Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Solofa Fatu Jr. (born October 11, 1965) is a Samoan-American professional wrestler, best known under the ring name Rikishi with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), where he was a one time Intercontinental Champion and two time Tag Team Champion.
Professional wrestling career
The Samoan Swat Team (1985-1992)
Solofa Fatu, Jr. first got the fans attention in 1985 as he worked for Gino Brito and Dino Bravo’s “International Wrestling" territory based in Montreal. While in Montreal, Fatu worked as Prince Alofa, a high flying babyface often working as a team with the territory’s top faces. While working in Montreal, Solofa hung out with his cousin Samula Anoa'i who was working in the area as the heel "The Great Samu". When the Montreal territory closed up, the two cousins signed with the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico and became The Samoan Swat Team (Samu & Fatu). The team adopted the “Samoan savage" gimmick that had made their fathers so well known and feared throughout the wrestling world, working barefoot and never speaking English on camera. The team became the first ever WWC Caribbean Tag Team Champions on November 7, 1987 when they beat Invader I and Invader III. The duo held the title for just over a month before dropping them to Mark and Chris Youngblood before leaving the promotion.
Samu and Fatu next appeared in Texas, working for Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship Wrestling promotion. The storyline was that Buddy Roberts brought the team in to fight his fights against the Von Erich family and former Fabulous Freebirds partner Michael Hayes. The SST was given a big push right away; presented as an unstoppable force, the team was even allowed to beat hometown heroes Kerry and Kevin Von Erich for the WCCW Tag Team Titles on August 12, 1988. The Samoans remained undefeated in WCCW until they came up against Roberts’ former partner Michael Hayes and Hayes new partner, “Do It To It" Steve Cox on September 12. The duo was not without the gold for long as they recaptured the titles only four days later. Hayes and Cox beat the Samoan Swat Team for the titles once again on October 15, but this time they only held the gold for two days before they lost it back to the SST. On September 12, 1988, The Samoan Swat Team become double champions as they beat "Hollywood" John Tatum andJimmy Jack Funk for the WCWA Texas Tag Team Championship. The Samoan Swat Team made their pay-per-view debut at AWA SuperClash III, the first (and only) PPV that the American Wrestling Association ever presented. The Samoans successfully defended their WCCW Tag-Team titles against Michael Hayes and Steve Cox. In the beginning of 1989, the Samoans left WCCW, forcing both tag team titles to be vacated due to the sudden departure.
The Samoan Swat Team signed with Jim Crockett Promotions and was brought in as manager Paul E. Dangerously’s replacements for the "Original" Midnight Express who had left the promotion. The Samoans also took over the "Original" Midnight Express’ feud with the Midnight Express, winning atClash of the Champions VI on April 2, 1989. The Samoans teamed with former rival Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy, and Jimmy Garvin at the 1989 Great American Bash, losing a WarGames match to the Road Warriors, the Midnight Express, and Steve Williams. In the fall of 1989, Paul E. Dangerously was phased out and the Samoans were given a new manager: "The Big Kahuna" Oliver Humperdink. Their ranks were also bolstered by the addition ofThe Samoan Savage, who is Fatu’s brother. The Samoans started to lose more and more matches as 1989 drew to a close, but their fortunes appeared to be changing due to the injury to Sid Vicious. Because Vicious was injured, the Skyscrapers had to pull out of the "Iron Team Tournament" at Starrcade 1989 and the Samoan Swat Team were chosen to be their replacements. Fatu and the Samoan Savage participated while no explanation was given as to why the more experienced Samu was not chosen. For the remainder of the Samoan Swat Team’s time in WCW, Fatu and the Samoan Savage competed under the name while Samu made a few singles appearances.
After leaving WCW in the summer of 1990, the Samoan Swat Team worked for a number of independent promotions in the US, Europe, and Japan, often teaming up with family member Rodney Anoa'i who competed as "Kokina Maximus". The family worked for the Universal Wrestling Association in 1991 with Fatu, Kokina, and The Samoan Savage winning the UWA Trios Tag-Team titles and holding it for just under two months. They also made a headline appearance on the UWA’s 16th anniversary show losing to Dos Caras, El Canek, and Mil Máscaras.
World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment
The Headshrinkers (1992–1995)
In 1992, Samu and Fatu signed with the company, managed by Samu’s father Afa. The team changed their name to the Headshrinkers, but their gimmick of Samoan wildmen remained the same. Rodney Anoa'i also signed with the WWF but he was repackaged as "Yokozuna" and the family ties between him and the Samoans were not mentioned on air. The team first made their presence known when they helped Money Inc. beat the Natural Disasters to win the World Tag Team Championship. Early in their run with the WWF, the Headshrinkers feuded with the Natural Disasters and the recently formed High Energy.
