Lance Anoa’i is a member of the well respected Anoa’i family that includes Yokozuna, Afa, Sika, Rikishi, Jacob Fatu, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, The Usos, Roman Reigns and a handful of other pro wrestling Hall Of Famers and staples within the industry. Lance is looking to continue to represent his family well by taking the respect that has been given to them into locker rooms that he’s a part of.
I spoke with Lance ahead of his return to the ring on 10/24 for WrestlePro and he stated that a common thing he always hears is how humble he is considering his last name. Lance added that-that’s just how he was raised and his father Samu is respected so Lance wants to pass that back out to those he comes across in wrestling.
“Oh yeah, for sure man. Just to see how people are treated on the road. Like every time I’m in the locker room, everyone always talks about how being from such a legendary family, how humble I am, and that’s just how I was raised from my whole family, especially my dad [Samu]. My dad is well respected. People also feared him at the same time, but you know, I definitely grew and having my own family, got two children, that all helped. I just wanna be safe and be able to come home the way I left.”
Lance is a regular in the WXW C4 promotion based out of Pennsylvania that’s ran by Samu. In May of 2019, a benefit show was put together for Samu as he revealed that he was battling stage four liver cancer and was awaiting a transplant. Lance Anoa’i shared that his father is recovering well and he reflected on the benefit show as well.
He spoke about how much it meant to him to have talents from IMPACT Wrestling, WWE and Major League Wrestling all involved in the benefit show or contribute to it in some fashion. Lance said that there were discussions with The Undertaker to have him appear at the show but his schedule was tasking to work around.
“Man, that meant so much to not just me, but I know it meant a lot to my dad. We raised a lot of money to help him out with the surgery. He’s a little over a year right now from the surgery. He’s feeling good, he’s doing as much as he can and man, just the support that everybody gave. We had [guys] from IMPACT, MLW, WWE, Samoa Joe, Kassius Ohno, Billy Kidman who’s originally from — my grandfather trained him so he came out, showed respect and Michael Hayes, just the whole WWE environment. They didn’t have to do any of that and they threw out their time, free time man and just came out and helped support it. Like I said before, my dad was well respected and I think that’s a big part. At times, we had talks that Undertaker was gonna come because at the time, they were all good friends. But something came up, he wasn’t able to make it and we understand, we know his schedule, we know how it is. But just for him, especially Paul Heyman throwing it out also and him with my cousin Roman [Reigns] right now, it’s just — just the respect man. But putting it all together man, that was the biggest headache in the world. But man, it was all worth it because at the time, that’s when I did the spot on RAW with Shane McMahon and literally, that was three days before my dad’s benefit show so I was already putting it all together, trying to work it all out, get everything down-packed and WWE called me, ‘Hey, we need you out in Kansas City’ and that’s when I went out there and did the spot on RAW, versus Shane so that slowed it down and it also helped me boost. I [saw] everybody there, Michael Hayes said he’d see me in a couple days and just the respect they had for me even when I was there was awesome.”
Lance Anoa’i worked a number of dates with Major League Wrestling in 2019 and 2018. I asked Lance if there were ever conversations between the two sides about him joining the organization on a full-time basis. He explained that there were such conversations held but he did not go all the way through with it because at the time, he worked a match with Shane McMahon on RAW and there was hope from Lance’s side that he may be called in for more work with WWE so he didn’t want to sign exclusively in case that opportunity came up. He added that WWE is his ultimate goal and shared that it was told to him that he may have been brought back to WWE in 2019 for a tag match against Drew McIntyre and Shane McMahon who were feuding with Roman Reigns at the time.
“At the time, it was per-show. I was on vacation and this was the time they were running in Orlando in 2018. I was on vacation and then they hit me up, ‘Hey, you got anything going on?’ And they invited me down and that’s the show I wrestled MJF and man, they liked everything I had and kept inviting me because at the time, back in the day, my dad was basically one of the bookers for MLW so him and Court Bauer who’s the owner, they’re real good friends and Court man, he put a big donation in for my dad’s whole fundraiser and tons of respect for him and I help him with whatever he needs help with, I’m there for him. But yeah, he’s always had my back but the talks were for me to join full-time, but I did put it on hold. I didn’t know what exactly was gonna happen with me and WWE, and they [MLW] offered me a little too many years. I wasn’t ready to commit to [it] at the time. But if it comes around, maybe one day, you’ll see me there full-time. But for the moment, I’m just gonna keep grinding and WWE’s always my goal.
For sure, it was difficult [to be in that spot]. It was difficult because like you said, I did that spot and after that, they were talking about bringing me back in for a tag match possibly against Shane [McMahon] and Drew [McIntyre] but I didn’t wanna lock myself in and lose all that opportunity so, that was one big one I just held on but like I told Court, I’m ready. Man, if you’re supposed to keep bringing me in, I’m cool with that also.”
