The wrestling world came to a halt on Monday night, when WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns addressed the WWE audience and announced that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence from wrestling in order to fight leukemia.
Reigns, who has been Universal Champion since SummerSlam in August, said that he had a bout with leukemia in 2008, back when he was still playing football, but had battled the disease into remission. There was a brief lapse between when Reigns played football and entered pro wrestling, retiring from football in November of 2008 after being released by the Edmonton Eskimos (Canadian Football League) and first wrestling in July of 2010.
During the announcement, many fans at the show in Providence, Rhode Island were shown on camera in tears.
Reigns said that he was originally diagnosed when he was 22 years old and it was the hardest thing he’s ever dealt with in his life. He said that he had no money, recently graduating from college, and a baby on the way. Football was over for him, he said, but the team that gave him a chance was WWE.
Reigns missed several weekend house shows in the northeast, including shows in Maine and Boston. Many wrestlers and WWE staff were not told why Reigns was missing the shows, but several people thought it was odd, noting that it wasn’t like Reigns to take a weekend off or miss shows.
PWTorch.com reported on Tuesday that almost nobody backstage — only a small circle of people — knew of Reigns’ diagnosis before he announced it in the ring. The Torch reported that several wrestlers, writers, and even the announcers were unaware of Reigns’ diagnosis until it was announced.
Citing sources backstage, the Torch reported that the backstage area was “shook to its core” following Reigns’ announcement.
As far as the WWE Universal Championship is concerned, Braun Strowman will wrestle Brock Lesnar in a 1-on-1 match at Crown Jewel to crown a new champion; originally, Reigns was part of that match and it was scheduled to be a three-way.
Reigns will be out of action for an undetermined amount of time. But he vowed to the WWE audience that he would “kick cancer’s ass” and return to the ring.