Roman Reigns Daily Online

 In honor of National Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Stacy Sager, President of the SagerStrong Foundation, had the honor of sitting down and speaking with WWE Universal Champion — Joe Anoa’i (aka -“Roman Reigns”) to talk with him about how he stayed tough in the face of cancer and fought through his second bout / CML diagnosis and treatment in 2019.

Before becoming a WWE Superstar, Joe Anoa’i was a college student at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA, where he was a rising football star with big plans to make it in the NFL. This is where our conversation begins.

Stacy: Take us back to your first cancer diagnosis – what were your signs and symptoms — how did you know something was wrong?
Joe: This was right in the process of me entering the NFL draft and hoping to be picked up by a team and I was just finishing up at Georgia Tech. I was 21 and just a young man. The only thing I had ever dreamed of was football and playing in the NFL. Since I was seven years old; that was the goal — to be somewhat of a sports star, but to be in the NFL. I did not get drafted, but I did sign a free-agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings and just to kind of put it in a nutshell, athletics from the beginning, has always kind of saved my life. Having that opportunity to go to rookie camp up in Minneapolis before you go in to practice or you sign your contract, you have to go through a full physical and it’s the NFL, so they put you through a very detailed physical and also bloodwork. That is the portion, which saved my life being that it is leukemia and blood cancer, just getting that CBC was the first detailed hint that something was going on with me. We did that all the morning before practice — went to meetings, went about the day, went to practice, and had a really good practice, which is kind of irrelevant, but that’s one of the little details I hold on to. I had a really good practice that day.

So, we’re following up at meetings and watching films of that practice and as soon as I walk out of the meeting room, two of the trainers are there to pull me off to the side to tell me that there is going on with my blood work and they needed to take me back to the clinic to do a second round to make sure it wasn’t a false reading or make sure nothing serious was going on. We went back and did the blood work and the results were pretty much the same. I had 70,000 white blood cells and at the time that did not mean anything to me — I had no clue what was going on. Like I said, I was tunnel vision on being part of the NFL and being a part of that Vikings team. And from there, the team made contacts for me, to get me home and to get to me an oncologist. And from that moment on, I relied on my mom and my family to guide me through it. Looking back at it now I was just in shock; being so young and not any true adversity at that point in my life and everything kind of went smoothly for me. I was a young athlete. I did well in school. I was fairly popular and I had a lot of friends in high school, so I had nothing “punch me in the mouth” so to speak, like

that, so this was something that really put me on my butt. It’s funny because, with my wrestling career, we started out as a group called “The Shield” and we wear tactical vests, it’s like a SWAT team looking mentality, and a lot of times they have those hooks on the back to where if something happens your teammate can kind of drag you through. At that time my Mom was my teammate, she kind of grabbed me by that strap and dragged me through the process and made sure everything was ok, because I don’t think I was truly prepared at that point to soak it in and absorb it.

The fact that it took Reigns only 127 days from the time of his cancer announcement to his return to the ring is a miracle. When Reigns was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 22, the symptoms were foreign, but this time he was aware that the red flags were there, and they were hard to ignore. According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, leukemia begins in a cell in the bone marrow and, over time, the infected cells can suppress the production of normal cells. A healthy adult should have a white blood cell count of between 4,000 and 11,000. In Roman’s case, a white blood cell count well over 100,000 caused alarm. Through further examination, doctors discovered an enlarged spleen and knew exactly what was happening.

