TV & Movies

How WWE Legend Yokozuna Provided Rikishi With Heat (Exclusive Video)

“This guy never changed, man. He was still the same cat,” former Headshrinker says on debut episode of “WWE Icons”

Yokozuna was a legendary WWF (WWE these days) heel, the professional-wrestling term for a bad guy — but Agatupu Rodney Anoaʻi was a legendary good dude.

As the first WWE Superstar profiled on the new biographical docuseries “WWE Icons,” Yokozuna’s episode will follow Sunday’s Royal Rumble pay-per-view event on streaming service WWE Network. Pretty good lead-in.

Don’t want to wait until Sunday? Iffy on the SVOD service’s $9.99-per-month price? TheWrap has your first look at WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi talking about his personal memories of Yoko, free of charge.

In our exclusive clip, Rikishi (real name Solofa F. Fatu Jr.) recalls a time in Yoko’s heyday when Rodney Anoa’i was making far more money than he was as a member of The Headshrinkers. While Fatu Jr. could afford a house, he couldn’t swing the money to replace its faulty heating system — but Yoko and a blank check took care of that, no questions asked.

Banzai. Watch the video above.

A member of the famed Anoa’i wrestling dynasty to which Roman Reigns and The Usos also belong, Yokozuna was a dominant force throughout the WWE in the 1990s. Weighing 589 pounds in his prime, the two-time WWE Champion was a deceptively athletic super-heavyweight whose size was both a blessing and a curse, according to the WWE Network logline. Although his massive stature made him a champion inside the ring, the “WWE Icons” episode also tells the story of a man who struggled his entire life to control his weight.

“WWE Icons” celebrates WWE Superstars who left an indelible mark on sports entertainment, with each episode examining the life story of a different WWE Legend or Hall of Famer.

Beth Phoenix, Lex Luger, Rob Van Dam and “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith will also be profiled on Season 1 of “WWE Icons.” The series debuts with the Yokozuna episode on Sunday, Jan. 31, immediately following the 2021 WWE Royal Rumble event.

WWE Network is folding into NBCUniversal’s streaming platform, Peacock, on March 18. The pro-wrestling programming will become part of Peacock’s “Premium” tier, which includes ads and costs $4.99 per month. It will also be part of Peacock’s Premium Plus tier, which costs $9.99 and is commercial-free.

Every WWE Champion Ever, Ranked by Number of Reigns (Photos)

  • Pro-wrestling championship belts change hands (or waists) like grapplers change ring gear these days, though it wasn’t always that way. Drew McIntyre is WWE Champion (again) these days after taking the strap back from Randy Orton during a mid-November “Raw” episode.  

    Scroll through our gallery to see every WWE Champion ever, ranked by their number(s) of title wins. Remember: this is a list of those who won the WWWF Championship, the WWF Championship or the WWE Championship. So don’t come after us, Universal Champions, et al.  

    Below is a random sample from our full stable.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Kofi Kingston  
    # of Reigns: 1    

    The power of positivity.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Jeff Hardy  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    The un-“Broken” half of the Hardy Boyz has had the more storied singles career.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Bray Wyatt  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    Abigail’s brother used to go by “Husky Harris” — we’d say this run is working out better for him.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Sgt. Slaughter  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    Camel Clutch, Cobra Clutch — whatever “C”-animal it was, it hurt.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Dean Ambrose  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    And “The Lunatic Fringe” pulled this off while wearing jeans.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Chris Jericho  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    You’re a “stupid idiot” if you didn’t know this guy made “The List.”  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Eddie Guerrero  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    Generally considered one of the best ever to have done it held the big-boy belt for 133.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: The Miz  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    The kid from “The Real World” made good on his over-the-top MTV promos. One of the best on the mic, Miz has been holding down the Intercontinental Championship more than any other Superstar of the past few years.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Jinder Mahal  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    Shortly before this publishing, the “Modern-Day Maharaja” dropped the title to A.J. Styles, ending a somewhat confusing run right before the WWE went to India.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: John “Bradshaw” Layfield  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    JBL has taken his heel persona from the ring to the announce table. Never without a cowboy hat, Layfield thankfully leaves his lariat clothesline at home.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: The Ultimate Warrior
    # of Reigns: 1  

    The muscle-bound maniac who handed Hulk Hogan his first-ever “WrestleMania” loss died after suffering a heart attack three days after being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: “Superstar” Billy Graham  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    “Superstar” Billy Graham was a bodybuilder and buddy of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeah, blame Graham’s body for Jinder Mahal.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Kevin Nash  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    You mean Tarzan from “Magic Mike”?!?!?   Yes, yes we do.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Pedro Morales  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    History lesson: Back in the WWWF days, Morales became the first guy in wrestling history to win all three of the major men’s titles — the WWF Championship, the Intercontinental Championship and the WWF Tag Team Championship — in the company.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: André the Giant  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    The stories about André the Giant sometimes feel as tall as he was.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: The Iron Sheik  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    This guy is as big a hit on Twitter as he was in the ring.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Kane  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but Kane is one of the smartest Superstars in WWE history.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Rey Mysterio    
    # of Reigns: 1  

    We’re not going to talk about how ridiculous the setup to his finishing move, “The 6-1-9,” became. This is a happy list.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Stan Stasiak 
    # of Reigns: 1  

    Unfortunately Stasiak only held the belt for nine days.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Rob Van Dam  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    One of the most popular ECW wrestlers of all-time, RVD has brought his three initials to seemingly every pro-wrestling promotion with three initials.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Ivan Koloff  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    The “Russian Bear” was actually Canadian.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Buddy Rogers  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    Rogers was kinda-sorta the first champion in the company. It’s complicated — ask Killer Kowalski and Bruno Sammartino.  

