I have gone into most of these not knowing who I would be talking about the next day. Of course I know a lot about Hogan and Flair, thought most of what I wrote was new to me, but I know little about Yokozuna. Unlike Studd, I could easily pick Yokozuna out of a lineup and wished I’d paid more attention to his while he was still around as he was a big star in the industry (pun not intended).
The 1993 Royal Rumble PPV started of with a lot of big names in big matches. The Steiner Brothers, HBK, Bam Bam Bigelow, Bret Hart and Razor Ramon were all on the undercard as well as Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan’s introduction of ‘The Narcissus’ Lex Luger and his mirror. The Royal Rumble Match started with Ric Flair and Bob Backlund as entrants numbers one and two. Flair eliminated Papa Shango before he was eliminated by Mr. Perfect who he had been feuding with for months previous. Yet again, the longevity record (Flair) was broken by Backlund by lasting 1:01:10, a record that wasn’t broken in over a decade. Backlund was eliminated 28th! In the middle of the match Taker – in at #15, lasted 4:14, and was eliminated at #15 – was eliminated by Giant Gonzalez who debuted at the Royal Rumble and was managed by Harvey Wippleman, Taker’s nemesis at the time. Yokozuna entered the Royal Rumble Match at #27 and lasted 14:53 to win the match. Yokozuna was the second wrestler to enter as #27 and win; advancing it as the number with the most winners, even though this was only the sixth Royal Rumble. Yokozuna was over 500lbs at this point, so the entire group left in the ring tried to eliminate him, but were unable to. In the end it was down to Yokozuna and Macho Man Randy Savage. Savage tried to pin Yokozuna, even though he couldn’t win that way. In the process of throwing Savage off, he sent him flying over the ropes and out to the floor for elimination. Yokozuna tied Hogan for the most eliminations in one Royal Rumble at seven.
Yokozuna debuted in the WWF on October 31, 1992, managed by Mr. Fuji. He’s part of the Anoa’i family. The Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika were his uncles, Rocky, Rikishi, Umaga, Samu, Manu and Rosie, his cousins. When we talk about great wrestling families the Anoa’i family never seems to get mentioned, other than in connection to Rocky. This makes no sense to me. The family name is being continued in the WWE with Jimmy and Jey. Yokozuna’s career took off after he won the Royal Rumble where he’d been a favorite going into the match. Yokozuna quickly became a monstrous heel as he attacked ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan and hit him with four Banzai Drops. For the last one Yokozuna actually draped the American flag over Duggan! I’m blown away at how times have changed. Yokozuna went on to face Bret Hart for the WWF Championship at WrestleManiaXI. Hart had Yokozuna beat until Mr. Fugi threw salt into Hart’s eyes. This blinded Hart so Yokozuna could get the pin. Hogan came out and an impromptu match was made. This time Mr. Fuji accidentally threw the sat in Yokozuna’s eyes and Hogan got the win and the WWF Championship. By King of The Ring, June 13, 1993, Yokozuna was up to 580lbs! Yokozuna went after Hogan’s WWF Championship and won it through dirty dealings – a eruption of fire in Hogan’s face.
For the 4th of July Yokozuna threw a Bodyslam Competition on the USS Intrepid. No one was able to slam Yokozuna, but then a helicopter flew in with Lex Luger. Luger was able to slam Yokozuna. Of course, to be difficult, announcer Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan declared it to be a hip toss, not a bodyslam, but it was upheld and Luger became the #1 contender. The faced off at SummerSlam. Yokozuna was taken out by a clothesline from Luger with the arm that had a ‘metal plate’ in it. The ‘metal plate’ went along with Luger’s history of having a motorcycle accident and needing the plate inserted. While Luger was supposed to wear padding on his arm to protect his opponents, it was ripped off during the match. Yokozuna took the clothesline and ended up outside the ring and was ‘knocked out.’ Yokozuna won via Countout and retained the Title. And we complain about farfetched storylines now!
At Survivor Series Luger’s team The All-Americans defeated Yokozuna’s team The Foreign Fanatics. During this match Yokozuna and Taker faced off. Taker sat up after a Banzai Drop as if it was nothing. They ended up fighting outside the ring and both ended up being counted out. Yokozuna and Taker had a Casket Match at the 1994 Royal Rumble. While Taker looked to be winning, Mr. Fuji called out a large group of heels and Taker was overpowered. Taker lost the match after he was closed in the casket – but it took a lot of work by the group, including damaging Taker’s urn that holds his ‘magic.’
Yokozuna continued to have a solid career in the WWF, but his weight kept rising. He managed to drop 100lbs, but was unable to pass the New York State Athletic Commission’s physical and was released from the WWF in 1998. Yokozuna admitted that he wanted to gain more weight with his goal being between 850 and 900lbs. He went on to work some independent dates, but on October 23, 2000 Yokozuna was found dead in his hotel room in Liverpool, England. He had died from fluid in his lungs and weighed 680lbs. A lot of people thought he had died of a heart attack or heart failure, but that was not the way it was. Yokozuna was an imposing man who struck quite a figure in the ring. He was a big part of the WWF while he was there by being in some fantastic feuds and storylines with many of the biggest stars of the time.
Thanks for reading,