Pro wrestling star Roman Reigns stunned fans around the world Monday night when he announced that his leukemia had returned after more than a decade in remission.
"My real name is Joe, and I've been living with leukemia for 11 years," Reigns told the crowd at the top of World Wrestling Entertainment's "Monday Night Raw" show in Providence, R.I. "And unfortunately, it's back. And because the leukemia's back, I cannot fulfill my role ... and I'm gonna have to relinquish the Universal championship."
Reigns, whose real name is Joe Anoaʻi and who played college football at Georgia Tech, has been one of the most polarizing stars in the WWE stable. Some critics have accused him of benefitting from special treatment given by WWE executives, while others have criticized his attitude and perceived lack of moves in the ring.
"I'm not looking for sympathy, I'm not looking for you to feel bad for me," Reigns said Monday night. "... I will beat this, I will be back, and you will see me very, very soon."
Reigns left the stage accompanied by fellow wrestlers Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose. Other wrestlers showed support for Reigns on Twitter.
In a statement, WWE said Reigns had made his diagnosis public "in an effort to raise awareness and funds for research in order to advance cures for the disease."
Reigns won the WWE Universal Championship for the first time in his career by defeating Brock Lesnar at WWE's SummerSlam show this past August. He has appeared in the last four main events at WrestleMania.
Reigns was originally diagnosed in 2008 at age 22, though he quickly went into remission. He's been fighting the disease since.