Roman Reigns will wrestle his first televised singles match since returning to action at SummerSlam when he defends the universal championship against Braun Strowman this Friday night on SmackDown. It’s a pairing with a long history, dating back to the first time they shared a ring in 2015.

Strowman and Reigns have found themselves in the same match more than 125 times, from singles action to tag matches to Royal Rumbles to that time Reigns was on the short side of a 14-on-one handicap match. Over the years, Reigns told CBS Sports, Strowman has advanced as a worker by leaps and bounds.

“If it’s been 125 times, on Day 1, he didn’t know left from right,” Reigns said. “It’s been amazing to see his growth as a performer. There’s times he’ll say some stupid stuff and you want to smack him, but he means well. He’s a big guy with a lot of charisma and a very lovable guy. There are times where you can see that he’s getting it and starting to understand what he’s supposed to do and why he’s supposed to do it. For me to have been one of the first to take him on and show him the way, I’m just happy that he trusted me. A lot of guys struggle with just listening and understanding that maybe the guy that’s done it longer than you can teach you something. He put that trust in me, and I think it has paid dividends. I think it has helped him be able to hold his own and stay at a certain level in where we are, but it’s a totally different dynamic now and I have a totally different attitude.

“For me, this run that I’m on, I’m not taking any prisoners. For me, my personal performance is the most important thing. My connection with the audience, displaying a character and providing content they’re going to buzz about for weeks and taking them on that roller coaster ride is very important. I’ve said it a few times, I’m cooking up an elaborate omelet and Braun Strowman is one of those eggs. Friday, you’re going to see me crack another egg. He’s a big old egg, but he’s going to be part of this omelet I’m cooking up.”

The run Reigns has been on since returning from his time off at the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic has seen some of the best storytelling of his career. While the focus of his current story is a feud with cousin Jey Uso, Reigns said that his focus is on the long term.

That focus, he said, is to use the coming years to establish himself as a legend, proving that he is a once-in-a-lifetime talent. He also stressed that being paired with new advocate Paul Heyman has helped him take his game to the next level.

“For me, I think I just look at it on a different level now,” Reigns said. “This Friday is going to be a chance to show why I’m on a different level than everybody else. It’s not just talk, it’s not just chatter, it’s not just people making comments on the internet. Everything I do within that ring and everything I do on Friday and Sunday nights is on a different level than everybody else. That’s why they’re not talking about Raw. They’re all talking about SmackDown and what we do. We lead the charge at this point.

“Me and Paul [Heyman] are trailblazing like nobody else in this generation. For me, whether it’s the next two years, three years, four years or five years, I’m going to leave a mark that’s untouchable and raise my status to Hall of Fame legendary. I’m going to do something to create my legacy and cement it to where me and my family can all be proud of what I’ve done.”

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