WWE champion Roman Reigns is battling leukemia and has relinquished the Universal Championship.
The 33-year-old delivered the shock news to Monday Night Raw – with the crowd visibly moved by his emotional speech.
Reigns, real name Joe Anoa’i, told Raw that he has suffered a relapse after battling the illness for 11 years.
Reigns said: "I’ve been living with leukaemia for 11 years, and unfortunately it’s back… I’m going to have to relinquish the Universal Championship."
Reigns, a father of three, opened up the show to declare he must relinquish his Universal title and take time away from the ring.
In an emotional speech, Reigns declared: "I feel like I owe everyone an apology.
"For months, maybe even a whole year, I’ve come out here as Roman Reigns and said I’d come out here every week, that I’d be a fighting champion, that I was going to be consistent, that I was going to be a workhorse – but that’s all lies.
"It’s a lie because the reality is, 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 fulfil my role, I can’t be that fighting champion and I’m going to have to relinquish my 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 of 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 and football was done with me.
"But do you want to know who gave me a chance – the team that gave me a chance was the WWE.
"And when I finally made it to the main roster, I was on the road and they put me in front of you, the WWE Universe, and to be honest you all have made my dreams come true.
"And it didn’t matter if you cheered me, it didn’t matter if you booed me, you’ve always reacted to me and that is the most important thing and for that I have to say thank you so much.
"But you all know the deal and how life is. Life’s not always fair, it’s not all peaches and cream. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball.
"And right now, the best thing for me is to go home, focus on my family and my health.
A teary eyed Reigns was joined on the ramp by Shield partners Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose – with Rollins also in tears – before making his way backstage.
A fight every WWE fan wants Roman Reigns to win
Mirror Online’s wrestling expert Neil Docking on what Roman Reigns brings to WWE…
Roman Reigns has been one of the most divisive figures in WWE since his ascent to the top of the card began in 2014.
He has headlined four WrestleManias in a row and become the new face of the company as Vince McMahon’s appointed successor to John Cena, but much like Cena before him, a large proportion of WWE viewers have criticised his wrestling ability and would rather boo than cheer his ‘superhero’ good guy character – rejecting WWE’s repeated efforts to establish him as a fan favourite.
That being said, the man behind the character, Leati Joseph Anoaʻi, is one of the hardest working performers in the industry today and actually an underrated talent, who consistently produces good matches against a variety of opponents, despite legitimate gripes over his booking.
The dad-of-three (who is the son of WWE Hall of Famer Sika and part of the famous Anoa’i wrestling family, which includes The Rock) also has an undeniable passion for the business and in person comes across as a very humble, respectful and warm human being, who while exuding charisma, appreciates his unique position and every opportunity he has been given, going above and beyond to make time for other people.
This is one fight every WWE fan will want him to win.
Reigns, who has main-evented the last three WrestleMania, is a WWE Grand Slam champion and prior Royal Rumble winner.
He added: "But I want to make one thing clear – by no means is this a retirement speech.
"Because once I’m done whipping leukaemia’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 all of you, the whole world, 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.
"Because I will beat this, and I will be back and you will see me very, very soon. Once again thank you so much, god bless you and I love you. Believe that."
A statement from WWE added Reigns would be "taking a leave of absence from WWE as he once again fights leukemia, which had been in remission since late 2008."
It also declared "Reigns is taking his battle with leukaemia public in an effort to raise awareness and funds for research in order to advance cures for the disease."
Fans immediately gave their support to the wrestler.
Marc Raimondi wrote: "What an incredible, courageous athlete Roman Reigns is for performing at that level for so long while battling leukaemia. That’s unbelievable."
Justin LaBar added: "Sad, real life stuff there. Getting health is top priority for him and his family.
"If Roman Reigns does beat it leukaemia and come back to #WWE – he might finally be the overwhelming babyface they wanted similar to Shawn after the "I lost my smile" speech."
Chris Walder added: "Roman Reigns is 33 years old, and now has to deal with leukemia for a second time. That was heartbreaking to watch. I wish him well in his fight."
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