During the Grilling JR Podcast, Jim Ross talked about the career of Yokozuna. Ross mentioned how Yoko was the most dominant force in the company for an 18 month stretch. He also talked about why it all came to a sudden halt due to his weight issues.
“Yoko’s weight kept increasing,” Ross said. “The more he weighed, the less his cardio was prominent. He gained 100 pounds; he got huge. When you get out of breath or fatigued and you’re starting to lose strength in the ring, sometimes you just can’t execute. Somebody as large as Yokozuna, a minor miscue could be very devastating.”
Ross told a story about how WWE sent Vader and Yokozuna to the Duke Center for metabolic and weight loss surgery in Durham for both of them to lose some weight and learn how to eat healthier. He said the company needed Yoko to lose weight because he was becoming obese.
“We sent Yoko and Vader to the Duke University weight loss center to lose weight, to retrain themselves how to eat,” Jim said. “We’re getting in that era where Yoko was described as morbidly obese. It was a matter of time where one athletic commission is not going to let him work. We wanted to get ahead of the curve, so we sent him and Vader both.”
Ross continued to mention that after they were sent to the weight loss centre, Yoko and Vader gained weight rather than losing it.
“How do you gain weight at a weight loss clinic?” Ross said about Vader and Yokozuna. “Upon some Chicago Police work, we found out they were leaving the facility rather late in the evening to go to whatever drive thru was open. Generally, it can serve chicken. The chicken business probably peaked at that time.”
Ross talked about airplane rides with Yokozuna and how many accommodations were made for him. He said it was tough to watch, and that they treated Yoko like they did Andre The Giant when travelling back in the day.
“There’s not much you can do,” JR said. “He couldn’t fit in a couch seat, he flew in first class. The travel people took care of Yoko per our instructions, much like they did Andre [The Giant]. He could get in a van and spread out, literally, and chill. He was used to more car trips because he could say, ‘I need to go to the bathroom’, then you’d find yourself a spot and do your thing. In an airplane, you have one choice; you don’t have a king size bathroom you can use. He had troubles getting in and getting out.”
JR talked about Vince making the call to Yoko, telling him he was going to be let go by the company. Ross said it was inevitable because of Yoko’s health and weight issues that they couldn’t let him risk his life in the ring.
“[Yokozuna] was not surprised,” Ross mentioned. “He had been told the same stories, the same things. We tried and tried to make this thing work. He knew the issues. The weight was one thing, but man, having heart issues? You don’t touch that. If nothing else, you protect the talent because you love them. We can’t put him in the ring with a heart issue. It was the only choice we could make, and [Yokozuna] knew that.”
Ross continued to mention how he and WWE would still continue to touch base with Yoko after they let him go. He said they would always talk to him to see how he was doing and feeling, and hoped he would lose the weight so they could bring him back. They set him a goal weight of 400 lbs., but Yokozuna remained 200 lbs. above that.
“I would talk to him sporadically in my role,” JR continued to say. “Just to touch base with him and see how he was feeling. Obviously, we wanted him to come back. The 400 pound number was the number – we thought that if he got to that level, he could better address his heart issues. He was 200 plus over that. He’s got to pass a physical, and he couldn’t; it’s simple as that.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Grilling JR with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.