Former World Wrestling Entertainment champion Roman Reigns made his return to the ring Monday night, months after having to relinquish his title in order to battle Leukemia. He credited the power of prayer for his speedy recovery.
Reigns, whose real name is Joe Anoaʻi, announced in October that he would take a hiatus to fight blood cancer, which he has been living with since the age of 22. He vowed to “swing for the fences” and make a triumphant return one day.
That day came sooner than expected. It was Monday night in Atlanta, Georgia when he kicked off the company’s flagship weekly television program RAW with great news. The 33-year-old father of three told the chanting crowd that he did more than just swing for the fences, he “hit a home run.” He assured the fans that his cancer is in remission.
“I am probably going to say this a lot but I am going to start out by saying thank you,” he told the crowd, followed by an ovation. “I miss y'all. … There is no other job like this. There is no other fanbase like you guys.”
Despite being a man of faith, Reigns admitted that before he made his announcement in October, he was scared and insecure. He didn’t want to tell the world about his condition.
But after going public with his illness, Reigns said he received an outpouring of support greater than he ever could have imagined.
“I mean between people texting me and calling me and tweeting me, Instagramming me, Facebooking me — if there was a way to get to me, y'all figured out how to do it,” he explained. “The amount of thoughts, the number of blessings, the amount of prayers that you sent my way is completely overwhelming and God-sent. Thank you so much.”
Reigns stressed that the support and prayers were not just from WWE fans but from others outside the wrestling universe as well.
“It was everyone: people who liked me and people who didn’t like me. Everyone was at my aid and everyone was surrounding me with their love and support,” he said. “I am telling you that so many people prayed for me that God’s voicemail was full … to the max.”
“I truly believe [God] was in His head thinking, ‘Man, what is going on down there? All for this one guy? All these people?’” Reigns joked. “That was the magnitude. That was how strong it was to be surrounded by y'all’s love and y'all’s grace. To be able to feel that, the strength that you gave me. I can do anything with that type of strength and love.”
Reigns asserted that the support he received gave him a “new purpose” in his life.
“You see, here in WWE, a lot of your purpose as a young superstar is to win titles and to climb that mountain and achieve the top and put your flag in,” Reigns explained. “The only thing that is important [now] is that I have the ability to step foot in this ring every single night. If I can do that, I am going to use this platform, this giant WWE platform that is global and the whole world can see. I am going to use it to raise awareness and I am going to use it to support those who are in need just like I was.”
Reigns, who played football for three years at a Catholic school in Florida before playing college ball at Georgia Tech, is not the most vocal superstar when it comes to sharing his faith, but he does not hide the fact that he does have faith in God.
When he made his Leukemia announcement in October, he declared that he would take every prayer he could get. He added that he was not looking for sympathy or for people to feel bad for him because, “I have faith.”
In 2017, Reigns didn’t take too kindly when a troll on Twitter made fun of his faith. In September of that year, Reigns tweeted out prayers to people in his home state of Florida dealing with Hurricane Irma.
“May God bless and protect all those in its path,” he wrote. “Dear God, protect all people, enlighten the path and the life of each one, that nothing bad happens.”
Reigns' tweets drew a response from one user who wrote: “Dear 'god' maybe don't make a hurricane next time you idiot.”
Although Reigns doesn’t always respond to critics on Twitter, he replied that time: “Faithless fool. When your time on earth is done, enjoy nothing.”