Thursday, June 4, 2009

"High Chief" Peter Maivia

"High Chief" Peter Maivia, was born in Samoa in 1937. In the early 1960s, he moved to New Zealand to begin his in-ring career, training under South Pacific legend Steve Rickard. The High Chief quickly took to his profession, winning numerous championships in the South Pacific and Hawaii before finally coming to the United States in 1970.

The High Chief dominated the west coast scene in the 70s, winning multiple championships in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. At different times, he held versions of the NWA Tag Team Championship with such greats as Pat Patterson, former World Tag Team Champion Billy White Wolf and Ray "The Crippler" Stevens. Maivia also competed in Texas for a short spell, but rose to national prominence when he entered WWE in the late-1970s. He was very popular, and well-known partially because of the tribal tattoos that adorned his body; the ink was indicative of his status as a Samoan High Chief, a tradition that would later be carried on by his grandson, The Rock. According to Superstar Billy Graham, they were completed in just three days. Maivia's grandson Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson revealed that they were done with traditional Samoan instrumentation: a small hammer, a needle, and ink.
During the final years of his career in WWE, Maivia battled former friend Graham for the WWE Championship while also forming a successful tandem with Bob Backlund. When Backlund won the WWE Title from Graham, however, Maivia shocked our fans by turning on his friend and becoming one of the most hated men in the industry. Led by "Classy" Freddie Blassie, The High Chief challenged Backlund on numerous occasions, but never walked away with the gold. He also played a vile henchman in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, perhaps foreshadowing a silver screen legacy that would be carried on by The Rock 35 years later.

Sadly, Maivia was diagnosed with cancer in 1981, and tragically passed away in June 1982 at the age of 45. The original ring name of his grandson, Rocky Maivia, was chosen partially in tribute to the High Chief; in 2008, The Rock paid an even greater tribute to his grandfather by inducting him into the WWE Hall of Fame.

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