Pro Wrestling: 16 of the Greatest Wrestlers from Samoa & the Polynesian Islands
One of the great things about growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s was watching wrestling on television on Saturday mornings.
Gordon Solie, Lord Alfred Hayes, Lance Russell and a young kid named Vince McMahon would call the action from various promotions and territories.
As a youngster, I was in heaven.
The thing I liked about the programs (beside the ringside interviews, the characters and Barbara Clary in Florida) were the different wrestlers that came through promotion like Killer Karl Kox, The Great Kabuki and the Wild Samoans ruled the tag team ranks in the WWF.
The Polynesian and Island wrestlers were great to watch. While most of them did not talk or give the best interviews, they were stylist and exotic and drew crowds for their brand of wrestling and their ability to, in most cases, manhandle their opponents.
I became interested in the likes of Prince Iaukea, The High Chief Peter Maivia and one of my favorites in Florida, Cocoa Samoa.
Here are 15 of the best of all-time. Yes, there are plenty to choose from, but these wrestlers have kept my interest over the last 30 years.
As Gordon Solie said, "He wasn't quick; he was sudden."
A short, squatty Islander who made his living with short moves and quick feet, he was a fan favorite who feuded with the likes of Dory Funk, Jr., Kabuki and the Masked Assassin.
He was a nondescript wrestler, but he was also one of the first I recognized with being a good guy as opposed to being bad.
A two-time WWF Champion. Yokozuna was one bad dude.
A sumo wrestler turned professional, he teamed with Mr. Fuji (which was perfect for him) and captured WWF gold.
The massive man was intimidating from the moment he got into the ring, and Vince McMahon cashed in on his Sumo success and made him an even bigger star.
For years, the big and intimidating Barbarian was one of the best tag team wrestlers and one of the most underrated big men in the business.
Whether he was in the AWA, NWA, WCW or WWF, he was always paired with another giant who caused pain and destruction in their path.
He feuded with the Road Warriors for a time in the AWA and again in the NWA, adopting their style of face paint along the way.
The thing I never understood was why he never tried his hand at singles competition on a full-time basis.
The Head Shrinkers
The Headshrinkers, Samu and Fatu, were billed as a pair of savages who would do anything to earn a win.
They were also billed as having hard heads that were impervious to pain; any attack that targeted a Headshrinker's head would have no effect.
They were a different breed, but a follow-up of the original Samoans.
No one in wrestling has the pedigree as The Rock. Of Samoan and African-American descent, he is one of the most exotic and unique-looking athletes of our generation.
And with that eyebrow thing, he drives women crazy.
The Rock is a multiple champion in the WWE, and his gift for gab is one of the reasons he is so uniquely accepted as both a heel and hero.
He will go down as one of the best of all-time.
Truly one of the great icons of the early 1980s wrestling and a true champion of the Vince McMahon Era.
Snuka was rumored to be the lead wrestler to take the reigns of the business had Hulk Hogan said no to McMahon in Tampa.
Snuka was a tough, sculpted high flyer who was as popular as ever. But he never did hold a WWF title in his career.
Snuka was also a popular wrestler in the NWA before he moved up to Stamford.
King Curtis Iaukea
A singles and tag team champion in the NWA, WCW and the WWF, Iaukea was a tag team partner of Mark Lewin when he started out in the business.
Later, he feuded with Lewin, and after he became a fan favorite in time for the 70s, King Curtis feuded with Tiger Singh.
After retiring, Curtis managed the likes of Kevin Sullivan and Lewin (as the Purple Haze) in the late 1980s. He reappeared in the 1990s in the WWF promotion as a manager and mouthpiece for Kamala.
The High Chief and grandfather of The Rock and father-in-law of Rocky Johnson.
Was known as the Flying Hawaiian. He was a strong and burly wrestler who was an Island's favorite.
Also known as a legend for having appeared in the fifth James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice, where he plays a driver that drives a disguised Bond to Osato headquarters.
Another one of those wrestlers who was highly underrated as a singles competitor. He was paired with some really good tag team partners over the years (The Barbarian) and was a member of Paul Jones Army.
Meng had great success in the NWA, WCW and in the WWF. And he never backed down from an opponent, even challenging Sting on many occasion in WCW.
Meng (also known as Haku) had one of the hardest heads in wrestling.
The Magnificent One.
The Hawaii-born Muraco was a great heel in both the NWA and in the WWF in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
He was a serious champion in the WWF, holding the Intercontinental Championship prior to the beginning of the Hulk Hogan Era.
Muraco was one of the truly "big" men in the sport. He feuded with the likes of Pedro Morales, Tito Santana and Bruno Sammartino.
A great tag team wrestler who joined forces with Paul Diamond to form "Badd Company" in the AWA.
He was also a member of the Orient Express in the WWF and is the son of Duke Keomuka.
Tanaka and Diamond were managed by Diamond Dallas Page in the AWA and feuded with the Midnight Rockers and Mando and Chavo Guerrero.
Samoa Joe is currently one half of the TNA World Tag Team Champions with Magnus.
He is also one of the top heels in the business today.
Known for his submission holds and his punishing blows, and of course, his never-stop attitude.
He has been a multiple champion in TNA and could eventually own every championship record in the company.
The Wild Samoans
Two of the best tag team wrestlers ever.
The Samoans were a staple of Vince McMahon, Sr. and his WWF company in the 1970s and early 1980s.
They were tough, savage-like and had some of the hardest heads in the business. They were also former WWF World Tag Team Champions.
The best thing about their gimmick was they never spoke and let Capt. Lou Albano do their talking for them.
All three were a great combination.
Eddie Fatu was a two-time Intercontinental Champion in the WWE and was a beast in the ring.
He is the younger brother of the Tonga Kid and Rikishi. Just the sight of him alone was enough to strike fear in wrestlers.
Known for his submission holds and his brute strength, he challenged John Cena for the WWE Title before he died in 2009 of a heart attack.