WWE: Roman Reigns on his battle with cancer, women headlining WrestleMania and his future

The last place Joseph Anoa'i thought he would be five months ago was standing in the middle of a WWE ring, humbled by the euphoric appreciation of his fans.

The man known in the sports entertainment world as Roman Reigns stepped away from the crazy life he loved last October to focus on himself and his health.

Reigns had fought and beaten leukaemia a decade earlier, but the battle was back on, with signs the disease had returned.

But the 33-year-old returned to WWE programming last month, announcing to the world that he had body-slammed cancer again.

Reigns made his ring return at WWE's Fastlane event on Monday (NZT), teaming with his best friends, both on and off camera, Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins.

It was a wonderful moment for the victorious trio, who stood side by side in the middle of the ring, taking in the accolades of the WWE Universe.

Reigns had hoped this moment would happen, but if his career had been cut short, he would have left content.

"I am very happy and proud of what I have achieved," Reigns told Newshub.

"I've been very fortunate to have been in the position to take on some great moments, like main-eventing WrestleMania, winning the Royal Rumble, winning the Universal and WWE championships, and having a great connection with my co-workers and fans."

WWE: Roman Reigns on his battle with cancer, women headlining WrestleMania and his future

That connection with the fans hasn't always been a positive one - well, at least from an audience perspective.

The Roman Reigns character is arguably the most polarising in WWE history, with some feeling the company pushed him down their throats ad nauseam.

But on October 26, when Reigns walked out in front of a capacity crowd in Atlanta, Georgia, not one heckler could be heard, just 20,000 fans chanting loudly in appreciation for the former college football star.

That moment signalled to Reigns that the WWE Universe was more than just fans - it was an extension to the family of both the Reigns character and the man Joseph Anoa'i.

"With my journey, it's a very special one," Reigns told Newshub. "We have made some sort of impression as the character Roman Reigns.

"That character has had its critics, it's had some negative, but also some positive energy.

"The thing for me that proves that the WWE Universe is very much a family was my situation.

Roman Reigns on the night he announced he was stepping away.
Roman Reigns on the night he announced he was stepping away. Photo credit: Supplied
Roman Reigns with his best friends Dean Ambrose, left and Seth Rollins.
Roman Reigns with his best friends Dean Ambrose, left and Seth Rollins. Photo credit: Supplied

"That reaction was overwhelming. It didn't matter if they liked me, didn't like me, or didn't care about me or my character - everybody dropped all of that, and sent a lot of love and positivity towards me.

"It showed the type of family we are - the fans are an extended family to the WWE talent.

"They all got on my side. For them to create that support system and kinda hold me up while I was falling down, I won't ever forget that.

"It shows me that people are good when push comes to shove. There are a lot of positive and inspiring moments that have come out of this whole situation."

Reigns has been given the all-clear to resume his career at full speed.

He confirmed to Newshub he has a full bill of health and plans on being the same hard-hitting, powerful sports entertainer he was before.

"Everything, as far as my vital organs - everything on the inside is good to go and intact, and nothing is oversized," Reigns said.

"That was the big concern for the medical team was taking a big blow to my stomach, to the spleen area and having a rupture. I have been fully checked out and I have been cleared for contact.

"Throughout the next few months, I will be able to take some great strides from just being in the ring and getting the wind back into my lungs."

With WresteMania fast approaching, the role Reigns plays will differ from the last five years.

Reigns has found himself headlining WWE's Super Bowl since 2015, but a history-making moment will see 'The Big Dog' take a back seat in 2019.

WrestleMania 35 is set to feature a triple-threat all-women's main event, with former UFC superstar Ronda Rousey defending her women's championship against Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch.

For the first time, women will headline WWE's biggest yearly show. For Reigns, that is both significant and well-deserved.

"I love it," Reigns told Newshub. "What better way to showcase what we have been doing the last couple years now in highlighting our women.

"Especially in these times, where there is so much going on online, so much going on in the media and so much going on through the communities of entertainment.

"I stand by these strong women, and I am so proud of the strength, determination and resilience they have been able to show.

"It's on these women to be role models for all young women. Ronda Rousey has been a role model to young girls for almost a decade now.

"My daughter is at a time in her life right now where she is easily influenced, so why not have these extraordinary women showing them that they can do anything.

"Women can do anything, if not better than men can do - in all avenues of life.

"I think Charlotte, Becky, Ronda, our tag-team champions Sasha Banks and Bayley - they are all great examples of that strength, and I think that is the position of where women belong in the most important place - the main event of WrestleMania.

"Hell, if women can handle child birth and all that comes with creating life and guiding us along the way, then why can't they main-event a sports entertainment show?  

"They can do everything else in this world and I don't see why they can't knock this one right out of the park."

WWE: Roman Reigns on his battle with cancer, women headlining WrestleMania and his future

While he is content with an undercard spot in New York on April 7, Reigns has loftier ambitions for 2020.

WrestleMania 36 will be held in Tampa, Florida - Reigns' home state. He plans on standing opposite his best friend and reclaiming the title he never lost.

"I'd like to close the show, and I'd like to wrestle Seth Rollins for the title and get my rematch one year from now."

Only time will be the judge on Reigns making that happen, but given the cards he has been dealt, just being at WrestleMania is a miracle for Reigns and the WWE Universe.

WrestleMania 35 will be streamed live on the WWE Network and Sky Arena on Monday April 8.


Join Newshub for live updates of WrestleMania 35 from midday Monday April 8.

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