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UPDATED WITH STATEMENT FROM WWE: FORMER WWE STAR MATT 'ROSEY' ANOA'I PASSES AWAY

By Mike Johnson on 2017-04-18 10:54:00

I am sad to report the passing of Matthew "Matt" Anoa'i, who performed for World Wrestling Entertainment as "Superhero in Training" Rosey and as Three Minute Warning member Kimo passed away yesterday at the age of 47.     Anoa'i had been dealing with congestive heart failure in recent years, although whether that is related to his passing has not been confirmed as of this writing.

The son of WWE Hall of Famer Sika (and brother of current WWE star Roman Reigns), Anoa'i was born into the famous Wild Samoan Wrestling family and turned to pro wrestling after a leg injury ended his hopes of making it in the NFL.    After training at the family's school in Allentown, PA, he become a regular for the WXW promotion in Pennsylvania.

Anoa'i's first major break was working for the original ECW as Big Matty Smalls, one half of the Samoan Gangsta Party with Samu, feuding with The Gangstas in 1996.  He worked all over the world, including FMW in Japan and Puerto Rico before he and cousin Eddie Fatu (later best known as Umaga) were signed to WWF developmental deals and worked as The Island Boys out of then-developmental territory Heartland Wrestling Association in Ohio.

The team were brought to the main roster in the summer of 2002 as Three Minute Warning, hired thugs for then-Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff with the gimmick being that Bischoff would say, "Three minutes?" as the cue for their entrance.  They attacked a number of stars to get over the act and even hit the ring to lay out two "lesbians" involved in HLA - Hot Lesbian Action - in a pre-PG era of WWE.  The team also feuded with Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo after interfering in their "commitment ceremony" as the two were pretending to be a gay couple at the time.

Eddie Fatu was released by the company, ending the team (he would eventually return and have a great singles run as Umaga) and leading Rosey to be re-tooled as a babyface character as a "Superhero In Training" (S.H.*.T. - again, this was a pre-PG era) where he teamed with the company's resident hero Shane "Hurricane" Helms.  It was a good act, especially for the undercard of live events, where the characters were extremely popular with children.  Rosey eventually "graduated" into a full-fledged hero and the pair even won the WWE World Tag Team championship and were paired with Stacy Keibler, who wore a Batgirl-esque mask at the time.  After losing the belts, Helms turned and abandoned his partner.

Rosey was released by WWE in 2006 and worked for All Japan Pro Wrestling as well as a number of independent promotions.  At one point, he had opened a restaurant in the Cincinnati area before moving to Florida to be closer to his family.

On behalf of everyone associated with PWInsider.com, we send our deepest condolences to the Anoa'i family as well as his friends and fans.

Updated at 11:53 ET

WWE has officially acknowledged the passing of Matt Anoa'i on the website which includes the following statement from the family:

WWE is saddened to learn that Matt Anoa’i, known to fans as Rosey, has passed away at age 47. The son of WWE Hall of Famer Sika and older brother of WWE Superstar Roman Reigns, Rosey grew up in the legendary Anoa’i wrestling dynasty. 

He debuted in 2002 alongside his cousin Jamal as part of 3-Minute Warning. The imposing, powerful tandem tore through Raw’s tag team division before going their separate ways. Rosey then formed a beloved superhero duo with The Hurricane, which culminated in his first World Tag Team Championship reign.

The Anoa'i family shared the following statement:

"The Anoa’i family is mourning the loss of Sika's son, Matt aka Rosey, due to an untimely death.

We want to let his fans know that he loved them and the wrestling world so much. In his passing, he left three beautiful young children and a heartbroken family. Please respect the privacy of his children and family as they mourn the loss of this kind, loving, gentle man, who was a father, son, brother and a superhero to us all.

Our family appreciates your prayers and continued support during this very difficult time."

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