Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rewind: A Tribute to Eddie "Umaga" Fatu

 This article was written the day after Umaga's death in 2009, by myself while working with another website. I wanted to share this piece in order to tribute a true family man and a one of a kind entertainer, Umaga.

In the world of professional wrestling, we have seen the rise and the fall of many careers in the squared circle.

Some may frown upon the sport due to it being sports entertainment and the results are pre-planned, but some tend to be blinded in their own self assurance that wrestlers work just as hard if not harder than athletes of any other sport.

These men and women work over three hundred days per year, rarely see their families, and hardly receive time off unless there is an injury or something along those lines involved.
Needless to say that these men work to the bone to entertain us... the wrestling world, even to the point of risking their lives. Life as a wrestler is not what of which we depict on television.

Eddie Fatu, a family man who lived to entertain.
The movie The Wrestler perfectly depicts the life behind the scenes of a wrestler if you ask me. Drugs, depression, and life on the road all are introduced and become a hazard to a professional’s well being to the point where they could die.
Seeing instances such as Brian Pillman, Road Warrior Hawk, Eddie Guerrero, and Curt Hennig all die under somewhat similar circumstances, it seems as though the late Eddie Fatu, better known as Umaga has joined that slowly growing list of wrestlers.

Umaga was found in his home Friday, unconscious with blood seeping down his nose and was immediately rushed to the intensive care unit.

After, many fellow wrestlers (Ken Anderson, Bobby Lashley, Elijah Burke, etc.) all began to post Twitter updates praying for the Fatu family. We could not confirm he was officially deceased, but things did not look good.
In the following update, it was reported that Fatu had been taken off life support, meaning that there was literally no hope of a miraculous recovery and his family was informed to report to the hospital.

Finally, at 6:05 p.m. Eastern time, he was announced deceased following two heart attacks (one before he was rushed to the ICU and another while in the hospital) and evidence shows that it may have had something to do with an overdose of prescription medication. No matter what the autopsy report claims in the following weeks or whatever is claimed afterward, I am not here to criticize the professional wrestling industry (yet), but I am here to look back at the life of the “Samoan Bulldozer,” Umaga.
Fatu was born on March 28th, 1973 in American Samoa where he was born and bred in a wrestling family consisting of Rikishi, Tonga Kid, Afa, Sika, and Seiuli Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

He was a member of the very well known Anoa’ Wrestling Family where he grew up watching The Wild Samoans alongside his cousin, Rock and his two brothers Kishi and Tonga Kid. Together they grew to re-live their elders’ legendary status. He was the youngest of his family and though young, he always had the admiration and the passion to continue the legacy of his family.
The Anoa’ Wrestling Family were a unique group of people. They were passionate of their heritage. They were all of Samoan descent and they had shown the tribute to their heritage by having their gimmicks be as wild and ruthless as possible.

From the Wild Samoans to Rikishi, they were all weapons of mass destruction in the ring due to their great size as well as their athleticism. Young Eddie Fatu began his training in 1995 at the Wild Samoan Pro Wrestling Training Center. Through a good deal of time training, Fatu alongside his brother Matt, better known to the wrestling world as “Rosey” had been signed by the World Wrestling Federation and were assigned to Heartland Wrestling Association (fromer WWF training grounds).

Fatu and his brother became a successful alliance that had gotten over very well in the indies, as well as the HWA. Known to many as the “Island Boyz” or the “Samoan Gangsters,” this young tag team had definitely showed promise, heart, and determination—much like the Wild Samoans. The two would later officially be called up to the World Wrestling Entertainment as Jamal and Rosey, billed as “Three Minute Warning”. The two would serve as enforcers for the then General Manager of Raw, Eric Bischoff. Both would primarily serve their time in the lower to mid- part of the card, but they are remembered very well for their Elimination Tables match at Survivor Series 2002 against Bubba Ray, Spike Dudley, and Jeff Hardy.

Following another long stint in the mid-card, Jamal (Eddie Fatu) would be released from the WWE in 2003 due to an incident in a local bar fight. While Rosey went on to team with
Hurricane Helms, Fatu would find himself in Total Nonstop Action as well as All Japan Pro Wrestling before unveiling his true potential in 2005 when he returned to the WWE. It was teased in his return that a return of the Three Minute Warning would be eminent, but Rosey was fired from the WWE shortly after the two men worked several dark matches together.

