The professional wrestling community was shaken to its core last night when WWE superstar Roman Reigns announced that he would be stepping away from the ring, effective immediately.
According to CBS Sports, the wrestler (whose real name is Leati Joe Anoa’i) opened the October 22 episode of Raw by stepping into the ring and making the heartfelt announcement. Based on the reaction of spectators, it’s clear they weren’t sure if it was real or a story line. But the champion’s confession was serious — and absolutely heartbreaking.
Roman began by apologizing to the crowd and announcing that he would be relinquishing his championship title in order to battle cancer.
He revealed that he’d been diagnosed with leukemia over a decade ago.
“The reality is, my real name is Joe, and I’ve been living with leukemia for 11 years. And unfortunately, it’s back,” the WWE star said. “And because the leukemia is back, I cannot 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.”
“When I was 22 years old, I was diagnosed with this. And very quickly I was able to put it in remission. But I’m not going to lie, that was the hardest time in 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,” he continued.
Roman went on to say that this was “by no means” a retirement speech because he intends to “come back home” after he’s “done whupping leukemia’s a** once again.” He also thanked the WWE for giving him a shot in 2010 after his football career came to an end. After his announcement, two of his fellow wrestlers (Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose) tearfully joined him on the entrance ramp in a show of support.
Some of the biggest names in the WWE took to social media to show their support as well. Within hours, the hashtag #ThankYouRoman was trending on Twitter.
“‘Courage — strength in the face of pain or grief.’ You have given us your everything including a courageously vulnerable moment. We, your WWE family, give you all of our love and support. #ThankYouRoman #NeverGiveUp,” John Cena tweeted.
We wish Roman Reigns all the best as he battles this disease!
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