Roman Reigns, one of WWE’s most prominent stars, has dropped out of its biggest event this weekend.
The former champion, born Joe Anoa’i, pulled out of his WWE Universal Championship match against Bill Goldberg at WrestleMania 36, Pro Wrestling Sheet reported last week.
According to the outlet, Reigns was concerned about being exposed to coronavirus, which would be especially dangerous to him considering he is immunocompromised after facing cancer. The wrestler was first diagnosed with leukemia — which affects blood-forming tissue, including bone marrow — in 2008 when he was 22. It returned in 2018.
For the first time, Reigns spoke publicly about the decision in a six-minute video posted to his Instagram account on Monday, where he addressed the “haters” who have criticized him for the WrestleMania exit.
“For years now man, years, people have been like, ‘Don’t show up to WrestleMania, we don’t want you in it,’ you know what I mean?” Reigns said in the video. “There’s a nice handful of dudes and haters that didn’t want me there, but the moment I make a choice for me and my family … I’m a coward? I’m a sissy? … But you don’t know the whole story.”
Reigns did not specify whether his health was the primary factor in his decision to pull out of the event.
“You don’t know what else is going on in my life,” he explained. “You don’t know if I have newborns, you don’t know if I have family in my household, older family. So, yeah I mean, just … like the old saying … go and flip that cover open and read a few pages. Get into a few chapters before you really start running your mouth.”
“Just take this time to better yourself, be present, and make the most out of this because if we can’t grow in a time like this, I don’t think we have a chance, man,” he continued. “So I just challenge everybody, and I’m taking the steps right there with you. I’m not perfect, I’m a hater too sometimes, you know what I mean? ”
Reigns then apologized to his fans and expressed his desire to return to the ring when he is able.
“For all my fans, you know I’m sorry I didn’t get to compete this year and put on a show and entertain. But sometimes things are more important and I had to make a choice for me and my family, but no matter what, you already know the deal,” he said.
“I had to make a decision for me, but it doesn’t take anything away from what I’ve done and what I’m going to do. I still love this game, I still love pro wrestling, sports entertainment. I love being in the ring,” he added before ending the video. “It’s a little weird being in the ring with nobody watching, nobody in the arena, but man, I’m ready to get back to work and I’m just taking these times, this little bit of time we have, to build up the outside and come as close as possible to perfecting the inside.”
In response to efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus, WrestleMania 36 will be held at the company’s performance center and other locations instead of Raymond James Stadium in Florida. It will take place over two nights for the first time in WrestleMania’s history on April 4 and 5, and will not feature a live audience — another first.