WWE Star Breaks Character for Emotional Live Reveal

Roman Reigns (aka Leati Joseph Anoa'i) says he's been living with leukemia for 11 years, and it's back
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2018 6:05 AM CDT

(Newser) – Roman Reigns is now part of Wikipedia's "Breaking Kayfabe" page after an announcement during the WWE's Monday Night Raw live programming in Providence, RI. The professional wrestler (real name Leati Joseph Anoa'i), broke character and proclaimed he was giving up his WWE Universal Championship belt due to a bigger battle he's waging, ESPN reports. "My real name is Joe, and I've been living with leukemia for 11 years," the 33-year-old announced to a crowd suddenly stunned into silence. "And, unfortunately, it's back. And because the leukemia is back, I cannot fulfill my role—I can't be that fighting champion." He then said he'd be giving up the belt and thanked the WWE for giving him a chance when his football career ended after his initial diagnosis at age 22, per CNN.

A WWE statement via Wrestling Inc. explains his cancer had been in remission since 2008, but that the wrestler is now taking a leave of absence to deal with his illness, and also to raise awareness for the disease. It's not clear when Anoa'i received his new diagnosis, but it's clear he's not planning on permanent retirement from the ring. "After I'm done whooping leukemia's ass once again, I'm coming back home," he said Monday night. Anoa'i also saw support from one of the biggest names in wrestling. "You have given us your everything including a courageously vulnerable moment. We, your WWE family, give you all of our love and support," WWE star John Cena tweeted after Anoa'i spoke. (It's been a tough few months for the WWE family.)

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