Forgotten Members of Famous WWE Families: Afa Anoa’i Jr.

September 18, 2015 - WWE

The WWE spotlight usually flashed on Afa Anoa’i Jr. for an instant.

Wrestling as Manu, a wild-haired, thumping powerhouse assimilated Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes 7 years ago, nonetheless a fondness fast evaporated. Afa Jr. went from a WWE developmental complement to Raw to shade in only dual years.

At just 30 years old, his story is distant from over. The account that has unfolded so far, though, has been a cyclical one. Afa Jr. began his wrestling tour behaving in high propagandize gyms in Pennsylvania and now finds himself behind in that same mark today.

A vast array of wrestlers would gladly take a resume he has amassed. Multiple championships in his hometown promotion, a brief cheating with a large time and a list of prestigious opponents isn’t good enough, though, for a member of a famed Anoa’i family.

Afa Jr.’s father and Uncle Sika shaped a Hall of Fame organisation The Wild Samoans. His cousin, Yokozuna, once carried a WWE pretension to a ring, clashed with Hulk Hogan and was a company’s tip heel.

The rest of a family tree is filled with noted characters of several eras: The Tonga Kid, Roman Reigns, Umaga, The Usos, Rikishi. That clan’s collection of triumphs embody a Intercontinental Championship, a WWE tab belts, a All Japan tab titles, winning a Royal Rumble and gaining entrance into a WWE Hall of Fame.

The Tonga Kid headlined Madison Square Garden. Reigns sealed horns with Brock Lesnar in a marquee compare during WrestleMania 31.

How did Afa Jr. not purify adult like his some-more famous family members? It wasn’t his earthy gifts that hold him back. He finish around a ring with distant some-more lively than one would design for his size. A multiple of intensity and fluidity outlines his ring work.

A obtuse batch of intangibles than a other Anoa’is, however, has shifted his career arc. 

Afa Jr. does not exaggerate a action-figure demeanour of his cousin, Reigns. He has not managed to be as commanding as Umaga. His cousin, Rikishi, has him kick in terms of charisma. Afa Sr. surpasses in presence.

And during first, it didn’t demeanour like any of that matter. Afa Jr. looked staid to flower on a gridiron instead.


From Football to Fighting

Armed with extended shoulders, explosiveness and a brood of hereditary earthy gifts from a family of athletes, Afa Jr. emerged as a standout football actor in high school. It’s tough to suppose a teenage descent lineman looking adult during him with his palm in a dirt, wearing that trademark Anoa’i snarl and not being intimidated.

Per his University of Connecticut profile, Afa Jr. left Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with 214 tackles, 23 sacks and 12 recovered fumbles.

His efforts warranted him all-conference standing 3 times. The earnest defensive tackle committed to UConn, but as noted on Yahoo Sports, “since his grades were not adult to par,” he would initial enroll during Fork Union Military Academy.

Afa Jr. afterwards played his approach onto the U.S. Army All-American Bowl roster, per, in 2003. In that game, destiny NFLers surrounded him. Reggie Bush, Vernon Davis and Joe Thomas were among those who common a margin with a Samoan-American.

There was a hum around a son of a WWE Hall of Famer. “He’s as good technically and knows how to use his hands as good as any prep defensive linemen I’ve ever seen,” one college recruiter told ESPN The Magazine.

That guarantee didn’t blossom, however.

Afa Jr. didn’t see many movement after he strapped on a helmet for a Huskies. In his sophomore season, he played in just one game.

With football not panning out, a family business waited for him.

His father owned Pennsylvania-based World Xtreme Wrestling (WXW). Afa Jr. began to contest there some-more regularly, where he had already spent copiousness of time in a ring as a teenager.

At only 16, he took on Perfect Creation during Sportsfest 2000, where his foe gathering him by a table.

Returning to a ring contingency have felt like returning home. When he increasing his effort for WXW, Afa Jr. found himself surrounded by associate Anoa’is in a in-ring battles that came his way. His brother, Samu, teamed with him. So did his cousins, LA Smooth and Rosey.

Afa Jr. stayed in a Northeast where he took on important names like Low Ki, Claudio Castagnoli (now Cesaro) and Balls Mahoney. It wasn’t prolonged before a WWE noticed. 


The Major League Stint

Beginning in late 2006, Afa Jr. gifted 3 of WWE‘s incarnations of a developmental system: Deep South Wrestling, Ohio Valley Wrestling and Florida Championship Wrestling.

At DSW, he and Sonny Siaki shaped The Samoan Fight Club. Unlike with how they rubbed his cousin Reigns, WWE done certain to prominence Afa Jr.’s Samoan birthright and make full use of his family name.

He and Siaki collided with The Major Brothers during both DSW and OVW. Brett and Brian Majors would go on to turn Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins in WWE. They remained a span once WWE called them up. 

