Former WWF Champion, Yokozuna, was originally meant to have been part of The Headshrinkers in place of cousin Fatu.
While the name Yokozuna will live throughout professional wrestling infamy as one of the greatest big men and WWF Champions of all time, it was very nearly a different story for the man known to his family as Rodney Anoa’i.
Prior to make a name for himself in the World Wrestling Federation, a remarkably slimmer Anoa’i plied his trade as Kokina Maximus in various promotions including the AWA. In 1992 his luck changed and following a phone call from Vince McMahon himself, the talent was invited to participate in Dark Match as Kokina on the September 1, 1992, WWF Superstars.
The plan was, should the trial go well, then Kokina would be added as the second member of The Headshrinkers alongside Samu in place of his cousin, Fatu – who would have been swapped out despite having already made his debut and the pair already having made a name for themselves in WCW as The Samoan SWAT Team.
What occurred during that short try-out match made Vince McMahon think twice about wasting the star’s skills in tag team action, but the decision to extract him from the stable prior to his debut was forced upon them thanks to injury.
Now, Samu and Fatu have taken to WWE Icons: Yokozuna in order to detail how the man of the hour was going to fit into The Headshrinker position and why plans were changed when, according to Samu, Anoa’i came down with a leg infection which cost him the spot:
“We were going to do the tag team situation, wanting to be the Samoans, but they were going to call us The Headshrinkers. He ended up getting cut on the leg and it got infected and he couldn’t make the debut.”
However, the artist better known as Rikishi – formerly Fatu – believed that his cousin was destined for greater things and his inability to join the team was fate:
“Rodney’s goal was to hit the big show in WWE. That’s where he wanted to go. We all wanted to go there. When that time came and that call came from Vince McMahon, it was him and Big Sam to go in as The Headshrinkers.
This is where I jumped in and teamed up with Big Sam. It must have been God sent for him to get hurt because him getting hurt opened up the door for me to team with Big Sam and Vince liked what he saw with the Headshrinkers. When Rod was ready, they brought him up and he never looked back.”
When Rodney Anoa’i was seen on WWF television again, gone was the long, streaky hair and the Headshrinker style attire and in its place stood a Japanese man-bun, a sumo nappy and a noticeably heavier destroyer named Yokozuna originally pitched by former WWF Champion, Sgt. Slaughter.
Credit for the interview: WWE Icons
h/t for the transcription: Fightful