Saturday, December 5, 2009

Remembering Eddie Fatu

Eddie Fatu was born in 1973, a member of the famous Anoai wrestling family (which includes the Wild Samoans, the Tonga Kid, Rikishi, Yokozuna, and many others). Mr. Fatu trained at his uncles' Wild Samoan Pro Wrestling Training Center before going to work in uncle Afa's World Extreme Federation. He quickly caught the eye of World Wrestling Federation officials, appearing on WWF TV briefly before honing his skills further in the WWF's developmental territory Heartland Wrestling Association. Around this time, Mr. Fatu formed a long-running team with his cousin Matt which saw them in promotions such as Memphis Championship Wrestling and Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling.

In 2002, the two cousins debuted in the WWE, appearing as RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff's henchmen, Three-Minute Warning. Now known as Jamal (with his cousin going as Rosey), Mr. Fatu laid out weekly beatdowns alongside his cousin whenever Eric Bischoff felt someone had begun to bore the audience. Three-Minute Warning would continue to dish out destruction whenever called upon, both in and out of the squared circle. In what was their biggest angle at the time, Three-Minute Warning crashed the "commitment ceremony" of Billy and Chuck during the September 12, 2002 edition of SmackDown!. The two then went on to defeat the team in a match at September's Unforgiven PPV. A feud against the Dudley Boyz followed but the team came to an abrupt end when Mr. Fatu was released in June 2003.

From there, Mr. Fatu continued his in-ring career, working for both Total Nonstop Action (TNA) in 2003 as the tag team partner of Sonny Siaki. After working a program with America's Most Wanted (James Storm and Chris Harris), Mr. Fatu went to work for All Japan Pro Wrestling. There, he worked as Jamal, teaming with Justin Credible before forming a championship team with Taiyo Kea that saw the two perform in Hawai'i Championship Wrestling as well as Japan (the two would win the AJPW Unified World Tag Team Championship, the 2004 World's Strongest Tag Team League tournament, and the HCW Kekaulike Heritage Tag Team Championship).

In 2006, Mr. Fatu returned to the WWE, debuting as a singles wrestler alongside new WWE manager Armando Elejandro Estrada. Now working as Umaga, a mysterious Samoan savage (reminiscent of his uncles Afa and Sika of the Wild Samoans), Mr. Fatu attacked Ric "Nature Boy" Flair on an episode of Monday Night RAW, laying out the former 16-time World Champion. Umaga would face Flair at the 2006 Backlash PPV, defeating Flair and establishing himself as a fierce opponent.

From there, it seemed as Umaga was an unstoppable force of nature. With Armando Elejandro Estrada guiding his career, Umaga bulldozed over opponent after opponent, quickly earning the nickname "The Samoan Bulldozer". Comparisons to fellow Samoan wrestler Samoa Joe (who had established himself as "The Samoan Submission Machine" in both Ring of Honor and Total Nonstop Action) were inevitable but Mr. Fatu distinguished himself, proving that he was no carbon-copy of anyone.

For some time, it appeared as if nothing could stop "The Samoan Bulldozer". Umaga beat everyone there was to beat on the RAW roster, defeating main event stars such as Shawn Michaels, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and John Cena. Umaga even sent Kane packing when he defeated "The Big Red Machine" in a "Loser Leaves RAW" match. Umaga then prepared for the biggest match of his career- a WWE Championship match against John Cena at the 2007 New Year's Revolution PPV.

After nearly a year of wrestling without being pinned or forced to submit, Umaga suffered his first pinfall loss in January 2007 at New Year's Revolution. John Cena successfully defended his belt, surprising Umaga with a roll-up that saw the Samoan Bulldozer's shoulders pinned to the mat for a three count. A rematch at the Royal Rumble saw Umaga's career further blemished when Cena forced him to tap out to the STFU (albeit with the help of the ring rope and turnbuckle) in a Last Man Standing Match.

Undaunted by his losses to Cena, Umaga participated in arguably the biggest match of 2007, the Battle of the Billionaires at Wrestlemania XXIII. Umaga was hand-picked by WWE chairman Vince McMahon to serve as his wrestler against arch-rival Donald Trump's wrestler Bobby Lashley. This match was especially important to McMahon as it was a Hair vs. Hair Match (with either McMahon or Trump losing their hair depending on the outcome). As expected, the match was a wild one with Umaga laying out "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (the match's special referee) and nearly winning the match for Mr. McMahon. In the end though, Umaga fell to Lashley.

An angry and now bald Mr. McMahon turned his attention from Trump to Lashley, seeking to punish Lashley for his humiliating loss at Wrestlemania. Despite his loss to Lashley, McMahon continued using the Samoan Bulldozer (who had lost manager Armando Elejandro Estrada thanks to a beatdown dished out by Lashley) as the instrument of his vengeance. The two feuded with Umaga helping Mr. McMahon capture Lashley's ECW World Title. Lashley countered by helping newcomer Santino Marella defeat Umaga for the Intercontinental Championship. Their feud continued until 2007's Judgment Day PPV which saw Lashley defeat Umaga, Vince, and Shane McMahon in a Handicap Match.

2007 saw Umaga's fortunes rise and fall. While he defeated Santino Marella to regain the Intercontinental Championship in July, he lost it in September to Jeff Hardy (who had just returned to the WWE). Umaga then suffered a brutal beatdown at the hands of a sledgehammer wielding Triple H (which lead to a storyline absence as Umaga served out a Wellness Policy mandated suspension). When he returned to action, Umaga fell to Triple H in a WWE Championship Match at the No Mercy PPV.

As 2007 became 2008, it became clear that Umaga was no longer an unstoppable force. Still, he remained a formidable opponent, battling Batista at Wrestlemania XXIV and Jeff Hardy in a Falls Count Anywhere Match at the 2008 One Night Stand PPV. In June 2008, Umaga was drafted to SmackDown! where he looked to be back on track in his winning ways. Unfortunately an ACL injury took him out of action for the remainder of the year.

In 2009, Umaga finally returned to action, destroying Jimmy Wang Yang during a match on SmackDown! From there, Umaga entered into a feud with CM Punk. Umaga defeated Punk at that year's Judgment Day PPV but he lost to Punk in a subsequent Samoan Strap Match at the Extreme Rules PPV. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Fatu was released by the WWE. Mr. Fatu recently appeared on the Australian Hulkamania tour, performing as Edward Smith “Uso” Fatu.

I'd like to extend my prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Eddie Fatu.