Pioneering pro wrestler 'Prince' Neff Maiava dead at 93

"Prince" Neff Maiava was a pioneer among Polynesian wrestlers. He died April 21 at age 93.
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"Prince" Neff Maiava was a pioneer among Polynesian wrestlers. He died April 21 at age 93.

Credit: Ulet Ifansasti

Credit: Ulet Ifansasti

Former professional wrestler "Prince" Neff Maiava, who battled legendary foes such as Fritz Von Erich and Killer Kowalski and even grappled with a real bear in the ring, died April 21, the Star Advertiser of Honolulu reported.

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He was 93.

Maiava was noted for wearing a necklace of boar’s teeth as he entered the ring.

During a National Wrestling Alliance event, the top wrestlers drew names to determine who their opponent would be. Maiava drew the bear, the Star Advertiser reported.

Maiava won the match when he put honey on his chest and lay on the canvas. While the bear licked the honey, Maiava rolled the animal over and “pinned” it, the Star Advertiser reported.

In his prime, Maiava stood 6 feet and weighed 285 pounds. Born in Samoa, he set the standard for future wrestlers of Polynesian descent, including Peter Maivia, the Wild Samoans and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Maiava’s wrestling career spanned four decades, and he punctuated his entrance to the ring by breaking wooden boards over his head or walking on a board of nails, the Star Advertiser reported.

After retiring, Maiava started a tree-trimming business and also wrote several children’s books, the newspaper reported.

“He was a very colorful man,” Maiava’s daughter Pamela Maiava, told the Star Advertiser. “He was also the nicest man I’ve ever known. So many of his friends have told me how much he helped other people.”

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