Throughout the 1980s, WWE was rife with larger-than-life characters and personas. The Superstars of that era invaded living rooms every Saturday morning on syndicated television, mesmerizing kids and convincing mom and dad to spend boatloads of money on all things Hulkamania.
While competitors such as Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior and "Macho Man" Randy Savage generated the most buzz, earning Hall of Fame inductions and the admiration of millions of fans around the globe, none of what they accomplished would have been possible without the skilled vets in their supporting cast.
One such wrestler was Haku, a native of the island of Tonga and a legitimate badass.
Whether teaming with Tama as one half of the Islanders or competing as King Haku under the tutelage of the great Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, he was a solid member of the WWE roster for the majority of the decade.
As the youth movement took hold of the company, he was phased out, left to jump ship to the surging World Championship Wrestling in order to continue his career on a national stage.
In the process, he extended his career by nearly a decade, becoming one of the most respected veterans in the industry—probably because he would rip your head off otherwise.
A worker whose achievements and accomplishments have gone underappreciated by wrestling historians, Haku is certainly deserving of Hall of Fame consideration.
In celebration of a career that spanned nearly three decades, enjoy this career retrospective and the greatest moments from Haku.
While Haku is recognized for his contributions to both WWE and WCW, he got his start in All Japan Pro Wrestling, learning under the knowledge tree of the legendary Genichiro Tenryu and Takashi Ishikawa. But his early days in the sport were not limited to the Orient.
He worked in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His feud with fellow future WWE Superstar Dino Bravo was one of his most notable early programs, while working with the legendary Road Warriors, Tarzan Tyler and Butch Reed helped him learn and develop as a wrestler.
He even spent time as an official, gaining him an even stronger appreciation and understanding for the business.
By the time the mid-80s arrived, he was ready to take the next big step in his career: joining Vince McMahon's expanding promotion.
King Tonga and The Islanders
Forgotten in history is the fact that Haku arrived in WWE as King Tonga and instantly made an impression on fans, body-slamming the previously unconquerable Big John Studd. Of course, the giant heel and his manager, Bobby Heenan, refused to pay him the $15,000 he was promised, but he was a made man, so that was more than enough compensation.
But something happened. Rather than following up on that angle, he was paired with Tama in The Islanders team. Together, they were a middling duo struggling to break through the wealth of tag teams the company had at that point.
It was not until they turned heel, adopted Heenan as their manager and engaged the wildly popular British Bulldogs in a rivalry that they found their break. The dastardly heels kidnapped mascot Matilda, intensifying the rivalry. It all came to a head at WrestleMania IV, where the Islanders teamed with Heenan to face the Bulldogs and partner Koko B. Ware.
Despite common sense suggesting that the Bulldogs would go over in the big blowoff match, the heels won in what was the biggest win of Haku's WWE stint to that point.
It was not long before Tama exited the promotion, leaving Haku to fend for himself as a singles competitor.
As a member of the hated Heenan Family, Haku found himself in a prominent position on the card. Realizing that he would never stay over with the audience as himself, though, Vince McMahon made the decision to christen him "King Haku," taking the cape and crown away from the very injured Harley Race.
It worked. The crowd hated Haku, and they hated Bobby Heenan for demanding that they bow before his royal highness. One person unwilling to do so was Race, who returned just in time to battle his former stablemate in January 1989 at the Royal Rumble.
The match was a hard-hitting, incredibly physical affair that saw Haku legitimize his reign as king with a victory over the respected veteran.
Months later, at WrestleMania V, he represented Heenan in a match against Hercules, who was avenging his treatment at the hands of his former manager. Again, it was a hard-fought match, but this time Haku found himself on the losing end of the battle.
He would remain relevant throughout the year, but it was clear that his singles push had lagged the later it progressed. Enter Andre the Giant and a rivalry with Demolition to rejuvenate Haku's push.
On the December 30, 1989 edition of Superstars, Haku and Andre (dubbed the Colossal Connection) defeated Ax and Smash to capture the WWE Tag Team Championships. It was a great way to highlight the work of Haku, who carried the majority of the team's matches thanks to the diminishing health of his partner.
At WrestleMania VI in Toronto, though, their reign atop the tag division came to an end as Demolition regained their titles to a thunderous ovation.
Haku would float aimlessly around the WWE midcard for the remainder of his run with the company. He would exit in 1992.
In 1995, after stints in Mexico and Japan, Meng made his debut in World Championship Wrestling as a bodyguard for manager Col. Robert Parker. It was an effective use of the performer, who quickly found himself working against some of the most recognizable stars in the company, including Road Warrior Hawk and Sting.
The latter and Meng would meet in the finals of the United States Championship Tournament at the Great American Bash pay-per-view that year. Despite a solid performance by the Tongan competitor, it was the Stinger who emerged victoriously, the title in his possession.
The alliance between Meng and Parker proved to be short-lived.
Later in '95, Meng joined the Dungeon of Doom faction, a group of former WWE stars who banded together under the guidance of "Taskmaster" Kevin Sullivan to eliminate Hulk Hogan from wrestling.
It was during his time in the group, though, that Meng reunited with longtime friend The Barbarian and formed the Faces of Fear team. One of the most feared duos in the industry, they tore through the tag division, with Meng using his dangerous Tongan Death Grip to secure many a victory.
From there, Meng would go on to enjoy a singles push late in the decade. He would feud with both Lex Luger and Sting, enjoying a career renaissance under head of creative Vince Russo. He even scored a clean pay-per-view win over Luger in what was his first signature victory for quite some time.
He would segue into the Hardcore division, regularly competing against the likes of Norman Smiley, Brian Knobbs and Terry Funk. After months of chasing the company's Hardcore title, he finally won it in January.
Failure to realize his contract was up, though, led to WCW losing its champion to the competition.
Return to WWE
Just days after winning WCW's Hardcore title, Meng jumped ship to WWE, appearing at the Royal Rumble under the Haku moniker. It was completely unexpected and took both fans and WCW officials by surprise.
Almost immediately, he aligned himself with Rikishi in a duo that found itself at odds with The Brothers of Destruction, Undertaker and Kane. Their wars were intense, aggressive and punishing to all involved. In the end, though, the babyfaces got the best of their rivals.
Haku would maintain a spot on the roster until 2002, though he was inactive for a large portion of his time in the company, thanks to the Invasion angle that killed his momentum.
His release would allow him to compete for a few upstart companies but by and large, he was unofficially retired from the sport.