This week’s Monday Night RAW began on an atypical (and ultimately, heartbreaking) note, as the WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns came out to the ring, surprisingly not dressed to fight. But soon, Reigns—making clear that he was speaking as his true self, Joe Anoa’i—explained why that was:
Unfortunately, it was because “The Big Dog” has been facing the ultimate big fight in the form of an 11-year battle with leukemia (which had been in remission since 2008). And because of this disease, Reigns announced that he would have to relinquish the title and take an indefinite hiatus from WWE.
Simply put, this reveal was like a gut-punch to the WWE Universe in Providence, RI, the viewers watching at home, and (as evidenced by social media) even WWE legends and Reigns’ fellow Superstars.
“But I want to make one things clear: By no means is this a retirement speech. Because after I’m done whooping leukemia’s ass once again, I’m coming back home.”
After Reigns said his goodbye to the WWE Universe—for now—he was met at the top of the ramp by his Shield brothers, embracing in an emotional, teary-eyed group hug.
As for what will happen to the vacant Universal Championship moving forward—because, ultimately, the show must go on—the match at Crown Jewel will now be a singles match between Braun Strowman and Brock Lesnar to determine the new champion. However, which ever man holds that championship next has big shoes to fill. Believe that.