The Barbarian – Wrestling’s Unsung Tongan Savage

“You can take the barbarian out of the tavern, but he can take the blood out of your body.”

― Greg X. Graves, Bears, Recycling and Confusing Time Paradoxes

From the mouth of Greg X Graves, no quote has ever been fitting to describe The Barbarian. The heart of some rage is like a beast. In the case of Sione Havea, his heart rages like that of a Barbarian!

Vailahi, known by his ring name, The Barbarian, is a prominent figure in professional wrestling, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s.

Often seen as a silent assassin, the Barbarian carried himself with pride but left behind a trail of bodies by the waste side.

Known for his imposing presence, strength, and unique look, The Barbarian struck fear into his opponents and became a dominant force in the ring.

The Barbarian –
Wrestling’s Unsung Tongan Savage

He began his wrestling career in the late 1970s and adopted the ring name “The Barbarian,” which reflected his character as a wild and formidable competitor.

With his early training after coming to the United States from Tonga, Sione would train under Rolland Bastien under the moniker ‘King Konga’ as part of the many NWA territories within the U.S.

It was when he joined Jim Crockett Productions that he teamed with Ronnie Garvin and then became part of Fritz Von Erich’s WCCW under the name ‘Tonga John’.

With his name appearing less menacing, it was as part of Paul Jones’s Army, where he would emerge as Konga the Barbarian. Jake The Snake Roberts would share about his first time meeting the massive Tongan.

He came to TV interviews. You know, it’s 10 o’clock in the morning and he shows up. He’s got this woolly hair. And first thing I said is, ‘Oh, my tag team partner’s here.’

I spoke up; I put the apple in their head that I wanted to be his tag team partner. Because I damn sure didn’t wanna wrestle him, yYou know? I knew it was one of the two that was going to happen.

Either I have to wrestle him, or he is gonna be my tag team partner. So I threw that out there.

“And so I’m looking at him like, ‘Dude, what happened to your eye?’ His eye was black. He goes, ‘Oh, that was my first match.’ ‘Your first match? How many matches did you have?’ ‘One.’

‘So how did you get that?’ He goes, ‘I ran into the post too hard.’ I f**king guess you did! Good god almighty. And that was just a hint of what was to become a great relationship for me.

Because I used him as only I could. I just pushed the button and said, ‘Go. Eat. Kill. ‘Destroy.’ Oh my God.

And what an athlete, man. 6’5″, 285 pounds with a 36-inch waist. He was incredible, man. The arms that he had and legs, oh my God.”

Jake Roberts on his first meeting with The Barbarian

As part of Jones’ feud with Handsome Jimmy Valiant, he would team with Superstar Billy Graham as part of the tandem to take out Valiant.

It was around the time that he teamed with the late Baron Von Raschke that the Konga was dropped from his name and he would compete simply as The Barbarian.

Powers of Pain (Barbarian and Warlord) vs Dave Spearman and Bob Riddle - YouTube
[Photo: YouTube]

The Powers of Pain

In late 1987, The Barbarian would be paired with The Warlord, forming the Powers of Pain. The sheer size and look of another physically dominant team at the time would be who they would feud with.

Hawk and Animal, the Road Warriors had the same size, stature, and look as their adversaries. It appeared as though the Road Warriors were feuding with a mirror.

But amidst speculation that the Road Warriors ‘ran them off.’ The Barbarian and Warlord left WCW and would join the WWF. The Barbarian would share that the REAL reason for the tandem’s departure would be shared here.

The Powers of Pain and Single’s Career in the WWF

Over the next four years, the Barbarian split his time between working alongside the Warlord as a tag team, first as faces and then as heels under Mr. Fuji’s tutelage and then as a singles competitor under Bobby Heenan’s managerial services.

Rasslin' History 101 on X: "The Barbarian,entering the first prolonged singles run of his WWF career back in 1990." / X
[Photo: Rasslin’ History 101 on X]
His look was different as a singles wrestler from when he teamed with the Warlord. As a singles wrestler, the Barbarian appeared like a…barbarian.


