The name Rikishi is rather unique. Not only is it a rare dual-gender one-hit wonder, but it’s it’s also the only debut name I know of that was popularized by a fake sport.
If you’re a professional wrestling fan, you already know where this one came from: Rikishi, the character played by Solofa Fatu, Jr.
Fatu’s pro-wrestling career started in 1985. He played a series of not-so-successful characters (Prince Alofa, Fatu, The Sultan) before appearing as the bleach-blond, loincloth-wearing Rikishi Fatu on the TV show WWF Metal for the first time in late 1999.
The following year, the baby name Rikishi debuted (times two!) in the SSA’s baby name data:
- 2002: unlisted
- 2001: unlisted
- 2000: 10 baby boys and 6 baby girls named Rikishi [dual-debut]
- 1999: unlisted
- 1998: unlisted
That’s the only year it managed to make the national list, though.
So where did the ring name Rikishi come from? Rikishi is the Japanese word for “sumo wrestler.” It can be traced back to an Old Chinese word meaning “man of strength.”
And what helped Rikishi become a WWF superstar? His signature wrestling move, the humiliating “Stink Face.”
With his opponent lying prone in the corner of the ring, Fatu sticks his sizable rear end, which is covered in skimpy tights, in their face with a smile normally reserved for children at Christmas.
“That [move] came up two years ago in Mobile, Ala., when I was wrestling the Big Bossman and he fell in the corner,” said Fatu, who has given the stinkface to almost every top WWF performer. “As I turned around, I heard some man yell out, `Put your [butt] in his face.’ Meantime, I forgot what spot came next, so I walked over and put my [butt] in his face.
“It was the biggest reaction I had gotten, so I said I was going to do it next time. It’s been easy since then. I don’t think the Bossman knew what was coming. He saw my cheeks backing up and had nowhere to go.”
Here’s a 5-minute Rikishi Stinkface Compilation. Lovely, no?
Sources: Rikishi – Wikipedia, Rikishi’s Move Is A Little Cheeky, But It Gets Him Noticed
Image: Tech. Sgt. Lisa M. Zunzanyika, USAF