WARNING: Some of the violent acts revealed and the language used in this post may be inappropriate for young readers.
In the world of professional wrestling, or “Sports Entertainment “, a vast array of wrestlers can say that they have legitimate origins in “real” sport, be that amateur wrestlers that have made their way to the squared circle, tough Olympians like Mark Henry, Bad News Brown and Kurt Angle; UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fighters like Brock Lesnar, Don Frye and Ken Shamrock,; or even real-life bare-knuckle boxers like Wade Barrett.
However, there is one man with a reputation that outshines even that of the toughest wrestlers-Haku
Tonga Fifita, a Tongan professional wrestler known for wrestling as Haku, King Haku and King Tonga in WWF (World Wrestling Federation) and Meng in WCW (World Championship Wrestling), was considered by his peers and even his bosses to be the most terrifying man in the sport.
Unlike any of the above mentioned wrestlers, Haku neither competed in the Olympics nor did he get into MMA. His early discipline was Sumo, in which he didn’t actually excel. So, he moved to professional wrestling, where he never moved beyond the mid-card level in any of the major industries that he worked in, despite feuding with top-level stars. Why was it then, that he was so feared?
In the scripted world of pro-wrestling, most wrestlers are nothing like they seem. They get along well with fellow wrestlers behind the curtain. Some of the most popular wrestlers were considered soft and easy going by others in the locker room. But Haku was the kind of guy who wouldn’t refrain from indulging in altercations and confrontations. The last thing the locker room ever wanted was for Haku to lose his composure, because they knew the lengths he would go for retribution, and there was nothing they could do about it. He was very well known for his crazy toughness and insane strength.
“Haku has the reputation of being, perhaps, the toughest man to step in the ring. Just the mention of his name would send a chill up the spine of his foes, and some of his friends, too.”
-WWE, in an article on their website
There are various incidents and stories involving Haku that prove his notoriety. While some of the stories are 100% true, nobody knows whether the few others are embellished or not, but several wrestlers back it up by saying they have seen such insane things happening in front of their own eyes. No one gets that much respect from his peers without having pulled off some truly unbelievable acts.
Here are the stories from other wrestlers about the scariest man in the history of wrestling-Haku.
THE JESSE BARR INCIDENT
The backstage altercation with Jesse Barr, who wrestled as Jimmy Jack Funk, is one of the most notable and legendary instances surrounding Haku’s infamy.
The story goes that sometime in 1987, while working a tour of Puerto Rico, Barr decided to kick dirt onto a man who was digging ditches. Haku, offended by this slight against a hardworking man, allegedly ripped out Barr’s eye out of his socket! Some versions of the story claim that as a result of Haku gouging one of Barr’s eyeballs out, Barr had to wear a glass eye for the rest of his career. After this fight, Haku had a reputation that dodged wrestlers from backstage confrontations.
Years after this incident, Haku himself spoke about it, revealing it only to be partially true. He claimed that the altercation did happen, with him getting Barr into a position where he actually could pop his eye out of his socket, but the realization that Barr was a like a brother on the road, with a family to feed was what stopped the Tongan from going through with it. Many wrestlers however claim that he actually did gouge one of Barr’s eyeballs.
THE ALTERCATION AT THE BALTIMORE AIRPORT
The incident involving Haku at the Baltimore airport is perhaps the most outrageous story of his notoriety, acknowledged by Haku himself.
On March 3, 1989, Fifita got into an altercation with five men at the Baltimore Airport bar, who approached him, with one of them going as far as calling wrestling “fake”. “Yeah, I’ll show you how fake it is”, responded Fifita, and he reached over and grabbed the man who said it, while three others jumped on him, repeatedly punching him. But they were no match for Fifita, who knocked all three of them out, and then applied the Tongan Death Grip (the wrestler darts his hand under an opponent’s chin and grabs a hold of a pressure point above the throat, squeezing the nerve. This cuts off the air supply and the opponent fades out) on one of them.
What Fifita did next was unthinkable. He bit the nose of the man he initially grabbed and spat it out! The others saw him spit out their friend’s nose, and before he could fight them, they wisely decided to quickly evade. Fifita acknowledged this incident years later, while also adding that he saw on the news that he was being sued $2.5 million for the incident.
“…and on our way out there were five guys just sitting there. Of course, the same thing came out. The ‘fake’ stuff. ‘Hey, are you guys with those guys – wrestlers? The fake wrestlers on TV?’ You know. I said, ‘Yeah. I’ll show you.’ And I reached over without thinking – there are four other guys there (laughs) – grabbed his face, and bit his nose off. Then the fight started. Me and Siva kind of cleaned house there and left. I’ll never forget it (laughs).”
Haku, along with other wrestlers, was on the road for the majority of the year due to the extensive travelling that is required in the pro-wrestling industry. Someone who has no idea about the hardships of the business where the chances of having your career sidelined or even killed due to injuries is high, telling Haku that what he does for a living is fake was what made him go absolutely berserk. Something nobody would ever dare say to him again.
