The wrestling world is tonight mourning the death of former WWE star Umaga.
Umaga, 36, whose real name is Edward Fatu, was found by his wife last night at his home in Texas, unable to breath and bleeding from the nose, according to a family member. He had fallen asleep in his chair while watching television.
He was rushed to a Houston-area hospital after suffering what doctors believe was a massive heart attack. They did manage to restart his heart but he was taken off life support late this afternoon after being declared brain dead.
Fatu is probably best known for headlining Wrestlemania 23 against Bobby Lashley in a match where Vince McMahon put his hair on the line against the hair of Donald Trump, with Steve Austin as guest referee, which drew the biggest buy rate in the history of professional wrestling.
He was a member of the famous Anoa'i Samoan-wrestling family that included the likes of Afa, Sika, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Samu, Rikishi, Rosie, The Tonga Kid, and many more.
By all accounts, he was well liked and nobody had a bad word to say about him.
Friends in the wrestling business have been left devastated by the news of his untimely passing, most of all, Ken "Mr. Kennedy" Anderson, who worked Fatu's final match last weekend on the Hulk Hogan tour of Australia.
In an eerie coincidence, Anderson also worked Eddie Guerrero's last match before Gerrero's well-documented untimely death in a Minneapolis hotel room in 2005.
"Ecki's (Umaga's) death is an appalling tragedy," one major name WWE wrestler told me this evening. "He was an immensely talented performer, we were good friends, and (I will) miss him. My thoughts are with his entire family right now. I can't imagine the loss they are feeling."
On its website, the WWE expressed its "deepest condolences to Mr. Fatu's family, friends and fans on his tragic passing."
In arguably a PR move, the WWE statement also read: "Mr. Fatu was under contract with WWE at various time periods and most recently performed under the name Umaga. Mr. Fatu's contract was terminated on June 11, 2009. "
This was in reference to a second Wellness Policy violation and his subsequent refusal to enter rehabilitation which led to his firing earlier this year.
Former WWE Diva Torrie Wilson, who resides a few miles away from the Fatu family home, said she had been praying all day for a miracle. Last year for her birthday, Fatu had given her an English Bulldog called Uce as a present. Uce means "brother" in the Samoan language.
Tributes from friends and fans have poured in tonight through social networking website Twitter.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Eddie Fatu," said Eric Bischoff. "He was a great performer and a wonderful person."
TNA's Pope D'Angelo Dinero, said: "This is rough, very rough. My heart and prayers goes out to Umaga's wife, his boys, and family."
Another message, from Christopher Daniels, said: "RIP Eddie Fatu. I'm glad I got to know you in the short time you were here."
TNA Knockout Tara, Lisa Marie Varon, said: "Rest in Peace Umaga We will love you always and we will all miss you."
Long-time WWF ring announcer Howard Finkel also wrote a touching blog on the WWE website.
He said: "Like Yokozuna who preceded him, Eddie’s bloodline made him a part of the legendary Anoai family. The Wild Samoans (Afa and Sika) certainly set the bar high for their family members who aspired to follow in their footsteps, with Eddie being one of them. And not withstanding his early WWE tenure as a member of the tag team known as Three Minute Warning, Eddie finally had something to run with when he became Umaga."
"...And with no disrespect intended, I felt that he turned out to be the most talented member of the family. He was deliberate, fierce, and smartly methodical in his ring style, but could instantly become as quick as a cat in no time flat. For a man of his size, he definitely put the A in agility."
Edward "Umaga" Fatu (March 28, 1973 - December 4, 2009)
A MESSAGE FROM AFA THE WILD SAMOAN
On behalf of my family, the Anoa'i and Fatu family, we are devastated and shocked by the loss of our Eki (Umaga). Our son, nephew, brother, cousin, husband, father. Our hearts are broken, and words can't express what each of us are feeling. It is so comforting to know how loved Eki is by his family, peers, friends, and most of all his fans.
When I received that AM phone call that my nephew was in the hospital, I dug deep and prayed and cried and begged for a miracle. When we lost Eki, I knew it was God's will, and that he is with my sister, his mother, who passed just a year ago.
We are making our plans now for our farewell to Eki, but I wanted to take this time to thank everyone for all of the thousands of posts, emails, letters, and cards. Although I have not been able to bring myself to answer them personally, your kindness does not go unnoticed. I want to especially thank our WWE family and Stephanie McMahon for everything, and her phone call was very comforting to me in my time of sorrow.
God bless each and every one of you, and I've said it a hundred times, the best people in the world are our wrestling people. You'll never find a more dedicated group of people.
Be safe and be healthy, and love one another.
Afa the Wild Samoan