During the course of his career, Sione Vailahi was a prominent feature on WWF and WCW television as the Barbarian and for a short spell as a member of The Headshrinkers. Today we ask, Whatever Happened to The Barbarian?
Sione was born and raised in Tonga and was one of five teenagers sent by the King of Tonga to Japan to study Sumo wrestling in the mid-1970s. Tonga Fifita, better known to WWF fans as Haku and WCW fans as Meng, was one of the others.
By the 1980s he began wrestling in NWA territories as King Konga and due to his intimidating look and athleticism, Jim Crockett brought him into his promotion. He soon began appearing alongside the Road Warriors as Konga the Barbarian. It was short-lived, however, and he became aligned with “Paul Jones’ Army” and teamed with Pez Whatley, Teijho Khan, as well as Baron Von Raschke. It was during this time that he became known simply as The Barbarian.
By 1988, after a period teaming with Ivan Koloff, he became part of Powers of Pain with The Warlord. The two physically imposing superstars began feuding with two performers of a similar stature: The Road Warriors. The successful feud led to Crockett wanting the two teams to battle it out in scaffold matches – a notion that prompted Powers of Pain to think about their future and the pair joined the WWF.
The Powers of Pain were introduced to the WWF faithful initially as mercenaries to help Rick Martel and Tito Santana gain revenge on Demolition for losing the tag gold and the injury to Martel. They were then managed by former American Wrestling Association tag champion Baron von Raschke before a double turn at Survivor Series 1988 saw them leave the event as heels under the tutelage of Mr. Fuji while the increasingly popular Demolition turned face.
Despite a lengthy feud, Warlord and Barbarian failed to win the gold and after dropping down the card, split in early 1990 with The Barbarian under the management of Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan and Warlord managed by Slick. Both men received a change of attire with both abandoning the Road Warrior style facepaint and mohawks with Warlord shaving his head and wearing a silver half-mask and black armour while carrying a metal staff topped with a “W”. While the Barbarian grew out his hair, dressed in fur and wore a helmet with reindeer-like antlers and carried a skull to the ring.
However, both men were gone from the WWF by mid-1992.
He signed with WCW in 1992 and began teaming with Tony Atlas and Cactus Jack and latterly Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts. He briefly won the WCW United States Tag Team titles with Dick Slater but the belts were retired one month later.
By mid-1994 The Barbarian began appearing on WWF House Shows filling in for various talent. One absent talent was Samu with The Barbarian teaming with Fatu. When Samu left the WWF, The Barbarian was moved on to TV as part of The Headshrinkers and now known as Headshrinker Sione.
The new combination made only one pay-per-view appearance at the 1994 Survivor Series, where they were quickly eliminated. Their only other notable was as part of the tournament to crown new WWF tag team champions at the end of 1994 and early 1995 with the pair losing to Bam Bam Bigelow and Tatanka in the Semi Finals. By the middle of the year the duo were dissolved with Sione was again leaving the WWF with WCW again the destination.
When Vailahi returned to WCW he was under a mask and teaming with former partner, The Warlord. They were known this time around as the Super Assassins and managed by Col. Robert Parker. Later on, he also reunited with former Heenan family member Haku – now called Meng – as the Faces of Fear. The pair were members of Kevin Sullivan’s Dungeon of Doom and teamed on a semi-regular basis for the remainder of their time in WCW though they did briefly feud.
In April 2000 the Barbarian was released from his contract in an effort to cut costs by new WCW Senior Vice President, Bill Busch but was re-hired later in the year forming a stable with Meng which lasted until Meng left WCW in January of the following year. On the final episode of Thunder which Meng appeared on he awarded the Hardcore title to The Barbarian, who remained champion until WCW was purchased by the WWF despite never defendeding the gold on television.
Since 2001, The Barbarian has appeared fairly regularly on the independent circuit often teaming with The Warlord and Haku including an appearance at the Kings of Trios Chikara event in 2012 and also taking on, and defeating, Demolition.
He is the uncle and the trainer of Lei’D Tapa – the winner of the TNA Gut Check. When he is not wrestling, he runs a small construction business in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.
You can read all previous ‘Whatever Happened to’ pieces here.