ENCOUNTERS WITH THE POLICE
Not only was Haku tough, but he wouldn’t refrain from tangling with law enforcement when the time came. Rikishi recalled an incident in St Louis, where Haku incapacitated seven police officers who tried to arrest him. Rick Steiner, who himself is considered by peers to be one of the toughest ever, shared his experience, where he witnessed a barroom brawl that involved Haku, who refused to back down when the police showed up. According to Steiner, the police shot him with mace, but he closed his eyes, sucked it in, opened his mouth and took a deep breath, as if the mace was nothing.
Another account of a barroom incident was given by Hall of Famer Ted Dibiase, who said that in this case the Tongan was looking to break the fight up and stop further damage. As Dibiase puts it, “Some of the guys got into a fight and Meng got involved. He was just trying to help and in the process of trying to help, he gets maced by 4 cops and handcuffed. Now they handcuffed him behind his back and then he said ‘Is this it?’ …and snapped off the handcuffs!” This is a ridiculous display of power, especially considering that he was hardly a body-builder or power lifter.
Shortly after the Baltimore airport incident, Haku returned to his hotel bar, where another wrestler, the Warlord was also drinking. Just then, several police units turned up outside. The Warlord went outside and explained very politely to the officers what prompted Haku to bite the guy’s nose off at the airport. He also advised them that if they would wait for about 15 minutes for Haku to calm down and finish his drink, then he would cooperate and leave quietly with them, but if they tried to go inside and arrest him en masse, he would fight every single one of them. The officers waited!
The Warlord also revealed that he was once at a club in St. Louis when a gang of four guys were calling Haku a “nigger”. Initially, Haku told them to chill and that he was just having a good time, but when they didn’t stop, Haku laid out all four guys in a matter of seconds. After that a police officer, who was also a former NFL player weighing 300lbs, came in and ended up getting tossed across the club by Haku.
OTHER VIOLENT INCIDENTS
Several incidents of notoriety have been recalled by his fellow wrestlers over the past years. Arn Anderson recounted the incident where a large cowboy was arguing with Meng, and in retaliation, he pushed the cowboy through two different sets of doors using only one hand!
Rick Rude mentioned a time when they were out in a nightclub and Tonga leaped clear over a table and knocked a guy out with a headbutt for getting fresh with a lady.
One of the most influential managers of all time, Bobby Heenan, talked extensively about Meng, referring to him as the toughest man he has ever met. The story he shared was in regards to a bar fight, where he claimed Meng “took his two fingers on his right hand, his index finger and trigger finger, and he reached into the guy’s mouth and he broke off the guy’s bottom teeth.” Heenan added that if he hadn’t been there and seen it in front of his very own eyes, he wouldn’t have believed it. Heenan also claimed that his close friend, Andre the Giant, one of the biggest box-office attractions due to his enormous size, was fearful of only two men in the world-Meng and Harley Race, another legit tough guy.
Kevin Sullivan told a story about the time when he and Haku went to a tavern to grab a few beers before heading to their hotel. Since it was obvious that both weren’t locals, the moment they walked into the bar, a guy playing pool called Meng a derogatory expletive, clearly a bad idea. According to Sullivan, the next thing he knew was Meng goozling the guy like Mr. Spock, and that it was fast and furious. Another guy tried to get involved, and Haku, in a fit of rage, knocked him unconscious. And just when Sullivan thought the ordeal was over, things got even crazier. Meng bit through the guy’s shirt like a wolf, bit a chunk out of the guy’s back, and then spit it on the floor!
There were several backstage incidents as well. Haku was once informed by WWE management that they had received a complaint from Brutus Beefcake, stating that Haku had slapped him too hard during their match earlier that night. Clearly rifled by the fact that Beefcake wasn’t man enough to confront him directly, Haku allegedly stormed straight into the locker room and grabbed Beefcake out of the shower. He started choking Beefcake by lifting him almost two feet in the air while everyone looked on unable to do anything because they were too scared to step in and break it up. Finally, they decided to call Hulk Hogan, who asked Haku politely to release Beefcake. Haku obliged simply because of the fact that he respected the Hulkster.
Chris Candido once shared a story where he revealed that Meng was having a conversation with him, his wife Tammy Sytch and Chris Jericho in the locker room, when executives Eric Bischoff and Greg Gagne walked in front of them and started talking to Meng. Meng was none too pleased at being interrupted. As Candido puts it in his interview, “He looks at them and goes ‘Hey!’, and the entire locker room just froze! I was like ‘Man, these weren’t just funny stories; this guy must really be tough.’ And then Meng says, ‘Apologize to my friends, I’m talking’ and everyone shuts up while Bischoff and Gagne apologize to me, Tammy and Chris.” Considering that Gagne worked as a road agent whereas Bischoff was the head of WCW, the fact that he was able to shut up two men in a position of power, force them to apologize to his friends and wait in order to talk business with him is yet another sign that Meng was not to be trifled with.
Kevin Sullivan, who used to book matches and the outcomes, used Meng to his advantage. When Sullivan had to inform a few guys that they would be have to lose their upcoming matches, the wrestlers were upset and refused to do the job. Sullivan told them that, instead of arguing, he would go get Meng and have him deal with the situation. The guys immediately agreed to lose their matches if he promised not to get Meng.
