Rodney Anoai

From Academic Kids

Rodney Anoai (October 2, 1966October 23, 2000) was an American professional wrestler, most commonly known as Yokozuna.

The term Yokozuna refers to the highest rank in professional sumo wrestling in Japan. Although the "Yokozuna" character was portrayed as Japanese, Anoai was of Samoan origin and had never competed as an actual sumotori.



Anoai's career in professional wrestling began as he grew up, in a family full of wrestlers. His uncles were the Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika, who trained him at an early age in the family business. Anoia took on the name of the Great Kokina while wrestling overseas in Japan. He also spent some time in Mexico, learning the craft, and gaining the experience necessary to be a star in the sport. His first major exposure in the United States came out of the AWA as Kokina Maximus. He was managed by Sheik Adnan El Kassey, wrestling as a Samoan superstar. At the time, he weighed less than 400 pounds, making him a lean wrestling machine. Unfortunately, Kokina Maximus never was a great success in the AWA, and when it closed, he once again left America to wrestle overseas.

In 1992, Anoai was contacted by Vince McMahon and the then-World Wrestling Federation and was offered a chance to create a new character: Yokozuna. Managed by the legendary Mr. Fuji, Yokozuna was announced as a sumo wrestler from Japan. He wore extra padding in his trunks at first, to show off his bulk, as he worked to gain the weight required for the role. His first PPV victory came at the Survivor Series, when he squashed the much-smaller Virgil. Soon, Yokozuna's career took off, as he headed into the Royal Rumble in 1993 as a potential favorite. He eliminated "Macho Man" Randy Savage to win the Rumble, announcing his movement towards main event status.

At WrestleMania IX, Yokozuna faced off against Bret "The Hitman" Hart, for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. During the match, Hart seemed to be in control until Mr. Fuji threw salt into the champion's face. Hart, blinded, was then taken out by Yokozuna, who shockingly won the World Title. As he and Mr. Fuji celebrated, Hulk Hogan came out from the back to protest the decision. Mr. Fuji then arrogantly challenged the Hulkster, and Hogan accepted, quickly defeating Yokozuna in less than a minute to take the belt away. This gave Yokozuna one of the shortest title reigns in the WWF's history.

Yokozuna and Hogan continued to feud for the next few months, leading up to the first King of the Ring pay-per-view. Once again, Hogan seemed to be in control. But once again, the champion underestimated the deceitful tactics of Mr. Fuji. A Japanese photographer (actually manager Harvey Wippleman in disguise), planted at ringside by the group, aimed at the Hulkster and pressed the button, shooting a blast of fire into his face. This allowed Yokozuna to take Hogan out and reclaim the World Title, in what could be considered his greatest victory ever. Soon after, the Hulkster left the WWF to "find his smile", which Yokozuna took to mean that he had killed Hulkamania. To celebrate, he held a "Bodyslam Competition" aboard the USS Intrepid on Independence Day. Many wrestlers and athletes alike tried to slam Yokozuna, with no success. Just as Yokozuna was thinking that there would be none to challenge him, however, Lex Luger stepped forward, picked him up, and slammed him on the deck, showing great strength. This made Luger the next major challenger to Yokozuna's title reign.

At SummerSlam '93, Yokozuna and the newly-reborn patriot Luger fought it out for the World Title. Luger took control late in the match, scoring on Yokozuna with a flying forearm. Luger had long been said to have had metal plates put into his arm, making it a formidable weapon. Yokozuna was knocked out of the ring, unconscious, and lost via countout. Unfortunately for Luger, the title did not change hands. But it made it seem like Luger had a chance against the humongous foe. They continued to feud up to the Survivor Series, where each chose a team of allies for an elimination match. Yokozuna chose the Quebecers and Ludvig Borga, to form an international team of wrestlers that hated America. Luger brought in true Americans in the undefeated Tatanka and the Steiner Brothers. These teams would change soon, though, as Yokozuna and Ludwig Borga attacked Tatanka during a match, both ending his winning streak and injuring his ribs from a Banzai Splash. Luger then put one of the Quebecers, Pierre, out of commission with his flying forearm. Both teams found a replacement, as Crush joined Yokozuna's team, while The Undertaker surprisingly sided with Luger.

