WWE champion Roman Reigns relinquishes title after leukemia diagnosis
The make believe world of professional wrestling was interrupted by real life on Monday night as Roman Reigns, one of the biggest stars in the WWE and the current holder of their top title, revealed live on television that he has been diagnosed with leukemia.
Reigns, a former college football player with Georgia Tech, had previously battled the disease, but it had been in remission since 2008. In making his announcement on WWE's flagship show Raw, Reigns relinquished the WWE's "Universal Championship."
The 33-year-old Reigns, real name is Joe Anoa'i, opened Monday's episode of Raw with the reveal that was anything but a storyline or predetermined moment.
“I've been living with leukemia for 11 years and unfortunately it's back and 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."
The scripted nature of WWE television often leaves fans questioning the line between reality and fiction, following the live TV announcement the WWE were quick to release a statement confirming that Reigns was indeed battling a serious illness: "Tonight on Monday Night Raw, Roman Reigns (aka Joe Anoa'i) announced that he is relinquishing the WWE Universal Championship and taking a leave of absence from WWE as he once again fights leukemia, which had been in remission since late 2008. Reigns is taking his battle with leukemia public in an effort to raise awareness and funds for research in order to advance cures for the disease."
Reigns vowed to return and says this blow would not signal the end of his in ring career: "Sometimes life throws you a curveball and the best thing for me to do is to go home and focus on my health,"
Anoa'i added "But I want to make one thing clear: By no means is this a retirement speech because after I'm done whupping leukemia's ass, I'm coming back home. And when I do, it's not going to be about titles and being on top, it's about a purpose.
"I'm coming back because I want to show you all at home and my family and my children and my wife that when life throws a curveball at me, I will choke up and I will swing for the fences every single time. I will beat this and I will be back so you will see me very, very soon."
EXCLUSIVE: Moments after announcing that his returning leukemia has forced him to relinquish the Universal Championship, @WWERomanReigns is met with an outpouring of support backstage. #Raw pic.twitter.com/JRv0iYLILJ— WWE (@WWE) October 23, 2018