LAS VEGAS - Roman Reigns was limping as he walked the corridors of T-Mobile Arena on his way to his locker room after winning the main event of WWE Elimination Chamber on Sunday.
Reigns comes from a long line of professional wrestlers, but learning how to take bumps off a steel cage and go through a plexiglass window were never part of his training and that stuff never gets easier no matter how many times he has done it.
"I feel terrible, to be honest," Reigns told ESPN as he walked to the locker room. "You go through your training and you go through your developmental, but nobody teaches you how to wrestle in a structure like the Elimination Chamber or Hell in a Cell. These aren't things that you learn to do when you're coming up. They take their toll on you."
Seemingly as agonizing as the bumps and bruises are the chants and jeers directed at Reigns during and after his win. They ranged from "Just not Roman!" when he was one of the final four standing along with Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and Braun Strowman to "Same old s---!" when he eventually defeated Strowman to win and earn a spot in the main event at WrestleMania.
"I just do me," Reigns said. "There's a lot of situations where you just have to learn by fire. You get thrown into the deep end and you have to learn how to swim. For me, I just try to take it in stride and go out there and do my thing and handle it how I have. That's the only way I can really respond is going out there and being me, and that's the truest way to do it. I'm not going to change me to please other people."
One of the people celebrating his victory the loudest was UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, who was sitting ringside next to former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Cormier could be seen loudly cheering after Reigns' win and taunting anyone around him booing the result.
"It's always flattering when you have a world-class athlete respect what you do, especially someone's who's in the MMA world, someone who's throwing their body around every single day, whether it's a training session or a sparring session or a championship fight," Reigns said. "To see him out there in the crowd, in the front row, was awesome. We're all in entertainment, so hopefully he can take a little bit of what we do and help his career out and help the direction he wants to take it in."
Reigns' opponent in the main event at WrestleMania will be Brock Lesnar, who not only is the WWE Universal champion but was a UFC heavyweight champion. He, along with Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor, were three of the biggest stars in UFC's history, and three of the only crossover talents who could routinely draw 1 million pay-per-view buys, regardless of their opponent. Two of those three stars are now in the WWE and will headline this year's WrestleMania.
"It's great. We're trying to spread the word about our form of entertainment," Reigns said. "We're just trying to entertain families and pull them out of their regular lives and take them on a vacation for a little bit. When you have a guy like Brock Lesnar and you have a woman like Ronda Rousey, they have that crossover appeal and that legitimacy, so whenever you can put them in this entertainment world, it just adds a greater mystique.
"It almost makes it old school when no one knew what was happening because people know how dangerous Brock Lesnar really is. They've seen in him in the Octagon; they've seen the savage he can be. It's an honor to be in there with someone so legitimate. That just shows how much passion he has for our business, to bring his career, his reputation, his accolades and all he has achieved in MMA and put it on the line here."
This will be Reigns' sixth WrestleMania, and for the fourth straight year he will be in the main event and likely close the show. Only Hulk Hogan has main-evented and closed WrestleMania four straight times before. Reigns simply smiled when thinking about being the headliner of the company's biggest event again and admitted he might not fully appreciate the accomplishment until he retires.
"It's hard to really appreciate these moments," Reigns said. "My whole career has felt like it's been in fast forward. We don't have an offseason, and that's the situation we all signed up for. It would be great if we had four months to just relax, reflect and digest it all, but we just keep it moving. There are 52 weeks a year, and the world needs its entertainment and its professional wrestling. But there are moments you want to soak it in. So hopefully one day, I can be home, chilling with my kids, crack a beer open, and sit back and think on what I've done.
"The cool thing is we live in a world now where just about everything is recorded, so it won't ever be a problem to go back and watch what I've done. I actually just read this interview that Michael Phelps did a while ago and he said how he had lived in fast forward but it's cool now that he has slowed down in his career, he can now go back and see those moments and just sit back, enjoy them and relish them. Maybe one day I'll be able to do the same."
A Blissful night
Minutes after winning the first-ever women's Elimination Chamber match Sunday, Alexa Bliss was back in the makeup chair backstage at T-Mobile Arena preparing for an interview about her WrestleMania opponent, Asuka, who defeated Nia Jax.
