Professional wrestling puts masks on men and women and allows them to create personas that fans either love until their end, or they just love to hate all around. The WWE Universe has built a massive international fan base that gives these superstars a larger than life story in the ring, but outside of it, that story can become forgotten.
Roman Reigns, whose real name is Leati Joseph Anoa’i, competes on WWE Raw and was the current holder of the the Universal Championship, after ending Brock Lesnar’s reign of 504 days as champion at SummerSlam. On Monday Night Raw, Reigns’ emotional announcement revealed that his fight in the ring is only part of the story, as he has been living with leukemia for the last 11 years, and it has returned.
Reigns announced that he is forced to take a leave of absence from professional wrestling while he faces the toughest test of his life, but made a speech that left everybody inside the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island awaiting his epic return.
“I want to make one thing clear: by no means is this a retirement speech because once I’m done whopping leukemia’s a** once again, I’m coming back home. And when I do, it’s not going to be just about titles or being on top, it’s about a purpose. I am coming back because I want to show all of you, the whole world, I want to show my family, my friends, my children and my wife that when life throws a curveball at me, I am the type of man that will stand in that batter’s box, I will crowd the plate, I will choke up, and I will swing for the fences every single time.” — Roman Reigns
As cheers of “Thank You Roman” rang out in Providence, Reigns placed his Universal Championship belt in the center of the ring and exited to face his toughest battle to date.
Reigns is a native of Pensacola, Florida, where he was named Defensive Player of the Year by the Pensacola News Journal playing football as a senior and earned a scholarship to play for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
For three seasons as a starter, Joe Anoa’i become one of the Yellow Jackets premier defenders, was named a captain as a senior, and earned First-Team All-ACC honors in 2006 alongside teammate Calvin Johnson, who became one of the best wide receivers in NFL history. Other members of that First-Team were future NFL Defensive Player of the Year Calais Campbell, All-Pro tight end Greg Olsen, and the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, quarterback Matt Ryan.
Reigns joined the WWE in 2010 and worked his way onto the main roster by 2012 as a member of The Shield alongside Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins, both of whom were the first to meet Reigns immediately after he exited the ring on Monday night.
The seven-time title holder and 2015 Royal Rumble winner has received incredible support from the WWE Universe since his announcement.
The Universal title is now up for grabs, and this WWE star’s cancer battle will be the hardest time of his life.
Don’t you dare think we’ve seen the last of WWE champion Roman Reigns, and know that everyone in the WWE Universe is thinking of you.