Pro wrestling gets real with Roman Reigns’ leukemia announcement

Whenever sport as performance art crosses into grim reality, there is no better local source for comment and perspective than Mike Tenay.

Pro wrestling superstar Roman Reigns, who was a football star at Georgia Tech and played for the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos, took his 11-year private battle with leukemia into the most public of domains this past week. He announced in the ring on national TV that his cancer had returned and that he was going on hiatus as Universal Champion.

At first, it appeared to be another of the staged routines for which wrestling as performance art is known. But this was serious. Deadly serious.

“The biggest thing, and this is without question, is his personal recovery,” said Tenay, a longtime Las Vegan who spent more than 20 years as a pro wrestling broadcaster and personality, including seven with Vince McMahon’s World Championship Wrestling juggernaut.

“However …”

With pro wrestling, there is almost always a “however” regardless of the gravity of the situation.

“I think the biggest thing from a professional wrestling standpoint is going to be the fan reaction when he comes back,” Tenay said.

“It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Roman Reigns the pet project of Vince McMahon and the WWE. The fans of today will push back on anybody they feel is being shoved down their throats.”

It happened to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson before he started making movies. Hulk Hogan, too.

Tenay said pro wrestling fans have been booing Reigns, whose real name is Leati Joseph Anoa’i, without fail and mercy. But how do you boo a guy living with leukemia?

“You hope, if you have any kind of heart, that people are going to see what this guy has gone through and they will embrace him,” Tenay said.

One thing is for certain: If Roman Reigns climbs back into the ring, a lot of people will be watching.

Puck daddies

More than 20 fathers of Vancouver Canucks players — and one mother — watched their sons beat the Golden Knights in a shootout Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.

This probably wouldn’t have happened if T-Mobile were located in Buffalo.

The Canucks’ dads had been planning the trip to Las Vegas (with continuing service to Arizona) since summertime. Forward Jake Virtanen’s mom was on hand, too — Brigitte and Rainer Virtanen already had booked a Las Vegas getaway to watch Jake play hockey when the dads’ junket became an official thing.

“This was my dad’s first trip … it is a top building, and with all the fathers here, it is good to come up with a win,” Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom said.

McCaw sits out

Patrick McCaw averaged 4.0 points in each of his two seasons as a Golden State Warrior. So now the former UNLV basketball star wants more money. He has turned down two contract offers and has opted to sit out. He did not show up to receive his championship ring on NBA opening night.

Some of his teammates are questioning the logic.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said “the door is still open” for McCaw, provided his agent and others advising him come to their senses fairly soon.

McCaw played two seasons for UNLV. He signed a two-year deal worth $1.45 million after being drafted by Milwaukee in the second round and traded to Golden State for cash.

Attendance spike

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings’ pro beach volleyball tournament at Las Vegas Festival Grounds was called a success for a first-time endeavor, attracting 1,000 to 1,200 spectators each day.

Canada’s Heather Bansley and Brandie Wilkerson and Norway’s Anders Mol and Christian Sorum will be remembered as winners of the inaugural FIVB Las Vegas Open presented by p1440, provided one has a memory like an elephant.

0:01

Because baseball has changed to where almost nobody steals bases anymore, Taco Bell thought it might get off easy in this year’s “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promotion tied to the World Series.

Alas, Boston’s Mookie Betts swiped second after leading off the bottom of the first inning in Game 1.

So from 2 to 6 p.m. Thursday, you can get a free Doritos Locos taco (retail price: $1.79) at any participating Taco Bell. Tell them Mookie Betts sent you. But do not ask to upgrade to a chalupa and pay the difference, or they might go Bobby Cox on you.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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