Unify Championship Entertainment gets a hold on Hawaii wrestling
Since its debut 10 months ago, the Unify Championship Entertainment roster of 30-plus wrestlers has been performing all over Oahu.
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Body slams, piledrivers and daring jumps from the corner turnbuckle: It’s all just another day at the office for Aleki Lee and Rain, co-owners of Hawaii’s newest wrestling federation, Unify Championship Entertainment.
The married duo, both current UCE Champions, carry a combined 30 years of experience in the industry and have a special message for anyone who says professional wrestling is fake.
“I would like to invite them to one of my training sessions,” said Rain (it’s her wrestling name). “You fall on metal and wood, and there are no springs underneath. There’s only about half an inch of padding; that does not take the bite away from landing. … When you’re slammed on that mat, it doesn’t move it all. It hurts. It’s not gymnastics where you have a foam pad to land on.”
Lee adds, “You can’t fake gravity.”
Since its debut 10 months ago, the UCE roster of 30-plus wrestlers has been performing all over the island while practicing at the famed Wild Samoan Training Center in Waimanalo. Its namesake — the original training center in Florida — was started by Lee’s uncle, “Afa the Wild Samoan,” who assisted the careers of such 1980s wrestling household names as Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff, the Junkyard Dog, “Freebird” Michael Hayes, Hulk Hogan and Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake.
Lee, who grew up in Hawaii, trained at the Florida center, and was given the blessing to open his own facility.
For experienced wrestlers from previous Hawaii organizations, transitioning to the training facility took some effort. “They all have great attitudes,” Rain said. “It was just a bit of retraining, which is harder than starting fresh.”
Champions and rookies alike, the couple describe a feeling of unity at UCE that compares to the camaraderie seen in Netflix series “GLOW” — based on a female 1980s wrestling federation.
“Wrestling is a family. Whether we’re blood or not, we’re still family regardless, and we’ve all helped each other out. UCE represents that unity, that very tight-knit group, taking care of one another,” Rain said.
When it comes to actual family, Lee said he caught the wrestling bug from his father, Papali’itele Max Amata Taogaga, best known for his appearances with the World Wrestling Federation in the late-1980s with the ring name Siva Afi. Taogaga also trained with Lee’s great-uncle, Peter Maivia, grandfather of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
ALEKI LEE, whose wrestling name is “The Pineapple King” Aleki, currently holds the Unify World Champion title. He has appeared on such programs as WWE’s Main Event, NXT and Smackdown. His signature move is the Pineapple Express: a pump-handle brain buster.
Rain, whose wrestling name is Radiant Rain, is the current reigning and first-ever Kaimana Women’s Champion with UCE. She was also known as Ms. Payton Banks during her tenure as a Total Nonstop Action Wrestling Knockout. Her signature move is Acid Rain: a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, which is carried out just like it sounds.
Both will have their titles on the line at UCE’s eighth event on Friday at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu.
In his previous match, The Pineapple King had his head planted onto his own championship belt courtesy of Kory Oliver. Needless to say, he’s looking for some answers.
Rain is currently undefeated in UCE and hopes to retain that spotless record against an opponent who is yet to be announced.
Aside from the title bouts, there are some other notable storylines leading into the event.
A few matches back, “The Samoan Stallion” Ativalu suffered knee injuries from Kaimana. After two surgeries, Ativalu is returning to the ring and looking for payback.
“The Masterpiece” Chris Masters (formerly of WWE) will be making his return to UCE, as he hopes to deliver his signature move the Master Lock on a very unlucky opponent.
After suffering from shoulder injuries, The Night Marchers are looking forward to getting back into the ring with UCE Tag Team Champions Wilde Kapua.
Being that many of these storylines are based on injuries (yes, real ones), fans can expect some tension between the ropes.
The September matches are part of a series of events at the Filcom. UCE fans can see events in the purple ring every month for the rest of the year. All matches are recorded for later broadcasts on KFVE.
Presented by UCE Wrestling
>> Where: FilCom Center, 94-428 Mokuola St. Waipahu
>> When: 7 p.m. Friday
>> Cost: $20-$30
>> Info: ucewrestling.com