Stacy: What was it like getting back into the ring after your second diagnosis and sharing the news with your fans?
Joe: I have to start out by saying, we men are stubborn beasts and can be hardheaded animals. It was nerve wracking to be honest, to be able to share that information, as you know very well, with the world especially now a days, with the connectivity of social media and just how potent the internet can be in a very good and bad way sometimes, especially with the wrestling community and sports entertainment; fans are very passionate and very vocal about what’s good and bad. So, my main thing was to disarm them and to make them aware that this was not storyline. This was not entertainment, this was not WWE, this was not a role, and to introduce them to Joe Anoa’i for the first time. That was very scary at the time, but as soon as two, three, four, maybe five minutes in, to be able to see those faces live and to see those people in the crowd. It is tough because they are there for an entertainment show; they are there to escape and to enjoy themselves and I am dropping this bomb on them so to speak. But, for them not to react in a harsh way, to be so gentle with me, to allow me to share what was going on with me, not the character, but the man behind the character, and let them know about my struggle and the situation, that island that you were talking about, that isolation is very real. Twenty minutes before I went out there, I felt like I was on an island all by myself, even with my co-workers surrounding me and giving me love and support. They were still going to be able to do their job tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, but my future was uncertain. I did not know what I was going to do, I knew that I was going to get on a plane and go back home and I would figure it out from there. But, as soon as I felt that love from the crowd and the support it literally felt like a security blanket wrapped around me all in that one moment. I knew that it was going to be a different story this time around and from there it was like a snow effect, the momentum just really set in because especially for me and my character, I can be a bit polarizing where the crowd can go back and forth with me and we can experience a bunch of different emotions while I’m out there in the arena. Once I got back and was able to check out some of the social media, whether it was Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, I was really able to feel that love and support from not only the just the 10,000 or so people in the arena, but everybody around the whole, the whole WWE universe and then it really felt like it stretched out even further than WWE and sports entertainment. It felt like people from all walks of life, all different forms of entertainment – just people who had no clue who I was still sending me best wishes and get well soon wishes and the support that I needed to heal.

Mark Calaway has walked into WrestleMania 27 times as The Undertaker. He has won 25 of those matches, including 21 in a row, before Brock Lesnar broke “The Streak” in 2014 and Roman Reigns added a second loss in 2017.

The Undertaker’s streak became the stuff of legend — the centerpiece of a career that has carried on over four decades. The Streak crystallized why Calaway has long represented the beating heart of the WWE locker room, and it made facing The Undertaker at WrestleMania a badge of honor.

“It was a bucket list situation to say I shared the ring with him,” Reigns said. “You’re dealing with The Undertaker; you’re dealing with so much more than one match. It’s the legacy and the influence. The trademark of him, like how his name echoes through the hallways backstage. We have traditions named in his honor. Like the ‘Taker Shot.’ We all gather up after every tour at the hotel or in catering. We give a toast to whoever led the tour, like the veteran in the main event. It’s always been known that after the main of the last show, you get everybody together and get these shots together, because we have to do the ‘Taker Shot.'”

ESPN spoke with 10 opponents of the Undertaker — and one referee — about what it was like to hear the “gong” of his entrance theme song, to take a Tombstone piledriver in front of 80,000 fans, and to help write another chapter in a wrestling legend: Jake “The Snake” Roberts (WrestleMania VIII, 1992); Kane (Glenn Jacobs) (WrestleMania 14, 1998, and WrestleMania 20, 2004); Ric Flair (WrestleMania 18, 2002); Matt Bloom, aka A-Train (WrestleMania 19, 2003, with The Big Show in a handicap match); Randy Orton (WrestleMania 21, 2005); Edge (WrestleMania 24, 2008); referee Jimmy Korderas (WrestleMania 24); Shawn Michaels (WrestleMania 25 and 26, 2009 and 2010), Triple H (WrestleMania 27 and 28, 2011 and 2012), Shane McMahon (WrestleMania 32, 2016) and Reigns (WrestleMania 33, 2017).

 

What was it like when you found out you were facing The Undertaker at WrestleMania?

Roman Reigns: I remember the conversation with Vince. I saw Taker like a week prior, and he almost gave it away, but he did good in covering it up. He could tell I didn’t know yet. When Vince explained it to me, I was just in awe. It’s something that everybody who gets into the business wants, to get into the ring with The Undertaker. And I remember the first thing I thought was that I wanted to put him over. I wanted to lose. Immediately, that was my instinct. Out of respect. I knew he was in pain, but I didn’t know he was going in [for hip surgery] soon after that or else I would have crafted that story a little differently. So I knew it was on me to try to help carry it. The movement of the match. Orbit around him. But I thought it would have been a better story if I was on my back at the end. Obviously, it didn’t go that way.

What was it like to experience The Undertaker’s entrance at WrestleMania?

Reigns: Every single step that he takes to the ring, he’s thought about it. Every movement. Every inch of his entrance.

What was the aftermath of your WrestleMania match against The Undertaker?

