WWE superstar Roman Reigns has had a lot of battles in the squared circle, but it appears one of his biggest fights has been taking place outside of the ring. Reigns broke character on Monday Night Raw and addressed the crowd by his real name, Joe, to reveal he’s had leukemia for years, which wasn’t known about publicly until now. The superstar’s admission was coupled with news that he had to relinquish his Universal Championship belt. Watch it below.
As mentioned, Roman Reigns’ battles with leukemia weren’t common knowledge among wrestling fans up until that point. Prior to the announcement, rumors had circulated that Reigns was physically injured and would not be participating in the upcoming Crown Jewel event. It’s safe to say the announcement that viewers expected in reference to that news wasn’t anything quite as serious as what Reigns actually said.
The crowd reaction was far different than the usual responses Roman Reigns gets on Monday Night Raw. Reigns has a good deal of fans who cheer him on, and nearly an equal number who will lously boo him, due to the WWE boosting the wrestler’s career over previous fan-favorite superstars in past years. Thankfully, the crowd was mostly respectful and empathetic during the emotional announcement, and many their support to Reigns in what is sure to be a tough time.
Roman Reigns finished his speech and exited the ring, only to be joined by his colleagues Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins. The trio came into the WWE together as the three-man tag team The Shield back in 2012, enjoying a wildly successful run that lasted two years; the group had recently been revived to fan acclaim. None of the three men could hold back their tears, and they closed things out with their fists together signaling their brotherhood.
Astonishingly, Roman Reigns revealed he first found out he had leukemia when he was 22, which would mean his diagnosis happened sometime around 2007. Reigns, whose real name is Leati Joseph Anoa’i, was attempting to enter the NFL at the time. He’d signed with the Minnesota Vikings and the Jacksonville Jaguars, but was cut by both teams before the start of that season. He later played for five 2008 games in the CFL before retiring from professional football entirely.
Two years after that football career was over, Vince McMahon and the WWE took a chance on the athlete and signed him to a developmental WWE contract. Fast-forward to 2018, where Roman Reigns has been one of the leading stars of the brand, and the company’s ninth Grand Slam Champion. There’s obviously time for him to accomplish much more than that, and Reigns promised that his speech was not retirement declaration, saying he would return one day when he is healthier.
For more on Roman Reigns, check out a video from Raw of the wrestler interacting with other superstars backstage following his announcement.