WWE superstar and Universal champion Roman Reigns announced Monday that he will step away from the ring as a result of a battle with leukemia.
"I've been living with leukemia for 11 years, and unfortunately it's back," Reigns (real name Leati Joseph Anoaʻi) announced on WWE Monday Night Raw in Providence, Rhode Island. "And because the leukemia is back, I cannot fulfill my role, I can’t be that fighting champion, and I’m going to have to relinquish the Universal championship."
Reigns has been with WWE since 2010 and is one of three members of a popular faction called The Shield. He has performed in the main event at four consecutive WrestleManias. Along with his Universal championship, Reigns is a three-time WWE world heavyweight champion.
Before joining WWE, Reigns played football at Georgia Tech and had brief stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL, along with the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL. Reigns had been scheduled to defend his title at the upcoming WWE Crown Jewel show in Saudi Arabia.
"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," he said. "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 you want to know who gave me a chance? The team that gave me a chance was the WWE."
Although he is stepping away for now, Reigns made it clear that his time in WWE is not finished.
"I want to make one thing clear: By no means is this a retirement speech because after I'm done whupping leukemia'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."
A number of WWE superstars took to social media to thank Reigns after his announcement, including former Cardinals defensive lineman Mojo Rawley (real name Dean Muhtadi), former ASU wrestler Tucker Knight (real name Levi Cooper) and ASU alum and former Cardinals and Suns cheerleader Vanessa Borne (real name Danielle Kamela).
— Dean Muhtadi (@MojoRawleyWWE) October 23, 2018
— Tucker Knight (@TuckerKnightWWE) October 23, 2018
— VANESSA BORNE (@VanessaBorneWWE) October 23, 2018