TAMPA (FOX 13) - In a dramatic announcement, WWE's leading man Roman Reigns broke character Monday night to deliver a speech no one saw coming.
"My real name is Joe and I've been living with leukemia for 11 years," he said.
Fans and fellow wrestlers alike were stunned as the larger-than-life figure announced he would be stepping away to fight the disease.
Reigns calls the Tampa Bay area home, where he spent years honing his craft.
“He's always been a very humble dude, cool to be around. He was that way in college and he was that same way at FCW where we both started at,” fellow WWE superstar and friend, Titus O’Neil, told FOX 13 News.
He has watched Reign's career blossom, from an up-and-comer to becoming the face of the organization.
"To see how he's not only been able to succeed -- but how he's handled success and remain the same person -- speaks a lot about who he is as a man and I think speaks a lot about how he'll deal with this,” O’Neil said.
Leukemia is a blood cancer affecting nearly 400,000 Americans. Reigns told fans his initial diagnosis came in 2008 and he went into remission. Doctors at Moffit Cancer Center say there is a strong likelihood Reigns can slam it once again.
"Given his age, given his duration of remission, I think that it would be a chance hopefully to have him cured and go back to the ring," said Dr. Rami Komrokji.
Reigns told fans he's already planning on it.
“I will beat this. I will be back, so you will see me very soon,” he said.