Dwayne Johnson is known today as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors, with roles in popular film franchises such as the Fast and Furious and Jumanji, as well as the Disney movie Moana. With all of his acting success, it’s easy to forget that Johnson first rose to fame as a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Superstar.
As the popular wrestling personality “The Rock,” Johnson famously feuded with wrestler Steve Austin and won the WWF/WWE Heavyweight title numerous times. His success in the ring eventually enabled him to transition to Hollywood action hero, but he’s not the only one in his family to rise to WWE fame. The first third-generation Superstar in WWE history, Johnson is a member of a sprawling family of grapplers that includes numerous uncles and cousins and even his oldest daughter, Simone. Here are a few of the many relatives who have thrived in the arena of scripted combat, colorful costumes and outlandish stage personas:
‘High Chief’ Peter Maivia
The dynasty started with the tenure of Johnson’s American Samoa-born grandfather, who began wrestling in the 1960s as Prince Peter Maivia before settling in as the “High Chief.” Showcasing his eye-catching tribal tattoos, Maivia became a champion and fan favorite in New Zealand, Hawaii and the mainland United States, until cancer ended his Hall of Fame career and claimed his life at age 45. While technically not part of the Anoa’i lineage that produced most of the wrestling stars of the family, Maivia was considered an extended member as a “blood brother” of its patriarch, Reverend Amituana’i Anoa’i.
The Wild Samoans
The sons of Amituana’i Anoa’i, Afa and Sika Anoa’i played their ethnicity to the hilt as The Wild Samoans, their “savage” behavior including displays in which they ate raw fish and bit opponents. They were also among the most formidable duos of their era, thrice claiming the World Tag Team championship over a three-year period in the early 1980s. The brothers began pursuing separate paths by the end of the decade, Sika pressing forward with a solo career and Afa focusing on managing and running his Wild Samoan Training Center, though they reunited for induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Pro Wrestling Hall in 2012.
Rocky ‘Soul Man’ Johnson
Rocky Johnson learned the tools of the trade under Maivia before marrying the High Chief’s daughter, a union that brought him into the family and produced its most famous champion. But the muscular “Soul Man” was a star in his own right, pairing with Tony Atlas in the “Soul Patrol” to become the first Black tag team champions in what was then known as the World Wrestling Federation. Johnson later trained his son and became part of the act that shaped his rise to prominence, Johnson repaying the efforts by inducting the Soul Man into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2008.
Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka
Hailing from Fiji, Snuka entered into the Anoa’i family by way of marriage to his second wife, Sharon. He emerged as one of pro wrestling’s biggest stars of the 1980s, his high-flying “Superfly Splash” countering the sheer mass of giants like Hulk Hogan, and later became a headliner in the Eastern Championship Wrestling organization. Snuka was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996 and saw his legacy continued by way of two offspring’s entries into the world of pro wrestling, though he remained haunted by questions about his alleged involvement in a girlfriend’s death until his own passing in 2017.
Despite descending from the same bloodlines as uncles Afa and Sika, Rodney Anoa’i styled himself as a Japanese sumo wrestler under the moniker of Yokozuna. But the results were otherwise the same, as the near 600-pound behemoth quickly pushed aside the biggest names in the sport en route to toppling Bret Hart and Hogan in title matches. Yokozuna also teamed with Owen Hart to become a two-time tag team champion, but the massive girth that made him a wrestling star also fueled a health-related descent, and the Hall of Famer died from a pulmonary edema at age 34.
Another nephew and protege of the Wild Samoans, Solofa Fatu went by his last name in the early 1990s and teamed with cousin Samu to form the Headshrinkers. But he achieved greater heights of fame after resurfacing at the end of the decade as Rikishi, the bleached-blonde, 425-pound monster known for his alliance with the Too Cool duo and his delivery of the disgusting-as-it-sounds “Stinkface” move. For all the theatrics, Rikishi was a force to be reckoned with over a lengthy career that brought three tag team crowns and an intercontinental championship, leading to his own WWE Hall of Fame induction in 2015.
Following older brothers Rikishi and Tama into the ring, Eddie Fatu made a tepid entry to the WWE as Jamal, one-half of the 3-Minute Warning duo, before returning with a bang in 2006 as the terrifying Umaga. The 350-pound “Samoan Bulldozer” ran up an eight-month winning streak that culminated with a loss to champion John Cena, and he remained a top draw as he twice claimed the intercontinental championship. Sadly, the ride came to an end after Umaga failed a second drug test in 2009, leading to his release from the WWE, and he was dead a few months later from a heart attack.
The younger of Sika Anoa’i’s two pro wrestling sons, Leati Anoa’i initially pursued a career in football that stalled after stints in the NFL and CFL. But he hit the ground running in the WWE as Roman Reigns, first as one of the three members of The Shield, before emerging as an individual superstar. Using his devastating “Superman punch,” the agile 265-pounder has been crowned the WWE’s United States, Intercontinental and Universal champion, among other accolades. And while he hasn’t always earned a warm reception from audiences, Reigns turned more fans in his favor with his return in 2019 from a battle with leukemia.
Football also loomed large in the early lives of Rikishi’s twin sons Jonathan and Joshua Fatu, who played together at the University of West Alabama. But they were ready when it came time to trade in the pads for tasseled costumes and tribal costumes, and they arrived in the WWE in 2010 under the respective names of Jimmy and Jey Uso. Initially billed as “heels” — wrestling’s bad guys — the Usos rose in popularity thanks to energetic showings that included performances of the traditional Samoan Siva Tau war dance. They also joined cousins Johnson and Reigns as titleholders, becoming the first duo to win tag team crowns in both the Raw and Smackdown divisions.
Born in Australia to a cousin of the High Chief and a German mother, Savelina Fanene was drawn to basketball before becoming a plus-size model. However, all roads lead back to the family business, and she quickly worked her way up the WWE’s development ladder to make a splash as Nia Jax in 2015. At 6 feet and 270-odd pounds, Jax has fulfilled her destiny as an overpowering force in the women’s field and yet another champion of the family tree, claiming the Raw women’s title in 2018 and a tag team triumph with Shayna Baszler in 2020.