Samoan wrestling legend Solofa “Rikishi” Fatu Jr. recently revealed that some bad decisions early in his life nearly killed him.
Even though he grew up around the wrestling business and was and is a member of the fabled Anoa’i wrestling family, Rikishi didn’t have the best upbringing. Before he decided to enter the family business, he tried to carve his own path, but it was a dangerous one.
In a recent interview with GV Wire, Rikishi explains that his life turned around after getting into things “he shouldn’t be getting into” and he barely survived a drive-by shooting.
“I was kind of getting into things that I wasn’t supposed to get into. One day I got hit by a drive-by shooting and that kind of changed my outlook on life. In Samoan culture, it’s not for us to be wandering the streets and doing things like I was doing.”
“I was given a second chance. They pronounced me dead for three minutes in the General Hospital in San Francisco. To be able to see the pain of my family … I was in hospital for two months. As I looked around, I seen a lot of hurt on my family, hurt on my mother’s face, my parents. I felt it was my responsibility to be able to make this better. I kind of grew up into a man overnight.”
This experience would end up following Rikishi once he was already in the wrestling business. One of the many gimmicks he went through before settling on his iconic thong-wearing, stinkfacing character was “Make A Difference Fatu” which was inspired by this exact experience. He ditched the “Samoan savage” stereotype and preached a message of positivity to encourage kids to avoid making the same mistakes that he made. However, the gimmick was a failure and was dropped after less than a year.