The Foreign Fanatics and the All-Americans met up at the Survivor Series ready for war. The first to fall was Rick Steiner, who was beaten by Ludwig Borga. The Foreign Fanatics soon took a harsh blow, though, as Crush was counted out, due to being distracted by his rival at the time, "Macho Man" Randy Savage. A few minutes later, things got worse for Yokozuna's team, as Luger eliminated Jacques Rougeau. This forced Yokozuna to take a more active role, as he came in and managed to take out Scott Steiner. Yokozuna & Borga then punished Luger for a time, before Luger was able to make the tag to The Dead Man, The Undertaker. Both Yokozuna & Borga seemed to be overwhelmed by the Undertaker's power, as he managed to sit up from a Banzai Splash. For the first time in his career, Yokozuna looked terrified. The fight went to the outside, with Yokozuna throwing everything he could at the Undertaker, yet not fazing him. Both men were counted out, leaving it up to Borga and Luger, who used his flying forearm for the victory.

The actions of this match led to a feud between Yokozuna and the Undertaker, where the sumo champion seemed to be completely overmatched. He eventually was forced to accept a Casket Match with The Undertaker at the 1994 Royal Rumble, where all the odds looked to be in the Undertaker's favor. However, after a lengthy match, Mr. Fuji called out the troops, bringing a dozen wrestlers out to attack The Undertaker along with Yokozuna. After a lot of struggle (as well as damaging The Undertaker's "magic" urn), the group managed to shove The Undertaker into the casket, giving the win to Yokozuna. As they celebrated afterwards, however, a mysterious figure appeared on the Titantron, looking like The Undertaker inside the casket. He opened his eyes and talked about how The Undertaker would not rest in peace, then disappeared in a fireworks show, rising to the top of the Titantron and vanishing. It was, to say the least, one of the most 'spiritual' endings to a match in WWF history. This angle was used to allow The Undertaker, to rest for several months to recover from lingering real-life injuries.

Going into WrestleMania X, having dealt with The Undertaker, Yokozuna seemed more confident than ever in himself. He continued his long-running feud with Lex Luger, facing off against him once more at the pay-per-view. Thanks in part to Mr. Perfect being the special guest referee, Yokozuna won, via DQ, over Luger. However, later in the night, Yokozuna was forced to defend the World Title again, this time against the former champion, Bret "The Hitman" Hart. With "Rowdy" Roddy Piper stepping in as the special referee, Yokozuna had little chance for victory. Hart got the pinfall victory, finally taking the World Title away from the long-running champion. The real-life backstory behind Yokozuna's WrestleMania X matches is particularly interesting. Luger was originally booked to win the title at WrestleMania; in fact, WWF had already recorded a promo featuring Luger with the title to air the night after WrestleMania on Monday Night RAW. However, a few nights before the event, an intoxicated Luger revealed the booking at a bar. A sportswriter who was at the bar and overheard Luger proceeded to write a story which revealed the title switch. The WWF immediately changed the booking as a punishment to Luger for his indiscretion.

Yokozuna's main-event status soon began to fade away, as he never again fully challenged for the World Title. He began tagging briefly with Crush, another Mr. Fuji star, but they were unable to take the Tag-Team Titles away from the Headshrinkers. In May 1994, in a Monday Night Raw episode, Yokozuna was challenged by Earthquake to an actual sumo match. Many people (including his handlers) expected Yokozuna to win, but Earthquake had been an actual sumotori and an amateur wrestler, and he would not be denied. On May 16, 1994, Earthquake beat Yokozuna in a (worked) sumo match that was not repeated until recently between Big Show against an actual yokozuna, Akebono.

