25. Yokozuna/Rodney Anoa’i
The 500-pound super heavyweight drew the interest of Vince McMahon and WWE, making his debut in 1992. Though he wrestled under the cover of the Japanese flag, Yokozuna was actually of Samoan decent. His real name was Rodney Anoa’i, of the famed Anoa’i wrestling family. The Anoa’i tree has produced several big name performers over the years, including The Rock, Roman Reigns, and Rikishi. Yokozuna paved the way in the company for his family lineage, becoming the first ever WWE Champion of Samoan descent after defeating Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX in 1993.
His tenure in the WWE didn’t continue for much longer. After a brief stint in a tag team with Bret’s brother, Owen Hart, Anoa’i was released from the company in 1998. Former WWE commentator Jim Ross has said that the cause of his release was due to the Samoan’s weight and the risk potentially involved. He joined the independent circuit and gained nearly 200 pounds. In 2000, WWE’s worst fears came to fruition as Anoa’i was found dead in his hotel room from pulmonary edema.
Image Source: WWE