The introduction to this week’s Raw Roundtable took me a lot longer to write than usual.
Not through indifference or apathy towards the show but because the opening segment was so emotionally impactful that it left me at a loss for words. One little sentence that drove the air out of us like a collective punch to the gut.
Roman Reigns has leukaemia.
From that point on, Raw became difficult to watch and even harder to adequately encapsulate in what, by comparison, is a silly little weekly wrap-up of what went down on our favourite wrestling show.
Regular readers will know that I usually try to keep these openings lighthearted and fun. After all, that’s exactly what wrestling is meant to be. It’s the reason we watch; for the goofiness, the melodrama and the spectacle. Irish Lass Kickers, Scottish Psychopaths and Truth TV.
But every now and then, the real world will burst our little bubble and remind us that there’s something larger at play beyond this small, exciting sport that we love so dearly. There’s real people who devote their lives (and sometimes their health) to entertaining us.
One of those people is Roman Reigns. To say that the 2015 Royal Rumble winner (and multi-time, multi-division champion) has had a polarising career is an understatement. The ‘Big Dog’ has endured a ton of abuse in recent years as a result of many fans, myself included, feeling like he was unjustly pushed to the top of the WWE card at the expense of wrestlers we felt were more deserving.
And there was simply nothing he could do to redeem himself. He reformed the Shield, we booed. He entered the Royal Rumble at 30, we booed. He defeated the Undertaker, we really booed.
But when Roman delivered his heart-wrenching news last night, not a single disparaging word could be heard. Not one boo, not one insult. Because this wasn’t about something as trivial as booking or pushes. It wasn’t even about Roman Reigns, the wrestler, the title he held or controversial pay-per-views. This was about something far greater: Joe Anoa’i, a man who throughout his career has demonstrated nothing but unrelenting strength and spirit.
Even the most critical of us would acknowledge that Reigns has never once shirked his responsibilities as a champion, never once crumbled under the weight of a vitriolic fanbase. Instead he has held his head high throughout his WWE run, poured his soul into every promo, and without hesitation continued to put his body on the line in each and every match. He carried championships with pride and by all accounts never turned his back on the fans, even when when we turned on him.
It’s painfully difficult to find the right words at a time like this. How do you properly salute a man who gave everything for this business, only to potentially watch it all slip away in the most agonising of circumstances?
Perhaps the crowd in Providence, Rhode Island, summed it up best last night in a simple chant: “Cancer sucks”. I don’t know whether that’s enough, but I am sure that I speak on behalf of everyone at WrestleTalk (and every wrestling fan) when I say that we wish Roman the best in his recovery and look forward to seeing him back soon.
Because we know you’ll beat this, Leati Joseph Anoaʻi. You always do.