Jim Ross was closely involved with signing and recruiting talent throughout his career with WWE, so it’s not surprising to hear that he had his eyes on Joe Anoa’i long before he became Roman Reigns.
On a recent episode of Grilling JR, the legendary broadcaster explained why WWE didn’t sign Anoa’i in 2006, when he was a star player for Georgia Tech.
“He changed his body immensely, he was a 300-pound nose tackle for Georgia Tech there in the ACC, and before [John] Laurinaitis took over talent reactions, he was certainly on my radar. And we were all aware [of him], Michael Hayes, different guys, because Hayes was close with the Samoans.”
“He has football to get out of his system and I encouraged that, quite frankly. You don’t want somebody to come in and not be sure that they’re at the right place for them. So if he got a chance at football, and he didn’t make it for whatever reason, then he gets it out of his system and then here we go.”
Ross compared Anoa’i to Ken Shamrock, who has enjoyed extensive success in both professional wrestling and mixed martial arts.
Ross: “Same analogy I’d use for Ken Shamrock, who could not get MMA out of his system. And he was getting over like a son of a gun in WWE, at least he was in my eyes, then all of a sudden he’s, he keeps talking about these fights. ‘I could do this in three fights.’ So finally it was just a matter of, ‘You need to go get this out of your system. Then we’ll bring you back.'”
In another passage, Ross reflected on the prosperity of the legendary Anoa’i family and commended it for its depth and scope:
Ross: “There are some great families, as we all can recall. The Harts, for example, a good example. But going deep, having a depth with quality, everybody you mentioned is or was a main event level guy. So you find sometimes the star of the family, then you got some also-rans that aren’t quite up to that speed. But these guys had depth as a family, and they had great skills. It was just in their blood.”