Cape Town - Roman Reigns, WWE's biggest active star and certainly its most
polarising performer, announced in a shocking statement on Monday night
that his real-life battle with leukemia will force him to step away from
the ring, effective immediately.
WATCH: Fellow WWE superstars show their support for Roman Reigns
According to CBS Sport's Brian Campbell, 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.
WWE's universal champion said he was originally diagnosed back in 2008
at age 22. Though he quickly went into remission, he has been fighting
the disease since.
Reigns apologised to the Providence, Rhode Island,
crowd for not being the workhorse and fighting champion his character
aimed to be.
He also announced he will relinquish the title effective
"That's all lies and it's a lie because the reality is my name is Joe
and I've been living with leukemia for 11 years and unfortunately it's
back," Anoa'i said.
"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."
Anoa'i, a former college football
standout at Georgia Tech who has appeared in the last four main events
at WrestleMania, made sure to let his fans know that Monday would not be
his final day in a WWE ring as he delivered the solemn news dressed in
"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
"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."
WWE released a
statement shortly after the opening segment:"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
Following Reigns' announcement,
Shield members Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose joined him atop the
entrance ramp. Rollins - with tears in his eyes - and Ambrose stuck out
their fists and Reigns joined them in a show of solidarity before the