leukaemia
Roman Reigns/sescoops.com

WWE Universal champion Roman Reigns has confirmed he has leukaemia, prompting him to vacate the title.

Reigns, real name Joe Anoa’i, made the announcement live on Raw on Monday night that the condition he had 11 years ago has returned and as a result, he will relinquish WWE’s top singles title.

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The 33-year-old made it clear he was not delivering a retirement speech but that he could no longer be a “fighting champion”.

“When I come back it’s not going to be about titles and being on top it’s going to be about a purpose,” he said. “I’m coming back because I want to show the whole world, my family, my friends, my children and my wife that when life throws a curveball at me I will stand in that batter’s box and swing for the fences every single time.

“Because I will beat this and I will be back, and you will see me very, very soon.”

Reigns’ Shield partners Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins embraced him on the entrance ramp after his speech and emotional tributes continues on social media.

Finn Balor wrote: His real name is Joe & he’s a stand-up guy! Inside the ring one of the best I’ve battled with. Outside the ring one of the most genuine people I have ever met & learned from. See you soon good brother ( ..and he smells great).”

Daniel Bryan summed up the mood among Reigns’ fellow wrestlers by saying: “I’ve never seen the air sucked out of a locker room like it was tonight. Our thoughts and prayers are with Roman and his family.”

SmackDown women’s champion Becky Lynch said: “You are the definition of what it means to be a leader and a champion and one of the toughest lads on the planet. We are all behind you and sending love. You will beat this.”