The absurdity of accusing Roman Reigns of fabricating his illness
When you hear the word “cancer” come out of a loved one’s mouth, it almost freezes you. In a nanosecond, your entire life with that person flashes before your eyes, consumed with the thought that those memories could soon be all you’re left with. I’ll never forget that September 2016 call from my mom. I can remember every single important moment I ever had with my mother playing on loop in my head, from birthday parties and Bulls games, to house fires, hotels and temporary housing. The news flipped my entire world upside down.
I felt something similar last October 22nd when Joe Anoa’i - shoot name: Roman Reigns - opened Monday Night Raw and announced he was in his second battle with leukemia, having conquered the illness eleven years prior. Now, obviously I don’t have a personal relationship with Roman Reigns; he’s a character on a television show I’ve watched long before he was apart of it. However, in playing his role throughout the past six years, Joe Anoa’i has given me plenty of memories - whether I was cheering him in Chicago or telling him he sucks in Brooklyn - and at 33 years old, the thought of missing out on the many more memories to come made me sick.
On Monday night, Joe Anoa’i is expected to walk down the ramp at Raw and deliver the speech Atlanta - and the wrestling world - have been waiting months to hear: that his cancer is in remission, and that Roman Reigns will soon return to WWE competition. Given the response from fans and performers across the community, tonight is sure to be one of the most emotional nights ever in professional wrestling. It wasn’t a year ago when Bryan Danielson announced he came out victorious in his fight to be Daniel Bryan in the ring once again. From an emotional standpoint, tonight’s announcement should top that with ease.
Throughout Roman’s sabbatical from wrestling, he’s taken potshots from several fans, and even more disgustingly, former wrestlers, who believe that his illness has been a work. The latest, apparently, is Calgary [dramatic pause] Alberta Canada’s own Lance Storm. Twitter user VCR Wrestling tuned into Figure Four Daily on Wrestling Observer Radio, which Storm hosts with Bryan Alvarez. The audio is behind a paywall, and frankly I’m not giving the Observer my money because fuck no. VCR was kind enough to tweet some of their conversation between Storm and Alvarez on Reigns’ announcement, and… well… check the tweets.
It goes without saying that Lance Storm is the Donkey of the Day if he thinks Roman wasn’t that sick because he could film Hobbes and Shaw with his cousin, The Rock. If your own brother-in-law was stricken by leukemia, the first thing you should be able to understand is NOT EVERYBODY’S ILLNESS IS THE SAME. Roman Reigns not being on his deathbed doesn’t lessen the debilitating nature of his disease, the need for urgency to address his leukemia or the importance of his fight. Any belief otherwise is absurd.
Do I understand some people’s belief that everything in wrestling is a work? Sure. We’re conditioned to believe it by now. But working the public on a deadly illness, especially one that personally afflicts us all in the way cancer does, is as repulsive as it can get in wrestling (and I’ve seen Mae Young’s naked). There is absolutely no good that would come from faking cancer. Roman Reigns would not commit career suicide to get himself “over” with fans. Vince McMahon would not give his top guy a “mysterious cancer diagnosis” to promote the company’s working relationships with Susan G. Komen and Connor’s Cure, two organizations devoted to breast and pediatric cancer research, respectively.
Let’s stop there. Do you know how ridiculous that would look for Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, the founders of Connor’s Cure and the two company faces at the forefront of social progress in WWE, to be anywhere near attached to a storyline where a survivor fakes having cancer again for a few months just to get cheers from funky, obnoxious, misogynistic wrestling fans who chant “Roman Sucks!” and send hate tweets to women who aren’t “real fans” because they like Roman?
Does that make any sense?
It’s shameful we have to be saying this, but here we are. Stupidity never fails to dominate the headlines.
Alas, tonight’s news should hit every wrestling fan in the feels. Whether or not you like Roman Reigns the wrestler, Joe Anoa’i the man is a remarkable human. He’s won championships around the globe and main-evented four straight WrestleMania’s, but his biggest triumph, or at least the one that needs to be celebrated the most, is being a two-time cancer survivor.