Too Cool Interview: Rikishi

Too Cool Interview Special

Rikishi is a member of the legendary Anoa’i family, his uncles are Afa and Sika who were the Wild Samoans. His brother was Eddie Fatu (Jamal / Umaga), whilst his cousins include Dwanye ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Yokozuna, Rosey and Roman Reigns. His sons Jonathan and Joshua also currently wrestle in the WWE as The Usos Jimmy and Jey.

The 49-year-old from San Francisco is one of the most entertaining wrestlers of all time and along with Brian Christopher and Scotty 2 Hotty formed Too Cool. He has also held a number of title during his career; three tag team titles and one Intercontinental title.

We caught up with Rikishi to talk about The Usos’, Rusev and who he enjoyed giving the Stink Face to the most plus much more.

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You grew up in the famous Anoa’i family, what was it like growing up with your uncles and cousins already in the industry and was wrestling something you were always destined for?

It was fun having so many wrestlers in our family, I actually broke into the business with my uncles Afa and Sika (Wild Samoans) and it was a kind of domino effect after that. Yokozuna then broke in, then you had Umaga and all the way through to the current crop today with Roman Reigns and Jimmy & Jey.

It was exciting, and I’m very blessed to have had those before me in the industry and that helped me out a lot. We have all learnt a lot from my uncles Afa, Sika and High Chief Peter Maivia. I was very blessed to be a part of the biggest family in wrestling history, the Samoan dynasty.

Being a part of the Anoa’i family, was there an added pressure to do well in the business?

Oh yeah, when you come in there and the time I broke in, I didn’t break in as a singles wrestler, I broke in as part of a tag team with my cousin Samula, we came in as the Samoan Swat Team and it was hard because everybody already knew who our uncles were. Straight off we had the pressure of were we as tough as they were or will be able to fill their shoes.

Being competitive and being trained by my uncles I thought I better go in there and steal the show or else. We had that type of pressure on us but I think we did well as the Samoan Swat Team and then becoming The Headshrinkers.

Who were some of the wrestlers you enjoyed watching whilst growing up?

I was always a big fan of my uncles Afa and Sika, Andre The Giant was another one of my favourites. As a kid back in the day everyone looked like they had their own image, they all looked like characters, you had never seen a big ol’ giant like Andre who weights 500lbs, then you see the Wild Samoans who looked like they had just come out of the jungle and would eat peoples heads off.

Then you had the likes of Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson, guys like Bruno Sammartino. I really enjoyed the concept of wrestling back in the day when everybody had their own character.

What was it like when you made your debut with WWE following in the footsteps of many of your family members?

That kind of happened by accident, I wasn’t even in the picture when WWE were talking about having a dark match. The original plan was supposed to be Yokozuna and The Great Samu but during that time a week before, Yokozuna’s leg got infected and he was held up in a hospital and my uncle had me go up there for the match because they didn’t want to miss an opportunity.

When I showed up Vince McMahon was like, thats not Rodney but thank god he stuck with me and gave me an opportunity.

You left WWE in 1998 to train with Dory Funk, what was that like and who were some of the other wrestlers there at the time?

When I left WWE in 1998 they didn’t have developmental they actually trained guys out of Stanford in the WWE warehouse. I remember clearly Kurt Angle was just starting there at the time, Dory Funk would train us along with Tom Prichard. I enjoyed training with Dory Funk, he brings a different type of style, I learnt how to do the upper cuts that he does so well.

I have much respect for the Funk family, they are so smart and respected in the business that I was all ears when I went there. When I was training there I was trying to get in shape at the same time and I would train with a large garbage bag on underneath my clothes. I would look at Kurt Angle and he was chiseled and in shape from being an amateur wrestler.

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When you returned to WWE in 1999 and teamed up with Brian Christopher and Scotty 2 Hotty, what was that like and what was your first reaction on being teamed up with those two guys?

I thought it was a weird mixture, you’ve got two white boys that are doing a hip-hop act and then you add this Samoan blonde,  that is 450lbs and is wearing a thong into the mix. The three of us together just looked entertaining, we were on Sunday Night Heat and they put us on there for two weeks and when we started to add the dancing into our routine, the crowd just loved it and we took off like sky rockets.

