WWE Champion Roman Reigns Shocks Fans As He Reveals He Has Leukemia Live On TV

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Professional wrestler and WWE star Roman Reigns left fans shocked last night when he revealed he has leukemia on live television. 

The 33-year-old, whose real name is Joe Anoaʻi, appeared on WWE Raw on Monday night (October 22) where he made the announcement.

He revealed he was first diagnosed with the disease 11 years ago, having been in remission while rising to the top of the WWE.

Roman Reigns smiling Getty

In front of the crowd at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as the millions of TV viewers, he said on the show:

I feel like I owe everyone an apology.

For months, maybe even a whole year, I’ve come out here as Roman Reigns and said I’d come out here every week, that I’d be a fighting champion, that I was going to be consistent, that I was going to be a workhorse – but that’s all lies.

It’s a lie because the reality is, my real name is Joe and I’ve been living with leukemia for 11 years and unfortunately it’s back.

And because the leukemia is back I cannot fulfil my role, I can’t be that fighting champion and I’m going to have to relinquish my Universal Championship.

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.

Unable to compete, the wrestler gave up his 10-pound gold belt – the WWE Universal Championship title.

Roman continued to address the crowd, revealing details about his struggle with the disease, explaining:

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 do you want to know who gave me a chance – the team that gave me a chance was the WWE.

He continued:

And when I finally made it to the main roster, I was on the road and they put me in front of you, the WWE Universe, and to be honest, you all have made my dreams come true.

And it didn’t matter if you cheered me, it didn’t matter if you booed me, you’ve always reacted to me and that is the most important thing and for that, I have to say thank you so much.

But you all know the deal and how life is. Life’s not always fair, it’s not all peaches and cream. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball.

And right now, the best thing for me is to go home, focus on my family and my health.

WWE shared a video of the champion from backstage, just moments after he’d made his announcement:

Support has poured in for Roman following his announcement, with current Smackdown Live general manager, Daniel Bryan, writing 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

While the Bella Twins also tweeted their support to Roman, saying:

Thank you Roman for showing us what a real warrior looks like. Sending many prayers to you and your family!! We’ll all be waiting for you to come back home to.

Fellow WWE star, John Cena, wrote:

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

The 33-year-old determinedly added he’s going to beat his leukemia and return to the wrestling ring:

I’m coming back because I want to show all of you, the whole world, my family, my friends, my children and my wife, that when life throws a curveball at me, I am the type of man that will stand in that batter’s box, I will crowd the plate, I will choke up and I will swing for the fences every single time.

Because I will beat this, and I will be back and you will see me very, very soon. Once again thank you so much, god bless you and I love you. Believe that

Our thoughts are with Joe at this tough time.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm).


Emily Brown

Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.