In a story more complicated than it appears, Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet reported that Roman Reigns will not be part of this year’s WrestleMania due to the fact he is “immunocompromised from his battle with leukemia and didn’t want to risk his health.”
When Sports Illustrated asked about the report on Thursday night, a WWE spokesperson declined comment.
Multiple WWE performers confirmed to Sports Illustrated that Reigns is off the WrestleMania card.
Off the mat, Reigns is two-time cancer survivor Joe Anoa’i. This is where the story becomes complicated.
Why would WWE leave it to one of their stars, especially one with a serious medical history, to ask out of the show for the sake of his own safety? Or was this the decision following a series of discussions between Anoa’i, WWE executives, and their medical team?
Details regarding that have yet to emerge, but Anoa’i ultimately decided for family and health purposes that it was not in his best interests to be a part of WrestleMania.
WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon told Variety earlier in the week that there are heightened precautionary measures in place to protect the health of talent and staff. Thus far, Reigns is the first major star to opt out of WrestleMania.
There are also storyline implications, which is the reason why WWE has yet to comment on Reigns.
Reigns was scheduled to wrestle Bill Goldberg for the Universal Championship. And WWE needs to get the belt off of Goldberg.
The original plan was for Goldberg to defeat “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt, which he did in Saudi Arabia at February’s Super ShowDown, then drop the belt to Reigns at WrestleMania.
Without Reigns on the show, there is a wide array of options for his replacement.
The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer reported that an angle between Goldberg and Braun Strowman was taped earlier in the week, and will likely be used for Friday night’s SmackDown.
The larger-than-life Strowman is one of WWE’s premiere attractions, and he has come close to world title runs but has yet to receive an opportunity with the belt. He has been with WWE since 2013. By this point, the company knows what they hold in Strowman, who re-upped with WWE in 2019 for four more years. If he is to defeat Goldberg for the Universal title at WrestleMania, then he could segue into a program with Reigns, which would be perfect for the company since the two performers share an incredible on-screen chemistry together. Strowman also lives in Florida, which is especially convenient for WWE if the Coronavirus forces television tapings to continue at the Performance Center in Orlando.
Most of WrestleMania has already been taped, which should provide time to enhance the quality of the empty arena show that is customarily held in front of over 50,000 people. But no matter what stands out about the unique circumstances surrounding the show, all eyes will be on the main event.