Get ready to boo and pick up the pitchforks. I'm going to write something that isn't going to make many wrestling purists very happy: It really is Roman Reigns' yard.
I get it. Reading that last sentence just caused massive pain and the immediate feeling that you need to go on social media and react with great vengeance and furious anger, but the truth is that Roman Reigns has been the pivotal piece of the puzzle that has brought entertainment to wrestling fans over the past few years.
While The Miz has often been the one to drive the biggest narratives of late, the action consistently ends in a different place. Show after show closes out with a match between Reigns and one or more of the WWE's top performers -- and night after night fans leave invested in the program, which is the ultimate compliment for those that drive the creative machine.
Reigns hears the reactions, which we've discussed before, lets them sink in and knows that he's fortunate to be taking center stage. To Reigns, professionally, this is as good as it gets.
"I'm always looking forward to the opportunity to do something great," Reigns said just days ahead of the Elimination Chamber. "It's a great responsibility. A lot of times, jokingly, I always say 'Someone's gotta do it, why not me?'"
Joking or not, Reigns' number is called often, and he delivers on the lofty expectations of those around him. But Reigns isn't one to sit back and reflect on his work. There's simply no time.
"The toughest part is that is goes so fast. It's hard to really enjoy it and relish in the cool things that you're able to accomplish because there's no offseason," Reigns said. "There's no time to kick back and realize that something was awesome or it was a crazy two months or it was a crazy tour. It's a system, and we're running this drill that just never stops, and, God willing, my body holds up and I keep doing this as long as possible, because there's nothing like performing in front of this crowd that we have."
Those crowds are often Reigns' biggest critics, but it's the consistent emotional engagement that keeps him going and keeps him in the main event.
To nobody's surprise, Reigns will be in another main event on Sunday at the Elimination Chamber -- Monday Night Raw's final pay-per-view ahead of WrestleMania. The winner of the seven-man finale will earn a shot at Brock Lesnar's Universal championship on the biggest stage the WWE can offer. If that winner is Reigns, and the match is indeed last on April 8, it would be the fourth consecutive WresteMania in which Reigns appeared in the closing match -- making him the first person to accomplish that feat since Hulk Hogan.
"That's what it's all about ... I busted my butt [to get to this point]," Reigns said. "People can say whatever they want. I know my schedule. I know what I've done. I know all the different places and all the different tours and workloads that I've taken on, but [WrestleMania] is our playoffs. This is our Super Bowl. This is where it all counts. You've been waiting for your birthday all year long, and this is where you capitalize."
But first, there's Sunday's match.
"That's going to be the toughest Elimination Chamber of all time. I'm kind of nervous," Reigns said. "When you get used to just wrestling in that ring -- it's a bit more forgiving than that steel, then you have all those different components that can really bring a lot of pain. I'm not really looking forward to [the pain part], but I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
Those joining Reigns inside the contraption represent a great cross-section of the WWE talent. From John Cena to Elias, these seven men are the current and future stars of the company. Reigns appreciates what each and every one brings to the table, but there's one person with whom Reigns has spent more than a year battling, and his presence is what is going to make this year's Chamber something truly engaging.
"You look at the dynamic of the match and we have a lot of cool characters and players in this match. A guy who is as special as Braun Strowman, maybe we can do something really cool and destroy something. Him and his character always seem to be like the safest vehicle to go down that route. Him and Vince [McMahon] always seem to come up with something new...
"An ambulance wasn't enough, then he flipped a semi," Reigns said. "The structure is so big. I'm sure there's something we can do creatively to come up with and make a huge moment and hopefully leave a great impression on Las Vegas and the Elimination Chamber match itself -- something that people will remember for a long time."
Given the lineup and their past tendencies to create these moments, Elimination Chamber is expected to be much more than the usual pit stop ahead of WrestleMania. Reigns is thrilled to share the experience with these six. Here's how he sees each of them on a professional level.
The Miz - "He's an underrated workhorse. I'm extremely proud of the job that he does representing the company. The crossover reach that he has, and his ability to maintain the relationship he has with MTV [is great]. I think he's very underrated for the amount of work that he does and I'm grateful to have him in our locker room.
Seth Rollins - "That's my brother, in so many regards. Not only in character and TV world perspective, but in real life. We've gone through so much and we've seen each other progress and advance in life and it's really cool where we're at."
Finn Balor -"The cool thing about Finn, and a lot of the guys we have, but especially his story and just his background and the time he spent in Japan and the whole Bullet Club scene and everything, I would just say he's an extremely deserving competitor, and he's in the right spot. He's in the right light. I'm extremely happy with his progression as a character, and as long as he can keep Finn Balor doing what he's doing, the Demon is always going to be really cool. He's definitely a journeyman, but I'm happy he's continually escalating and evolving throughout this career."
Elias - "He's an entertainer, and a growing one. He's like a wrestler's dream, because you can send him out there and let him sing and play the guitar and make fun of the town and stuff like that. And he does a pretty good job at being cool, but still getting some heat. I'm looking forward to see him progress. He's definitely going to be a jack of all trades."
Braun Strowman - "He's a monster. It's for real. He's a big strong dude that can move. He's a good athlete, too. It's very rare you see men who stand 6-8, 6-9-plus, and they have to hitch to do what we do. On top of all that, he's not a big blockhead. He's a smart guy with a decent head on his shoulders where I think he's going to continue to progress and continue to learn because there's so many different facets and nuances that we do in the ring. He's definitely going to be a monster for us for many years to come.
John Cena - "He's like 'The Babe.' I don't think there's ever going to be anybody like Cena ever again. That's why when people compare myself to him now, I like to just think that it's a compliment. To be able to have the longevity -- that's the word for Cena -- longevity. It goes to speak to his worth ethic and his passion, but I just don't think it's going to be able to be done again. He's one of one. There will never be a guy who can hold up and be that durable because he competed 15-plus years on an elite level. I've been doing it a few years now, and I can already feel the tolls, so there's a lot of respect that has to go his way because to do it at the top for that long is unprecedented.
Win or lose on Sunday, Reigns will have another moment to showcase his abilities. The three-time WWE champion, one-time Intercontinental champion, one-time United States champion and one-time tag team champion will continue to lead the WWE as long as his body allows -- and there's no other place he'd rather be.
"It's the best job in the world any man could have," said Reigns. "Getting out there and performing in front of the craziest crowds that sports entertainment could offer you."