Roman Reigns made his highly anticipated return to WWE action last night at Fastlane in Cleveland, Ohio, receiving an incredibly positive reaction and reuniting the most dominant trio in WWE history, The Shield.
Before the shocking announcement concerning his real-life struggles with leukemia last October, Roman Reigns, whose real name is Joseph Anoaʻi, felt insecure about the prospect that people might judge him or feel skeptical about his very serious and entirely genuine illness. After all, in the larger than life world of pro wrestling, the lines between reality and fiction are often blurred. Fortunately, aside from the usual throng of internet tolls, the wrestling universe lent a great deal of support to the struggling Superstar, sending thousands of “Get Well” messages via social media and text, and hoping for a speedy return for the “Big Dog”.
“I don’t look like I’m suffering from illness; I’ve been very fortunate to be extremely healthy and take good care of myself. I put a lot of time into my body and my health”, Reigns shared in a candid interview with a filming crew during the shooting of his WWE Network documentary, Chronicle: Roman Reigns.
The outpouring of love and support received in his time of need was well deserved, too, since Reigns has been using his position in the spotlight to console other cancer sufferers for longer than most people know.
“During a Make-a-Wish, if a child had leukemia I would let ’em know (that I had suffered too)”, he says during the Chronicle doc. “And the way it touched those families. The way the kid, and the mom, and the dad, and the siblings would react, it was so powerful.”
During his four long months away from WWE to deal with the re-emergence of chronic myeloid leukemia, Reigns was able to avoid the severity of radiotherapy, but would still need to complete a full course or oral chemotherapy. The pills had harsh side effects of their own, such as arthritis, and it was a confusing time for a man who had spent years traveling the globe and main-eventing WrestleManias against some of the biggest names in the industry. Staying motivated was difficult to say the least.
“I’ve always been someone who wanted to convey strength, and when people are worried for me it makes me feel not like I want to (feel)”, he shared.
For Reigns, the first couple of months of treatment hit pretty hard, and a good deal of time was spent at home resting on the couch, but despite the temptation to give in, the 6’3″ powerhouse was determined to keep his body and overall fitness levels strong. Once he started to feel close to normal again, the former WWE Universal Champion couldn’t wait to start working out.
It wasn’t long before fans were sharing images on social media, taken with Roman Reigns at the gym. The “Big Dog” looked happy and healthy, and not about to be knocked out by cancer. As time passed, Reigns began to feel better and better, and then the good news came in: the leukemia was in remission. He’d defeated cancer once again and couldn’t wait to call WWE Chief, Vince McMahon, about his return.
Once he felt strong enough, and was cleared by his own doctor, he underwent a thorough medical and physical examination by WWE staff on February 22; he explained to officials that during the time he was off dealing with cancer, he’d kept up his cardio with running and appeared to be in great shape, if a little lighter.
“Being in places like this (the gym at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando) makes you feel band new again”, he shared with a smile on the Chronicle documentary.
The tests came back clear, and the Tampa native was excited to be allowed to step tentatively between the ropes once again to see how his body would react. Thanks to muscle memory and years of performing on the road, Reigns soon felt comfortable with the early knocks and slams felt in training, and began hashing out a plan for his full-time return with WWE Chief, Vince McMahon. It was decided that he would break the good news on television days later, and just as was the case with his initial announcement, the return would be live.
Reigns officially came back to WWE on the February 25 edition Monday Night RAW in Atlanta, but before he got to the arena, he made a visit to Bobby Dodd Stadium at Georgia Tech, where he was once captain of the football team, to get a good workout session in.
“The athletic weight room is under the stadium, so any time I’m in Atlanta I like to come down and work out, and talk to some of the guys if they are around, talk to the coaches, but mainly just get a lift in a home facility”, he explained. “If I can be a figure that makes these children, or anybody who is going through blood cancer, wanna live for an extra day, or give them the strength to keep going, to keep pushing through treatments and life, then I think my story landed. It did what it needed to do.”
Reigns knows how important it is to remain positive.
“The strength that you (fans) gave me… I can do anything right now, I can do anything with that type of strength and love”, he shared in his return speech.
There’s no doubt that the investment Joe, aka Roman, has made to increase his physical and mental fitness played a large part in his speedy recovery, and this was evident at Fastlane when Reigns wrestled his first match of 2019.
Reuniting The Shield with Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose to do battle with Bobby Lashley, Drew McIntyre, and Baron Corbin, The Big Dog showed the world that he hadn’t missed a beat. In a match that proved to be a wild affair, Roman was left in the ring alone to grapple with Baron Corbin as the remaining competitors engaged in a full-scale brawl throughout the arena.
As the superstars all moved back to ringside, the action became even more intense. Lashley, McIntyre, and Corbin attempted to destroy Roman Reigns by planting him through the announce table, but his fellow Shield members made the save. The “Hounds of Justice” then retaliated by powerbombing McIntyre through the table instead, followed by the crowd erupting with the trademark “This is awesome” chant.
Now in deep trouble, alone in the ring, Corbin would lose the numbers game and suffer the wrath of The Shield. A devastating Shield Bomb was delivered to Corbin, allowing Roman Reigns to collect the pinfall for the win, resulting in one of the greatest feel-good moments in pro wrestling history.
Replays of Fastlane and the documentary, Chronicle: Roman Reigns, can be seen on WWE Network. For more information, or for your first month for FREE, visit wwe.com