'This is enormous': WrestleMania rocked by superstar's virus withdrawal

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Roman Reigns and Dwayne Johnson, pictured here at the premiere of "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw" in 2019.
Roman Reigns and Dwayne Johnson at the premiere of "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw" in 2019. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage)

Roman Reigns has withdraw from WrestleMania over health concerns relating to the coronavirus crisis.

The WWE superstar, who has previously battled leukaemia, was scheduled to take on Bill Goldberg for the Universal Championship at WrestleMania 36.

However the WWE is now scrambling to find a replacement for the April 4-5 showpiece event.

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Reigns is immunocompromised as a result of his leukaemia, putting him at greater risk if he contracts COVID-19.

Before pulling out Reigns tweeted: “Don’t care where my match falls. Just happy to be healthy and fit enough to participate.

“Grateful to share the ring with a legend and icon on our industry’s biggest night(s). As should everyone else, in a time like this. Be safe, healthy and grateful.”

WrestleMania going ahead despite global shutdown

The WWE has pushed ahead with plans to stage WrestleMania despite nearly every other sport in the world shutting down due to coronavirus.

They were forced to move the event from Tampa, Florida to the WWE performance centre in Orlando - where WrestleMania will go ahead behind closed doors.

“In coordination with local partners and government officials, WrestleMania and all related events in Tampa Bay will not take place,” WWE said in a statement.

“However, WrestleMania will still stream live on Sunday, April 5 at 7 p.m. ET on WWE Network and be available on pay-per-view.

“Only essential personnel will be on the closed set at WWE’s training facility in Orlando, Florida to produce WrestleMania.”

Roman Reigns, pictured here in action in WWE in 2018.
Roman Reigns in action in WWE in 2018. (Photo by Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images)

WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon said everyone entering the building will undergo “extensive testing and screening when you first come in the facility.”

“If you’ve been out of the country or been in touch or in contact with anybody who’s been out of the country, you’re not allowed in the facility,” McMahon told Variety.

“We’re taking every precaution we can. It’s also why you don’t see talent or anyone else in the audience.

“We really are adhering to all the guidelines that we can to maintain the health and safety of our crew and our performers.”

Roman Reigns’ battle with leukaemia

Reigns – real name Joe Anoa’i – stunned the WWE world in 2018 when he announced he was taking a leave of absence as he battled leukaemia.

The stunning announcement opened ‘Raw’ as Anoa’i revealed that he has battled the disease in the past and that he had been in remission since 2008.

“My real name is Joe and I’ve been living with leukaemia for 11 years and unfortunately, it’s back. And because the leukaemia is back, I cannot fulfil my role, I can’t be that fighting champion [I said I would be],” Anoa’i announced live to fans.

Anoa’i said his previous bout with the cancer ended his football career.

“I want to make one thing clear, by no means is this a retirement speech, because after I’m done [beating] leukaemia once again, I’m coming back home.”