A number of fans have been questioning whether Rikishi really should be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, did he really do enough to be in there? Even before I did my research, before I started watching the WWE Network and seeing so much of Rikishi's career, I knew the answer to that was yes. It's not because of the family he comes from, but for the work he did on his own after being afforded a chance, because of that family name.
Solofa Fatu Jr. was born into the famous Anoa'i family. His wrestling career started in Canada, but that didn't last long the and he moved on to World Class Championship Wrestling as one half of The Samoan Swat Team with his cousin Samu. When they moved to the NWA, they were managed by Paul E. Dangerously who was soon replaced by Oliver Humperdink. Through 1989 they worked with some of the most noted tag teams in the world; The Midnight Express, Road Warriors, Fabulous Freebirds, Dynamic Dudes (Shane Douglas & Johnny Ace). By 1990 their time with NWA ended and they were back in the indies.
In 1992 Samu and Fatu joined the WWE and were renamed The Headshrinkers, and they were managed by Afa. Soon after debuting they were off to a great start and a serious push, beating High Energy at Survivor Series just months after their debut. They went on to feud with more great teams; The Steiner Brothers, The Smoking Gunns, The Natural Disasters, Men On A Mission, and the team of Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka.
By 1995 Rikishi struck out on his own as a singles competitor. Briefly he was showing videos of the slums he came from, parading around in bright patchwork leather pants and jackets that were the style of the time, and talking about making a difference. He explained that the scar on his stomach was from a drive by shooting that left him clinically dead for three minutes, and did all he could to be uplifting and genuine. Sadly this character didn't last long, and he moved on to playing The Sultan. He was masked and never spoke because his tongue was cut out. He was managed by The Iron Sheik and Bob Backlund. Other than losing to Rocky Maivia at WrestleMania 13 where Rikishi challenged for the IC Title, the character went nowhere. He disappeared from in 1998 and went to The Funk Conservatory for more training and to be repackaged.
Rikishi returned on November 13, 1999 as Rikishi Fatu, which was changed to Phatu – as was typical for that time – and then completely dropped. Rikishi is the Japanese term for sumo wrestler, so the WWE was continuing in the same vein as when they named Yokozuna, which is the highest rank in sumo. Not only had Rikishi gained weight before his return, but he'd also bleached his hair blond, a look he's stuck with to this day. Within a month Rikishi was aligned with Grandmaster Sexay and Scotty Too Hotty to form Too Cool. Between their variety of skills between the three of them, creative ring work, humor, and dancing, the fans were quite receptive to the group, and behind them from the start. After a bit it seemed as though the dancing and antics became more important than the ring work, but that happens when the fans are drawn to a specific aspect of a character or group.
Among other titles outside the WWE, mostly tag, Rikishi held the Intercontinental Championship once, and the WWE Tag Team Titles with Samu, Rico, and Scotty Too Hotty. He participated in a King of The Ring, losing to Kurt Angle; was in a 6 Man Hell In A Cell Match for the WWE Championship with Kurt Angle, Triple H, The Undertaker, The Rock, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Rikishi ended up flying off the top of the top of the cage to land in the back of a hay filled truck below.
While all those events were very important to his career, I believe that along with his dancing, Rikishi will be remembered for two other major features of his career. One not the best to be remembered for, perhaps, the other a huge part in a major storyline.
Stone Cold Steve Austin was not able to compete in the Triple Threat Match Match against The Rock and Triple H at the 1999 Survivor Series. To get Austin out of the match, they scripted him to be run down by a car. After much misdirection, many questions and finger pointing, it came out that it was Rikishi who had been driving the car that night, and he ran Austin down for his cousin, The Rock. Rikishi's reasoning was that so many Samoan wrestlers had been held back – Peter Maivia, Jimmy Snuka, Samu Yokozuna, The Rock, and Rikishi himself – while white wrestlers – Buddy Rogers, Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, Hulk Hogan, and Austin 'The Great White Hope' – had been pushed above them. Austin, upon his return from the neck surgery that had actually put him out of action, set out to get his revenge against Rikishi. They faced off at No Holds Barred in a No DQ Match where Austin beat the hell out of Rikishi, but was stopped before he ran Rikishi down with his pickup truck. In the end it turned out that Trip was behind it all.
On the other hand Rikishi will always be remembered for, which is not the best thing, is for his ass and his famous stink-face move. While Rikishi can take one of the best clotheslines I've ever seen, flipping through the air like he's a cruierweight, and has a deep sexy voice on mic, it always comes down to his ass and the face that it's going into. Now, I fully admit that I've cheered certain stink-faces through the years. The very first stink-face was in Mobile, Alabama, and it was on Big Boss Man. Since then some of the best have taken that move – Stephanie McMahon, Paul Heyman, Eddie Guerrero, Trish Stratus, and Eric Bischoff.. Rikishi admits to farting on certain people in the process, including, but not limited to Road Dogg, Booker T, Lance Storm, Torrie Wilson, and Vince McMahon.
While Rikishi did much, and had a lot of great matches, storylines and moments in the WWE, on July 16, 2004 Rikishi was released from his contract after numerous attempts to get him to trim his weight. Even though Rikishi is no longer working the ring, he has given so much to the WWE and the WWE 'Universe' as a whole. Watching Rikishi's work on the WWE Network has reminded me just how great Rikishi was in his heyday. He was a big man who took risks, he moved better than anyone else his size, and he added so much fun and entertainment to everything he did. On top of that, Rikishi has given us those beautiful twin sons of his that work as Jimmy and Jey Uso. They are wonderful wrestlers who are still young, but have proven so much in short time they've been in the WWE. They are part of Rikishi, and they're all part of the Anoa'i that has added so much to the wrestling industry as a whole. Personally, I'm excited to see his sons induct Rikishi into the WWE Hall of Fame the night before WrestleMania 31.
Queen of WNW