42-stone wrestler found dead in hotel room

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The Independent Online

A 42-stone former world wrestling champion, who had admitted to an irrational fear of spiders, has been found dead in a hotel room while on a tour of Britain.

A 42-stone former world wrestling champion, who had admitted to an irrational fear of spiders, has been found dead in a hotel room while on a tour of Britain.

The American former sumo wrestler Yoko Zuna - known as Mr Sumo - died in his executive hotel room hours before he was due to perform at Stockport town hall in Cheshire. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances. His back-up team said he possibly died of a stroke or heart attack; a post-mortem examination was due to be held yesterday.

The 34-year-old was twice world heavyweight champion in the World Wrestling Federation in the United States, had won sumo championships in Japan and was known for pulverising opponents with his "arm drop". However, he did have an Achilles' heel - an irrational fear of spiders which meant that before he would agree to take part in a match his dressing room had to be inspected and any cobwebs removed.

On tour in Britain, Zuna had drawn large crowds and earnt huge popularity with audiences - an unusual concept for a wrestler who was a "bad guy" on the US wrestling circuit. He had just agreed to take part in the whole Wrestlemania British tour before he died.

"People in England warmed to him as he was a very charismatic sort of character," said Brian Dixon, promoter of his British tour. "When they saw him in the venue they were overwhelmed by his size."

Zena's colossal weight was sumo standard. Konishiki, the fattest man in the sport and the only non-Japanese to win the second-highest rank of ozeki (champion) threw in the towel three years ago because his knees were unable to take his 43st 3lb weight.

The huge wads of flesh hanging from his arms and thighs became his trademark but his lumbering gait and tortured breathing reflected the strain that his weight was putting on his body.

Like Konishiki, Zuna was born in Hawaii but he was based on the west coast of the US, where he leaves a wife and two young children.

In a recent interview in Birmingham, he claimed to devour 240 eggs, 12 pieces of chicken and a bucket-sized portion of Japanese rice a day and admitted to arachnophobia. He also said the size of British hotel rooms were a problem. "These places were built for ordinary guys and I sometimes have problems even getting through doorways," he said.

Zuna's body was found in his seventh-floor room at Liverpool's Moat House hotel on Monday afternoon by his crew's transport manager. Police and paramedics were called to the hotel, and it took six men to move him.

"As a mark of respect the [other] American wrestlers have requested we carry on the tour, because Yoko would have wanted the tour to continue," Mr Dixon said. "He was a gentle giant [and] very, very proud to be a part of a tour in this country. He got huge applause in the arenas. He was very fit."

A 10-bell salute will be rung for Zuna before each bout on the rest of the tour.

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