Wrestler Profile: Yokozuna

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Name: Rodney Anoa’i

Born:1966, died 2000 (Age 34)
Ring names: Great Kokina, Kokina Maximus, Mr. Sumo, Wild Samoan Kokina, Yokozuna (WWF)
Years: 1984-2000
Status: Deceased
Famous runs: WWF champion, managed by Mr. Fuji
One sentence career summary: A dominant monster whose weight became too much.
Brawling/Hardcore: Below average.
Aerial: Poor.
Technical: Poor.
Interview/Promo: Below average.
Announcing/Commentating: Poor.
Athleticism: Poor.
Stamina: Poor.
Power: Above average.
Ring Psychology: Below average.
Safety: Above average.
Looks: Poor.
Terror/Menace looks: Excellent.
Longevity: Below average.
Popularity: Average.
Titles: 2-Time WWF World Champion, 2-time WWF Tag Team Champion (with Owen Hart) , Royal Rumble winner
Notable feuds: Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart, Lex Luger, Undertaker
Gimmicks: Samoan Monster, Japanese Sumo Monster
Real Personality: Gentle giant, professional, big heart, who indulged with food, alcohol, and women
Awards: PWI Most Improved Wrestler of the Year, PWI Top 500’s Ranks: 143, 110, 5, 11, 32. Ranked #145 for wrestlers from 1979 to 2003.
Career Push: Upper Midcarder
History: Trained by his uncles Afa and Sika, and part of the famous Samoan wrestling family, he started off in Japan, and then Mexico. In the early 1990’s he was managed by Sheik Adnan El Kassey, during the end years of the AWA. As Kokina Maximus, he “broke” Greg Gagne’s leg and ended his career (storyline).
Because of his size and family connections, WWF kingpin Vince McMahon signed him and pushed him hard by giving his squash victories while giving him a Japanese sumo wrestler gimmick: Yokozuna (Grand Champion). Yokozuna was huge and got a heel megapush to superstardom. Managed by the Japanese flag waving Mr. Fuji, he won the 1993 Royal Rumble, and won a feud with the patriotic Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
At Wrestlemania 9, he defeated Bret Hart to win the WWF Championship (thanks to Mr. Fuji’s salt toss). Immediately after the match, Hulk Hogan quickly pinned Yokozuna in one of the low points of Hogan’s selfish career.
A few months later, Yokozuna regained the WWF Championship by beating Hogan at the 1993 King of the Ring, thanks to Mr. Fuji. After dropping the title, Hogan left the WWF for 9 years, and was never a centerpiece of the organization ever again. At the time, Yoko and Fuji claimed they were the ones to finally end Hulkamania.
Yokozuna’s next feud was with Lex Luger, who was being pushed as the next Hulk Hogan, even using his Real American gimmick. Luger made a suprise appearance by accepting Yokozuna’s bodyslam challenge at the USS Intrepid in New York. Because of Luger’s personality, he never won the belt, even with a mega face push and mainstream publicity. Jim Cornette took over as being Yokozuna’s spokesman/manager, while Mr. Fuji was more of a background character.
The Undertaker and Yokozuna had a major feud, and it looked like Yokozuna had met his match, but a stable of heels and Yokozuna laid the Undertaker to rest in a Casket Match at the 1994 Royal Rumble (Undertaker had to take some time off in real life due to injury).
At WrestleMania X in Madison Square Garden, Yokozuna defeated Lex Luger by disqualification to retain the WWF title, but lost to Bret Hart in the main event to lose it. Yokozuna held the title for 280 days as a heel champion, something extremely rare in WWF history.
Yokozuna’s momentum stalled a bit, as he no longer received title shots, and teamed with Mr. Fuji’s other wrestler, Crush, and he actually lost a sumo match to Earthquake on TV.
At Survivor Series 1994, The Undertaker returned, and…got revenge. Yoko took time off, and returned as Owen Hart’s secret tag team partner at WrestleMania XI, and beat the Smoking Gunns for the WWF Tag Team Title. This unusual team actually had a great run, winning matches against the Smoking Gunns and Allied Powers (Luger and Davey Boy Smith).
They lost the titles after 5-6 months in a weird match at In Your House 3, but were awarded the titles back the next night due to a rule technically. However, they lost the titles for the same night to the Smoking Gunns at Monday Night Raw. Yoko’s conditioning was extremely bad at this time.
At this point, Yoko was a mid-carder, and to add some momentum to his character, he actually turned good (along with Mr. Fuji!), broke away from Cornette and feued with Cornette’s new monster, Vader. Owen Hart, Vader, and Davey Boy Smith “broke” his leg.
Yoko was forced to take some time off to lose weight, and when he returned  he fought Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1996, and lost. The next night, WWF Champion Shawn Michaels beat the behemoth on RAW. His last WWF Pay-Per-View had he and Vader battle to a double disqualification. His weight got so out of control, that some state athletic commissions refused to allow him to wrestle. That caused Yokozuna to be released in 1998.
Yokozuna wrestled in the independent circuit in small towns, where state commissions didn’t give him a hard time in 1999-2000. He appeared on an ill-conceived and poorly rated Legends of Wrestling PPV in 1999, where he wrestled in a tag team match with a drunk Jake The Snake Roberts vs. a drugged Jim The Anvil Neidhart and old King Kong Bundy.
The end of his career…and life…came in 2000 in a Liverpool hotel when he had a heart attack at 34 years of age.
Conclusion: Yokozuna was the #1 heel during the dark ages of the WWF (post-Hulkamania, pre-Attitude Era), so he doesn’t get a lot of historical respect as he should. His size, dominance, and early push lead to a relatively long title reign. Although he was at the right place and the right time to get the title- and pin Hulk Hogan, he did a great job, and was underrated, as was his tag team reign with Owen Hart. Because of his poor conditioning, his push and momentum ended. Because of his midcard feuds and times off, he began to be forgotten, and unfortunately became a footnote in wrestling history. Amazing since he accomplished something no other big men from the 1980’s did- he won the WWF title, held it for a long time, and beat Hulk Hogan!
Please post any memories or comments here!
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One Response to “Wrestler Profile: Yokozuna”

  1. dailyskewwrestling Says:

    By the way, I always thought Yokozuna was made WWF champion in part because WCW had Big Van Vader as the monster champion in the early 1990’s. I always liked heels better than faces generally, so I really liked when Vader and Yoko were champs, just because it was a change of pace.

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