IN MEMORIAM: YOKOZUNA


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Rodney Agatupu Anoaʻi
(October 2, 1966 – October 23, 2000)

Rodney Anoa’i was born in San Francisco and grew up in the famed Samoan wrestling family. He was trained by his uncles, the Wild Samoans. After wrestling in Japan and Mexico as the Great Kokina, he entered the AWA as Samoan superstar Kokina Maximus managed by Sheik Adnan El Kassey.

On Halloween 1992, Anoa’i debuted in the WWF as Japanese sumo wrestler Yokozuna under the management of Mr. Fuji.

The term ‘Yokozuna’, referred to the highest level of sumo champion, and Anoai was billed as unbeatable. He would go on to win the 1993 Royal Rumble match – and with it – a shot at the WWF Championship at Wrestlemania IX

 

At Wrestlemania IX, Yokozuna defeated Bret Hart to win the WWF Championship, only to lose the title just two minutes later to Hulk Hogan. Hogan would not defend the title in his two and a half months as champion, losing it back to Yokozuna at King of the Ring.

Fuji and Yokozuna then issued a Bodyslam Challenge on the Fourth of July. After dozens of different athletes tried unsuccessfully, Lex Luger arrived via helicopter to the U.S.S. Stars & Stripes, and promptly did so. Luger would go on to defeat Yokozuna at Summerslam by countout, so Yoko would retain the belt.

Yokozuna’s last notable appearance was in October 1999 for the infamous Heroes of Wrestling PPV event. He was set to take on King Kong Bundy in a featured bout, but an intoxicated Jake Roberts forced a change in the match. Yoko would eventually team with Roberts against Bundy and Jim The Anvil Neidhart.

Anoa’I died on October 23, 2000, just three weeks after his 34th birthday in Liverpool, England while on a wrestling tour in Europe. At the time of his death, he weighed about 580 pounds. He was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his cousins the Usos in 2012.



 

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