Roman Reigns has pulled out of the WrestleMania main event due to his fears over the coronavirus outbreak, with the WWE superstar more vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19 after twice battling leukaemia.
Reigns, real name Leati Joseph Anoaʻi, was due to face WWE icon Goldberg at WrestleMania 36, which was due to take place on 5 April at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. But the coronavirus outbreak which has now spread rapidly across the United States of America – which has been declared the new epicentre of Covid-19 after the number of confirmed and suspected cases surpassed that of China’s where it is believed to have originated – resulted in the WWE taking the decision to move all shows behind closed doors, including the showcase WrestleMania event.
With all events being filmed with only key personnel in attendance at the WWE’s Performance Centre in Orlando, WrestleMania will be recorded for the first time behind closed doors.
According to respected media outlet Pro Wrestling Sheet, the recording of WrestleMania was moved along with a number of shows to 25/26 March, with matches set to be broadcast to the public online and on television across 4/5 April in the first ever two-day WrestleMania.
But it will not feature Universal Championship challenger Reigns, with Pro Wrestling Sheet reporting that the 34-year-old informed the WWE that he did not feel comfortable travelling to the Performance Centre and recording the show given his past health concerns. Reigns is deemed imunocompromised after twice being diagnosed with leukaemia, and he was already being closely monitored by WWE medics due to having a higher risk of suffering the serious sideeffects of contracting coronavirus.
Reigns has twice recovered from the blood cancer leukaemia, with the American taking a period of leave from the WWE in 2018 when he publicly announced his illness for the first time. He returned in February last year to great applause to announce that he was officially in remission and would be returning to the WWE, and last month challenged Goldberg to a WrestleMania showdown by answering his open challenge of “Who’s Next?”.
The news of Reigns’s withdrawal has not been confirmed by the WWE, but the reports were acknowledged on the WWE Backstage show that appears to give them genuine credibility, with WWE understood to have honoured his request to pull out of action for the timebeing.
It is not clear what the Plan B option will be for Goldberg and the Universal Championship, but the WWE has already detailed the precautions that they are taking to try and limit the spread of coronavirus from affecting the company.
WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon said last week: “At a typical event, talent are milling about, they’re at catering or wherever when they’re not actually in part of the show.
“That’s not allowed now. There’s extensive testing and screening when you first come in the facility regardless of whether you’re a talent, a crew member, or anyone else. Working with our doctors, you have your temperature taken. If you have a temperature over 100.4 degrees, you are automatically asked to leave.”
“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,” she added.
Orange County, the region where the WWE Performance Centre is located, issued a stay-at-home order on Thursday night which runs through until 9 April, with the WWE pre-empting the lockdown by recording a number of shows in advance that includes the ‘Raw after WrestleMania’ show that is due to be broadcast on Monday 6 April.
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