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March 14, 2023
Fig Authentic: Afa Anoa’i Jr.
What’s in a name?
While he may be the namesake of a man who helped spawn professional wrestling’s Samoan dynasty—as well as cousin of pro wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—Afa Anoa’i, Jr. has certainly made a name for himself.
During the summer before eighth grade, Afa was inspired to officially begin his wrestling career while in Austria with his father, who was running an international tour there. “Not without proper training” was his dad’s requirement for joining the tour. So after a three-day immersive training on a hotel room floor with his WWE star older brothers, he officially stepped into the ring.
While he never stopped wrestling, his “freakishly large” size got him recruited to Freedom High School’s varsity football team. After three years as an all-conference defensive tackle, he accepted a spot on the UConn Huskies college team. Poised to be a first-round NFL draft pick after his freshman season, he blew out his knee and his career came to a premature end.
TRAINER AND ENTREPRENEUR
After continuing his pro wrestling career as WWE superstar Manu, Afa also discovered his passion for training other wrestlers. Amidst the pandemic, he opened The Battlefield Pro Wrestling Center in Brodheadsville, where he’s already helped over 16 hopefuls make their WWE debuts. His moves were also sought out on a different stage – the theater. Afa took on the role of choreographer for an off-Broadway production of The Last Match, and was recently recognized with a Broadway World Regionals 2023 award for “Best Choreography of a play or musical.”
THE PATH AHEAD
Despite all his career success, “Dad” is truly the name Afa loves most. “Having kids put my life into focus,” says Afa. “I do it all for them.” Afa’s son and daughter have already started wrestling training. “You can’t keep them out of the ring,” says the proud dad. Sounds familiar.