Shortly following WrestleMania 22 , the “Umaga” character would come into fruition after he, accompanied by his manager, Armando Alejandro Estrada destroyed Ric Flair. Umaga would have an instant rise to stardom in this feud and the character was booked very well as a monstrous and destructive force handled by Estrada. Umaga and Flair had their first match against each other at Backlash 2006 where Umaga decimated “The Nature Boy”. Following this feud with Flair, Umaga went on to destroy anyone to come in his path even including the likes of Triple H and John Cena.

Umaga was a force to be reckoned with. His deadly Samoan Spike maneuver, as well as his unique moveset consisting of very quick, agile moves, were so impressive to see a man of this stature perform. From flying headbutts to spinning wheel kicks to Samoan drops, the man was simply a one of a kind killing machine. Though he had an impressive undefeated streak, he would succumb to his first loss in his WWE career to WWE Champion, John Cena at New Year’s Revolution, which ended an almost year-long streak. Though he was slowed by this loss, he would instantly put himself back on top by bulldozing over several opponents before falling to the hands of John Cena again at the Royal Rumble. Though he lost two consecutive pay-per-view matches to Cena, he would put on a great show in all of his performances, which is the least to say about some other monsters that WWE have tried to sell over the years (The Great Khali, Giant Gonzalez).

As the Road to WrestleMania was upon us, Umaga was selected by WWE Chairman, Vincent K. McMahon to represent him in the “Battle of the Billionaires” match at WrestleMania 23 . Opposing man, Donald Trump would select ECW Champion, Bobby Lashley. This new alliance with McMahon worked in Umaga’s favor as well as McMahon granted him a shot at the Intercontinental Championship against Jeff Hardy, which he was successful in.

Heading into WrestleMania, we would see a clash of champions alongside a clash billionaires. Lashley would eventually come to defeat Umaga at WrestleMania and cost him the Intercontinental Championship just two weeks later in the “Milan Miracle” to Santino Marella. Umaga eventually got his payback on Lashley by winning Mr. McMahon the ECW World Title that culminated at ECW One Night Stand.

On the side, we witnessed Santino Marella and Umaga fight on several occasions for the Intercontinental Champion, but the luck of the Italian as some would like to call it, led Santino to a series of victories until he finally lost the title to Umaga in the following summer. Following this, Umaga worked in the upper mid-card against the likes of Carlito and Ken Kennedy before losing the strap to Jeff Hardy, which would propel Umaga back to the main event scene come WrestleMania 24 time. There he would lose to Batista in a “Brand Supremacy” match and following another two months on Raw, the “Samoan Bulldozer” was drafted to Friday Night SmackDown! .

In what seemed like a new beginning for a man lost in the mid-card shuffle, it was sad to hear that Umaga would deal with several injuries before making an impact on Smackdown. The only real impact he made was a short-lived feud with CM Punk which led to a Samoan Strap match at Extreme Rules.

Umaga would lose the match and thus ended his WWE tenure as he was released from his WWE contract in the summer of 2009 due to his refusal to enter rehab. This would end what was really a dominant career in the WWE that could have been so much more if he remained with the company.

Umaga was definitely a man of promise and he would eventually move on to work in the indies as well as Hulkamania’s Tour of Australia, where he wrestler his final match before succumbing to a horrendous and unexpected death.

One phrase to me best describes Eddie Fatu: Hard hitting, soft spoken. A man of little words and a lot of promise had been said to be a family man struggling with “inner demons”. Little else is known about Fatu besides the fact that he was a family guy, a good man, and an extremely hard-working performer.

Fatu gave it his all each and every night and though he is not a Hall of Famer, he is a man I will always remember for his uniqueness, dedication, and his personality outside of the ring.
Eddie Fatu, you died too young and it’s a disgrace.

Drafted to the heavens
May your soul rest in peace
Your journey has come to an end
So much to live for, little time to waste
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end they say
Eddie Fatu, may your journey end now, but start a new today
Eddie “Umaga” Fatu
March 28th, 1973 - December 4, 2009

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