Where Are They Now? Rosey

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November 13, 2012

Coming from one of the most legendary families in sports-entertainment, Matt Anoa’i had the drive and determination to find success in the ring. That same passion that once brought the Superstar known as Rosey to the World Tag Team Titles in WWE has carried over into his life outside the squared circle, as he prepares to open up a Samoan barbecue restaurant in Cincinnati. (CLASSIC PHOTOS | CURRENT VIDEOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)

Rosey is up for the challenges of running a restaurant, though it’s beyond anything he’s ever learned in the ring. It’s a new venture for the Anoa’i family that made its name in the squared circle through three generations of WWE Superstars.

The son of one half of the legendary Wild Samoans, WWE Hall of Famer Sika, Anoa’i has been around the ring since birth. That carried positives and negatives for the second-generation grappler.

“Growing up around the wrestling industry was kind of frustrating because I always had to move,” the former Rosey told WWE Classics. “It was hard to make friends, but it was exciting and fun because I got to be with my dad and get out to shows with him. It was a life experience versus something you just did. We traveled, and my dad was my hero.”

But the family bonds didn’t stop with Sika. Rosey’s father and his uncle, Afa, had a large family, which grew to include several second- and third-generation Superstars. Many of them grew up play-fighting around in the family’s squared circle with each other.

“I’d always get in the ring when I was a kid with my other cousins,” Anoa’i said, going through a list of his cousins, comprised of WWE Hall of Famer Yokozuna, Rikishi, Headshrinker Samu and The Tonga Kid (aka Tama of The Islanders).  

Though he was surrounded by professional wrestling throughout his childhood, Anoa’i had another passion in his youth: football. Gifted with great size, the Samoan took his love of the gridiron as far as he could, earning a scholarship to the University of Hawaii. A professional career wasn’t in the cards for him, however, leaving him wondering what his next step in life would be.

“I didn’t want to stop doing something athletic or something that challenged my mind,” Anoa’i explained.

He found the answer while living in New Orleans’ French Quarter, working as a bouncer in a bar on Bourbon Street.

“I sat there one night and was looking at the bartender,” the second-generation Superstar said. “He was probably in his 60s. It just dawned on me that I needed to get out of this town and pursue a career. Wrestling became the glove that fit.”

Luckily, Matt didn’t have to search far to find an “in” to the wrestling business. It was as simple as picking up the phone.

“As soon as I made the decision [to become a wrestler], I called my dad, who was living in Pensacola, Fla., and said, ‘Come on over to New Orleans, let’s train me to wrestle,’ ” Anoa’i said.

Within two days, Sika had made the trek from Florida to Louisiana, with a wrestling ring in tow, prepared to train his son as only his family could.

“We set [the ring] up in the backyard and did what The Wild Samoans do,” he said of his father’s training approach. “We train in the backyard and get it done. That was my workout, every morning from six until eight or nine in the morning, getting in the ring with my dad and waking the neighbors up with all the bumping around.”

When he was ready for competition, the 24-year-old Anoa’i took to the squared circle in independent promotions around The Big Easy, coming across future Superstars like Viscera, who he quickly formed a friendship with.

After touring through Puerto Rico and the Northeastern United States, Matt soon joined forces with his cousin Samu, briefly joining the WWE roster before heading to The Land of Extreme. As The Samoan Gangsta Party, the second-generation Samoans engaged in wild brawls with the likes of New Jack and Mustafa Saed.

Shortly after The Samoan Gangsta Party was over, Anoa’i tagged up with another cousin, with whom he would find unparalleled success. Longtime members of the WWE Universe will remember the late Superstar as Jamal or Umaga, but to Matt Anoa’i, he’ll always be “Eki.”

“I always knew he was hungry,” Matt said of his cousin’s passion for wrestling. “We formed a tag team and went out, we were getting good responses to the way we moved in the ring and people liked it.”

The two massive cousins were adept at using their size to muscle opponents around the ring with ease. But the Samoan pair surprised many with their agility. Matt crushed opponents with a devastating leg drop, while Eki came off the top rope with a shocking splash that left opponents breathless.

Matt and his cousin quickly made waves in wrestling. The pair earned a spot on the roster of the FMW promotion in Japan. Their success around the country and overseas put them on WWE’s radar and earned the second-generation stars a tryout match. They impressed WWE officials and earned contracts with the company. Because of the heated nature of the business during the Monday Night War, then–talent relations head Jim Ross asked the Samoan cousins to give WWE the right to make the first offer.

For Matt and Eki, there were no other options.

“I let Jim know that my family’s been WWE since I was born. In my mind, there was no other company.”

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