In the opening moments of Raw, Roman Reigns announced that he has been living with leukemia for 11 years and the disease’s return would force him to relinquish the Universal Championship and take a leave of absence from WWE.
Dressed in street clothes, “The Big Dog” mingled with fans before dropping the persona of Roman Reigns to address fans as Joe and detail his history of living with leukemia. In an emotional but optimistic address, Reigns recounted his initial diagnosis and remission in late 2008 and thanked the fans for making his dreams come true. He said he was going to go home to focus on his family and health, but made one thing clear on the way out: “This is by no means a retirement speech.”
Speaking of the “faith” that had carried him through his life, Reigns promised fans that he would return to “swing for the fences” at whatever curveballs life threw at him, with a final sign-off before a tearful embrace with The Shield atop the ramp: “I will beat this, and I will be back, so you will see me very, very soon.”
According to Mike Johnson of PWInsider, not too many people in WWE knew of Reigns’ illness before he made the revelation on Raw.
“As far as those who knew before the announcement Monday, we are told that only the most upper-tier members of WWE management (that’s how it was described to me, so it probably means talent relations and the McMahon family’s inner circle) and those who are part of Reigns’ family knew that he was ill,” Johnson wrote.
“The announcers were not clued in before the announcement. My gut feeling on why it was kept quiet from everyone was that WWE, out of respect for Roman and everything that he’s done for the company, wanted to allow Reigns to be able to tell everyone himself however he wanted.”
With Reigns’ health issues, Johnson was told that all early plans for Wrestlemania 35’s main event picture have been scrapped.
Reigns took to Twitter on Tuesday to thank everyone for their support.
Thank you to everyone who’s reached out…I can’t put into words what it means to me.
Your energy and positivity motivate me to get better quickly to get back in the ring, but for now I’m going to spend time with my family and focus on health.
Thank you – Joe/Roman
— Roman Reigns (@WWERomanReigns) October 23, 2018