Born as Rodney Agatupu Anoa’i to the legendary Anoa’i wrestling clan and best known as Yokozuna, Rodney was an accomplished WWF Wrestler. His name referred to the most prestigious status in sumo wrestling, which has always remained widely popular in Japan. Despite this, Yokozuna never actually competed in official sumo wrestling. Despite being born in Samoa to a Samoan lineage, he has claimed to be from various places including Polynesia and Japan. Read on more to find out about Yokozuna and his accolades in the WWF, and his tragic death.
Yokozuna Before the WWF
Yokozuna, being born to the Anoa’i family, was destined to become a wrestler. With a lineage including wrestlers like Roman Reigns, The Rock, The Wild Samoans, both of The Uso twins, Sika, and many more, it was coded into Yokozuna’s blood. He spent his developmental years involved in the business, both learning the front and back end of it – he would serve as a stagehand and set the ring up and tear the ring down. His first major break came when he was billed as Kokina Maximus and wrestled in the American Wrestling Association, or AWA. Not long after, Yokozuna would be offered a contract to sign with the WWF, where his legacy would truly begin. In only five short years, Yokozuna signed a contract with the WWF in 1991.
Yokozuna in WWF
On October 31, 1992, Yokozuna made his official WWE debut with Japanese manager “Mr Fuji.” Prior to this point, Yokozuna had never taken on his official name as ‘Yokozuna,’ so the sumo wrestler gimmick was not yet in full effect. He was a dominating force, and eventually, he entered into the 1993 WWE Royal Rumble match. He would go on to win that year’s Royal Rumble, and cemented his status as a major player in the storyline of WWE.
He would go on to challenge Bret Hart during Wrestlemania 9 for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. In a change of character from mostly good guy to now bad guy, Yokozuna’s manager, Mr. Fuji, would throw salt in Bret Hart’s face as he had Yokozuna locked in a submission. Because of this, Yokozuna would win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.
Lex Luger, who would eventually become famous in WWF’s competitor World Championship Wrestling, or WCW, then became the primary contender against Yokozuna. Yokozuna, now acting as a bad guy, would win by disqualifying himself intentionally via countout. Lex Luger and Yokozuna would continue to fight up until WWE’s alliance-based pay-per-view Survivor Series, where each would pick their own team. During this event, The Undertaker became Yokozuna’s new nemesis.
The Undertaker and Yokozuna would feud for some time, and their rivalry eventually lead into a “Casket Match,” where the goal of the match is to shove your opponent into a casket for the win. Yokozuna, still paired with Mr. Fuji, would rely on many other bad guy wrestlers to come out and shove The Undertaker into the casket, which would see Yokozuna as the winner and The Undertaker vanishing from television for some time to recuperate from real injuries.
Lex Luger would return as the primary contender for Yokozuna’s WWF Heavyweight Championship, which had been for more than half a year at this point. Lex Luger and Bret Hart would simultaneously eliminate each other in the 1994 Royal Rumble match, which would lead to the decision that the two would go on to main event Wrestlemania 10 and face Yokozuna in a three way match for his WWF World Heavyweight Championship. Yokozuna would actually face both wrestlers in two matches; through a coin flip, Lex Luger won the first match, but would lose to Yokozuna. Bret Hart would win the second match via pinfall, ending Yokozuna’s first astonishing reign at 280 days.
Unfortunately for Yokozuna, he would soon fade to the background of the WWE and flounder without much aim. He would team with other wrestlers and challenged fellow wrestler Earthquake to a sumo match, which he would proceed to win. Yokozuna also lost a match that was held at King of the Ring 1994 for the WWF Tag Team Championship. The Undertaker would also return from his mysterious vanishing at their Casket Match in the 1994 Royal Rumble, which would write Yokozuna off television for some time to heal from his own wounds. After all, he weighed more than 600 pounds, so he needed plenty of time to heal his body from the taxing work of the WWE.
Yokozuna would return at Wrestlemania 11 as Owen Hart’s partner, challenging Billy and Bart, known as the tag team The Smoking Gunns, for the WWF Tag Team Championship. Owen and Yokozuna would be successful, holding the championship for numerous months. Yokozuna then became a side character and served as an enforcer for a match against Shawn Michaels and Diesel, better known as Kevin Nash, teaming up with Davey Boy Smith. Owen Hart and Yokozuna would go on to win the titles twice; their second reign only consisted of a few hours, as they lost the titles to The Smoking Gunnsa few matches after they won them
Yokozuna’s title shots would come to an end, and he was relegated as a typical “big hoss” wrestler that served as a gatekeeper for upcoming talent to overcome. Yokozuna would go on to face then WWF World Heavyweight Champion Shawn Michaels in a match, but would lose that match. The 1996 Survivor Series match would be Yokozuna’s final WWF appearance, which finished anticlimactically – all wrestlers involved would lose the match due to Yokozuna’s interference. Yokozuna had been feuding with Vader for months and this feud continued into his very last appearance. Yokozuna would go onto weigh nearly 650 pounds at this point, and could not lose enough weight to make the WWF Health and Wellness officials happy. As a result, Yokozuna failed a physical and would not be cleared for competition by the WWF. In 1999, he would be released from the WWF.
What’s Yokozuna Doing Now in 2018- Recent Updates
After his release from the WWF, Yokozuna found work on the independent circuit of wrestling promotions. The last-ever recorded appearance of Yokozuna was at the Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view, in October of 1999. In this appearance, he weighed more than 760 pounds and admitted that his goal was to reach between 850 and 900 pounds so he could be recorded as history’s heaviest professional wrestler.
This goal would ultimately lead to Yokozuna’s death; in October of 2000, Yokozuna passed away from a pulmonary edema due to fluids being blocked and building up in his lungs. He had lost an astonishing 200 pounds, weighing in at 565 pounds. Yokozuna would go on to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame posthumously by his family members, the Uso twins and Rikishi. Overall, Yokozuna was a two-time WWF World Heavyweight Champion and the winner of Royal Rumble – not a bad resume for a wrestler that existed for a short period of time in the WWF.