When you think about the greatest families in sports, you usually think of the Hulls in hockey, the Matthews in football, and the Barrys in basketball. They all have multi-generational stars who have excelled on the grandest of stages. When you think about the greatest families in wrestling, most likely think of the Harts. With all due respect to Stu, Bret, Owen and company; there is no greater wrestling family than the legendary Anoa’i Family.
The Anoa’i Family has produced five generations (and counting) of wrestlers. It started over 60 years ago when “High Chief” Peter Maivia became a Blood Brother of Amituana Anoa’i who is the father of the Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika. Over the past six decades it has produced some of the biggest names in the wrestling world including Roman Reigns, Yokozuna, Rikishi, and of course, The Rock.
However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for this family and they’ve had their fair share of problems over the years. Arrests, overdoses, untimely deaths, and even murder have occurred within the family circle. The WWE has always tried their best to only glorify the positives but they can’t hide everything from the public. We will reveal those deep, dark secrets that have plagued the family as we present the top 15 things WWE wants you to forget about the Anoa’i Family.
15 The WWE Stereotyped The Family As Savages
The list of Anoa’i wrestlers that the WWE characterized as undomesticated savages is almost as long as the list of Anoa’i wrestlers, themselves. The Wild Samoans were billed as a couple of beasts plucked straight from the jungle. They communicated through grunts instead of words and ate raw fish during interviews. Then came the Headshrinkers who were just as uncivilized and pulled each other by the hair. They infamously bit into a turkey carcass during a pre-match segment at a Survivor Series.
Apparently that wasn’t enough for WWE as they then unveiled Umaga who was a chip off the old block of both the Wild Samoans and the Headshrinkers. He was an uncontrollable brute who could only be reined in by his manager, Armando Alejandro Estrada. It wasn’t until The Rock’s success that WWE saw that Samoan wrestlers could be something other than crazy savages.
14 Manu (Afa’s Son) Was Fired From WWE Because Of His Attitude
If you recall, The Legacy used to consist of more than Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase Jr., and Cody Rhodes as Afa’s son, Manu, was also in the stable. Manu would be kicked out of Legacy in January 2009 and then released from WWE a month later. Randy Orton then buried Manu following his release by saying he had respect issues backstage and didn’t pay his dues. Orton also said Manu was lazy and didn’t apply himself in the gym or when it comes to dieting. Orton is known to shoot from the hip but Cody Rhodes also had the same sentiments on Manu and said he was simply living off his father’s name and wasn’t willing to put in the hard work. Since being released in 2009, Manu has returned to the independent scene.
13 Rikishi Was Released From WWE After Gaining Too Much Weight
If you compare Fatu from his Headshrinker days to his run as Rikishi, you will notice two differences: bleached blond hair and about a 100 lb weight gain. Rikishi had a five year run in WWE and was about as over as a mid-card wrestler can get. Who doesn’t like to see a fat guy dance? The thong and the stinkface fit perfectly into the Attitude Era of the WWE. But the WWE also felt that Rikishi was a little too big and repeatedly asked him to lose weight. He was over 400 pounds at this point and by mid-2004, the company had grown tired of Rikishi not complying with their weight loss request.
He would be released during July 2004 which ended his 12-year run with the company. He has since made various appearances in WWE including ones with his former partners, Too Cool, and with his sons, The Usos.
12 The Rock Had Liposuction On His Pecs
Remember that period in the late 1990s when The Rock seemed to only appear on WWE television in track suits and Hawaiian shirts? Well, it wasn’t because The Rock was channeling his inner-Al Davis or anything; it was because he had undergone gynecomastia surgery on his chest. In other words, he had liposuction on his chest to get rid of his man boobs. The WWE pushed for the surgery to increase the aesthetic look of one of its biggest stars and The Rock agreed to have some of his “Samoan baby fat” removed. He reportedly underwent another procedure in 2005 as he was shifting from pro wrestler to movie star as no one wanted to see Dwayne Johnson with bigger boobs than his female co-stars. To The Rock's credit, he has been open about undergoing the surgery, saying “It was an aesthetic thing. I went in and showed the doctor, and he said, ‘Are you crazy?’ I was walking around with my shirt off all the time, so I had it done.”