Yokozuna then had to deal with the 'rebirth' of the Undertaker, who immediately came after the foe that had taken him out of action. The two met in another Casket match at the 1994 Survivor Series, this time with actor/karate expert Chuck Norris as the special referee, to keep the other wrestlers away from ringside. Without their help, Yokozuna could not win, and eventually ended up locked inside the casket. This was Yokozuna's last hurrah in the WWF for a time, as he wrestled only briefly on the mid-card before taking some time off.

In April '95, Owen Hart began promising that he would have a great tag-team partner to face off against the Smoking Gunns at Wrestlemania XI for the WWF Tag-Team Titles. At the event, Yokozuna became known as his partner, and the surprisingly-diverse tag-team managed to take out the Gunns and take away the gold. The two would remain a tough tag-team for a few months, defending against teams like the Allied Powers (Luger & Davey Boy Smith), the Smoking Gunns and others. Still, by this point it was obvious that Yokozuna was no longer in great shape, having gained too much weight. Hart carried the team, much like Haku carried the Colossal Connection when André the Giant was faltering. In September '95, Yokozuna teamed up with Davey Boy Smith to take on Shawn Michaels and Diesel, with the belts on the line. During the match, Owen Hart came to the ring, only to be pinned by Diesel. The next day, due to protests from the team, President Gorilla Monsoon reluctantly returned the belts to Yokozuna & Hart, since Hart was not an official part of the match. Unfortunately for the team, their second reign was much shorter, as the Smoking Gunns defeated them that night for the belts. This put an end to the team, with both going their separate ways.

Yokozuna would have very little more success in the WWF. He competed in the 1996 Royal Rumble, managing to eliminate three wrestlers (Bob Backlund, King Mabel and Swat Team member #2) before being tossed by Shawn Michaels, the eventual winner. Soon after, Yokozuna dropped Jim Cornette and Mr. Fuji and began a short face stint, speaking English to the fans and challenging newcomer Vader to numerous matches. The feud took a painful turn a few months later, when Vader jumped on Yokozuna's leg, supposedly breaking it. A forklift had to come down to ringside to lift Yokozuna out, showing how his weight had gotten out of control. He took some time off to slim down, then reappeared at a taping just before Summerslam '96, facing off against a relative newcomer in Stone Cold Steve Austin. Yokozuna took the advantage near the end of the match, but when he went for the Banzai Splash, the rope broke, sending him crashing back down. Austin then got the easy victory, stabbing another knife into Yokozuna's career. He would appear at one more WWF pay-per-view, still going after Vader in the Survivor Series, but that match ended with all remaining wrestlers being disqualified, a very strange ending.

Yokozuna stayed on the WWF roster for a while afterwards, as he worked to lose the weight that he had put on. Despite dropping a reported 100 pounds, though, he still could not lose enough to satisfy the WWF officials. He was eventually released from the WWF, although rumors persisted for many years that he would be brought back if he lost enough weight. After his WWF career ended, he performed for various independent promotions. The last major appearance for Yokozuna was at October 1999's Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view, where he looked massively overweight compared to his WWF days. At the event, Yokozuna tagged with a very sluggish Jake 'the Snake' Roberts against the team of King Kong Bundy and Jim 'the Anvil' Neidhart. Anoai died of a massive heart attack while on a wrestling tour in England; his obesity was likely a major factor in his premature death.

Anoai was a member of the famous Anoa'i family, and was thus related to many other wrestlers including The Rock, Rikishi and Afa.


Finishing/Trademark moves

Titles and Accomplishments

  • Rodney won the PWI Most Improved Wrestler Award in 1993.
WWE Championship
Preceded by:
Bret Hart
First reign Followed by:
Hulk Hogan
Preceded by:
Hulk Hogan
Second reign Followed by:
Bret Hart




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