Between 1992 and the early parts of 1994, the Headshrinkers maintained a position in the middle of the tag team division. They occasionally challenged for the titles and made sporadic PPV appearances feuding with teams like The Smoking Gunns and Men on a Mission. The Headshrinkers assisted their relative Yokozuna in a casket match against The Undertaker at the Royal Rumble. In April, the Headshrinkers turned face and challenged then tag team champions The Quebecers; with the addition of manager Lou Albano the team won the gold on April 26. At King of the Ring on June 19, the Headshrinkers successfully defended their tag team titles against Yokozuna and Crush. Their run with the titles came to an end on an untelevised card on August 28 where they lost the titles to Shawn Michaels and Diesel. The title change happened just one day before they were scheduled to defend against Irwin R. Schyster and Bam Bam Bigelow. Soon after the title change, Samu left the WWF to recover from injuries and was replaced by Sionne, who formed the "New Headshrinkers" with Fatu.
The storyline reason given for Samu’s departure was that he was not coping well with manager Lou Albano’s attempts to civilize the Headshrinkers, especially wearing boots. For the first time ever, one half of the Samoan Swat Team/Headshrinkers was not a member of the Anoa'i family nor a Samoan, as Sionne was from the island of Tonga. The New Headshrinkers made only one PPV appearance as a team which was at the Survivor Series where they were quickly eliminated. They were also both participants in the Royal Rumble. The only other notable appearance of the New Headshrinkers was as part of the tournament to crown new WWF tag team champions in late 1994/early 1995. The New Headshrinkers lost to Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka in the Semi-Finals.By July, the New Headshrinkers ended as Sionne signed with WCW. By the time Sionne left the WWF, the team was used to put over new teams such as Jacob & Eli Blu.
Singles competition (1995–1998)
Fatu became a singles wrestler in 1995; the WWF repackaged Fatu by dropping the “savage" gimmick and revealing that Fatu could speak English and was raised in the US. Fatu became a "man of the streets" who spoke about growing up in the hood and being shot during a real-life drive-by. During this time he was referred to as “Make a Difference" Fatu. After a short while, two men started to show up whenever Fatu was in the ring: Samu and his brother Lloyd Anoa'i, also known as "The Samoan Gangster Party". The Samoan Gangster Party, however, never got in the ring or confronted Fatu before he was repackaged and the whole angle was dropped.
The WWF then decided to give Fatu a total change, as he became a stereotypical “Middle Eastern" known as The Sultan, complete with a face mask to hide who was playing the gimmick. In storyline The Sultan's tongue was removed thus he never spoke in promos. He was managed by the Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund. He was given a shot at Rocky Maivia’s Intercontinental Title at WrestleMania 13 but failed to win the gold. Fatu left the spotlight when the Sultan gimmick was dropped in early 1998 as Dory Funk Jr's. DOJO to get better training.
Too Cool (1999–2000)
He returned on the November 13, 1999 episode of WWF Metal as Rikishi Fatu beating Julio Fantastico, the Rikishi name being a sumo wrestling term similar to his cousin Yokozuna's professional wrestling name. Then the name would become Rikishi Phatu, but was eventually shortened to Rikishi when he started teaming with Too Cool. He had gained a great deal of weight, bleached his hair blonde, and exchanged his long trousers for a thong. Rikishi had a brief feud with Viscera before aligning with Too Cool, which consisted of Grand Master Sexay and Scotty 2 Hotty. It was at this point that Rikishi's popularity began to soar as their post-match dance routine became popular with fans. During the 2000 Royal Rumble, Rikishi eliminated seven opponents in the Royal Rumble match; he was eliminated by six wrestlers working together. Two of those seven were Too Cool themselves, whom Rikishi eliminated after they performed their dance routine in the middle of the match.
Rikishi became famous for giving wrestlers the Stink Face, as his butt was rubbed in the face of an opposing wrestler. This move became very popular with the fans. In May 2000, Rikishi and Too Cool feuded with Edge, Christian, and Kurt Angle, culminating in a victory at Judgment Day. After winning theIntercontinental Championship on the June 22 episode of SmackDown! from Chris Benoit, Rikishi qualified for the 2000 King of the Ring tournament. On June 25 he defeated Benoit and Val Venis in the quarter and semi-finals respectively, but both his opponents hit him with a steel chair after losing, weakening his shoulder and helping Kurt Angle defeat him in the finals. Stemming from Venis's attack at King of the Ring, Rikishi faced Venis on July 6 and lost his title after Tazz hit him with a television camera. Rikishi faced Venis in aSteel Cage rematch at Fully Loaded. In the course of the match, Rikishi ascended the cage and, in a move reminiscent of Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, leapt from the top, splashing Venis. Rikishi was defeated by Venis shortly after when Tazz once again hit him with a television camera.
