An article by Mike Mooneyham
Published in October 2000
The wrestling world is mourning the loss of Rodney Anoai, better known as two-time WWF world champion Yokozuna, who was found dead in a Liverpool, England, hotel last Monday. The 600-pound Anoai, who had been participating on a tour of the United Kingdom, died in his sleep. A coroner attributed fluid in the lungs as the reason for the death of the 34-year-old wrestler. The London Evening Standard reported that it took six men to remove Anoai’s body from the Moat House Hotel where he was staying at the time of his death. The tour, billed as “Wrestlemania 2000,” included other former WWF performers such as The Bushwhackers, Greg Valentine and Marty Jannetty.
Anoai rose to fame when he defeated Bret Hart for the WWF title on April 3, 1993, but lost it to Hulk Hogan immediately afterward. He regained the belt from Hogan at the initial King of the Ring event on June 13, 1993, in Dayton, Ohio, before dropping it to Hart on March 20, 1994, in New York. Anoai also held the WWF tag-team belts with the late Owen Hart. He had wrestled in several territories under the name Kokina Maximus before arriving in the WWF in late 1992.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Anoai, whose weight fluctuated between 600 and 800 pounds, left the WWF in 1996 after he was unable to pass the New York State Athletic Commission physical. He was sent several times to a weight loss management center at Duke University, only to come back home weighing more than he had before he left for the clinic. An article revealed that his daily diet consisted of 120 eggs, 12 full pieces of chicken and a bucket-sized serving of Japanese rice.
Several weeks before his death Anoai received mainstream publicity when a British paper revealed his fear of spiders. The article said that he was so scared of the bugs he had written a special clause into his contract and that organizers of the event had to make every effort to ensure his accommodations were spider-free.
Promoter Brian Dixon, who noted that Anoai’s dressing room had to specially fumigated, said: “It caused a bit of a surprise because people do not expect a 42-stone wrestler to be scared of creepy-crawlers … It is in his contract we have to make sure there aren’t any spiders in his dressing room. But Exmouth is such an old building that we have had to make extra efforts to ensure it is all right. We have had the room swept clean and had it fumigated.”
Anoai had suffered from a phobia of spiders since he was a child, said Dixon. “He is petrified of them, but doesn’t really like to talk about it. I think he gets slightly embarrassed. We don’t make a big deal out of it.”
Dixon added that Anoai was very dedicated and spent two hours in the gym every day.
Valentine, who had been traveling with Anoai since Oct. 1, said he was “devastated” and “still in shock.” He said the tour would continue with him wrestling single matches as `Yoko would have wanted it that way … The show will go on in his memory and must go on every night … (Brian) Dixon will do the 10-bell salute for him and dedicate every night to Yoko. It’s kind of hard to replace a partner like him.”
William Moody, better known as the WWF’s Paul Bearer, wrote the following about his former friend and colleague:
“In the Hawaiian language, most people recognize the word `aloha’ as hello; however, it has two meanings, it also means goodbye. How apropos the word is here, for my dear brother Rodney Anoai, known to the wrestling world as Yokozuna.
“Today, I tell Rodney `aloha’ for just a little while. One day, I will tell him `aloha’ again, as we embrace as we meet in the Kingdom of Our Savior in the sky. Rodney went to sleep on Oct. 23 in London, England, and woke up in the presence of the Lord. It all ended so peacefully, yet tragically. However, Yoko has left all of us a legacy that will never die.
“I have so many stories to tell about Rodney. The Undertaker and myself worked against Yokozuna and Mr. Fuji at almost every event for two wonderful years in the World Wrestling Federation. In arenas all around the world I would look across the ring and see that always-smiling face. Without a doubt, the matches we had against him are permanently engraved into my memory as the most fun we had in my 10-year WWF history.
“He loved our sport, not because he was born into it. He truly loved entertaining the fans, and in his own special way he did it better than anybody. He loved the wrestlers
`the boys’ as we call one another. He would give you the shirt off his back. Our many visits to his home were always fabulous. The Samoan food that he would fix was a pleasant change from the road menus we were used to receiving, and his hospitality was beyond compare.
“Above everything, he loved his family. To each member of that fine group, I wish my deepest sympathies and prayers. As I close, I am reminded of Garth Brooks’ song, `The Dance.’
“If we would have missed the pain, we would have missed the dance.”
“Rodney, thanks for all the dances we shared around this world of ours. We will see each other again, brother!”
Percy Pringle (AKA Paul Bearer)
Anoai is survived by his parents, Anoai Jr. (Afoa) and Leatu Anoai; his children, Keilani, 13, and Justin, 12; a brother; and two sisters. His extended wrestling family includes uncles Afa and Sika Anoai (The Wild Samoans), cousins Jimmy Snuka, Samu, Rikishi, The Rock, L.A. Smooth, Matt E. Smalls and Tonga Kid.