Reigns: When I went through gorilla [position] and he was still in the ring, I was just tucked off from the ramp into this little tiny holding area where people do last-minute [preparations] before a match. I just sat in one of these little chairs and I cried. It was such an emotional overload, for bad reasons and for good reasons too. As a perfectionist, I think Mark can agree that we had such an awesome story. If it had all went perfectly … aw man, it would have been so fire. But the opportunity to main-event a WrestleMania with Taker, I was so grateful. But the perfectionist in me could not let it go. It ate me up. It still bothers me a little bit. I remember my cousins [The Usos] and I skipped out on the after-party, and I didn’t get back to the hotel until like 2 a.m. because we drank all night and talked. I probably shed a few more tears that night too. I had so many hopes and aspirations to take advantage of that man’s time and do right by him, and I just felt like I failed that situation. And it just lit a fire under my ass. I don’t think I had a bad match since.

credit: ESPN.com

On 5/19/2020 WWE Superstar Roman Reigns joins Larry and Kevin to discuss his partnership with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to support blood cancer patients during the COVID-19 crisis

Video

WWE superstar Roman Reigns says he’s champing at the bit to get back in the ring … but can’t take any chances with his health because he needs to “protect” his young children.

“We just had two newborn twins, twin boys,” Reigns says … “They’re 8 weeks old so I had to make a decision for them.”

As we previously reported, Reigns opted out of performing at Wrestlemania 36 back in April — citing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of people … they think that it was based off of my heath and the history of my fight against leukemia. Talking to my doctors and stuff, I actually am fine and my immune system is good,” Reigns explained.

“The drugs that I take to fight the leukemia, they don’t attack your immune system.”

Reigns says the decision was “bigger than me” — “It’s my family, it’s my children, they are my legacy. No matter what I do in this world, my children are gonna be the ones to represent my name and carry our name forward. So I had to make that choice for them, to protect them being so young.”

The 34-year-old says he misses wrestling like crazy — “I wanna be out there, I wanna get back to work, I wanna get back to normal but I just feel like I have an obligation not only to my family and myself but to my community.”

“Also, to set the example because at the end of the day, we can do a lot of different things and say a lot of different things but its through our actions that really speaks volume. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Muscle & Fitness Magazine Full Print Layout

by admin/April 01, 2020/No Comments/ 240 views

Photographer @eschultz for Muscle and Fitness Magazine shared the full magazine layout for the April 2020 edition of Muscle & Fitness featuring Roman Reigns. You can see the full spread posted on our

WWE Superstar Roman Reigns on His Return to the Wrestling Ring
The wrestling superstar shares his life story and battle with leukemia.
by Zack Zeigler & Anthony O’Reilly | @muscle_fitness

It was a storyline twist even the most astute WWE fans never saw coming.

On Oct. 22, 2018, Roman Reigns entered the ring in Providence, RI, uncharacteristically dressed in street clothes and greeted with a mix of cheers and jeers.  The reaction was to be expected. At 6’3″, 265 pounds, the strong, athletic, and ring-savvy half- Samoan, half-Italian bruiser had become one of the most polarizing WWE Superstars on the roster. Reigns—a six-time WWE champ who had headlined the previous four WrestleManias—had built a massive fan base during his six-year tenure. But there also were factions within the WWE Universe that viewed his main-event push as forced and used any opportunity to let him know it.

As Reigns stood in the center of the ring, mic in hand and the WWE Universal Championship belt draped over his shoulder, he took an extra beat before he spoke. He wasn’t there to goose the crowd or further a story angle, he was there to reveal that the man behind the character—Leati “Joe” Anoa’i, a husband and father of three—had leukemia and would need to step away from WWE for treatment.

“It was such a heavy moment,” he recalls. “If that was going to be my last 10 minutes out in that ring, I didn’t care what noises they made. I wanted to feel everything.”

Unscripted and partially scripted WWE bits can be memorable. (The Brawl for All tourney in 1998, CM Punk’s 2011 “pipe bomb” promo, and Edge’s 2020 return to the ring all come to mind.) But Reigns’ off-script monologue connected on a different level. It wasn’t someone with an ax to grind; it was a visibly rattled, healthy-looking 33-year-old athlete—a larger-than-life WWE Superstar at the top of his game—confessing that he’d been pulled into a fight with cancer for the second time in 11 years.

It was gut-wrenching to witness and a reminder that cancer is indiscriminate and something nobody can muscle his way out of—not even Roman Reigns.

Joe Football
Before he was “the Big Dog,” Joe Anoa’i was an athletic kid from Pensacola, FL. Though his family had deep roots in pro wrestling—’90s and ’00s WWE Legends such as Yokozuna, Umaga, and Rikishi are all part of the same bloodline (and though Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson isn’t technically related, they refer to each other as cousins)— he didn’t grow up privileged.

“There’s a huge misconception that I grew up with a silver spoon,” he says. “It wasn’t like that. I lived in a small one-story cinder-block home with three bedrooms and one bath.”

