Last night, former WWE wrestler Rikishi was announced as the next person to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. For the most part, Rikishi mainly competed in tag team wrestling with Samu as part of the Headshrinkers and as a member of the popular group Too Cool, which formed in 2000.
There were a few attempts at a singles push for Rikishi under different characters such as The Sultan in 1996/1997 and as Fatu in 1995. The latter was a baby face who broke away from a gang and was all about peace.
There was no question that Fatu was the best worker in the Headshrinker tag team and the most popular member of the Too Cool group. So, perhaps the WWF would try to make Rikishi into a main event babyface?
Well, think again.
Back in November of 1999 at Survivor Series, Steve Austin was taken out of the main event against WWF World Champion Triple H and the Rock at the event. How was Austin taken out? In the parking lot of the arena a car ran over Austin and promptly took Austin out of the match and was out of action for nearly a year.
But, who the hell did it? Who would run over another human being? A lot of people speculated that Triple H had committed the heinous action.
The storyline took a backseat for most of 2000 until Austin was set to make his return in the fall of the year. On the debut edition of RAW on TNN, commissioner Mick Foley started to investigate who ran over Austin for the sake of the company and for Austin himself.
Billy Gunn, Chris Jericho, Scotty 2 Hotty and the previous mentioned Triple H were all suspects due to the driver having blonde hair. But, all of them denied that they had ran over Stone Cold.
The investigation came to an end on the October 9th edition of RAW. Foley noted that the car that ran down Austin was a car rented by The Rock, making him the number one suspect. Despite Rock having all the motive in the world to run over Austin, he didn’t believe it was Rock, but instead it was Rock’s cousin Rikishi!
Rikishi admits to running over Austin, but insists that he did it for the Rock because the “island boys” had always been held down or pushed aside and this was their time to overcome that. Obviously, Rock was not a fan of this and did not appreciate Rikishi’s actions. Rikishi was not sorry and would have done it again if he had the chance.
October 9th, 2000 the night Rikishi became the most hated man in the WWF.
Two weeks later, Rikishi would square off against Steve Austin at WWF No Mercy in a no holds barred match. The crowd clearly hated Rikishi making the heel turn at least successful in the early stage. The match was heavily dominated by Austin, which was the point due to Austin being out for ten months. Plus, jobbing Rikishi out two weeks after his turn would really destroy his creditability.
Later on at No Mercy, Rikishi tried to help Rock retain the WWF World Championship over Kurt Angle but ended up doing more harm than good and Rock lost the championship. This would lead to a match at Survivor Series between the two which saw Rock win an underrated match between the two.
Despite the loss, Rikishi remained a main event player and was part of the six man hell in a cell match at Armageddon 2000. In one of the more memorable spots of the history of the match, The Undertaker chokeslammed Rikishi off the top of the cage and onto the bed of truck. The spot would take Rikishi out of action for a few weeks. This would transition into a feud with The Undertaker.
Rikishi would continue to lose matches to the Undertaker in singles format. Eventually, Haku and Kane were brought into the feud with Taker and Kane again mostly winning the matches. By spring, Rikishi was off television and his heel push came to a screeching halt.
At WrestleMania 17, Austin turned heel and joined Vince McMahon a man he hated for years prior. By the time May 7th rolled around, Rikishi returned and turn baby face by refusing to attack Mick Foley per the orders of Stephanie and Vince McMahon. A match between Rikishi and Steve Austin was made with the roles reversed. The outcome was the same with Austin prevailing. For the rest of 2001, Rikishi would not partake in the Invasion storyline and wouldn’t return to action until the spring of 2002.
So, why didn’t the heel turn for Rikishi work? Personally, a lot of it may have to do with fans not wanting to boo Rikishi. Over the summer of 2000, Rikishi had really hit his groove as a baby face having a series of good matches with Chris Benoit and Val Venis. I suggest fans watch the steel cage match between Rikishi and Val Venis at Fully Loaded 2000. It’s a hidden gem as the whole pay per view is.
How am I going to realistically boo a huge man wearing a thong and who proceeds to rub his large ass into other wrestlers faces in the corner? Perhaps the point of the heel turn was for a short term main event heel. If that were the case, then it was successful. However, considering the angle was built up for nearly a year, to have the blowoff essentially end after four months seems a little lackluster to me.
I would have never turned Rikishi heel. Instead, Chris Jericho could have been the guy to ran over Austin. Jericho hadn’t found his groove in the company as a popular baby face like he would in 2000. Jericho was obviously strong enough on the microphone to carry himself and his work rate in the ring had always been top notch.
Had the WWF gone with that route, Rikishi would have been able to replace Jericho in the upper midcard. Instead, he got a chance in the main event scene and it lasted less than half a year.
It also seems like the angle is largely forgotten about when it should have been a career making angle for someone. The angle had very little payoff for an angle that had so much build and anticipation.
What were your memories of the angle in 2000? Was the Rikishi reveal shocking to you?
Leave your thoughts below!
Thanks for reading.