11 Tamina Has Never Won A WWE Title
It’s hard to believe, but Tamina has been with WWE since 2010. Among women wrestlers, only Natalya and Alicia Fox have had longer continuous runs in WWE. Yet over the last seven years, Tamina has never tasted gold by winning a championship. Not a RAW Women’s title, not a SmackDown Women’s title, not even a Divas championship. Even the Queen Jobber Alicia Fox has claimed a championship. I know that Tamina may not have the “look” that WWE prefers for its women’s wrestlers, but she can definitely hold her own in the ring, unlike some other women’s wrestlers we've seen since 2010. I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised at Tamina’s lack of gold as the WWE never even put a title around the waist of Tamina’s father, “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka.
10 Jimmy Snuka Never Won A WWE Title
Speaking of Superfly, he is related to the Anoa’i Family through marriage as his second wife was the daughter of Peter Maivia and The Rock often referred to Snuka as his uncle. Snuka spent nearly 10 years with the WWE during the 1980s and early 90s and was one of the most hated heels and popular faces. But apparently he was never popular enough as the company never put a single title around the waist of Superfly. Yes, Snuka’s tenure ran parallel to Hulk Hogan’s, but Snuka couldn’t even get the Intercontinental Championship or the Tag Team Titles. The WWE thought enough of Snuka to induct him into their Hall of Fame but not enough to give him a run as a champion?
9 Roman Reigns Was Suspended For Violating WWE’s Wellness Policy
In the summer of 2016, Roman Reigns was at an all-time high. Even with the WWE Universe not completely backing him, the WWE, itself, certainly did as Reigns became the Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania 32. He even was given the Hogan treatment as even when he did lose, it was never cleanly. But that all came crashing down in June when Reigns failed a drug test and violated WWE’s Wellness Policy. WWE knew of the violation before that month’s PPV, Money in the Bank, and thus, they forced Reigns to drop the title in the first clean loss of his career. This suspension only added more fuel to the fire of the WWE Universe who has never bought into Reigns from the beginning. Reigns is still trying to get back into good graces as he has yet to hold the WWE Championship or Universal Championship since the suspension ended, although he did just main event WrestleMania against The Undertaker.
8 Rikishi’s Early Gimmicks In The WWE
When Rikishi debuted in the WWE, he was one-half of the Headshrinkers and known by his actual surname, Fatu. When he left the WWE, he was the thong-wearing, stinkface-assassin known as Rikishi. In between those two gimmicks, Fatu/Rikishi portrayed a couple of forgettable characters. After The Headshrinkers disbanded, Fatu had this “Make a difference” gimmick that didn’t do well. He spoke about the struggles he had in life and how he wanted to help the community but that gimmick would only last one year before he was repackaged into The Sultan.
This gimmick was also forgettable and the only memorable moment was when he faced his cousin, Rocky Maivia, in The Rock’s WrestleMania debut at WrestleMania 13. The Sultan also lasted about one year before Fatu was released from WWE which paved the way for his return as Rikishi.
7 The WWE Portrayed Rodney Anoa’i AKA Yokozuna As Japanese
It’s one thing for the WWE to stereotype Samoans as savages but it’s another to portray a Samoan American as a Japenese wrestler. Rodney Anoa’i was the nephew of Afa and Sika and also a first cousin to Rikishi and Roman Reigns. Rodney was from San Francisco but when he joined the WWE he was billed as a Japanese sumo wrestler named Yokozuna. Accompanied to the ring by Mr. Fuji and a Japanese flag, the WWE did their best to convince the fans that Yokozuna was really Japanese and made no mention of his Samoan heritage or relatives. It wasn’t until Yokozuna was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Rikishi and the Usos did the WWE finally acknowledge he was a member of the Anoa’i Family.
6 Gary Albright Died In The Ring
Albright has links to arguably the two greatest wrestling families as he trained with the Hart Family in Stampede Wrestling and he married the daughter of Afa Anoa’i. A wrestling journeyman, Albright never reached the big stages of the WWE or WCW, but he did spend four years in All Japan Pro Wrestling. After leaving AJPW, Albright wrestled in the independent scene and his last match came just outside of Philadelphia in 2000. While wrestling at an event promoted by Afa, Albright took a diamond cutter/RKO, collapsed to the canvas, and never got up. Other wrestlers and ring crew rushed to the ring to try to resuscitate him with CPR but they were unsuccessful in doing so as Albright would be pronounced dead shortly after being removed from the ring.
