Roman Reigns is no stranger to big matches in WWE. When he challenges Brock Lesnar for the universal championship on Sunday, April 8 in New Orleans at, there's a solid chance it could mark his fourth consecutive main event on the grandest stage the company has to offer. However, no matter how many main events Reigns participates in at WrestleMania, none may be as filled with as much expectations and pressure as the one he was involved in last year against The Undertaker.
In the main event of WrestleMania 33 in Orlando last year, Reigns took on and handed "The Phenom" just his second WrestleMania loss, putting the legend's future in doubt as Taker left his signature gloves and hat in the ring following the loss. To step into the ring with a competitor the caliber of The Undertaker, Reigns -- in the prime of his career -- undoubtedly had some high expectations given that he was squaring off with someone who many would consider the face of WrestleMania.
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That's a difficult billing to live up to, and while Reigns earned a victory in the match, it did not come without some criticism. The Undertaker was clearly not 100 percent in the match, which led to a slower-than-anticipated pace and some blown spots late in the bout with Taker clearly unable to help Reigns pull off some planned moves.
Reigns refused to put the blame on Taker during a conversation with CBS Sports' In This Corner podcast [subscribe here] when asked whether the match lived up to his own personal expectations.
"I don't think it ever could, really," Reigns explained. "It's a hard spot for The Undertaker to have such a storied career, to have such a huge list of ridiculously good matches, and to have that respect, and to have that mystique, and to have that reputation as the godfather of the professional wrestling and sports entertainment business. So, everyone's thought about what it would be like to be in a match with The Undertaker at WrestleMania to where you hype it up so much that it's almost unfair to him."
What also added to the pressure of the bout was Taker being at the tail-end of his career; but at the same time, it was a great learning experience for Reigns to have the lengthy bout with the legendary figure.
"For me, what made it so hard was how heavy it was," Reigns said. "You know, if I wrestled The Undertaker 20 years ago at the beginning or the middle of his career, probably not. But the positioning I found myself in, it just felt really heavy and so much more emotional than I was ready for it to be, so I think that was the hardest thing ... but, you know, the coolest thing because I think that just shows the gravity of the situation, the responsibility of the placement [on the card] and just who I was sharing the ring with. And that's just how special he is.
"I just feel like maybe I wasn't good enough or maybe it could have been better on my behalf, but I always hold The Undertaker in so high in that regard that I just feel like maybe I could have done better. But I enjoyed it. I really learned a huge amount in the ring with him; you know, to being in the ring with him for one singles match and to have it be at that level, to be able to pick something up in just 30-40 minutes from another performer -- it just goes to show how good he is."
Reigns will now look to continue to carve out his own WrestleMania legacy, one which he has a tremendous head start on, when he battles Lesnar in New Orleans.
Listen to the full Roman Reigns interview, along with another featuring AJ Styles, in the latest edition of the In This Corner podcast below. Subscribe here.