Joining the family business wasn’t even his first career choice. As a standout defensive tackle at Georgia Tech University who earned first-team All-ACC honors his senior year in 2006, Anoa’i eyed a career in the NFL.

He signed with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent, but a team physical raised red flags about his health. Anoa’i was sent home, diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a slowly progressing cancer of the body’s white blood cells that can hinder one’s ability to fight infections, control bleeding, and transport oxygen; he was released.

“I was 22 years old, and the carrot [of playing in the NFL] is almost in my hand, and it slipped right out. On top of that, my wife was pregnant…everything was falling apart. I felt like I was on an island with nobody to relate to.”

Treatment for leukemia can range from oral medication to chemotherapy to radiation to stem-cell transplants, based on severity. Anoa’i would be given a less invasive oral chemo, which sent his cancer into remission. After trying to get his football career back on track, including stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars and a season in the Canadian Football League, he hung up his cleats for good in 2008.

“I thought I had some pretty good skills, but it just didn’t work out,” he says. “But I also believe everything happens for a reason.

Making it Reign
Being a WWE Superstar is a nonstop grind because the show never stops. Live shows occur around the country year-round three to four nights a week. Living out of a suitcase and being away from family and friends most weeks isn’t a schedule that suits everyone. But Anoa’i knew about life on the road before signing a WWE developmental deal in 2010.

“My father and uncle were quite successful [in wrestling], but they were living in the moment and having a good time,” he explains. “Thinking about the future wasn’t necessarily a priority.

“In this business, you can go from being on top to not having a pot to piss in, so you have to stay conscious of who you are, where you come from, and where you’re trying to go. You have to know what anchors you. For me, it’s my humble beginnings.”

Anoa’i’s work ethic was anything but average, so he spent two years learning the ropes at Florida Championship Wrestling (later rebranded NXT in 2012).

Outside the ring, he shed more than 30 pounds from his 300-pound football-playing weight and began training like a bodybuilder instead of loading massive amounts of weight onto a bar, he sought to develop strength while improving his mind-muscle connection

In 2012, Reigns made his WWE debut. By 2014, he was positioned to take the baton from John Cena as the face of the company.

“I was born into this family tree for a reason—I’ve been groomed for this,” he says. “So I’m not surprised to see generational Superstars like me and my cousins [the Usos, a current tag team] gravitating toward the top.”

The upward trajectory continued as Reigns headed into the back half of 2018: His merch was wildly popular, he elicited strong responses during performances, and he looked bigger and stronger than ever—which made the derailment of the Reigns train all the more stunning in late October.

Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins will wrestle tonight on Fox to decide which brand—Raw or SmackDown—receives the number one pick in the WWE draft. If Reigns wins, the top selection will go to SmackDown, and if Rollins wins, then it belongs to Raw.

Since returning in February from his second bout with leukemia, Reigns has provided a new face for those seeking additional inspiration in their fight against cancer. And the 34-year-old Joe Anoa’i is now making his biggest contribution, having found the perfect tag team partner in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Reigns spoke with Sports Illustrated about the new partnership with LLS, as well as touched on his friendship with Ron “R-Truth” Killings.

Justin Barrasso: How did your partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society come together, and how did you turn such a negative moment—announcing that your cancer had returned—into a positive?

Roman Reigns: That’s the crazy part, this all started as a negative and it was such a hard announcement last October. But simply telling the truth and sharing my story, I could immediately feel something positive in my core. The live crowd that night was there for a wrestling show, and they had this real-life news put on their doorstep, which was a lot from them to take in—and they forgot about the show, the wrestling, and the character—and they focused on me, Joe. I’ll never forget that.

Purchase the issue here
Inked Magazine| by Bill Hanstock 

If you were going to create a professional wrestler in a laboratory, you’d have a hard time coming up with one more perfect than Roman Reigns. The 6’3”, 260-plus-pound Reigns is almost impossibly handsome, with hair so lush and healthy that it borders on satire. Inside the ring, Reigns oozes charisma, ability, and athleticism, almost daring you to find something wrong with him. The WWE Superstar is one of the most popular, prominent and accomplished people on the entire 100-plus-strong roster. Both he and the announcers on weekly television programming will be happy to remind you that Roman Reigns is the Big Dog, and WWE is his yard.

