Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Umaga assaults the Nature Boy

April 3, 2006


wwe umaga

Tonight sixteen-time world champion Ric Flair was attacked by a wild Samoan named Umaga on WWE Raw. Announcers Jerry Lawler and Joey Stiles were initially tongue-tied, pronouncing the wild Samoan's name alternately as "Umaga" and "Umanga." Umaga has long wild hair and has his face tattooed (in Maori or Samoan motifs?).

Details excerpt via Wade Keller at pwtorch:

KELLER'S WWE RAW REPORT 4/2: Ongoing "virtual time" coverage of live show
By Wade Keller, Torch editor
Apr 3, 2006, 22:10

WWE Raw Report
April 2, 2006
Live from Chicago, Ill.

[Commercial Break]

-A clip was shown from Unlimited of Chavo crying and saying he must not be cut out to be a wrestler anymore. He then quit and walked away.

-Ric Flair walked out and talked about great memories in Chicago. It was one of those generic starts where you knew he would be interrupted quickly. A man interrupted and introduced himself as Armando Estrada. He said he enjoys riches and the old Ric Flair lifestyle. He said Flair's days as a high roller are over. He talked way too long about nothing. Flair told him no one interrupts him, but he took way too long to cut him off. Armado introduced his man, Umaga (the former Jamal). He is dressed like a wild Samoan crossed with Kamala. He attacked Flair with headbutts and a running butt-butt in the corner and finally a neck breaker. Flair was left lying as Umaga and Estrada left the ring. Coach said people would be talking about that at the water cooler tomorrow. He couldn't be more wrong.

[Commercial Break]

-They showed Ozzie Guillen [World Series champion manager of the Chicago White Sox] in the front row.


Within minutes of airing live there's already a wikipedia entry for Umaga:

Eddie Fatu

Eddie Fatu is a Samoan professional wrestler in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). During Fatu's first stint in WWE, he was known as Jamal. Fatu wrestled outside of WWE by the stage name Ekmo / Ekmo Fatu. He currently wrestles on the RAW brand as Umaga.

WWE Return

On the April 3, 2006, edition of RAW, Fatu made his redebut on RAW working under the name of Umaga, alongside his Cuban manager, Armando Alejandro Estrada. After Estrada interrupted Ric Flair and introduced his new client, Umaga proceeded to viciously attack Flair, leaving him laying in the middle of the ring.

Source: wikipedia

The photo on that wiki entry is an old one and doesn't have the new hair style and facial tattoo. I'll get a link to a new Umaga photo when WWE releases it momentarily... Whose idea is this?!

UPDATE: WWE has the photo (see below).

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More reaction:

"Worst segment: Flair-Umaga." ... "Speaking of embarrassing, Umaga? Come on, is this 1995? I would love to hear from the person who came up with this rehashed gimmick; it's just beyond explanation."
-- Shane Mytrunec, Vancouver, British Columbia

"The big Samoan with the Lion King music didn't get over with me."
-- Rome Colon of Brooklyn, New York

"Jamal (Umaga) looked good in his return. The savage islander gimmick has been done before, but I think it could work for him."
-- Adam Berger of Augusta, Maine

"Worst match or segment: That new guy who attacked Flair. By the way, Flair's promo at first was decent."
-- John Hills of Monroe, New York

"So (Osama) Estrada is great on the mic...too bad he got laden with the talentless love child of Rikishi and Troy Polamalu. Umaga made every person watching Raw tonight consider pulling a Tim White."
-- Adam Reifman of New York, New York

When Umaga came down the ramp was i the only person who thought of 1992? Is he going to be impervious to headbutts?
-- Brandon Berrett of Ogden, Utah

"Interesting segue to Ric Flair's music. Jerry Lawler said Flair should not be walking after taking a fall at Mania. Flair said he has had some unbelievable moments in Chicago. (Chi-Town Rumble comes to mind.) Flair said he would chase after the title once again. Osama Rodrigues Alejandro came to the ring with a new ring name. Osama said it's time for a change. Flair cut him off. Osama said he grew up watching Flair growing up in Cuba. He called Flair a bandejo. He also said he enjoys nice clothes, women, and cash. He was about to introduce someone, but Flair cut him off and said no one interrupts him. Flair called out Osama's acquaintance. He introduced Umbaga (sp?). This was who WWE would have turned Samoa Joe into - the stereotypical savage Samoan type character. The reaction was a cross between the Gobbledy gooker and Shockmaster. Umbaga destroyed Flair. Coach said people would be talking about the new person around the water cooler tomorrow. Yeah, because of how ridiculous, asinine, and embarrassing this was. Not even Lawler and Coach could make it work."
-- James Caldwell, Torch columnist

