Four-time World Wrestling Champion, Joe Anoa’i, popularly known as Roman Reigns has told fans watching Monday Night Raw that he has been living with leukaemia for the past eleven years.
After notably being absent from past weekends’ live events amidst rumors of an injury, Reigns appeared in the opening segment of the show to announce that the disease which he has been trying to suppress for years had returned.
The 33-year-old Reigns, who is married to Galina Becker and blessed with two children was diagnosed with blood cancer when he was just 22.
Amidst chants of ‘Thank You Roman’ from his fans, Reigns announced that he would be relinquishing his World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Universal Championship title for now to enable him focus on his family and health.
“Right now the best thing for me to do is go home and focus on my family and my health. I’ve been living with leukemia for 11 years and unfortunately it’s back…I’m going to have to relinquish the Universal Championship,” he said.
He added: “By no means is this a retirement speech because after I’m done whooping leukaemia’s ass once again, I’m coming back home. I will beat this. I will be back and you will see me very very soon.”
Following the shocking announcement, there has been mixed reactions from across the wrestling world, with many writing to show support and pay glowing tributes to the legend.
Sixteen-time world wrestling champion, John Cena tweeted: “‘Courage – strength in the face of pain or grief’. You have given us everything, including a courageously vulnerable moment. We, your WWE family give you all of our love and support.”
Wrestling veteran and the only two-time Hall of Famer, Ric Flair also paid tribute to Reigns. He wrote: “My family and I are thinking of you and keeping you in our prayers. We are here for you.”
Another Hall of Famer, Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart shared a picture of himself with Reigns and wrote: “Fight on to victory my courageous brother!”