Outside of the ring and away from WWE, Reigns is Joe Anoa’i, a native of Pensacola, Florida, who currently resides in Tampa with his wife and children. The 34-year-old is poised and confident at all moments, but soft-spoken, polite, and a genuinely lovely human being. Joe is the latest megastar to come from the Anoa’i family—one of the most extensive and storied pro wrestling families. You may have heard of his father, Sika: one half of the Hall of Fame Wild Samoans tag team. Or you’ve probably heard of his cousins, Yokozuna, Umaga and Rikishi. If all else fails, you almost certainly know about his most famous cousin of all: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Recently, Reigns spent time away from the ring due to a battle with leukemia. He used that hiatus, in part, to portray an art-imitates-life role as a relative of Dwayne Johnson’s character in the Fast and Furious spin-off film Hobbs & Shaw. Reigns says the experience was good for his soul, and although he did debate whether he should take the role beforehand, he ultimately felt like it was something he needed to do. “I felt like it was important for me to show that even though this crazy thing is happening to me I still have a life, I still have a passion, I still have goals,” he says. “And if there’s nothing necessarily holding me from achieving those then I might as well take advantage and do it, and show the world that it is possible, and put a whole new paint job on blood cancer.”

By JUSTIN BARRASSO August 21, 2019
SI.com’s Week in Wrestling is published every week and provides beneath the surface coverage of the business of pro wrestling.

How Roman Reigns Is Inspired by Becky Lynch
Roman Reigns and Becky Lynch are the cover stars for WWE 2K20, an accolade only bestowed upon the most elite stars in the business. The honor is not lost on Reigns, particularly after the year he battled through, and he takes additional satisfaction in his cover co-star.

“To share this with Becky makes it even more special,” said Reigns. “To be able to share this past year with her, breaking barriers, I’m pretty proud of that.”

Currently in the midst of a storyline with Daniel Bryan, Reigns also just signed a contract extension with WWE. He is a homegrown, WWE-created star, and his list of accomplishments—including replacing John Cena as the face of the company—is remarkable. He endured a harrowing stretch in the fall of 2018, learning that he needed to go through chemotherapy for a second bout with leukemia. But just like his character in the ring, Reigns—34-year-old Joe Anoa’i—persevered and found a way to defeat a ruthless opponent.

Roman Reigns talks to ESPN | Interview

by admin/August 05, 2019/No Comments/ 281 views

Roman Reigns announced in October on Monday Night Raw that he had leukemia and would be stepping away from WWE. The news came as a shock to the fanbase and even those within the WWE.

Over the past 10 months, Reigns’ cancer was treated (he’s now in remission), he returned in time to perform at WrestleMania, and he won an ESPY for best WWE moment. On Monday, it was announced that Reigns would be on the cover of the WWE 2K20 video game alongside Becky Lynch. The game drops on Oct. 22.

It has been a scary, wild, fulfilling and motivational year for Reigns. ESPN caught up with the former WWE Universal and world heavyweight champion to talk about 2K20, his recovery from leukemia, teaming with The Undertaker, controversy around Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, and more.

ESPN: You were in L.A. for the ESPYS, winning that award, a few weeks ago, and now you’ll be on the cover of WWE 2K20. Is there any special significance to these recent accolades, considering what you went through just a short time ago?

Reigns: To be honest, man, all I really wanted to do was be healthy — be able to get back in the ring and wrestle. I just wanted to be able to do the art form that my family has been doing for decades. And I just wanted to be healthy for my children. That was the only award or reward that I needed.

I just hope that it just continues to raise that awareness. All these different events, it’s just another platform for me to tell my story and hopefully raise a bit of awareness and hopefully give maybe just one person a shred of hope. It’s not just cancer, blood cancer. It’s anything, from depression to all kinds of different struggles that we’re all dealing with.

Whether you’re Team Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Team Shaw (Jason Statham), Team Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), or Team Justice For Han (Sung Kang), there’s something for everyone in the first Fast & Furious spinoff film Hobbs & Shaw. Okay, well maybe not everyone, as Justice For Han still hasn’t been served (although it’s been promised that’s it’s coming in the future). But there’s definitely a lot to love in the latest Fast franchise installment. From insane set pieces to adrenaline-infused action sequences, hilarious one-liners to surprising cameos, Hobbs & Shaw is a non-stop thrill ride from beginning to end. There are so many amazing new characters to welcome into the Fast family fold like Kirby and Idris Elba’s Brixton. But there’s one face you may not recognize in the film that absolutely deserves your attention.

Back to Top