One week before celebrating its 30th anniversary, World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Monday Night Raw” airs for the 1,545 time. The Jan. 2 program will emanate live from Lower Broadway’s Bridgestone Arena.
Though only five years into his professional wrestling career, WWE superstar Solo Sikoa — who will appear on the program — is a rare fourth-generation sports entertainer. Thus, expect him to be a key contributor, perhaps against foes like bearded, beloved Canadian brawler Kevin Owens.
“Being a [main roster] WWE superstar is exactly what I’m supposed to be,” says Sikoa.
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The 300-pound 29-year-old signed with the company in August 2021 and won the North American Championship in the company’s NXT talent development brand in just 11 months.
“Everything is happening so fast, but I represent a legacy in [the professional wrestling] business,” notes SIkoa (born Joseph Fatu).
Fifty years ago, Sikoa’s great-uncles Afa and Sika Anoai grunted loudly and consumed unprepared raw fish while appearing as iconic ’70s-era television superstars the Wild Samoans for professional wrestling organizations worldwide.
The tandem’s success as 19-time tag team champions around the world during their Hall of Fame careers allowed for their relatives, including nephews Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Yokozuna (with 12 WWE heavyweight championships between them) plus grapplers Jamal, Rikishi, Samu and Umaga, to achieve thriving sports entertainment careers.
Currently, WWE is preparing for its Wrestlemania preview event, the Royal Rumble, scheduled for Jan. 28 at San Antonio’s Alamodome. The company’s Raw and WWE unified heavyweight and tag team champions — the “Tribal Chief” and “Head of the Table” Roman Reigns and the Uso brothers (Jey and Jimmy) — are three-fifths of the “Bloodline” collective of grapplers, unified by their relation to the previously mentioned Anoai family and their extraordinary confidence in their wrestling abilities.
If the trio retains their championships through Royal Rumble 2023, they will have been champions for a combined 1,428 days between them (860 days for Reigns, 568 for the Usos).
Sikoa thought his time in NXT would be ample enough to help him define his success outside of his groundbreaking relatives.
However, the level of what he describes as “amazingly dedicated and highly motivational hard work” has yielded championship reigns that he believes to be one of the greatest athletic accomplishments — regardless of sport — of all time.
Passionately driven by a desire to “hold his own weight” on the roster, Sikoa on screen portrays the street-tough bodyguard who protects his relatives’ championship reigns anywhere, worldwide, at any cost.
At WWE’s September Clash at the Castle event in Cardiff, Wales, he interfered as Scottish brawler Drew McIntyre was mere seconds away from defeating Reigns. In November at the WWE Crown Jewel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he helped his older cousin, Reigns, defeat social media influencer Logan Paul by facing down his fellow influencer and brother, Jake, a professional boxer.
“There’s nothing like the emotion and energy of a live WWE crowd,” says Sikoa. “62,000 people were shocked to see me,” he says about his main roster debut in Wales.
The shock of Sikoa’s debut has worn off. He’s regularly facing off with a worldwide who’s-who of professional wrestling veterans. These include McIntryre, brutish Austrian grappler Gunther, and Scottish toughman and multiple-time champion Sheamus.
He’s had more than a few in-ring victories of late. Key to this success is his use of top-rope diving splashes, bruising, hip-led body attacks and wildly swinging a taped thumb in a spiking motion to attack the space between an opponent’s chest and Adam’s apple.
The maneuvers are an homage to his uncle, Edward “Umaga” Fatu. After a 25-year career that saw Fatu contend for the WWE championship on many occasions, he unexpectedly passed away in 2009.
Ultimately, one of Sikoa’s professional goals is to mimic Fatu’s level of explosive quickness while also recalling his well-respected in-ring moments.
Sikoa’s accelerated professional development was aided by others, too.
Two members of his Bloodline stable — the group’s on-screen manager and advocate Paul Heyman and woebegone yet arrogant hanger-on Sami Zayn — have nearly 60 years of professional wrestling experience between them. Heyman’s professional career dates back to 1986, and he’s worked on-screen alongside three generations of Sikoa’s relatives. As for Zayn, he’s one of the most charismatic entertainers at company.
“Man, working with Paul Heyman isn’t ‘like’ working with my uncle, he basically ‘is’ my uncle,” Sikoa jokes with honest respect in his voice. “They call [Heyman] ‘the wise man’ on TV for a reason. He’s guided all of my relatives — in the ring and behind the scenes — to incredible success. So having him in my corner makes my adjustment to everything I’m dealing with now so much easier.”
As far as what Sikoa has gained as the straight man to Zayn’s whimsical performances of late, he says that levity accentuates the presentation of the Bloodline as characters who blur the lines between sports entertainment and competitive athletics in an unprecedented manner.
“We can’t always be serious,” Sikoa says, “and Sami’s naturally funny. But the way we’re [violently] handling business in the ring isn’t always fun to watch. So it lets the crowd have a good time — sometimes at my expense.”
Asked to summarize what his impressive learning curve and generational talent could combine to create in short order, Sikoa offers a direct response.
“I want to create excitement as a main event-level fighter,” he says. “Already, the WWE fanbase is learning that I won’t be denied achieving that goal. As a fourth-generation superstar, I’m just doing exactly what I was born to do.”
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