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The Critical: Roman Reigns, Leukemia, and Feelings


This week on Monday Night RAW, Roman Reigns (real name Joe Anoa’i) revealed that he has leukemia, and that he is relinquishing his fictional and incredibly meaningful wrestling championship, the Universal Title.

Below are my feelings about this.
  1. 😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱
  2. Leukemia sucks. I lost my niece to Leukemia. Cancer sucks. I lost my nephew to cancer. I lost my father to cancer. Fuck cancer. I lost them, and every day is still colored by how I reel from the sense of loss. But... I don’t hate cancer—or, I only hate it insomuch as I hate, say, a terrible earthquake or typhoon or flooding. I can’t ascribe a sense of identity to it. It’s not a person, or animal, or thing, even. It’s... an event. And events pass, and people survive them, or they don’t. And that sucks, and every time I revisit the event, my heart caves in and my spirit dims. I miss my dad. I miss my nephew. I miss my niece. I wish they were alive right now, because, Jesus, what a time to be alive. They would love my wife and son. And they would love Roman Reigns. Or, at least, my dad would.
  3. While still in the womb, my son danced to Roman Reigns’ theme music.
  4. Roman Reigns has cancer.
  5. No, Joe Anoa’i has cancer. Roman Reigns is invincible and is the fucking man.
  6. How plain-and-simple bizarre is it that the whole time that Roman Reigns was telling us to “believe that,” the only one who really truly did was Vincent K. McMahon? And isn’t it even more bizarre that—*gasp*—he was right? No wonder Roman Reigns was the fucking man.
  7. Poor Brandon Stroud: How terrible it must be to have consistently publicly expressed feelings about wrestling work, knowing wrestling’s propensity to blur the lines between work and real-life human lives, and then to now have to deal with a real-life human tragedy that had been kept hidden underneath years and years of wrestling work. The feeling that he owes it to the world to process his feelings in a publishable way is a terrible burden. I’m relieved that my Smark Henry co-founders don’t expect it of me.
  8. Remember when tragic things happened to Jerry “The King” Lawler, and we were all so very supportive (and remain so, to an extent), but then he also squandered some of that goodwill because of things like this? I’m almost certain this won’t happen with Joe Anoa’i.
  9. What happens to the Universal Championship now? What happens to WWE Crown Jewel now? ...Who even cares?
  10. This yard is yours, Roman. This yard is yours, Joe. More so than Taker and John and Steve and Hulk before you. And (unless some incredibly unlikely things happen or are revealed after this) I think it always will be.


Photo from WWE



Mikey Llorin (@mikeyllorinis a Consulting Editor of Smark Henry, as well as a teacher, performer, and events host. Mikey writes The Critical, which covers aspects of wrestling through the lens of literary/cultural criticism. 

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