On Monday night, WWE star Roman Reigns – real name Joe Anoa’i – revealed that he was taking a leave of absence as he battles leukemia.
The stunning announcement opened “Raw” as Anoa’i revealed that he has battled the disease in the past and that he had been in remission since 2008.
Anoa’i, one of the biggest stars in the WWE, revealed that due to his health, he would be relinquishing the Universal Championship, which he was set to defend in a triple-threat match against Brock Lesnar and Braun Strowman at the “Crown Jewel” event set to take place next month in Saudi Arabia.
“My real name is Joe and I’ve been living with Leukemia for 11 years and unfortunately, it’s back. And because the leukemia is back, I cannot fulfill my role, I can’t be that fighting champion [I said I would be],” Anoa’i announced.
The crowd, which normally heavily boos the former Georgia Tech football star, gave Anoa’i an emotional ovation and chanted “Thank you, Roman” during the announcement. Anoa’i laid his championship belt in the center of the ring and was then joined by his stablemates Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins as he made his teary-eyed departure.
The 33-year-old Anoa’i, who said his previous bout with the cancer ended his football career, vowed to return to WWE.
“I want to make one thing clear, by no means is this a retirement speech, because after I’m done [beating] Leukemia once again, I’m coming back home.”
Following Anoa’i’s announcement, support from around the wrestling world poured in.