5 Jimmy Uso Was Arrested For A DUI
The Usos are a part of the 4th generation of the Anoa’i Family and are the twin sons of Rikishi. In 2011, Jimmy (AKA the one married to Naomi) was popped for driving under the influence of alcohol in Tampa. He was driving the wrong way on a one-way street at 3 AM and was pulled over. After taking a breathalyzer, his blood alcohol level was .180 which is over twice the legal limit in Florida. Even though the WWE didn’t suspend him for this, The Usos tag team was essentially demoted after the arrest. The Usos went from challenging for the WWE Tag Team Titles on SmackDown to wrestling on NXT the week after Jimmy was arrested.
While still on probation from this arrest, Jimmy would then be arrested again two years later for driving on a suspended license. If The Usos ever do split up, we know which one won’t be pushed as a singles competitor.
4 The Rock Became A Bigger Star After Leaving WWE
If you created a Mount Rushmore of the most popular WWE wrestlers ever, The Rock would surely be one of the four faces. But even with the great success The Great One had in the ring, he has been even more successful outside of the ring. Can you say that about any other wrestler? Hogan, Austin, Cena, etc. have all crossed over to the mainstream public, but still, their success is tied to wrestling. What The Rock has done as a Hollywood leading man has eclipsed everything he did in a WWE ring. That must be a tough pill to swallow for Vince McMahon who, reportedly, is always quick to point out the lack of success his wrestlers have after leaving WWE. The Rock’s star power has grown exponentially since becoming a full-time actor and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.
3 WWE Made Yokozuna Gain Weight Which May Have Led To His Death
Before Yokozuna signed with WWE he was known as Kokina Maximus in the AWA and weighed in at around 400 pounds. But the WWE envisioned him as this great sumo wrestler and in order to play the role of Yokozuna, he had to gain weight. When he first debuted in WWE, Yokozuna wasn’t the size that Vince McMahon wanted him to be so he actually padded his wrestling trunks to make him appear even bigger. The WWE encouraged Yokozuna to gain weight and his listed weight would balloon from 505 pounds to 550 pounds to 641 pounds before finally topping out at 660 pounds in 1996.
By that time he couldn’t pass a physical required for pro wrestlers and was released from WWE. Even though he would lose 80 pounds, Yokozuna died from a pulmonary edema in 2000. It was never confirmed that his weight is what cause him to die, it’s pretty evident that being that size certainly didn’t help him.
2 The Rock Is Not Related By Blood To The Anoa’i Family
As much as the WWE constantly reminds us that The Rock is cousins with Roman Reigns, The Usos, and the rest of the Anoa’i Family; it’s well-known that the Maivias are not blood relatives to the Anoa’i Family. High Chief Peter Maivia (The Rock’s grandfather) is regarded as a “blood brother” to Amituana Anoa’i (the father of the Wild Samoans) but is not actually related to him by blood. Referring to someone as a blood brother is common in Samoan culture and is accepted in society as being an actual brother even though they aren’t really related. That means not only is The Rock not really an Anoa’i, but the Snukas aren’t related to the Anoa’i Family either. The Rock and Roman Reigns share as much blood as do The Undertaker and Kane.
1 Jimmy Snuka Allegedly Killed His Girlfriend
In 1983 Snuka’s 23-year-old girlfriend was found dead in a hotel room in which Snuka was the only other occupant. She died of traumatic brain injuries and had cuts and bruises all over her body. The coroner immediately suspected foul play and Snuka was the only suspect. However, after Snuka and Vince McMahon met with the assistant DA, no charges were pressed at the time and the case was left open. Some 32 years later in 2015, Snuka was finally arrested and charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. Snuka pleaded not guilty and his attorneys said that the then-73-year-old’s mental and physical health was deteriorating. A judge eventually dismissed charges in 2017 after saying Snuka was not mentally fit enough to stand trial. Two weeks later Superfly Jimmy Snuka would succumb to terminal cancer.