WWE superstar Roman Reigns announced on this week’s episode of Monday Night Raw that he is relinquishing his Universal Championship due to a battle with leukemia.
In a promo that kicked off this Monday’s episode of Raw, Reigns entered the ring in street clothes and spoke to the audience, admitting that he was first diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 22, shortly after his college football career ended, and that the disease had been in remission for the past 11 years.
As noted by the Mirror, Reigns stressed to the live audience at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, that his speech was not part of a storyline, and that he had no choice but to relinquish his Universal Championship because his leukemia had returned.
“When I was 22-years-old, I was diagnosed with this. And very quickly, I was able to put it in remission,” said Reigns.
“But I’m not going to lie, that was the hardest time of my life. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have a home and I had a baby on the way and football was done with me. But do you want to know who gave me a chance? The team that gave me a chance was the WWE.”
Reigns then thanked the audience for “always reacting” to him, regardless of whether they cheered or booed, and concluded his promo by saying that the “best thing” for him at this point is to beat leukemia and spend some time recovering at home with his family. After he symbolically placed his Universal Championship belt on the mat and exited the ring to chants of “Thank you, Roman,” Reigns was joined on the ramp by fellow Shield members Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, as all three men hugged each other to close out the segment.
“I will beat this and I will be back, so you will see me very, very soon. Once again, thank you so much, God bless you, and I love you. Believe that.”
— WWE (@WWE) October 23, 2018
— Hurricane Helms (@ShaneHelmsCom) October 23, 2018
Our job gives us the ability to portray larger than life characters who possess super human qualities and characteristics.
After hearing his story it's very apparent that Joe Anoa'i is just as much of a superhero as "Roman Reigns" is.#ThankYouRoman
— Johnny Gargano (@JohnnyGargano) October 23, 2018
.@WWERomanReigns you are the definition of what it means to be a leader and a champion and one of the toughest lads on the planet. We are all behind you and sending love. You will beat this. #ThankYouRoman
— Rebecca Quin (@BeckyLynchWWE) October 23, 2018
Following the announcement of his leukemia diagnosis, several WWE and NXT superstars took to Twitter to show their support for Reigns, including John Cena, Kevin Owens, Ember Moon, Aiden English, Samoa Joe, Johnny Gargano, and Reigns’ real-life cousins, Jimmy and Jey Uso. As noted in a report from WrestleZone, retired wrestlers and former WWE talents such as Ric Flair, Mark Henry, and Shane “Hurricane” Helms also reacted to Reigns’ announcement on social media and sent their prayers and well wishes.
Roman Reigns, whose real name is Joe Anoa’i, did not immediately enter the wrestling business despite being part of the legendary Anoa’i family, which includes his father, Leati, aka Sika of the Wild Samoans, and his late brother Matt, who previously wrestled in WWE under the name Rosey. He played college football for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, then joined the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos for one season after he went undrafted in the 2007 NFL Draft.
After his football career ended, Reigns signed a developmental contract with WWE in 2010 and made his main roster debut two years later as one-third of The Shield, alongside fellow developmental products Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. He has since won three WWE Championships and one Universal Championship, as well as one United States, Intercontinental, and World Tag Team title apiece.