Jim Ross has opened up about the departure of Edward ‘Umaga’ Fatu from World Wrestling Entertainment in 2003.
Portraying the character of Jamal, alongside his cousin Rosey, the pair made up the team of 3 Minute Warning who initially served as enforcers for Eric Bischoff when the then Raw General Manager found an act too dull to be on television.
Some of the pair’s most famous angles came when Bischoff had them deliver flying splashes to several women who were due to perform a spot of HLA – long time viewers will remember – on Monday Night Raw and crashing the commitment ceremony of Billy and Chuck which lead to the unforgettable unveiling of Eric Bischoff as the pastor and Rico becoming the Samoan’s manager.
Remaining in the low-mid card scene for the rest of their time as a team, their run came to an abrupt halt when Fatu was released from the company following an alleged bar fight.
Now, Jim Ross has recalled the moment he was tasked with giving the colossus the bad news on his Grilling JR Podcast, which was all about the celebrated Samoan Dynasty:
“I would deliver the news. Try to do it in person if I can. You had a conversation about it. Vince would earmark it, sometimes it was brought up by others in the company. He would say we got to fix this problem unless you can tell me anything differently the best thing is to let him go, let [Umaga] mature because we’d sure as hell like to bring him back. We knew he was going to be great but you still cant make exceptions for someone who’s perceived to be out of control and dangerous, especially someone that big and strong.”
With the company hopeful that Fatu would go away and mature elsewhere, the potential in him was vast, Ross approached the talent with caution to give him the bad news, relaying word for word what he told him:
“”It was just that we had to make a change, and unfortunately, it’s going to cost you your job. You’re going to get plenty of offers to go work, and I’m certainly not going to infer that we don’t want you back, but we have to see change, you got to get under control. This is not an outlaw territory, it’s not a bunch of indie dates. This is the real s**t here, this is the big time. It’s going to be up to the guy in the mirror.” I gave him hope – you don’t want to leave the conversation negative.
I’ve had some yelling and screaming issues with guys over the years and I just cut the conversation off. We’re done, we’re not doing anything constructive right now. You’re mad at me for something you did and I had to deliver the bad news. That ain’t fair to me, and you’re not being honest with yourself. [Umaga] was not that guy. I gave him hope that he could be a big star here, ‘you might be the biggest star in the entire Samoan family because you got skills that nobody has.’ Of course, The Rock came along and took that spot, but we had a good conversation.”
Edward Fatu heeded the advice of Jim Ross and once he had departed the WWE, honed his skill and craft in TNA and All Japan Pro Wrestling where he transitioned into a solid worker.
In 2006, the powerhouse returned to WWE under the face paint and guise of Umaga. Though he never reached the dizzying heights predicted for him, the Samoan did manage to become WWE Intercontinental Champion, was part of the historic Battle of the Billionaires at WrestleMania 23 and in arguably his greatest bout ever, battle John Cena for the WWE Championship in a terrific Last Man Standing Match at the 2007 Royal Rumble.
Unfortunately, Fatu could not control his demons and after refusing to enter rehab for drug related issues following a second failure of WWE’s Wellness Policy, was released from his contract in 2009.
Edward Fatu passed away on December 4, 2009, after suffering a heart attack brought on by a concoction of narcotics. It was later discovered that he had been suffering from both heart and liver disease. He was just 36 years old.
Credit for the interview: Grilling JR Podcase
h/t for the interview: Wresting Inc.