Usually when you are on Sunday Night Heat you’re on there for a while but we were there for two weeks and then we were on Raw and working our way up and the next thing you know we were part of the main event.

In the wrestling business it is all about the ratings, they’re going to keep putting people on TV that are puling in the numbers and the three of us were able to do that. I’m very blessed and happy that we were given the opportunity to work together, we didn’t know what it was but now we know what it is.

What was it like winning the tag team titles with Scotty and following in your uncles footsteps?

It was great, it was different being able to win the tag team titles with Scotty. I was very honoured, and I can write in my story that I was able to win a championship. I won the titles with my cousin as The Headshrinkers previously as well and it felt good both ways.

Do you have a favourite opponent you gave the Stink Face to?

I’ve got several favourite Stink Faces, I’m going to give you my top three with one being my all time favourite.

Number three will have to be Trish Stratus, there was a picture that went viral of Trish taking the Stink Face and she took it like a champ, in this picture all you can see is a butt and all of this blonde hair coming out the butt, you don’t see her face.

Number two has to be Stephanie McMahon, I gave it to her on Monday Night Raw, I like to give pops to people that take the Stink Face straight up. There are a lot of guys that want to turn their heads but again she took it like a champ.

Number one would have to be Vince McMahon, he took it like a champ but he did ask me before hand if I had the clean thong on and I told him yes. That was an epic moment because Vince was doing an angle with my cousin The Rock and how many times do you have your boss kiss your ass and get paid for it. That Stink Face there was for the whole WWE Universe.

What was it like working with Steve Austin when it was revealed you were the guy that ran him over?

It was great working with Steve when I turned heel, I didn’t really agree with me turning heel so soon. At the time my character was starting to get over and it was one of those characters that the fans loved and you could see this character was going to be a house hold name.

At the same time they wanted to switch the storyline because it was The Rock and Triple H and who better to fit into that storyline than The Rocks cousin. We did our best and I enjoyed working with all of those pros, Stone Cold, The Rock, Undertaker, Kurt Angle, Triple H, everybody that was involved in that angle, it was a good thing for me.

What was it like for yourself yourself and the family as a whole when your brother Eddie (Umaga) passed away?

I respectfully don’t talk too much about that, it’s just a subject as you know when you lose a family member it’s heartbreaking, it’s unexpected, you have a lot of questions asking why and we just try to remember the good things from what he did. I know the wrestling world has lost a great wrestler too fast. I’m happy to say this though, before my brother passed we were together in Australia for two weeks with our company Knok Pro Entertainment.

After that two weeks he came back home on a Monday and we said we were going to catch up on Thursday but I got a call on the Wednesday from his wife and kids saying he was in the hospital. I flew in on the Thursday morning and my brother was lying there on his bed and he grabbed my hand. I then waited in the lobby and I looked outside and the sun shining and the birds singing and the doctor came out and told me my brother had passed away. I miss my brother and I’m sure the world misses Umaga as well.

I’m grateful that he was with us on the last tour and I thought he had the best match when he wrestled Ken Anderson in Australia and I’m very proud and very happy that by the time my brother was called to heaven we were the last company he wrestled for.

rikishi-umaga-orlando-jordan-brian-christopher

Umaga, Rikishi, Orlando Joran and Brian Christopher during the 2009 Hulkamania Tour in Australia

In 2012 along with your sons, you inducted Yokozuna into the WWE Hall of Fame, what was that moment like?

That was exciting, it was a good time for the whole family. It was about time you know what I mean, Yokozuna should have been inducted a long time before then but I’m happy that he finally took his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. I know Yokozuna has brought a lot to the table with WWE and I know that the fans loved him whether he was a heel or a babyface, I think they were amazed to see a 600lbs man with the agility he had, Yoko was very gifted.

The Hall of Fame induction was a good night, my sons were there and they were telling their stories about their uncle, and then me and the rest of the family were there to accept the award on his behalf. It was another great moment for the Anoa’i family.

You’ve made a number of sporadic appearances on special episodes of Raw etc, what have those been like?