"It's exciting," Bliss told ESPN. "Now we can look towards WrestleMania after making history tonight."
The first women's Elimination Chamber match was the latest milestone in the WWE's "women's revolution." In the past three years, women have competed for the first time in an Iron Man Match, a Hell in a Cell match, a Money in the Bank ladder match, a Royal Rumble match and now an Elimination Chamber match.
"With this women's revolution that's going on right now, with every opportunity that we get, we have to make the most of it, we have to deliver and we have to keep the revolution going," Bliss said. "So we knew with this first women's Elimination Chamber match in history, we had to go out there and kill it and have the most fun that we can -- and make history doing it."
Bliss admits she was slightly intimidated when she first walked into the Elimination Chamber on Sunday and worked through her "Twisted Bliss" maneuver from the top of one of the pods.
"I was quite terrified," Bliss said. "I'm not going to lie. I've done the 'Twisted Bliss' off of Braun Strowman's shoulders before, but that's not nothing to be on top of an Elimination Chamber pod. There are big challenges with being in a match like this. You're inside of this chamber that's intimidating to begin with. There's nothing appealing about the Elimination Chamber. When I first walked into it, I was terrified. You start out the match in these pods, and you're just watching everyone go at it, waiting for your time."
After her victory, Bliss showed why she is one of the best heels in WWE by getting emotional in the ring while getting a "You deserve it!" chant from the crowd and talking about dreaming big before telling them that none of them will accomplish any of their dreams.
"Those were real tears for a minute, and then I had to be mean," Bliss said. "It was great because I knew what my next move was. I was very excited to see how the crowd was going to react. I am very proud of the women's division and genuinely happy that this happened and the fact that I got the 'You deserve it!' chant from the crowd, I don't take that for granted; it's amazing for our fans to do, but at the end of the day, I'm the bad guy and I can't have them cheering me. It wouldn't be very Bliss of me if I thanked them for cheering me."
The most talked-about moment of the night didn't take place in a match but during a ceremonial contract signing when Ronda Rousey returned to T-Mobile Arena for the first time since her last UFC fight.
Rousey was initially greeted with a respectful ovation, but she won over the crowd after putting Triple H through a table and chasing Stephanie McMahon out of the ring.
"H didn't go through a table a couple of years ago [at WrestleMania 31], but I think Ronda has H's number," Reigns said with a smile after the show. "H, you might want to get back in the ring and warm it up because Rousey threw you like a little baby tonight."
After the pay-per-view, Rousey was backstage at T-Mobile Arena with her husband, and UFC fighter, Travis Browne, when Cormier and Velasquez came to give her a hug and wish her well. Rousey also spent time talking to Bliss, Jax, John Cena and other WWE superstars.
"I think it's great that she's here," Bliss said. "She's built a brand for herself and a name for herself, and for her to be able to bring her fan base into what we do, into our world of the WWE is fantastic. If anyone can legitimize how tough it is to do what we do, it's Ronda. She's made a name for herself in the UFC, she's worked hard, she knows the grind, and for her fans to come here and watch her grow and see the struggles that we all go through, I think will give people more of an appreciation for what we do. I think she's just what we need for the women's revolution in the WWE."
One of the hardest transitions for Rousey in the WWE will be her ability to get on the microphone and cut a believable promo. She looked out of place on the microphone Sunday in only her second WWE appearance, which shouldn't come as a surprise. Most of the women in the WWE have practiced being on the microphone hundreds of times in front of a live crowd before being on a pay-per-view.
"It took me forever to get comfortable," Bliss said. "When I first started NXT, we had promo classes, and I used to get so upset because I couldn't get in front of a crowd and talk. I was terrified. Actually, our referee Shawn Bennett was just talking about my first promo class. I stood up there and started crying because I was really embarrassed to be in front of a large group and speaking. I performed in front of large crowds before, but I never had to speak in front of them, so it's just one of those things you have to keep doing and doing. You have to put yourself in the most uncomfortable situations and make them comfortable."