Former WWE Tag Team and Intercontinental Champion, Rikishi, has revealed how he he attempted to talk Yokozuna into losing weight.
One of the greatest big men to ever step foot inside the squared circle, Yokozuna’s weight has been the source of many historic tales over the years with wrestlers and backstage personalities from the era having their own stories of how the faux Japanese star just couldn’t drop the pounds and in some cases had no inclination to do so.
From having to buy two seats when he flew, breaking a hotel toilet seat just by sitting on it, being banned by some state commissions from competing in the ring and having to weighed on a loading dock, drastic measures were taken twice by the company in 1996 to reduce the mass of the over 600lbs star.
Following a storyline leg break by Vader, the master of the Banzai Drop was sent to a clinic to facilitate his dieting but according to Jim Cornette called his former manger regularly to request he supply him with fast food. When that didn’t work, WWE were forced to remove the star from television altogether after the 1996 Survivor Series, sending him home to lose the required weight needed.
Now, during the excellent WWE Icons: Yokozuna documentary which recently aired on the WWE Network, both Rikishi and Bruce Prichard noted the attempts and talks they had with the star to make him healthy.
Noting the decline in health of the Anoa’i family member following each match, the artist formerly known as Brother Love told of how it visible he was not doing very well when he returned to the locker room:
“There was a point where we just started to notice that Yokozuna was getting bigger. Then you started to see he’s a step behind in the ring and a little slower. Then you start to see that he walks back from the ring and has to stop at Gorilla to catch his breath before he can go beyond that. Then you start watching and going ‘hmmmm, he’s not doing well.
We tried dieting and a workout routine with him on the road. He just wouldn’t do it. The next step was to take Yoko and Duke University had a weight loss program. Yoko didn’t want to move to North Carolina. He said he would do the program, but he would do it at home. He was off for maybe three months, maybe longer, and came back bigger than ever.”
With his work colleagues and the man who signed his pay cheque unable to get through to him, it was left to family members to try and make him see sense. Rikishi told of his talk with his cousin which lead to Yoko simply telling him that there was nothing wrong with him:
“We had that conversation. ‘You gotta focus on yourself right now. It’s okay for you to take care of you. Please, we want you to concentrate and take care of you.’ Rod being Rod, ‘Aint nothing wrong with me, I can still go.’ Maybe he was in denial. Maybe. He didn’t want to talk about it.”
Though the legend was said to have shed 100lbs on his second attempt, it still wasn’t enough to get him cleared to compete by the New York Athletic State Commission. In May 1998, Yokozuna was released from his WWF contract.
Rodney ‘Yokozuna’ Anoa’i passed away on October 23, 2000, from pulmonary endema in his hotel room in Liverpool, England. At the time of his death, he weighed 580lbs which was significantly less than during his final run with the World Wrestling Federation.
Credit for the interviews: WWE Icons
h/t for the transcriptions: Fightful