There were emotional scenes at Monday Night Raw as one of wrestling’s biggest stars, Roman Reigns, announced he has leukaemia.
The 33-year-old former NFL player, whose real name is Leati Joseph Anoa’i, told a stunned crowd at Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, that he would be relinquishing the Universal Championship title while he receives treatment for the illness.
He said: “My name is Joe and I’ve been living with leukaemia for 11 years and unfortunately it’s back.
“I can’t be that fighting champion and I’m going to have to relinquish the Universal Championship.”
Reigns received support from across the wrestling world.
âCourage - strength in the face of pain or grief.â 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— John Cena (@JohnCena) October 23, 2018
â¥ï¸ THANKYOU, @WWERomanReigns. Praying for you and your family.— NattieByNature (@NatbyNature) October 23, 2018
His real name is Joe & heâs a stand up guy! Inside the ring one of the best Iâve battled with. Outside the ring one of the most genuine people I have ever met & learned from. See you soon good brother #ThankYouRoman ( ..and he smells great)— Finn BÃ¡lor (@FinnBalor) October 23, 2018
@WWERomanReigns My Family And I Are Thinking Of You And Are Keeping You In Our Prayers! We Are Here For You! 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻— Ric FlairÂ® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) October 23, 2018
Youâre in our thoughts & prayers Joe. You are our Superman! Forever and always! You have an army people standing behind you ready to support and fight with you!💛N— Nikki & Brie (@BellaTwins) October 23, 2018
I'm overseas and I just heard the terrible news about @WWERomanReigns and his battle with Leukemia. Totally shocked. Uce, you are a tough bastard and a true fighter, and you will beat this.— Sami Zayn (@SamiZayn) October 23, 2018
Lots of love.
Sending my thoughts and prayers your way @WWERomanReigns ... Thank you and stay strong! 🙏🏻🙌🏼— Mandy (@WWE_MandyRose) October 23, 2018
WWE also released a clip of the support Reigns received backstage after making his announcement.
Reigns concluded his speech to the crowd by saying: “I want to make one thing clear: by no means is this a retirement speech. Because after I’m done whooping leukaemia’s ass once again I’m coming back home.”
He added: “I will beat this and I will be back so you will see me very, very soon.”
He left the arena to chants of “thank you Roman”, which soon became a trending hashtag on Twitter.
Reigns has been one of wrestling’s biggest stars over the past few years, claiming the WWE World Heavyweight Championship three times.