Who was Peter Maivia?
Peter Maivia was a Samoan professional wrestler. He was the pioneer who spearheaded the legacy of Maivia-Johnson family in the arena of sports and entertainment. A WWE wrestler, Maivia not just represented the Samoan Anoa'i dynasty at the South-western United States, but also on the global front. After gaining training in New Zealand under Steve Rickard, Peter Maivia set out to make his career in wrestling, in 1962. In his two decades long career, he not just earned several titles, trophies and championships for his country but also the nickname ‘Flying Hawaiian’. What is interesting to note is that Maivia wasn’t just interested in his personal success; he aspired for a bright future of wrestling and towards this objective, he served as a mentor and trainer of future wrestling legends. He also served as the promoter of National Wrestling Alliance in Hawaii. For his immeasurable contribution in the arena of wrestling, his maternal grandson, the highly talented Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, posthumously inducted him to the WWE Hall of Fame, an award which was received by Rock’s mother and Peter Maivia’s daughter, Ata Mavia-Johnson.
Peter Maivia may today be known as the legendary High Chief and the forerunner of the Maivia-Johnson sports-entertainment clan but things weren’t the same for this 109 kg wrestler from when he started wrestling. In 1960s, Maivia moved to New Zealand to begin his wrestling career. He trained under Steve Rickard, a South Pacific legend, and became a skilled wrestler.
In the early years of his career, Peter Maivia won numerous championships in the South Pacific and Hawaii. Having made his mark at the South Pacific region, he then moved to United States in 1970. In the U.S., Peter Maivia dominated the sport like a true superstar. He won multiple championships in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. He held important titles, such as NWA Tag Team Championship, World Tag Team Championship and so on, at various points in his career.
It was in late 1970s that Peter Maivia earned the spotlight when he entered WWE. Known regionally until then, he gained national prominence. He competed in Texas for a short time. In California, Maivia formed a close mentor-student relationship with ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham. Later, in the final years of his career in WWE, he competed against Graham for the WWE Championship. He formed a bitter rivalry against Bob Backlund and Victor Rivera. Outside the ring, Peter Maivia mentored various future fighters including Graham, Wild Samoan Afa and Rocky Johnson. He retired from wrestling on February 11, 1982, after two decades of wrestling career.
He was also seen playing a cameo in the fifth film of the James Bond series ‘You Only Live Twice’, thus starting a legacy that was duly taken forward by his grandson, ‘The Rock’.
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Peter Maivia was born as Fanene Leifi Pita Maivia on April 6, 1937 in The Isle of Samao. He belonged to the family of the Alii lineage of Malietoa. His body, basically his abdomen and legs, are covered with traditional Samoan tattoos symbolic of his High Chief status. He is the maternal father of American superstar and Hollywood celebrity, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Peter Maivia was considered a ‘blood brother’ by Amituanai Anoa'i, the father of the Wild Samoans (Afa and Sika). It was due to this reason that the Anoa'i family regarded the Maivia line from him on forward as an extension of their own clan.
In 1953, he married Ofelia ‘Lia’ Maivia. They were blessed with a son and a daughter. While his son was a professional wrestler and wrestled in Hawaii and the West Coast as ‘Prince Peter Maivia’, his daughter, Ata Fitisemanu Maivia, married Rocky Johnson, a professional wrestler, despite Maivia's objections.
In 1981, Peter Maivia was diagnosed with cancer. He breathed his last on June 12, 1982. His wife, Lia Maivia, died on October 19, 2008.