Afa Jr.’s partnership didn’t final scarcely as long.

WWE changed him into singles competition. He was requisitioned as a nasty champion many like his father.

The association awarded him a FCW Southern Heavyweight Championship at a finish of 2007, a pretension he hold onto for dual months.

Tyson Kidd (working as TJ Wilson) dethroned him on Dec. 1 of that year during a Jewish Community Center in New Port Richey, Florida. Less than a year after that defeat, Afa Jr. was relocating on to bigger venues and a brighter lights. 

WWE called him adult to a categorical register as Manu, aligning with him Orton, Rhodes and Ted DiBiase Jr. At Unforgiven 2008, he and his new organisation pounded CM Punk and Kofi Kingston backstage.

The thought done sense. Afa Jr., like Orton and a rest of his allies, all had famous fathers. Their group, that would eventually be called The Legacy, was a posse of second-generation stars looking to make their possess impact on WWE story by any means necessary.

Afa Jr. never fit in, though. 

He was a beast among men, a one rugged powerhouse among a organisation of sleeker athletes. The disproportion in competition was tough to ignore, as well. In that way, he was a homogeneous of Owen Hart in The Nation of Domination.

He teamed with these organisation a few times, nonetheless a partnership was over in a hurry. Just a month after Afa Jr. battled Batista on Raw with Legacy in his corner, Orton suspended him from a stable. Orton forced all his underlings to pass a exam to infer they belonged.

Manu unsuccessful his, losing to Matt Hardy on Raw.

Not prolonged after his purpose in a coterie ended, so did his WWE career. The company released him on Feb. 23, 2009.

One probable reason emerged for because WWE had been so discerning to let him go. In an interview with the Sun (h/t PWInsider), Orton pronounced of his former partner, “Manu had some honour issues. There are a lot of opposite reasons he wasn’t good for Legacy, nonetheless a reason he’s not with a association anymore had a lot to do with his backstage attitude.”

It couldn’t have helped possibly that Afa Jr. had violated a Wellness Policy in 2008, earning himself a 30-day suspension.

Regardless of a company’s logic behind slicing him, he left WWE but wrestling a singular pay-per-view match. He didn’t win any titles and wasn’t around prolonged adequate to be some-more than a footnote.


Returning Home, a Spotlight a World Away

Like with his football career, early success in a squared round preceded him attack a wall. Only in his mid-20s, he was already out of wrestling’s majors. 

It looked some-more than doubtful that he would carve a trail to a Hall of Fame as other Anoa’i family members had. His wrestling days were not nonetheless over, though. Afa Jr. walked a different, reduction glamorous trail than his father and cousins.

Returning home to Pennsylvania, he traded WWE for WXW, stadiums for public halls. With a dimmer spotlight forked during him, Afa Jr. would go on to accumulate a postulated career in a Northeast.

He has been one of WXW‘s many distinguished names, winning only about each pretension in that promotion. In 2011, he captured a WXW Ultra Heavyweight Championship in his hometown. 

Gold came frequently for him. So did categorical eventuality bouts for his father’s promotion. Along a way, he took on names like Homicide, Sabu and 2 Cold Scorpio. His nephew was on that list as well, as Afa Jr. and Lance Anoa’i met during Sportsfest 2011.

And distinct his pre-WWE career, he didn’t only hang to his home state. He stepped into wrestling rings in Germany, Belgium, New York and Puerto Rico where he teamed with his LA Smooth for the World Wrestling Council.

The Sons of Samoa won the WWC World Tag Team Championships three times in 2013.

Pennsylvania remains a core for him, though. The final few years have seen him contest for Keystone State promotions Battlefield Pro Wrestling, Pennsylvania Premiere Wrestling, in further to complicated doses of appearances for WXW.

Competing in a categorical eventuality in a front of half-filled bleachers during Holy Family Academy in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, is a distant cry from where Afa Jr. was, however briefly, years ago. Still, a art stays a same. Villains tumble to heroes; superkicks moment opposite jaws.

In many ways, Afa Jr. is many positively his father’s son. Their similarity is unmistakable. And when Afa Jr. starts headbutting his enemies, it looks eerily like a repeat of a past. It’s no warn afterwards that in an talk with Behind a Barricade, Afa Jr. said, “I schooled a lot from my father so we try to impersonate him and my brothers as many as possible, I’m formulating my possess turn to it.”

He only hasn’t been means to accomplish as many as Afa, Sika, Yokuzuna, Umaga, etc.

The Anoa’i family has constructed an unfit array of stars. It’s transparent that some of those, from Afa to Reigns, are a kind who fire in a sky. Some of them are a bit harder to see, gloomy orbs mislaid in a massiveness of space.


This is a final essay in a four-part series. Be certain to check out these prior editions:

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