling is making money hand over fist, primarily thanks to increased television rights fees and other “guaranteed” income like WWE’s deal with Saudi Arabia, all of which gets paid out whether half a million or one million or two million people are watching the programming.

So, you have a genre of sports entertainment that is less popular but more profitable. Pick which of those things you think is more indicative of success and you can answer Night Wolf’s question however you like.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.