WCW was eventually purchased by WWE as it went out of business. Even though Meng had the potential, he never became a world champion, possibly because management was afraid to ask him to drop the title to someone else. Also, Meng’s drawing power was nowhere near that of stars like Bill Goldberg, the nWo (The New World Order), Ric Flair and WCW’s biggest star, Sting. So, why did they keep him around for over seven years? Well, in the words of Eric Bischoff, “We never fired him in WCW because no one had the balls to do so!”
Jake “The Snake” Roberts, an extremely dynamic and charismatic wrestler, popular for terrifying his opponents by bringing snakes into the ring, said during one of his interviews: “If I had a gun and was sitting inside a tank with one shell left and Meng is 300 yards away, he’s mine, right? Well the first thing I’m going to do is jump out of the tank and shoot myself because I don’t want to wound that son of a bitch and have him pissed off at me.”
“I guarantee you the Steiner Brothers and Meng and The Barbarian would have made a huge splash in the MMA world. I don’t know of a human being alive that could take out Meng in his prime. I really don’t. “
-Bill Goldberg, former WCW and WWE wrestler, in a shoot interview
“Bar none, the toughest wrestler I ever faced was Meng.”
-Arn Anderson, WWE Hall of Famer, in a shoot interview.
“Don’t ever think that anybody would mess with Haku. If he was a young guy and he got into MMA, my god — he’d have done everything! He was the toughest son of a bitch I’ve ever met in my whole life. No lie, take my word for it.”
-Ric Flair, 16-time world champion, when asked which wrestler would do well in MMA.
(Although it should be noted that gouging eyes and biting noses is prohibited in MMA.)
When former WCW wrestler Perry Saturn was asked who would win a bar fight between several legitimately tough wrestlers, he said, “Tonga. Nobody else would stand a chance. Not even a question. He could kill everyone without blinking and there is nothing anyone could do about it.” Popular wrestler of the late 80s Brutus Beefcake called Haku a legitimate killer who could kill multiple people with his bare hands. Another wrestler, Rikishi placed Haku over WWE wrestler and UFC fighter Brock Lesnar (arguably the most dangerous man in the ring today), when asked who would win in a fight between the two in their respective primes. Legendary wrestling manager Frenchy Martin said in a shoot interview that if one was given a choice of going to hell or facing Haku, you would be well advised to choose going to hell. He also spoke about an incident in a bar in which he saw Haku defeat six grown men in a matter of seconds.
The biggest name in pro-wrestling, Hulk Hogan was asked by renowned sports commentator Michael Schiavello to name the legitimate toughest wrestler he knew and he said “Haku for sure”. Actor and semi-retired wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who is Fifita’s nephew, called him “one of the toughest men in the world” and recounted the airport incident in an interview with Jimmy Kimmel.
Clear as crystal. Fifita’s reputation had become such that his none of his friends, enemies, bigger and stronger wrestlers, not even his own bosses wanted to tangle with him for fear of the retribution he might take. As one of the commentators put it, “Death had a near-Meng experience.”
A GOOD, FAMILY-LOVING MAN
Despite all these brutal stories from his peers, many have praised him for being a simple, great, loving family man, who would give the shirt of his back for anyone who needed it.
The Barbarian once said that Fifita had a big heart and that if you go into a bar with him, he’ll buy everyone drinks and if you run into a problem, he will take care of it for you.
Rikishi claimed that Fifita had saved his life several times.
Bobby Heenan also praised Fifita as a good-hearted family man, who wanted nothing more than to feed his family. He was someone who saw the business as a primary means to put food on the table for his family rather than to gain fame and fortune, which explains why he would take offense when somebody insults his profession.
“I’m still Haku. I’m still Tonga. My family – thank God for everything – still has bread and butter on the table. That was what happened at the time and how I love my business and I’m thankful for every promoter I worked for. I’m thankful for WWF and WWE and everybody because that was my life. My job, my heart, and my soul – it was wrestling.”
-Haku, in one of his interviews
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson credits Fifita for helping him when he was “broke as hell”. According to Dwayne, he didn’t have his own wrestling gear, and asked his uncle Tonga for help. Fifita happily obliged. He hugged his nephew tightly and said, “I’m so proud of you. Go get ’em nephew!” The Rock would go on to become one of the most successful and influential wrestlers in the WWE.
“My Uncle Tonga is a family man, humble man and champion. Most importantly one of the greatest human beings I know.”
-Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson
To express his gratefulness, the Rock gave his Uncle Tonga a customized Ford pickup truck for Christmas, almost 20 years after Tonga helped him out.
Today, “Tonga” as he is known to his co-workers and friends, manages the detail shop at David Maus Toyota in his hometown of Kissimmee, Florida. WWE.com states that when he’s not patrolling the lot, he’s patrolling the links in his new sport of choice: golf.
The fearless Tongan warrior has truly earned his reputation of being wrestling’s most feared individual. The memory and legend continues to be revered and feared.