Rikishi has nothing but fond memories of the late, great Yokozuna.
WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi recently spoke with Brandon Robinson of Bally Sports and delved into how his cousin, the late-great Hall of Famer, Yokozuna, was behind-the-scenes. Rikishi would tout the two-time WWF Champion as being a leader in the locker room during his run in WWE.
“You know, he’s nothing like you see on TV. Yoko was just a humble cat in the locker room, in and out of the ring,” Rikishi explained. “He was a joker, he loved hip-hop, he LOVED to freestyle – one of his favorite rappers back in the day was Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg. He loved to play [dominoes] in the locker room. He was a cat that, numerous times when we would go eat a restaurant and you see all the boys there, Yoko was so generous at all times and would pick up these bills: food bills, drink bills, whatever the case it may be. I’m talkin’ about bills that were well over $2,000 – $3,000 dollars, no joke, and he was always a teacher of the game.
“Every time a new talent came through the locker room, if they wanted to learn, he was in their ear. He was a good leader in the locker room. He had a passion for the industry. If he didn’t like you or you did something wrong, he’d tell you straight — he’d tell you straight, and then after that, it’s done. And everybody respected Yoko, and it was just his way of being a caring big person. He comes from a family of the church. Our grandfather and grandmother are preachers of the Christian church and so, we were raised underneath there as a very close-knit family. He was a great, great father to his two kids who are now grown adults. He’s an amazing brother to his two sisters and his one brother. And as far as a cousin, man, I mean, I don’t even like to use that word with Brandon because he’s more like a brother than he is a cousin.
“His house was open to anybody if you needed help or whatever, Yoko was there. I told this story in Yoko’s documentary on the WWE app. Back in the day, I just won the tag team title with the Headshrinkers and Yoko was on top – I had just bought this house in Pensacola, Florida and while I was on the road, my sons Solo and the twins were home. I got a call that the heat went out in the house and it was cold back in Pensacola, and I had just bought the place and I spent every dime that I had back in the day to get this place here, and while we were traveling to the town New York City, he asked me, “How are the kids? How’s the family doing?” I just tried to hide it and I wasn’t trying to tell him. He said, “What is it, man? What happened?” and I said, ‘The damn heat went out in the house and I don’t have the funds to back it up, so I have to save what I can on the road to get home and I don’t know how much it’s gonna cost… ‘ and this is part when, I mean, numerous times that anybody that he cared about – the brother pulled out his checkbook, signed the bottom of the check and gave me a blank check.
“And this is a small token of how this cat is. And, you know, my kids… that’s all they know. When Yoko comes to the house, it’s Uncle Rodney. Uncle Rodney this, Uncle Rodney that…Uncle Rodney was just one generous cat and you can’t help but think about the time that he isn’t here, what he would’ve been because he would’ve been retired by now and who knows what type of foundation that this man, this icon would have started for not only the community but for our culture, for the business of professional wrestling, the college of professional wrestling because that’s who he was, that type of giving person.
Rikishi also commented on his knack for entertaining audiences, and how he has been compared to Shaq in certain wrestling circles.
“Wow! I’m honored to be compared to a legend and an icon like Shaq and what he does on the court. You know, I always believe that God has timing for everything, and when this character came about for me, it was just about the end of that time for me going through multiple characters to find the ingredients for that character. For me, it was to just go out there and have fun. After all the years of experience of seeing what’s out there, my mind went to another level. What can I do to make this character different and fun from those that have been before me?
“In regards to my characters, I was honored to do this character Rikishi. I didn’t want it to have a spinoff of my cousin’s character Yoko to respect him, so when that character came to me from Vince McMahon, we talked about it and the only thing that I was worried about was, you know, back in the day, my kids were young still in high school, and you know how ruthless kids can be, and I didn’t want my kids to carry that weight. And we had a meeting and when they showed me the photo from the creative services in WWE, I took that photo and I told Vince, ‘Let me think about it Vince, and I’ll get back to you.’
“I went home and I showed the picture to my kids and I showed my family, and it’s exactly what you see with the thong, ass out, you know? Just everything! Just hangin’! And at the time, I put on weight; at that time, I was about 450lbs so I was pretty huge and pretty thick back then, at that time! But the thong thing, at least Uncle Rodney/ Uncle Yoko had tights to cover the backside, and I’m like, for me, I wasn’t worried because I always talk s--t about what the man gave you. I was blessed! That’s the way I looked at it!
“But I just wanted to get confirmation from my family that they were ok with it. And soon, when I got the green light from my family, the rest was history. I was going to put my all into it. I already knew Brandon when I come up, two things were going to happen. Number one: the fans are going to look at me and say, I’ll be damned…what is that? Number two: I was going to make them forget about me wearing a thong but showcase my skills through that character, meaning that you can change everything that’s out there, but I’m still Samoan.
“I’m still that brother that can go — the Headshrinkers, the Sultan, Make A Difference all in one! And here comes Rikishi. Now the dancing part was my hustle back in the day, in the Bay Area. As a young kid, 14-years old, I used to go to Pier 39 and I used to go dance out there, and used to mime dance, and strut, and all that stuff to try to make some extra change back in the day because my father worked for a construction company, and he also worked for a laundromat, and he also played pool at night to make some extra money. Our mother used to work in the hotels where she was a housekeeper, and she’d always tell me all the time, ‘Every time you check out that hotel room, you make sure you put a tip on that dresser for those people there.’
“And so, coming from that environment, I knew I got to do my part. And so, that’s it from there to the Rikishi deal. I said, you know, every time a wrestler wins, they put their hand up and raise their hands or they would go to their corner and raise their hands? I said, ‘How about we flip the script on these people? How about we turn this wrestling arena into a club? Let the lights go down and all the bulbs turn different colors? And let’s take this big 450 lb. Samoan from a fighting machine to somebody that can bust a move.’ And we tried it one time, Brandon, and the next thing you know, it was on a Sunday Night Heat show back in the day before Monday Night RAW. We tried it there and the next thing you know, we’re on the following week we’re already on Monday Night RAW. The rest was history.”
12 years following his untimely passing, Rikishi would induct Yokozuna into the Hall of Fame in 2012. Rikishi, himself, would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame three years later in 2015.
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