He wore antlers and fur and grew out the mohawk he sported previously. This style fits the character, which was intended to match his name. The result was didn’t resonate with fans upon its presentation.

The Return to WCW

But after undergoing these changes and having an opportunity arise, The Barbarian rejoined WCW. His return to the company was met with a push, as part of an alliance and challenging for the WCW Heavyweight Championship.

He would even have a run in the face as part of a feud with Harley Race and his associates. However, his brief singles time with WCW brought another opportunity with the WWF. This time it would be a departure from his Barbarian moniker and character.

In fact, he would team with Fatu as Seone or Sione (depending on which spelling of the name is most accurate as it isn’t consistent) as part of a New Headshrinkers.

Being of Tongan descent, his alliance with Fatu as a blood-thirsty savage actually went well. It wouldn’t be the first time he would team up with someone of Polynesian descent.

But when he returned to World Championship Wrestling, he did so under a mask! Once again teaming with his former Powers of Pain tag team partner, the Warlord, the duo became the Super Assassins.

While managed by Col. Robert Parker, the duo had no longstanding programs as their union was short-lived.

Squash Match Masters: Faces of Fear
[Photo: Pinterest]

Faces of Fear

After the Warlord left WCW, The Barbarian again assumed his old name and would remove the mask. Now, he would be re-aligned with former partner Meng (formerly Haku in the WWF), and the two men would become the Faces of Fear.

Over the next few years, the Barbarian was aligned with Meng as part of the Dungeon of Doom, forming the Faces of Fear tandem.

The team benefitted from a manager who could navigate their story and speak on their behalf.

This benefited the native Tongans greatly as both men’s only focus needed to be to come in and leave a trail of bodies behind them and nothing more.

Despite their best efforts and challenging for the WCW tag team championships against The Outsiders, Meng and The Barbarian were unsuccessful.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and the team is divided. When The Barbarian attempts to stop Meng from maintaining the Tongan Death Grip on Hugh Morris, Meng would then turn his attention to The Barbarian and applied the hold on him!

This leads to a feud between the two, and the Barbarian remains under Jimmy Hart’s managerial services.

Despite these issues between the two, Jimmy Hart would reunite the duo as part of a tag team tournament.

But that would be short-lived as the issues between the two came to a head when it would be The Barbarian that would strike Meng and turn on him in the process. The two would continue their rivalry for the duration of the year.

The Barbarian would then form a union with Hugh Morris under Hart’s tutelage. They would even earn WCW World Tag Team Title opportunities as well as part of The First Family faction.

However, by the Spring of 2000, The Barbarian’s contract was ended as part of the company’s cost-cutting initiative.

Since The Barbarian departed from the WCW, he has continued to appear and, in some places, compete.

In some places, he teams up with either the Warlord or Meng (Haku), and in other cases, both to create the trio and name the Faces of Pain.

Second-generation Kerry Morton shares what he learned from stepping in the ring with The Barbarian.

I think one of the coolest moments that I realized that I’m doing something right in this business is when I stepped in the ring with the Barbarian and we’re about five minutes in.

I’m just selling my a** off for him, and he’s beating up on me and the crowd’s going wild, we’re in the south.

Wrestling is a little bit different here. He looks at me and goes, ‘You’re a night off, kid. Thank you so much.’ He calls me Moto, which is my nickname.

He said in his heavy accent, ‘You’re a night off, Moto. You’re a night off.’ It was the best compliment ever,”

Kerry Morton on facing The Barbarian and what he learned facing him.

The Barbarian’s Legacy

Whether he was teaming with The Warlord, a member of Paul Jones’ Army, working in the WWF, NWA/WCW, teaming with Meng, or contributing to the training of his niece Lei’D Tapa, The Barbarian’s mark in wrestling will forever be felt.

He is still actively making appearances, signing autographs, and taking bookings. But his size, presence, and look will forever be frightening examples of how to make a career that will long be talked about after a career has ended.