Heel turn (2000-2001)
On October 9, Commissioner Mick Foley used a slip of the tongue from Scotty 2 Hotty to implicate Rikishi as the person who had run over Stone Cold Steve Austin at Survivor Series, as Scotty stated that he had been hanging out that night with Grand Master Sexay and Rikishi. However, Foley stated later that night in the ring that Rikishi at that point had not debuted yet. In actuality, this is not true, as Rikishi had debuted on the Saturday night before the '99 Survivor Series on WWF Jakked. Rikishi admitted injuring Austin, claiming that he had done so in order to allow his cousinThe Rock to achieve stardom, insisting that Buddy Rogers, Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan, and Austin - "The Great White Hope" - had always been pushed over Samoan performers such as High Chief Peter Maivia and Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, who he believed had been held back, this turned Rikishi heel in the coming weeks. Austin immediately set out to obtain revenge, facing Rikishi in a No Holds Barred match at No Mercy. The match went to a no contest when Austin dragged Rikishi to the parking lot and attempted to run him over, but a police car drove in front of Austin's car, saving Rikishi. Though Austin was arrested, he had badly injured Rikishi, inflicting numerous cuts and bruises to his face. Later that night, Rikishi attempted to help The Rock retain theWWF Championship in a match against Kurt Angle, but "accidentally" kicked and crushed The Rock, allowing Angle to Angle Slam both men and win the title. After a number of instances where Austin was attacked backstage by an unseen assailant, it became clear that Rikishi had an accomplice. During a handicap match pitting Rikishi and Kurt Angle against Austin, Triple H came to the ring, seemingly to aid Austin, but swerved the audience by attacking Austin with a sledgehammer. This led to Triple H revealing that he had masterminded the assault, relegating Rikishi to his hired muscle. Rikishi never reclaimed the popularity he enjoyed throughout his initial run as Rikishi.
Rikishi lost to The Rock at Survivor Series. He then participated in the six-man Hell in a Cell match at Armageddon for the WWF Championship, during which Vince McMahon drove a flatbed truck to ringside in an effort to dismantle the cage and stop the match. However, Rikishi was chokeslammed from the top of the cell into the truck bed by the Undertaker. He won a match entitling him to enter the 2001 Royal Rumble at number 30. He even eliminated the Undertaker but he did not last long in the Rumble match before being eliminated by The Rock. After the return of Haku at thesame event, Rikishi and Haku formed a tag team, and feuded with Kane and The Undertaker and The Hardy Boys. The team split when Rikishi was sidelined with an eardrum injury in May, and Haku was later released. Rikishi returned from injury on May 7, 2001 and was urged by Mick Foley to become a face again before delivering the Stink Face to Stephanie McMahon. He wrestled for several weeks before suffering a shoulder injury in May 2001 which caused him to miss much of the year.
SmackDown; teaming with Scotty 2 Hotty and departure (2002-2004)
Rikishi returned on December 6, 2001, delivering a Stink Face to Vince McMahon and solidifying his face status. Upon the WWE Brand Extension, Rikishi was drafted to SmackDown!. At Judgment Day, he faced Billy and Chuck in a "secret partner" match. His partner turned out to be Rico, Billy and Chuck's stylist. Despite Rico's best efforts to unfairly help Billy and Chuck, Rikishi and he won the match and became the Tag Team Champions. Rico would later cost his partner to lose the titles in a rematch.
Rikishi was not featured much in late 2002 and early-2003. He feuded with John Cena, Bill DeMott, and the Full Blooded Italians on SmackDown!. The return of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper led Rikishi to challenge him as Piper had hit Jimmy Snuka with a coconut years ago on Piper's Pit. At Backlash 2003, Piper's protege Sean O'Haire defeated Rikishi after Piper got hit with a coconut by Rikishi giving O'Haire time to hit the Widowmaker on Rikishi. Rikishi eventually formed a tag team with Scotty 2 Hotty, and the duo defeated the Basham Brothers for the WWE Tag Team Championship on February 5, 2004, holding them for two and a half months before losing them to Charlie Haas and Rico. Fatu, however, was released by WWE on July 16, 2004, following repeated requests from WWE to lose weight.
