Ground-breaking professional wrestler “Prince” Neff Maiava died on April 21 at the age of 93.
In a career that spanned four decades, the Samoa-born, Laie-raised Maiava shared the ring with such seminal figures as Gene LeBelle, Fritz Von Erich and Killer Kowalski.
“He was a very colorful man,” said daughter Pamela Maiava. “He was also the nicest man I’ve every known. So many of his friends have told me how much he helped other people.”
Maiava was among the first Polynesian professional wrestlers to achieve wide success and acclaim, essentially setting the performative template for successive generations of Samoan, Tongan and Hawaiian wrestlers, from Peter Maivia (whose stage name was derived from “Maiava”) to the Wild Samoans to current stars like the Usos and the Rock.
Before matches, Maiava would sometimes work the crowd by breaking wooden boards over his head, walking on a real board of nails and performing a fire knife dance. He was often accompanied by his manager Coconut Willie, whom opponents accused of using a drum to send instructions to Maiava.
Maiava’s peak came in the 1960s, when he held the NWA Hawaii heavyweight championship and teamed with Lord James Blears to win the NWA Hawaii tag team title.
After retiring, Maiava started a successful tree-trimming business and leveraged his earnings to purchase several rental properties on Oahu. He also wrote several children’s books, including “Da Grouchy Moocher Boogie Man,” published by Island Heritage.