I can?t recall precisely how many tributes and obituaries I have personally written for professional wrestlers. I can tell you the number is considerably higher than I would?ve chosen or liked. Once again, a young and gifted competitor in this mad and altogether strange wrestling business has left us prematurely. His name was Edward ?Eki? Fatu, known most prominently as ?Jamal? of the Three Minute Warning tag-team and latterly ?Umaga?; the marauding Samoan stereotype who outgrew the typecasting to evolve into a thoroughly impressive all round performer. He was thirty-six years old.
The minutiae of this sad occurrence is not yet known definitively. It has been reported that Edward Fatu was found unconscious late this past Thursday evening (EST) by his wife having suffered a heart attack. He was rushed into hospital in Houston but apparently suffered a second heart attack on Friday whilst in intensive care and subsequently passed away. It goes without saying that healthy, thirty-six year old men do not typically suffer multiple heart attacks.
Until a full toxicology report is available and an autopsy performed, no final answer will be available as to the exact cause of death. It is a statement of fact however that Edward Fatu was released by WWE in June of this year as a result of a wellness policy violation. This was his second violation after the Signature Pharmacy Scandal (in which dozens of wrestlers were implicated of purchasing various substances, legal and illegal, without prescription.) Fatu was ordered to enter a drug rehabilitation programme by WWE. When he refused to comply, he was sacked by WWE.
The loss of Edward Fatu will be felt most keenly by his family, but also by a business in which he had give much and still had plenty more to contribute. This writer suspects Fatu ? who counted Randy Orton among his backstage friends ? would have remained in the employ of WWE had he been willing to comply with the company’s edict. Though considered to be occasionally temperamental, Fatu was well regarded in WWE as a big man who could go in the ring and be trusted to carry a high profile. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that a more amenable Fatu would have enjoyed a prestigious world championship run somewhere down the line.
Without being too bloody minded, there will be many in WWE who will be very relieved that Fatu was fired in June of this year. WWE can rightfully claim they did everything possible to offset a potential tragedy whilst Fatu was in their employ, and as such they had every right to fire him. This will still not be enough for WWE to avoid cursory re-examination and even censure from certain media circles. Another issue to consider is the various opponents of Linda McMahon, would-be Senator for Connecticut, who will leap upon this as political currency and doubtless ask Mrs. McMahon some uncomfortable questions. This writer has long believed such questions need to be asked again and again and again until a proper answer is rendered. Nevertheless, the people asking those questions in the coming weeks will be doing so for personal gain only. No other reason will even enter their respective minds.
As stated earlier, only speculation and conjecture exists at this time as to the exact nature of Edward Fatu’s untimely demise. The manner of it carries all the hallmarks of a classic steroid/growth hormone user’s death. If this is confirmed, then a numbing precession will ensue as the blame is assigned, debated and passed without anything being accomplished. Professional wrestlers need to take responsibility for their actions and stop blaming injuries and ambition for their ills, lest they follow the path trodden by so many. Likewise, it took a violent double murder/suicide before WWE began to take its responsibilities as an employer seriously. Yes, they offered Fatu the rehab option. Yes, they extend that to all past employees and no, it is not their fault if said person does not accept the invitation.
It is, however, entirely the fault of WWE for creating and maintaining an inhumane work schedule and for years fostering a culture of ?bigger is better?. What truly dismays me is but for the horror of 2007, virtually nothing would have changed. Chances are, Fatu’s death would still have occurred with the added impetus of him being a WWE employee. I applaud WWE and Vince McMahon for the steps they have taken (and the seriousness extended) since the death of Chris Benoit and his family. I simply wish such care and attention had been present in the first place before, in the case of Edward Fatu, the damage was most likely done. Mark my words, until the wrestling business is forced, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century, then the chemical deaths (professional and recreational) will keep happening. The routine will be without end and I will be writing another obituary.
I prefer to end this day remembering the performer who played his part in making Eric Bischoff’s arrival in WWE so memorable. I prefer to remember the man who carried John Cena to a gripping contest at the Royal Rumble in two-thousand-and-seven. I choose to remember the man who played his part on the grandest stage of all at Wrestlemania that same year alongside legends and billionaires, living the dream in the process. May that man rest in peace. As for the wrestling business, it carries on. The same as always. Forgive me, but I think I?ll be here again soon. That is the saddest thing of all?
Daniel R. Browne.