I always enjoy coming back to WWE, it was amazing at the Old Skool episode of Raw when Too Cool reformed, the three of us hadn’t been together in a Monday Night Raw ring for well over a decade until that show. To be out there with Too Cool it was just magic, they announced us, the music hit and right away the people stood up and the you could feel the electricity and vibe. I felt a lot of love from the fans who had been missing us, it’s a good feeling whenever I look to my left and look to my right and see Brian and Scotty and we’ve done so well in the business together.

I was able to go in there and meet a lot of the new talent, some of my favourite like Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow. It was also a great honour to be in the same locker room as my kids but on the opposite side, when they use to come in I was the one that worked there now when I go there it’s them that are working there.

You’ve also got to dance with your sons in a WWE ring

Yeah that was another proud moment, they came out after I had a match against Heath Slater and Heath is another great talent who I think is under used, but he is so talented and I was happy I got to work with somebody during that era. Then dancing with the boys in the ring, it was an emotional night, that was the first time we were ever in the ring together, the first time we danced and ever bust a move together and if you look back really closely I got emotional and couldn’t really finish my dancing, I wanted to and tried the best way I can but at the same time as a father I couldn’t believe I was in the ring at the same time as my sons and I’m very grateful WWE gave us the opportunity to do that. I have to say daddy is definitely the better dancer, the boys still have quite a bit to learn.

How proud were you when The Usos followed in your footsteps and won the tag titles?

Jonathan and Joshua (Jimmy and Jey) they’re just natural kids in the industry, they have charisma, they know how to entertain and it is just born and bread in them. Winning the tag titles and following in my footsteps and the footsteps of my uncles Afa and Sika is a big deal, I’m very proud of Jimmy and Jey, the game that they’re in is a very tough game, there is a lot of things they need to learn and I continue to give them advice but at the same time I kind of back off because I want them to learn on their own and to grow in pro wrestling.

I have always told the boys never to worry about following in our footsteps but instead to write their own stories. It was great to see them win the tag team titles finally after four years, I would love to see them on more PPV’s rather than the pre shows but that is all part of learning.

Rusev came through your Knokx Pro wrestling school, what have you made of his run in WWE?

He has utilised his talent and training, what he has learnt from Knokx Pro, myself and Gangrel. I can see that Rusev understood and listened to his trainers and he has taken advantage of the opportunity that has been given to him, they gave him the ball to run and thanks to his training he is able to run, we told him when you run keep running and don’t look back.

I think he is doing a very good job and it has been a very long time since a wrestler has had that type of heat being a foreigner like Iron Sheik. I’m also a very big fan of his manager Lana, they both have good chemistry.

When you see how Rusev works you can almost tell he was trained by members of the Samoan Dynasty using the Samoan drop and heel kick and wrestling in bare feet, he is doing really well. We stay in contact, every Monday, he either texts myself or Gangrel and asks us what he can do – this is a guy that is a mega superstar but yet he still calls his trainers and asks for advice.

What was it like seeing Rusev do that segment on Raw with your cousin The Rock?

Oh my god, we were all happy, anytime you work with The Rock that’s a treat because Rusev’s not the champ. It was a good deal, Rock knew Rusev came from our school and he didn’t have to do that but he did, family looking out for family. That segment with The Rock just took Rusev to another level, and I was very excited.

What was Vince McMahon like as a boss?

I’ve been up there in WWE for well over 18 years, Vince is a busy man, I’ve never had any problems with Vince, to me he is just a down to earth cat. There are a lot of people that fear him, I’ve seen a lot of people when he comes left they go right, because for some reason they’re scared of him.

He is the type of person that likes it when you go over and talk to him and ask him questions they may have about their character. Nine times out of ten when they’ve finished talking to him he hasn’t really answered their question but at the same time they’re not asking the same question again because they’re intimidated.

I have nothing but respect for Vince McMahon, he has done so much for my family as far as giving us an opportunity to be able to perform and it continues today with Roman Reigns and The Usos.

For more information on Rikishi follow him on Twitter @TheREALRIKISHI and also visit Knokx Pro and IAmWrestlingTV.com

Too Cool Interview Special

Click here to read the interviews with Brian Christopher and Scotty 2 Hotty

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