LAST night time Roman Reigns introduced that he was relinquishing the Common Championship as a result of he’s affected by leukaemia – his second bout of the illness in 11 years.
The followers had been surprised and confirmed their assist for Reigns with chants of “Thanks Roman”.
Other than the tragedy of a 33-year-old household man combating a life-threatening sickness, it was a wake-up name about what Roman means to pro-wrestling in 2018.
The night time after WrestleMania 33 – when Reigns turned solely the second man to defeat The Undertaker on the grandest stage – Reigns stood silent as followers booed him for 12 minutes.
After 12 minutes of nuclear warmth, Reigns lifted the mic and mentioned: “That is my yard now.”
I used to be there that night time. It was a tremendous factor to witness – the defining second in Reigns’ singles profession.
Greater than pinning The Deadman 24 hours earlier. Greater than beating Triple H to turn into WWE Champion at Mania the yr earlier than. Or profitable the Royal Rumble and headlining in opposition to Brock Lesnar the yr earlier than that.
It dawned on me that night time in Orlando that Vince McMahon’s plan was foolproof.
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The extra he pushed Reigns, the extra he turned up the warmth. In that second – as he was booed mercilessly – Roman Reigns turned a celebrity.
Not only a celebrity as WWE labels each one among its wrestlers, from high of the roster to the very, very backside, however a legit celebrity of sports activities leisure.
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As the handpicked hero of this generation, Reigns is “the guy” of this wrestling era. Like John Cena was the guy of the previous era. And Stone Cold and Hulk Hogan of the eras before that.
Of course, Reigns has been blighted with negative fan reactions since going solo from The Shield in 2014.
The fans were originally protesting against Vince and WWE booking, rather than Roman himself, but the boos had become venomous – even worse than Cena received at the height of his run. But we didn’t know how good we’ve had it with Roman Reigns.
He’s a true workhorse, far better than most gave him credit for, and someone with a genuine love for wrestling. Coming from the famous Anoa’i wrestling family, the business is in his blood. He’s a true fighting champion, with or without a belt.
Last night’s shock announcement isn’t just a wake-up call about what Roman Reigns means to wrestling, but what this all means to Joe Anoa’i as a husband and father.
It’s heartwarming that fans are already willing him to beat the disease and come back to WWE. But with three young children at home, there are bigger things at stake.
As a journalist, I‘ve had the pleasure of meeting Roman Reigns several times. He’s warm, funny, and profoundly charming – every inch “the guy”.
In the New York Stock Exchange in January – as part of the Raw 25 celebrations – I followed Roman around for an hour.
He stopped to take photos and shake hands with everyone who asked (he could barely get five yards without being accosted by excitable grown men).
Later in the year, I took my six-year-old son to Raw at the O2. My son was devastated that Roman Reigns wasn’t wrestling that night.
Like so many other kids, Roman is his absolute favourite. You can’t overstate the importance of characters and personalities like Reigns to youngsters who are just learning about the bonkers magic of being a wrestling fan.
That’s what it means to be a true superstar. And it’s one of the reasons Roman Reigns was handpicked to lead this era. The announcement will no doubt change the fans’ connection to Reigns forever.
WWE is notoriously heavy-handed when dealing with this stuff. But with all the storylines and booking politics stripped away, the outpouring of love and appreciation for what Reigns has done for WWE in the last few years is real.
And when Roman Reigns beats leukaemia and returns to action, forget the Universal Championship – he’ll get the universal respect he’s always deserved. Believe that.
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