"Ric Flair walked out for a promo. He looked fully awesome in his suit and tie ensemble on this particular evening. Flair said he’s had a lot of great moments in Chicago, including in his wrestling career. Ha. He said he gave it his all in the Money in the Bank match and came up a bit short. That didn’t mean, however, that his pursuit for a 17th World Title reign was coming to an end. Out came Osama from OVW, speaking broken English/Spanish in a hilariously bad fashion. He introduced himself as Armando Alejandro Estrada (or something like that). He said Flair’s time was over and that it was time for a new hero in wrestling. He began to introduce his man when Flair interrupted him to tell him that it was his time to talk, not Estrada’s. Estrada’s eyes bugged out as he reintroduced himself and talked about his past (in Coo-ba, you see). He said he lived in poverty, having a broken down TV with rabbit ears and watching Flair in action. But now he is a business man who enjoys the finer things in life. Flair had this great look on his face like he didn’t buy a word of what was coming out of Estrada’s mouth. Estrada informed Flair that his time was over and it was time to introduce the man who would change the face of Monday Night Raw… but again Flair interrupted, wondering if he really just raised his voice to the Nature Boy. Flair wanted Estrada’s boy to come out there right now, because the 16 time World Champion was ready to go. Estrada introduced Umaga (the former Jamal). Umaga is your basic Wild Samoan style character. He jumped Flair as soon as he entered the ring and went to work on him. He choked Flair out in the corner and made creepy faces for the camera. Estrada directed traffic and Umaga hit a butt bump in the corner. Umaga picked Flair up and gave him several headbutts before dropping him with a fireman’s carry into a Samoan drop/neckbreaker maneuver."
-- Dusty Giebink, Raw Brand Specialist

"I didn't quite understand though the Flair segment where he was talking about wanting the World title a 17th time, and was interrupted by Armando Elahandro Estrada who brought a new "star" to the WWE -- Umanga (not sure how they are spelling it as yet). Umanga attacked and "destroyed" Flair. Why? (by the way, Umanga has been in the WWE before -- so I don't want anyone to think I don't know that--but curious to see how many of our readers know who it is)."
-- Bill Apter, The Raw Score


UPDATE #2: Some readers have written me worried about my mental health. (Hey guys, that's what the comments box is for!) Me, insane? Entirely understandable. It’s true, I confess I do sometimes watch professional wrestling. It is frivolous absurd hilarity for me, a guilty pleasure. I have huge respect for wrestlers as entertainers that have to deliver in front of live audiences and national television, and still gasp at the risks and skills these athletes put their bodies through every other night. Nevertheless, I’m what you call a sometime fan. I haven’t seen a Wrestlemania since 1998. I was watching a dreary NCAA basketball championship with Florida Gators blowing away the UCLA Bruins on Monday night. A week ago we were routinely hearing this years' tournament heralded as "the best ever," but after the semis and the final that's been put to rest. So a blow-out meant channel surfing, especially a day after Wrestlemania. That’s when I was introduced to Umaga. Yes, he is as awful a character and gimmick as the fan reviews have indicated, but the usage of the name both disturbs and delights me. (Is it too fan-boyish to say that Tana Umaga is my hero? Is it so far-fetched to ask where WWE got this new characters name from?))

UPDATE #3: A reader remembers a young Tana once headbutted a woman.

And I am reminded of a running commentary for the All-Blacks-Lions 2nd test...

New Zealand 48 - 18 Lions

by Dan Jones
The Guardian
Saturday July 2, 2005

19 mins: New Zealand 10 - 7: Lions Aw, bejesus. Gavin Henson misses a tackle on Umaga, who offloads to Carter, who returns the favour for his captain to score. …

24 mins: A lovely scrap breaks out, something akin to a WWE Hell in a Cell match. Only without a) A cell b) Hell, if we're being honest c) Men in pants d) ach, this is nonsense... Steve Thompson was getting fully stuck in , that's all you need to know. …

39 mins: The Lions are right on the back foot as the half draws to a close, as the all Blacks pummel their defences - Richie McCaw joining the backline again and again. There's clearly some needle between the Lions and Tana Umaga, who cops a lot of jostling and chivvying as the hooter honks to call an end to a decent half for Woodward's boys. I'm off to weep in the toilets. See you for the second half. …

53 mins: The Lions lineout at least is functioning today. Unfortunately so is the All Blacks' defence, as Umaga smothers Shane Williams, who's looking sadly lightweight today.



