Four months after WWE superstar Roman Reigns courageously announced during an episode of Raw that his real-life battle with leukemia was forcing him to relinquish the universal title and step away from the ring effective immediately, Reigns made an appearance on the same program Monday to provide fans with an update on his fight. And boy was it a good one.
After soaking in the adulation of the fans once his music hit, Reigns slapped the hands of the WWE Universe as well as celebrities and family at ringside with a smile on his face as the crowd chanted “Roman! Roman!” and “Welcome back!” Once he entered the ring, the 33-year-old Reigns, real name Joe Anoa’i, thanked the fans for their prayers and — after a brief delay — announced that his leukemia was officially in remission.
“I said I was going to swing for the fences. We did better than that, y’all. We didn’t just swing for the fences. We hit a home run. So when I tell you this, I’m so grateful and so humbled and so honored to announce this,” Reigns began. “The good news is, I’m in remission, y’all.
“So with that being said, the Big Dog is back!”
Reigns said winning and chasing titles in WWE remains important, but he is now focused on using the WWE platform to “raise awareness” about cancer “and support those who are in need just like I was.” He did not mention a potential return date, though when fans chanted “WrestleMania!” he promised he would “get to that later.” Seth Rollins met him on the entrance ramp as he walked backstage, but Dean Ambrose did not appear.
Two hours later, Reigns and Ambrose ran out to the ring, saving Ambrose from a four-man attack. Reigns hit a couple Superman punches and a spear with Rollins adding a stomp to make the save. The duo stopped on their way back up the ramp to look at Ambrose rising in the ring, and The Shield trio smirked before Raw cut to commercial.
Reigns was originally diagnosed with leukemia back in 2008 at age 22. Though he quickly went into remission at that time, he has been fighting the disease since.
WWE’s biggest active star, Reigns’s announcement back on Oct. 22, 2018, sent shock waves throughout the sports and entertainment world. The former Georgia Tech football standout has appeared in the main event of the last four WrestleManias and promised that night that fans would see him in the ring again.
Though he had not appeared on WWE TV in months, Reigns has occasionally been seen in public. He has looked good, sporting a larger beard, in fan photos that have been posted online. He also attended a Georgia Tech football game last fall after his sabbatical from WWE began and filmed a cameo in “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” which is set for an August release.
Raw was in Atlanta on Monday night, which happens to be where Georgia Tech is located. WWE had previously been promoting a celebration for Ric Flair’s 70th birthday on the show.
Anoa’i comes from a royal pro wrestling family of Samoan heritage. Along with being cousins with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, he’s the son of WWE Hall of Famer Sika of the Wild Samoans and the brother for former WWE superstar Rosey, who died in 2017. Anoa’i, whose given first name is Leati, is also cousins with The Usos, Rikishi, The Tonga Kid and the late Yokozuna and Umaga.
Following the end of his football career, which featured brief stops in the NFL and CFL, Anoa’i signed a developmental deal with WWE in 2010. He made his main roster debut in 2012 as a member of The Shield and quickly rose to fame having won nearly every major title, including three reigns as WWE champion and his most recent run as universal champion following a victory over Brock Lesnar at SummerSlam.
Reporting by cbssports.com