Tonight’s episode of WWE Monday Night Raw opened in a very real, emotional way: Universal Champion Roman Reigns announced he has been fighting leukemia for 11 years, and will be stepping away from WWE for a while to focus on his health. He will also relinquish the Universal Championship.
Reigns, who went by his real name, Joe Anoaʻi, explained that he has been living with the disease for 11 years, and while it went into remission in 2008, it’s back.
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) October 23, 2018
“Because the leukemia is back I cannot fulfill my role, I cannot be the fighting champion, and I’m going to have to relinquish the Universal Championship,” Reigns said in the ring, addressing the fans as Raw opened.
However, Reigns assured “By no means is this a retirement speech, because when I’m done whooping leukemia’s ass once again, I’m coming back home.”
After Reigns left the ring, he was joined by his Shield brothers, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, on the entrance ramp, where the three embraced.
We send our thoughts to Joe Anoaʻi and his family and friends during this tough time. #ThankYouRoman
UPDATE: WWE released the following statement after the segment:
STAMFORD, Conn., October 22, 2018 – Tonight on Monday Night Raw, Roman Reigns (aka Joe Anoa’i) announced that he is relinquishing the WWE Universal Championship and taking a leave of absence from WWE as he once again fights leukemia, which had been in remission since late 2008. Reigns is taking his battle with leukemia public in an effort to raise awareness and funds for research in order to advance cures for the disease.