While I’m riffing on the topic, years ago I read Winston McCarthy’s biography titled “Listen! … It’s a Goal!!” McCarthy was the old-time radio voice of rugby and the All Blacks in New Zealand in the 1940s. In an era when Kiwis didn’t have television, McCarthy had to draw the mental images; the team was connected to the public through him. McCarthy was also a writer and broadcaster for boxing and wrestling. It alarmed me in reading McCarthy’s biography that he writes about wrestlers like Pat O’Connor as though their matches were always legitimate shoot matches, which I am skeptical. Nowadays, of course, we know wrestling is phony – or rather, that they are “worked” matches with predetermined outcomes – but in the 1930s and 40s the public still believed these matches were legitimate.

Indeed a decade earlier wrestling matches and results were documented in reputable daily newspapers as if they were real. I found this particular report in the April 9, 1932 New York Times:

fans pummel wrestler

It seems fairly obvious to the sophisticated "smark" in the 21st century that the Hills-Znoski match reported above wasn't an athletic contest at all, but rather a piece of theatre – and yet it became a shoot match in the sense that there was interference because the audience, the reporter, the newspaper, the public that devoured that newspaper report and the police (initially) all believed it was a real legitimate sporting contest.

But sometimes even fake matches can terrify:




The Joke That Almost Ended Ali's Career

by Aaron Tallent

The 1970s were full of overblown, hyped affairs that may have seemed like a good idea on paper but turned out to be absolute disasters when brought to life: the Star Wars Holiday Special, the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, and, of course, the Muhammad Ali/Antonio Inoki “Boxer verses Wrestler” exhibition match in 1976. However, in this bout Ali’s wounds went deeper than his pride. The Greatest took punches from seven Hall of Famers (it will be eight when Larry Holmes is inducted) but only a few of them hurt Ali’s career as badly as Inoki.

Ali came into 1976 on the heels of the most brutal fight of his career, the Thrilla in Manilla, his third bout with Joe Frazier. Many said it at the time, and now you will find that the majority of boxing writers and fans think it: Ali should have retired after the fight. “The measure of attrition, of brain tissue, of kidney tissue; everything that went with that fight was as close to death as you can get in the ring,” says Ali’s longtime fight doctor Ferdie Pacheco.

Nevertheless, after the hematomas on his hips healed, Ali continued. In February of 1976, he easily knocked out handpicked Belgian Jean Pierre Coopman in five rounds, following that with a bloated, lackluster decision over the slick but light-punching Jimmy Young. Less than a month later, Ali scored a fifth round knockout over Richard Dunn. His next bout would be the June 25th exhibition with Inoki.

“Now Herbert [Muhammad, Ali’s manager] came to me and he said these Japanese people have come to him with all kinds of money to go over and fight this wrestler, Inoki, in Japan,” says Bob Arum, who promoted the exhibition. While Arum has promoted some of the biggest fights in boxing history, he has also promoted other extravaganzas, most notably Evel Knievel’s attempt to jump the Snake Canyon in a rocket car.

Ali’s handlers began putting the fight together in April of 1975, when Ali met Ichiro Yada, the then-president of the Japan Amateur Wrestling Association, at a party in the United States. Ali asked Yada, “Isn’t there any Oriental fighter to challenge me? I’ll give him one million dollars if he wins.” Ali was probably joking but Yada brought his comment back to the Japanese press. When Inoki read Ali’s words, he relentlessly pursued a match, finally getting him to sign a deal in March of 1976.

The money was without a doubt great: $6 million for Ali, $4 million for Inoki. And the bout seemed like it would be nothing more than fun, entertaining fare. As Arum put it, “Professional wrestlers are performers. The thing is a fraud.”

However, Inoki had not planned to put on a show. To him and his manager, it was a serious fight between a boxer and a wrestler. According to Pacheco, “Ali’s fight in Tokyo was basically a Bob Arum thought up scam that was going to be ‘ha-ha, ho-ho. We’re going to go over there. It’s going to be orchestrated. It’s going to be a lot of fun and it’s just a joke.’ And when we got over there, we found out no one was laughing.”

Ali arrived in Tokyo on June 16th. The first media event with both athletes took place at a lunch party. The Greatest, showman that he is, went on one of his usual verbal tirades with Inoki. In response, Inoki presented Ali with a crutch.

