Former Los Angeles Lakers beat writer, future screenwriter, and currently enjoy writing about the amazing superstars & legends of the WWE!
When I first was introduced to this big Samoan man named Rikishi, I honestly didn't have a clue that I've already been introduced to him!
The Headshrinkers, along with their manager Afa, were one of the most outrageous and eccentric tag teams one could ever witness inside a WWE ring. Their behavior was so unorthodox and always left you scratching your head, wondering what you just saw on the TV screen. The two would even start beating EACH OTHER up in the middle of their tag match for motivation!
Nevertheless, Fatu and Samu were incredibly talented in-ring performers inside the squared circle, using their devastating thrust kicks and headbutts to subdue their opponents. Fatu (a.k.a Rikishi) would even earn a WWE Championship match on an episode of Monday Night Raw against none other than Bret "The Hitman" Hart. Although he was unsuccessful in his efforts, you could tell just how much potential Fatu had inside that ring, and it wouldn't be long until he reached his full potential.
After his stint as a member of The Headshrinkers was over, it was time to go at it alone. Although the first few attempts were unfortunately not successful, along came the character of Rikishi!
The Character of Rikishi Gets OVER
As the Attitude Era was winding down, the number of gimmicks that WWE had been displaying each week were winding down as well. The WWE Universe needed something different and innovative to get them invested in new superstars and characters. The personality of Rikishi began to gain momentum, and the level of likability from the audience increased when the big man aligned himself with two new friends by the names of Scotty 2 Hotty and Grand Master Sexay (RIP).
Too Cool were one of the most beloved trios in all of WWE history. Whenever they would win a match or get the one-up on their opposition, the three superstars would then entertain the crowd by doing their patented dance together. You could always feel the anticipation after Grand Master and Scotty were done with their turns and pointed at Rikishi to begin his. The crowd ate every single second of those moments up, and it was crystal clear just how much they adored them all together.
You would think that Rikishi's popularity would be at an all-time high based on his dancing skills alone, but another action became a driving force of that popularity as well....
Yes. I'm talking about The Stinkface.
As tremendously crazy as it sounds, the WWE Universe absolutely LOVED seeing a grown man stick his rear-end in another person's face and then proceed to rub it all in. Although some outsiders may call the act outlandish and vulgar, it was exactly the kind of hilarity that the WWE audience just couldn't help but to enjoy witnessing, especially if it was happening to a character they despised!
The big man would stinkface legends in the business like John Cena, The Rock, Hulk Hogan, Booker T, Kurt Angle, Lita, The Big Show, Stephanie McMahon, and of course, my favorite one of them all, Vince McMahon himself. It became such a popular moment on WWE programming each week that it's hard to list the superstars who WEREN'T on the unfortunate end of Rikishi's butt!
Although the fun and games were such a hit with the WWE Universe when it came to Rikishi, it was about time for them to see a darker side of him...
"I Did It For The Rock"
The time for dancing, having fun, and giving out hilarious stinkfaces was all over.
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin was viciously ran down by a certain individual in the parking lot, which kept the WWE Universe buzzing about who the culprit could actually be. After weeks of investigation, the Commissioner of WWE at the time, Mick Foley, finally put all the pieces together and confronted Rikishi inside the ring after a tag match with The Rock. The infamous words of Rikishi were then stated.
"I didn't do it for me. I did it for The Rock."
Every person in the arena that night were in complete shock, including the relative of Rikishi who stood in the ring with him. As a man of Samoan heritage, The Rock was the WWE Champion and on the very top of the wrestling world, which is the reason why Rikishi stated he committed the ferocious act on Austin. His people were never given the opportunities in the past. Therefore, he wanted to right that wrong. The promo that Rikishi cut that night was such an impactful one, and it made his ultimate heel turn a special moment in not only his career, but in all of WWE history. The once fun-loving, dancing big man was now the most hated superstar in the WWE.
Rikishi would turn into one of the biggest heels in the company at that time, feuding with a vengeful Austin and his own family member, The Rock.
As much as I personally loved all the dancing and the stinkfaces that made the fans laugh and smile, THIS Rikishi was my absolute favorite. It got to show everyone around the world how many layers of the Rikishi character there truly were, and how talented and multifaceted of a professional wrestler the man was.
A Well Deserved Member of the WWE HOF
When I first heard the news that Rikishi was going to be enshrined into the WWE Hall of Fame, I couldn't have been happier for another person. After going through several character changes, the personality of Rikishi really shined through and resonated with the WWE Universe at a whole other level. The respect I have for him as a performer, WWE superstar, and human being is completely unparalleled. There will certainly never be another one like Rikishi!
Thank you, Rikishi, for all the hard work and sacrifices in your life to entertain me and many others for as long as you did. You were such a viable and important part of WWE's programming in the late '90's and early 2000's, and you made people all around the world smile every single week. That personality trait was DEFINITELY passed down to Jimmy and Jey, as they're following in your footsteps inside that squared circle and are such great performers themselves.
You're a WWE Hall of Famer for a reason, my friend. I forever wish you and your family all the best!
Follow Rikishi on Twitter!
Also, watch The Big Show Show on Netflix to watch him sing some Backstreet Boys alongside Mick Foley and Mark Henry!
© 2020 Steve Smith