Yokozuna was one of the most unique athletes in WWE; a 300+ pound man with agility and footwork uncommon for a man his size.
Unfortunately, as the years rolled on, Yokozuna began gaining more and more weight. By King of the Ring 1993, he was billed as being over 500 pounds.
On WWE Icons, various personalities and wrestlers closest to Yokozuna expressed their concerns and discussed his increasing size.
"There was a point where we just started to notice that Yokozuna was getting bigger. Then you started to see he's a step behind in the ring and a little slower. Then you start to see that he walks back from the ring and has to stop at Gorilla to catch his breath before he can go beyond that. Then you start watching and going 'hmmmm, he's not doing well,'" said Bruce Prichard.
Jerry Lawler noted that Yokozuna liked food and it was beginning to affect his stamina. Prichard went on to say that WWE teamed up Yokozuna with Owen Hart in 1995 as Yoko was now weighing over 600 pounds. They knew Owen would carry the team from an in-ring perspective as Yoko couldn't be a singles wrestler at that point.
"Owen enjoyed working with Yoko, but he knew he would have to do the brunt of the work all the time because Yoko couldn't be the center stage guy he was before," said Bret Hart.
Kevin Nash stated WWE would have to buy two seats in coach for Yoko when they would fly. Bret went on to tell the story of Yoko breaking a toilet in a hotel when he sat on it and the porcelain cutting his buttcheek. Bret said the sound of the toilet coming out of the wall sounded "like a hand grenade."
Godfather said it was tough to tell Yoko that he was getting bigger and Mark Henry noted that he would be the guy to get Yoko his food.
Rikishi did have a conversation with Yoko about his weight, but it didn't lead to anything.
"We had that conversation. 'You gotta focus on yourself right now. It's okay for you to take care of you. Please, we want you to concentrate and take care of you.' Rod being Rod, 'Aint nothing wrong with me, I can still go.' Maybe he was in denial. Maybe. He didn't want to talk about it," said Rikishi.
Prichard noted that they had to weigh him on a loading dock at one point. On the April 8, 1996 episode of WWE Raw, Vader "broke Yoko's leg" and instead of a stretcher being brought out to carry him to the back, a forklift was used.
"We tried dieting and a workout routine with him on the road. He just wouldn't do it. The next step was to take Yoko and Duke University had a weight loss program. Yoko didn't want to move to North Carolina. He said he would do the program, but he would do it at home. He was off fr maybe three months, maybe longer, and came back bigger than ever," said Prichard.
Later in the year, Yoko was not medically cleared by some state commissioners. His last WWE bout took place at Survivor Series 1996. He was released by the company in May 1998 and just four more matches, passing away on October 23, 2000.
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