THE KING OF CRUNCH: Interview with Tonga Fifita

By Dr. Abner Mality

Hang around a pro wrestling locker room or workout dive long enough and you'll hear some stories about which wrestlers are not to be messed with either in or out of the ring. In just about all of those locker rooms, one name has come up again and again over the last 20 years...Tonga Fifita.

If that name rings no bells, then perhaps King Haku will sound more familiar. Or maybe the Monster Meng, one of the Faces of Fear. Or maybe even King Tonga. If you've watched wrestling from the early 80's on, chances are you've seen this fierce looking Pacific Islander wade through opponents like Godzilla splashing through the waters of Tokyo Bay. In Montreal, he made his mark as King Tonga, feuding with the late Dino Bravo in a program they still talk about up there. In the AWA, he was perhaps the most dangerous man ever in the Army of Sheik Adnan alTF:Kaissie...and yes, I include King Kong Brody in that statement. In the glory days of the WWF, he was one half of the Islanders tag team with The Tonga Kid. Later, he teamed with the immortal Andre the Giant in the Colossal Connection and wore the robe and crown of King Haku. In WCW, he was the fearsome and almost indestructible Meng, known for the deadly Tongan Death Grip. He was also quite famous in Japan, wrestling for numerous promotions there.

These days, he has put the ring life behind him and works for a large Toyota dealership in Florida. I would hate to negotiate a price reduction with Meng! But Mr. Fifita is also a very nice guy who is very responsive to his fans. It was my great fortune to be able to interview him recently and he responded with grace and quickness.

Tonga Fifita has a reputation that combines the best of both worlds...a true gentleman but also somebody you never EVER want to pick a real fight with. Here is the result of my chat with him...

WC: What inspired you to become a professional wrestler and what was your athletic background before getting into pro wrestling?

TF: At first I wasn’t really interested in wrestling. I went to Japan after graduating college, and studied sumo wrestling. After that didn’t work out, Genichiro Tenryu and Takashi Ishikawa helped me, and I debuted for All Japan Pro Wrestling

WC: Was there any one trainer or wrestler who guided your early career?

TF: Shohel Baba is the one inspiration, he was my first trainer. But…there were many more who helped me so I wouldn’t be able to say.

WC: You wrestled early in your career in the Montreal territory. What was this territory like and was it a good place to learn your craft?

TF: It was great. They gave me great pushes, and some interesting matches. This is when King Tonga started off…I like being a heel better though.

WC: You were a member of the Sheik's Army in the old AWA. I saw you wrestle in some tremendous cage matches there. What was working with the Sheik like and how was Verne Gagne as a boss?

TF: Working with the Sheik...was interesting to say the least. I was honored to work with a guy like that. Verne, he is a Legend! I loved the guy, and he treated us well.

WC: You were a member of some great tag teams over the years...the Islanders, the Colossal Connection, the Faces of Fear. Which was your favorite and why?

TF: I’d have to say…Faces of Fear. I loved working with Tama and Andre, but Barbarian and I were such a great tag team. We both saw eye to eye and we knew what we had to do to make our spot in the business, again.

WC: What was it like teaming with Andre in the Colossal Connection? I've heard a lot of amazing stories about how much he could eat and drink...are they true?

TF: Actually they are true. Let me tell you, Andre was a big man…and he sure had an appetite. By the time I’d be drinking my first beer of the night, he was already on his ninth. And he would eat things bigger than most of those guys in WWE right now. He was a great man though, and I miss him.

WC: What was your relationship with Bobby Heenan like?

TF: I love the guy. He was a great manager when I tagged along with Andre, and he’d help us out by paying for some of the meals and drinks that the both of us would have taken…He had to save up some extra money because he knew where Andre and myself, were going after the shows.

WC: You got to be "King" Haku in the WWF. That was a pretty big honor...did it start to get to your head?

TF: Actually…it didn’t. After Harley Race left WWF, they decided to make me the King. It was an absolute honor.

WC: Which of your various identities...King Tonga, Haku, Meng...did you like the most and why?

TF: Haku. He was a fearless SOB who could take anybody out in a heartbeat.

WC: Meng was the bodyguard for Colonel Parker in WCW. I've always heard he was quite a character...any good stories about the Colonel?

TF: There are too many to talk about. I loved the way he drove into his character though.

WC: I always thought the Faces of Fear was a great team. In WCW, one week they seemed to be indestructible, but in the next, they lost easily. Do you think the Faces of Fear was misused in WCW?

TF: The WCW and Eric Bischoff did indeed misuse us. Barbarian and I deserved just a little bit more respect and they were always switching things on us.

WC: Who was the toughest opponent you ever went against and why?

TF: Sting at The Great American Bash 1995. Sting is a true legend and he deserves that title to his name. It was a great match, and I was honored to work with him.

WC: Do you miss the old territory days of wrestling? Do you keep track of the current product?

TF: I miss the old days…I miss the 80’s the most. That was when wrestling was in its prime, without all of this drama effects added to it. And yes, I watch WWE every Monday night, just to see how it’s going. I watch TNA every so often as well.

WC: Ever get the urge to get back in the ring and put the Tongan Death Grip on someone?

TF: I do. I just want to make my return for one night only and put the Tongan Death Grip on kids like Rhodes, the DiBiase brothers, Afa Jr., Santino Marella. I would really like to. You never know…

WC: Any words of advice for kids thinking of a wrestling career?

TF: It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, if you want to be a wrestler, then you can try your best to aspire your dreams…but even if it does come true, there is so many sacrifices to this career.