  • Rank: 30 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Vince McMahon  
    # of Reigns: 1  

    Hell, Mr. McMahon runs the damn company — of course he made this list.  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Drew McIntyre  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    Scottish Psychopath joined the WWE Champions’ and two-timers club all in 2020.    

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Batista  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    Guardian of the Galaxy, defender of WWE Championship.  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: The Big Show  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    You can’t miss this two-time champ — not even in a mega-arena.  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: A.J. Styles  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    “The Phenomenal One” held the belt for 371-straight days, which is a record for a “SmackDown” wrestler.    

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Alberto Del Rio  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    Si! Si! Si! Si! Si! Si! Si!  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Sycho Sid  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    It was a long way down from Shawn Michaels’ former bodyguard’s power-bomb.  

     

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: “Nature Boy” Ric Flair  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    If you haven’t watched ESPN’s new “30 for 30: Nature Boy,” do that. Oh, and look up Flair’s ridiculous NWA runs too.  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Sheamus  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    Master of the Brogue Kick, Rocksteady in the “Ninja Turtles” movies — which is the greater accomplishment?  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Seth Rollins  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    He’s BURN(ed) IT DOWN more than once.  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Yokozuna  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    That belt needed a few extenders to fit around the sumo.  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: CM Punk  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    Let’s just say he was a little less successful in the UFC.  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Randy “Macho Man” Savage  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    Before he snapped into Slim Jims, the “Macho Man” was snapping dudes in half.  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Bob Backlund  
    # of Reigns: 2  

    Backlund couldn’t “Make Darren Young Great Again” — or even keep the guy employed — but the master of the cross-face chicken wing had a pretty incredible career of his own.  

  • Rank: 16 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Bruno Sammartino
    # of Reigns: 2  

    Google him, kids.  

  • Rank: 13 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Mankind  
    # of Reigns: 3  

    Mick Foley nearly killed himself to raise these titles.  

  • Rank: 13 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Roman Reigns  
    # of Reigns: 3  

    Go ahead and boo him, Universe — WWE is still the Big Dog’s turf right now.  

  • Rank: 13 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Shawn Michaels  
    # of Reigns: 3  

    Before he found God, the “Heartbreak Kid” found jaws with his foot, popularizing the Superkick.  

  • Rank: 9 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Daniel Bryan  
    # of Reigns: 4  

    Welcome back, (current) champ.  

  • Rank: 9 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Edge  
    # of Reigns: 4  

    On this day, you can see clearly… that Edge is one of the best to ever lace up.  

  • Rank: 9 (tie)  
    Wrestler: The Undertaker  
    # of Reigns: 4  

    The Dead Man is truly a living legend.  

  • Rank: 9 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Kurt Angle  
    # of Reigns: 4  

    Top 10, it’s true — it’s damn true.  

  • Rank: 7 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Brock Lesnar  
    # of Reigns: 5  

    Eat. Sleep. Win Titles. Repeat.  

  • Rank: 7 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Bret “Hitman” Hart  
    # of Reigns: 5  

    The best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.  

  • Rank: 5 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Hulk Hogan  
    # of Reigns: 6  

    Hulkamania was real. Then again, so was Gawker at one point.  

  • Rank: 5 (tie)  
    Wrestler: “Stone Cold” Steve Austin  
    # of Reigns: 6  

    On the Mt. Rushmore of all-time greats, and that’s the bottom line.  

  • Rank: 3 (tie)  
    Wrestler: The Rock  
    # of Reigns: 8  

    He may be Dwayne Johnson now, but he’ll always be “The Rock” to us.  

  • Rank: 3 (tie)  
    Wrestler: Triple H  
    # of Reigns: 8  

    Boss of The Authority has two words for the other guys on this list. We can’t reprint them.  

  • Rank: 2  
    Wrestler: Randy Orton  
    # of Reigns: 10  

    The Viper has RKO’d a lot of dudes outta nowhere.  

  • Rank: 1  
    Wrestler: John Cena  
    # of Reigns: 13  

    U Can’t See Him.  

  • Who’s next — err, NXT?  

From Buddy Rogers to Drew McIntyre, here are all the guys from the old WWWF and WWF days — and beyond

Pro-wrestling championship belts change hands (or waists) like grapplers change ring gear these days, though it wasn’t always that way. Drew McIntyre is WWE Champion (again) these days after taking the strap back from Randy Orton during a mid-November “Raw” episode.  

Scroll through our gallery to see every WWE Champion ever, ranked by their number(s) of title wins. Remember: this is a list of those who won the WWWF Championship, the WWF Championship or the WWE Championship. So don’t come after us, Universal Champions, et al.  

Below is a random sample from our full stable.  

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