By Rachel Davis
World Wrestling Entertainment [WWE] star Roman Reigns has announced the return of his leukemia and is giving up his Universal Championship title. On October 22 during Monday Night Raw, 33-year-old Reigns, real name Joe Anoa’i, told the audience that he will be stepping out of the ring due to the illness. He was first diagnosed 11 years ago at the age of 22 but was in remission.
“The reality is my name is Joe and I’ve been living with leukemia for 11 years and unfortunately it’s back,” he announced in his emotional speech. “Because the leukemia is back, I can’t fulfill my role. I can’t be that fighting champion and I’m going to have to relinquish the universal championship. I’m not going to lie, I’ll take every prayer you can send my way, but I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m not looking for you to feel bad for me, because I have faith.”
Previously a football player at Georgia Tech, the current four-time world champion was signed by the WWE in 2010. When he was first diagnosed, he said the WWE helped him through the hardest time of his 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 you want to know who gave me a chance? The team that gave me a chance was the WWE,” he stated on Monday.
Despite his health, Reigns is not planning on retiring soon. He said, “this is by no means a retirement speech. I will beat this and I will be back so you will see me very, very soon.” Afterward, a tear-jerking hug took place between Reigns and his partners from The Shield wrestling group, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins.
Fans chanted his name, and other WWE stars took to social media to vocalize their support. “Thank you, Roman… my love and prayers go out to you and your family… we are with you!” tweeted fellow wrestler Sonya Deville. Former wrestler Booker T thanked Reigns on Twitter. “We are with you!” he added.
Ronda Rousey, UFC fighter and WWE wrestler, posted on Instagram, “there’s a huge void left without Roman Reigns…. but this is the fight Joe Anoa’i was always destined to win.” To add, Rousey linked The Leukemia Research Foundation in her bio, encouraging fans to donate.
WWE sent out an official statement about Reigns and his diagnosis, noting they will be “raising awareness and funds,” to which he will be at the forefront of.