In America, the match was the final part of a closed circuit television event dreamed up by WWF owners Vince McMahon Sr. and Jr. A match earlier that evening was held in Shea Stadium between Chuck Wepner and Andre the Giant. Wepner’s knockdown of Ali in 1975 inspired Sylvester Stallone to write Rocky. Wepner’s match with Andre probably inspired the Rocky/Thunderlips (Hulk Hogan) fight in Rocky III.

After that match ended with Wepner being tossed out of the ring, the telecast went to Tokyo’s Budokan Hall. Ali came into the ring escorted by his usual ringside crew. For this match, he also had a legendary wrestling personality, the late “Classy” Freddie Blassie, acting as his manager.

When Ali realized the event was not going to be orchestrated, there was a substantial debate over the rules. Obviously, Ali did not want to jeopardize his future by being tossed around the ring by a professional wrestler, so it was decided that suplexes would not be allowed. Head-butts, knee blows below the belt, and open handed eye attacks were banned as well. Finally, Inoki would not be allowed to kick Ali above the waist either.

Inoki handled these rules with a very boring but damaging approach. When the bell rang for round one, Inoki ran out and slid at the legs of Ali, who dodged the Japanese wrestler by stepping back. Inoki stayed on the ground for 2:46 of the first round, kicking at Ali and landing one clean hit to Ali’s right leg.

Inoki spent much of the fight on the ground trying to damage Ali’s legs. Ali spent most of the fight dodging the kicks by stepping out of the way or staying on the ropes. Occasionally, Inoki’s boot would connect. By the third round, a wound had appeared on Ali’s left knee.

Ali threw his first punch in the seventh round. In the eighth, Angelo Dundee, Ali’s trainer, demanded that Inoki tape the tips of his shoelaces because one of the eyelets came loose and was cutting Ali’s legs. In the tenth, Ali threw his second punch. He only threw six punches in all during the fight.

The match went the fifteen round distance and was declared a draw. Inoki would have actually won the match had he not lost three points on a foul. The exhibition is considered by boxing writers and fans as one of the most embarrassing moments in Ali’s career. Unfortunately, Ali suffered much more than a blemish on his outstanding career.

“Finally at the end of the 15th round, the referee calls it a draw. So fine, okay. It was terrible, it was embarrassing. But Ali is bleeding from the legs. He gets an infection in his legs; almost has to have an amputation. Not only the [Ken] Norton fight would’ve been not happening, but Ali could’ve been a cripple for the rest of his life,” said Arum.

Ali suffered two blood clots in his legs as well. His handlers had also scheduled exhibition bouts in South Korea and the Philippines. As Ali lay in bed with icepacks surrounding his legs, Pacheco told him that he should check into a hospital because clots could form in his brain, heart, or lungs and kill him. Ali went against Pacheco’s advice and did the bouts. “But,” as Pacheco said, “Ali’s luck held, and all he had to do was spend a few weeks in an L.A. hospital.”

But Ali never knocked out anyone again, and his fight with Norton in September of 1976 is when sports writers and fans began to insist that he retire. Norton’s style had always troubled Ali. The two split a pair of close decisions in 1973.

When it came time to fight the rubber match in Yankee Stadium, Norton brought the fight to a game but not completely recovered Ali. “Ali was still feeling the effects of the leg injury, and his mobility was not what it had been,” said Pacheco. Throughout the fight, Ali tried to keep his distance with Norton, but the challenger would close in and batter the champ on the ropes.

Ali managed to win the last round and squeak out a unanimous decision. “The vote was very close,” said Pacheco. “Ali won, but the public booed. The feeling was that Ali’s popularity had influenced the judges.”

Ali went through a series of saddening performances over the next five years. In 1978, he lost and won the title back from Leon Spinks. He finally retired in 1981.

Inoki went on to wrestle for the next two decades, battling such greats as Andre the Giant, Stan Hansen, and Sting. However, his biggest claim to fame was the Ali match. In 1977 he used a song from Ali’s film The Greatest for his introduction. In 1986 he pinned Ali-conqueror Spinks in an exhibition match. When he retired in 1998, Ali, ever so gracious to his opponents, flew to Tokyo to watch his final match.

A short edited file of the Ali-Inoki lowlights can be viewed here.


While I'm on (or is that off?) topic, must bow to Bret Hart for his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame on Saturday night. The best there is, the best there was, the best there will ever be.

Enough wrestling for a while, back to some rugby shortly...


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