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Roman Reigns: From CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos / Elks to WWE Superstar!

In the world of professional wrestling, Roman Reigns stands as a dominant figure, holding his ground in the ring as WWE Superstar. But before he entered the squared circle, his battlefield was the gridiron, where he donned the jersey of the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos, now known as the Elks.

In 2008, the young athlete known as Joe Anoaʻi was signed by the Edmonton Eskimos. The decision marked an intriguing chapter in the Eskimos’ legacy, as Anoa’i was a player of rare tenacity and physicality. Wearing the number 99, he became part of the CFL landscape, playing one season that would be brief but resonant.

Anoaʻi’s time with the Eskimos featured him in five games, three of which he started. Though his CFL career was short-lived, the impact he made on the field was anything but minimal. Fans still remember the energetic display against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in September of that year, a game where Anoaʻi tied for the team lead with five tackles, not to mention a forced fumble that showcased his natural instincts and athleticism.

That game against the Tiger-Cats wasn’t just another match in the CFL schedule; it was a glimpse into the raw talent and drive that would later define Anoa’i’s wrestling persona as Roman Reigns. His performance on the field was akin to his wrestling style – intense, aggressive, and unyielding.

However, the Eskimos released Anoa’i on November 10 of the same year, a move that would lead him to retire from professional football. His departure from the CFL marked the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. The gridiron’s loss became the wrestling ring’s gain, as Anoa’i transitioned to a new arena where he would build his reputation as Roman Reigns, a name now synonymous with WWE success.

This is what he said about playing in the CFL.

“I think it put my back against the wall, to be honest. It really created some urgency. It put me in a situation where I had to grow. Being in college, you had that security blanket of the university to be taken out of that and then put here in Edmonton. Thank God the city was so hospitable to me. It really allowed me and pulled me away from my family and it made me grow up really fast.”

Anoa’i’s journey from the CFL to WWE is a testament to his adaptability and passion for competition. Whether it was chasing down a loose ball or grappling with opponents in the ring, his commitment to excellence remained constant.

For the Edmonton Eskimos, Anoa’i’s time with the team remains a unique footnote in their storied history. His presence on the field, though brief, was a reminder of the diverse paths that athletes can take. From the CFL’s wide fields to WWE’s bright lights, Roman Reigns’ story is a fascinating tale of transition, persistence, and ultimate triumph.

The memory of number 99, charging down the field in the green and gold of the Eskimos, is more than a piece of CFL history. It’s a symbol of a competitor’s journey, reflecting the spirit of a man who took on the challenges of two vastly different worlds and emerged as a true superstar.

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Mark Perry Editor
Mark Perry is the founder and editor of CFL News Hub. A dedicated and experienced football analyst, he has been providing comprehensive coverage of the sport since 2018.
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Gern

    August 26, 2023 at 9:53 pm

    Very interesting and another example of the stupidity of Esks management. I have a better understanding of why the Esks are the laughing stock of the CFL today.

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