While The Usos and The New Day were feuding in 2017, pictures and fan-created match graphics surfaced of Lance standing side-by-side with The Usos against The New Day. Lance feels that had the six-man tag taken place, all parties involved would’ve had a great match and he talked about how social media can single-handedly make things happen.
“Man, we would’ve killed it. I like to have fun just like them out there and I think between the three of us and New Day? Sh*t. That’s a good base right there and yeah, you never know what could come. Social media is real big right now. Once fans get a hold of something — look at James Ellsworth. He went from nobody and then social media just blew him up and they offered him a contract. Hey, even Jacob [Fatu], my own cousin, of course we’re already bred for this, but when that whole video of him beating up the fan went viral, I don’t know if you’ve seen it but that thing went viral and his name just popped up everywhere and memes starting coming out with him, it was crazy…”
Anoa’i is returning to the ring this month for the first time since February. He’ll be a part of WrestlePro’s ‘Dream Sixteen’ tournament. There is a bit of hesitance on his part since this is his first time wrestling during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, he’s assured that he’s prepared for that date and other dates that he has lined up in the coming months.
“Man, I actually haven’t been in a ring since February. That was the last time I was in a ring and I was gonna take the whole year off, because having kids and family man, my daughter doesn’t go to school, she’s doing the home-schooling and just going to the ring, it’s basically unprotected and I am a little hesitant, but at the same time, like I said, I gotta push and provide for my family. I work a real job also but wrestling also helps put food on the table and man, I think I’m ready, I think I’m protected enough. I know how to protect myself. If I have to wrestle with a mask on, I’ll wrestle with a mask. It doesn’t bother me. But I’m ready to just start it up again. Man I’m ready to get the ball rolling and yeah, WrestlePro’s just the beginning right now so, I know there’s a lot more coming. I’m talking about doing shows out in California, Florida. Me and Jacob [Fatu] [in] December. That’s the one I’m a little hesitant [about]. It’s towards Miami so, but you know, I’m good. I’m very protected. Me and my fiancée, we’re all well aware. I got all the Lysol, the Clorox, everything I need to stay safe and protect me and my family.”
As far as signing with another company goes, Lance admitted that he doesn’t want to be signed to another company besides WWE unless the money is right. He feels that the independent scene is better suited for him right now and listed off his reasons why. He said it’s all about feeding his family, money and further spoke about why he wants to be a part of the sports-entertainment company.
“Man, like I said, other than WWE, I don’t wanna be signed unless the money is right. Being on the independents is so much easier. You create your own schedule, you work where you wanna work, you’re not being told to do this or do that. You’re just going out there doing what you want, what you love to do and perform at your top notch. You don’t have someone else writing everything for you. You’re there doing it, and that’s one reason I like not being signed, but WWE… that’s the goal because I feel like anything after WWE — once you make it to WWE, say they let anybody go, [you’re] right back on the indies just making money just the way you did and I feel like you’re more profitable and yeah man. Like I said, it’s all about money and feeding my family.”
Lance’s cousins Jey Uso and WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns are currently involved in a storyline on WWE programming. The two are set to meet this coming weekend inside of Hell In A Cell for the Universal Title. Lance stated that he’s enjoying what he’s seeing from Roman and Jey and feels that it’s the best thing WWE has going right now. He is also anticipating one of them taking a bump off the top of the cell come the pay-per-view.
“Man I love it. It got my attention. I know it got a lot of other people’s attention. It’s one of the best things going right now in the whole WWE, and family, what chemistry is better? I read bad reviews about their first match, but it wasn’t just about the match. I thought they were gonna go out there and kill it, and they killed it but it was such in a emotional way and great story, it was just told and you know it wasn’t gonna stop there so they’re just gonna keep building it man and who knows where they’re going with this. Hell In A Cell, I Quit match too I read. It should definitely be good. I’m waiting for one of them to take the bump off the top of the cell though.”
As it was previously mentioned in this article, Lance Anoa’i wrestled Shane McMahon on an episode of RAW in May of 2019. The match took place several days after AEW’s Double Or Nothing pay-per-view and Lance recalled hearing “AEW” chants during the match and the chants stopping once he picked his offense up. Other than that, Lance fondly remembers Shane McMahon making him feel welcomed and comfortable before their match.
“At first, I didn’t know what I was doing. They called me to come and I had no idea what I was there for and then Shane came up to me, he was real cool. We were just talking, rolling around in the ring, eating together in catering, he made me feel comfortable and that’s what I think helped me out a lot. Man, but we performed right after the AEW pay-per-view [Double Or Nothing, 2019]. It was literally right after and man, you start getting the AEW chants and then soon as I hit the dropkick, that’s when the AEW chants stopped and I was like, ‘Damn man, I wish I could’ve got more in and kept it going’ but, I just had to go with it.”
Lance Anoa’i has several dates lined up throughout the coming months as he makes his way back into the ring for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic started. He can be found on both Twitter and Instagram @lanceanoai.
The video version of our interview can be watched via the player at the top of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.