WWE Legend Haku Talks Family in Wrestling & Remembers Rocky Johnson
Ask many of the greatest pro wrestlers in history and they will tell you that Haku, real name Tonga Fifita, is among the most legit tough guys ever in the business. Though when you talk to the legendary performer, known in the ring over much of his now more than 40-year career in WWE and as Meng in WCW, you’d think he was also one of the most humble and kindest.
He uses the word "grateful" numerous times through a conversation to describe his longevity — a man who has traveled the world working with everyone from Andre the Giant and Bobby Heenan to Hulk Hogan and Sting. These days, the master of the Tongan Death Grip lives happily in Florida, taking a few matches and watching his children carry on the family legacy.
Collectively known as the Guerillas of Destiny, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa have booked their dad for April's Bullet Club Party. Joining the festivities April 4 at Whiskey Joe’s during WrestleMania 36 weekend and hours before Ring of Honor’s Supercard of Honor event at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland is Haku’s longtime tag partner the Barbarian.
“We grew up together. We came from the same country, on a small island of Tonga. We came from the same high school. He was a year ahead of me,” Haku said, recounting the history with his Faces of Fear partner.
“From there, we went into sumo together. He saw me on TV in Los Angeles. Those who were before me. Especially from the South Pacific. I appreciate everybody all together, but those of us that came from the island like High Chief Peter Maivia and the Wild Samoans, Don Muraco, Mr. Fuji, Professor Tanaka. I’m grateful. My sons I’m proud also. We all owe those who paved the way for us before me. It’s not just about me and my children, but about those who came before me. I’m very grateful. Barbarian is an uncle to my kids in that way.”
Haku finds joy in working with his kids, including making a few appearances for New Japan Pro Wrestling. For the veteran who has done so much, it’s a thrill to share the ring with the next generation.
“When my sons are in Tokyo, which I always considered my second home, it is unbelievable to see them wrestling,” he said. “You want them to go on in life to get a real job like Tama Tonga had in the Air Force. Tanga Loa with football and going to college. You think they were going to have a better job than me.
“With wrestling, I thought it would be a stepping stone for them to move on in life. Unfortunately, fortunately [laughs] they followed in my footsteps. I thought as they finished high school and college, I’d help out with wrestling. It was a time in life now I think I can express that. At the time, I was dumbfounded at having me and my two sons wrestling together. Now it’s a lifetime memory.”
Haku has watched the business grow exponentially in more ways than one. He is glad there isn’t just one show in town.
“I’m grateful that it’s not just WWE anymore. That we have AEW. NWA is coming back also,” he said. “You have all these independent companies. I like it because there are so many wrestlers and guys who call themselves wrestlers. There are places to go. It’s not just WWE. You have New Japan of course, places in Europe and other spots. The business is alive and well.”
When you have the longevity of Haku, it’s unfortunate whenever he gets the call of a friend passing away. Losing Hall of Famer Rocky Johnson in January hit close to home for the veteran. His bond with “Soul Man” can be traced back to 1978 and their first meeting in Tampa.
“He reached out from the other side of the dressing room. He called me Chief. He felt I looked like one of the wrestlers from the South Pacific,” he said. “I was very young then. I believe I was 17 or 18. He came over and shook my hand and told me who he was. At the time, I came from All Japan Pro Wrestling. He came in also to the territory to work with Eddie Graham. That was it from then on. He was my big brother and his wife Ata was my big sister. They were kind enough to take me in.”
Haku attended the private funeral and was stricken with sadness. His last conversation with Johnson was just two weeks before his death.
“It was losing a brother that was kind enough to teach me the way. It reminded me of the days we used to drive around going from town to town. Now he is gone,” he said. “My boys, my family was with me. I’m glad because not many are in town. I’m glad they were in town for his funeral.”
Haku likes to remember the good times spent with Johnson and family. He reminisces of getting to know Rocky’s son Dwayne Johnson as a child through his formidable wrestling years. In 2015, The Rock gifted his uncle a pickup truck during the holidays as a thank you for all he did for him and providing wrestling gear while preparing to electrify the WWE Universe for the first time. Haku still drives the truck around on the weekend.
“When his grandparents ran Hawaii, I was called to come over. He was young at the time, maybe three,” Haku said. “But for him to remember all the sacrifice, working together, trying to get the family together with the grandparents and his parents. I love it. We were all there. I’m grateful that he still remembers those times and is able to go big-time and still remember where he comes from.
“I wonder if he still has those tights. I still have his grandfather’s stuff that he wore. He gave it to me. The things he wore to the ring. It’s in a box. Maybe my grandchildren will use it [laughs].”
Haku is looking forward to watching The Rock’s daughter Simone begin her own career. The announcement that the first fourth-generation WWE superstar officially joined the company was made in February.
“Samoans can do anything in the world. She could have done anything, but she wanted to be a wrestler,” he said. “His father and mother both agreed for her to do it. We’re all supporting her, and hopefully she will be just as great as her father.”
The Bullet Club Beach Party kicks off at 10am on April 4 from Whiskey Joe’s.