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  3. The Death of Eddie “Umaga” Fatu

I don’t watch modern wrestling regularly anymore…haven’t in 3 years or so. But I still read Meltzer’s website (the free info, anyway) on a daily basis, just to keep up with old favorites.

The Samoan family has had more influence (and more successful wrestlers) for the (W)WWF/E than any other family in wrestling. Starting with High Chief Peter Maivia, then Afa & Sika, Samu, Tonga Kid, Fatu/Rikishi, Kokina/Yokozuna, The Rock, Rosie, Jamal/Umaga. Then there was also the extended family, as Polynesians go…if you’re from the islands, they consider you family…Jimmy Snuka, King Tonga/Haku/Meng. Afa Jr/Manu & Sim Snuka have yet to make their mark for WWE, but they were there for a short time.’

But here I am, 30+ years as a fan, and I’ve gotta see another young wrestler die. I refuse to say he “passed away” or “is no longer with us”…it weakens the impact of what happened. Eddie Fatu died, the man is dead, he will never be seen by his family or friends or fans again.

Eddie Fatu was just 1 year younger than me, he was 36. I can’t imagine thinking of an 18yo as “middle-aged.” But it happens all the time in wrestling, guys dying in their 30’s. Its part of why I stopped watching. It hurts too much to see my heroes dying so young. And based on the choices they’ve made that leads to their deaths at such a young age, I can no longer consider many of them to be heroes. Its a sad thing for me to have to give that up.

Why are so many of my wrestling heroes from my childhood still living in their 50’s, 60’s & beyond, while so many of the more recent wrestlers are dying young? I already know the answer to that…they have to look superhuman so they take steroids, they have to work through concussions & injuries for fear they’ll “lose their spot” to someone else so they take heavy painkillers, and they don’t get an off-season to rest their minds & bodies at home so they rely on downers to sleep when they must & uppers to rise when they must so they don’t miss their flights.

The WWE is a much more demanding business to make it in than wrestling was in general when I was growing up, when there were countless territories to settle down in for a while & just travel locally. Time in a car, time on a plane, I suppose there wasn’t much difference in travel now that I think about it. But something must’ve been different, when you look at “young deaths” back then compared to now. It just wasn’t happening nearly as often.

RIP Eddie, you will be missed…funny, I could swear I said that very same thing just 4 years ago.

Dave Barton
Seaside Heights, NJ