WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns forced to relinquish belt after revealing '11-year battle' with leukaemia on Raw
WWE champion Roman Reigns has revealed that he is suffering from leukaemia.
The 33-year-old, real name Leati Joseph Anoaʻi, publicly revealed live on Raw that he was first diagnosed with the disease 11 years ago, having been in remission as he rose to the top of the WWE.
But in an emotional address on Monday night, Reigns revealed that his leukaemia had returned.
"Y'all have made my dreams come true,” Reigns said to the crowd.
"It didn't matter if you cheered me or you booed me, you've always reacted to me and that's the most important thing and for that I have to say thank you so much."
He also stressed that his address “wasn't a retirement speech”, but confirmed that he will need to take a leave of absence to undergo treatment and, as a result, was relinquishing his WWE Universal Championship title.
"When I do [return] it's not going to be just about titles or being on top. It's about a purpose,” he added.
"I will beat this and I will be back so you will see me very, very soon."
The announcement left fans and viewers stunned given that Reigns had never spoken of his illness publicly before, and it triggered an outpouring of emotion from his colleagues, with his former Shield partners Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose appearing on stage to embrace him after his announcement.
To add to the emotion, fans who regularly boo the four-time world champion every week gave Reigns a standing ovation and chanted “Thank you Roman” as he left the ring.
Current Smackdown Live general manager Daniel Bryan wrote on Twitter: “I’ve never seen the air sucked out of a locker room like it was tonight. Our thoughts and prayers are with Roman and his family. #ThankYouRoman.”
Sixteen-time world champion John Cena added: “Courage - strength in the face of pain or grief.’ You have given us your everything including a courageously vulnerable moment. We, your WWE family, give you all of our love and support. #ThankYouRoman #NeverGiveUp.”
Triple H, the WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative, was one of the first to embrace Reigns as he returned backstage, where WWE legend Shawn Michaels also hugged him.