Independent circuit (2005-2007)
Fatu continued to wrestle on the independent circuit. In October 2005, he shortened his ring name to Kishi after being notified by WWE legal representatives that WWE owned a trademark on the name "Rikishi". Fatu, as Kishi, would go on to operate Nu-Wrestling Evolution, a professional wrestling promotion based in Italy. On February 17, 2007, Fatu competed as SUMO RIKISHI in a tag team contest at an All Japan Pro Wrestling event, as he was brought in by Keiji Mutoh to feud with Akebono. On August 12, 2007, Fatu competed in an 8-man tag, as Rikishi, at Asistencia Asesoría y Administración's TripleMania event. On August 23, Fatu competed in a Triple Threat match against Samoa Joe and Sterling James Keenan at Ballpark Brawl VIII in Buffalo, New York. On November 17, wrestling as Rikishi once again, Fatu defeated Mike Rollins at a Heavy on Wrestling event in Duluth, Minnesota.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2007)
On the September 13, 2007 episode of Impact!, Fatu debuted in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling under the ring name Junior Fatu. Fatu faced Christian Cage on the September 20 episode of Impact!in his first match, which he lost due to a distraction by Christian's partner A.J. Styles. On the October 25 episode of Impact!, Fatu faced Robert Roode in a Fight for the Right Tournament match, which he won due to interference by Samoa Joe. On October 30, however, it was reported that Fatu had been released from TNA, due to he and TNA management failing to reach an agreement about a pay raise. Chris Harris took Fatu's spot in the Fight for the Right semifinal match.
Return to independent circuit, WWE appearances (2009-present)
On March 28, 2009, Fatu debuted in Revolución Lucha Libre, a Chile based promotion, under the ring name "Kishi". In his first show, he faced Ariki Toa for the Absolute International Championship, RLL's major title. Kishi defeated Toa by pinfall with a Banzai Drop to win the title. After the match, Savio Vega assaulted Kishi.
Fatu now wrestles in the Territory League under his TNA alias Junior Fatu. He is a member of the Las Vegas Highrollers along with his friends Brian Christopher and Scott Garland, formerly known asToo Cool.
Rikishi made an appearance at the 2012 WWE Hall of Fame ceremony.
Rikishi made an appearance on Monday Night Raw on July 16, 2012 and defeated Heath Slater in less than two minutes. After the match, he danced with his sons, Jey and Jimmy Uso, who are current WWE wrestlers.
Fatu and his wife Talisua Fuavai-Fatu have five children. He rubs his nose twice en route to the ring to tell his children that he loves them. Fatu is a member of the famous Anoa'i wrestling family. He is the father of the Samoan Soldiers; his twin sons Jonathan Solofa and Joshua Sammy (born August 22, 1985). The pair are currently known as Jimmy and Jey Uso on WWE's SmackDown brand. Fatu also has a daughter Thavana Monalisa (born June 12, 1984) and two younger sons: Jeremiah Peniata (born August 30, 1986) and Joseph (born 1994). Fatu is the nephew of Sika Anoa'i and Afa Anoa'i, known as the Wild Samoans. He is also the brother of Eddie Fatu (Umaga/Jamal) and Sam Fatu (The Tonga Kid) and cousin of Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) Rodney Anoa'i (Yokozuna), Samula Anoa'i (Headshrinker Samu), and Matt Anoa'i (Rosey).
On April 27, 2008, Fatu's mother Vera died after a seven-year battle with cancer.
- Finishing moves
- Banzai Drop / Rump Shaker (Seated senton, sometimes from the second rope)
- Camel clutch – as The Sultan
- Pele Hold (Camel clutch with a sleeperhold)
- Rikishi Driver (WWF/E) / Over the shoulder reverse piledriver (independent circuit)
- Samoan drop, sometimes to an oncoming opponent
- Samoan Splash (Diving splash) – as Fatu
- Samoan Spike (High speed thumb thrust to an opponent's throat) - as a tribute his brother, Eddie "Umaga" Fatu
- Signature moves
- Entrance Themes
- "You Look Fly Today" by Jim Johnston (1999–2000, 2001–2004, 2012)
- "Bad Man" by Jim Johnston (2000–2001)
- "At Beach" by Joe Bradson (1996)
- "Cool Dude" by Dale Oliver (2007)
Championships and accomplishments
- Portland Wrestling
- Portland Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Power Pro Wrestling (Memphis)
- PPW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Revolución Lucha Libre
- Campeonato Internacional Absoluto (1 time, current)
- Universal Wrestling Association
- World Class Wrestling Association
- World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment