Earlier than tag crew wrestling, throwing women throughout the ring, and backslide slams within the ring, the Tonga Twins —Kaoz, born Steffanie and Kona, born Ashley — had been born Ashley and Steffanie Manukainiu in Vallejo.
The twins’ dad and mom, Finau and Katiola Manukainiu, migrated from Tonga to the Bay Space, settling in Vallejo for higher alternatives. The twins recall being raised “the island approach” with a strict upbringing.
Rising up, the Manikainiu household was one of many first Tongan households in Vallejo.
“I simply keep in mind all these individuals who would ask, ‘What nationality are you?’ I must clarify what a Tongan is,” mentioned Kaoz.
At 4, the twins had been considerably taller than most of their classmates. Sooner or later their older siblings (Aiona and Christopher) had been enjoying basketball and in the midst of a break, the twins jumped on the courtroom striving to make a basket. The coaches round assumed the twins had been sufficiently old to play. Shortly after, the twins’ dad and mom enrolled them in Vallejo Little League.
The 2 performed basketball at Hogan Excessive Faculty and within the Beginner Athletic Union. Kaoz performed the ability ahead and heart positions. Kona performed heart.
“Basketball saved us out of hassle. Once we had been within the fitness center and on the courtroom, the world would cease. As soon as observe was finished or a recreation was finished, it was again to the loopy world,” mentioned Kona.
Within the twins’ highschool sophomore yr, their household moved to Texas to get away from the gang violence in Vallejo. Each sisters obtained future scholarships. Approaching faculty Kaoz dedicated to the New Mexico Bulldogs. Kona launched into the journey of motherhood in the identical yr, giving beginning to her son, Laiatea. A yr later, Kaoz gave beginning to a different son, Finau.
For the primary time, the twins had been separated.
“I needed to elevate my son. I instructed my sister to go forward. We are able to proceed. We don’t should do all the things collectively,” mentioned Kona.
Regardless of Kaoz’s basketball expertise, she grew to become homesick and needed to be nearer to household. Their household moved again to Vallejo, so Kaoz determined to enroll in Sonoma State College.
Each Kaoz and Kona’s love for basketball dwindled. Kaoz determined to withdraw from Sonoma State College.
The 2 had been dwelling within the Bay Space determining the following steps in life. At a Fifth Concord live performance, the twins met Ata Johnson — The Rock’s mom. After talking with the twins, Johnson requested the 2 if that they had ever thought of skilled wrestling. Johnson expressed that there was solely Samoan illustration on the time and they might be the primary Tongans wrestling.
Each of the twins took heed to Johnson’s recommendation — it was, in any case, the mom of The Rock. Kaoz and Kona defined Johnson’s pondering to household and buddies and obtained super assist.
“Once we considered wrestling, we felt there’s nobody like us on TV. Laiatea, my son was like, “Let’s change that!” mentioned Kona. “Let’s be function fashions, in order that when one other Polynesian little lady or lady sees us on TV, they suppose they will do that, too.”
The 2 started coaching closely.
“Wrestling is completely different. It’s bodily. It’s not like basketball. You could possibly be essentially the most athletic particular person however when you get in that ring, for those who’re not bodily, then it’s not for you,” mentioned Kona.
The 2 had been even educated by WWE Corridor of Famer Rikishi, who didn’t care that the twins had been newcomers and educated them like professionals. Usually the 2 would hear Rikishi scream “twins!” a number of instances in a session of coaching.
“Rikishi handled me and my sister as the boys. We obtained it the toughest. That’s the place we get numerous our energy and the best way we carry out within the ring comes from. We had been educated to be simply as laborious as the boys,” mentioned Kona.
With steady coaching and growth, the twins had been notified by Ladies of Wrestling (WOW), owned by the Los Angeles Lakers proprietor, Jeanie Buss.
“For individuals who don’t find out about Ladies of Wrestling, it’s the solely all-women’s franchise with a International TV footprint. We’re in every single place. That’s why we’re honored to even be part of this platform. The roster may be very various. There’s any individual that you could possibly see your self in on our roster,” mentioned Kaoz.
“WOW is all about ladies’s empowerment — from the wrestlers to the digicam ladies, to the writers to the commentary to the homeowners. After all, Jeanie Buss is a legend. She was the queen. We performed basketball, so it looks like we obtained the most effective of each worlds,” mentioned Kona.
Kaoz mentioned WOW modified her world.
“The WOW platform has fulfilled our goals and our objectives,” mentioned Kaoz. “For us to vary that lack of illustration, that was our primary purpose to be on a tv platform. That’s one thing that I’m endlessly blessed to be part of. We’re right here to remain.”
Now Kaoz and Kona journey the world wrestling, however always remember their heritage and hometown. Kona even has a particular wrestling transfer devoted to Vallejo, known as Kona Gasoline Break Dip.
Additionally they all the time keep in mind their goal.
“We need to add to the change the face of Polynesian ladies within the mainstream. So that each Polynesian little lady can observe,” mentioned Kaoz.
Vallejo is all the time of their hearts. Kaoz wouldn’t thoughts elevating her twins, Tiana and Tyrie, in Vallejo.
“Vallejo for us has actually formed us mentally. we had been all the time the largest, we all the time needed to defend our buddies and bullies of Vallejo,” mentioned Kaoz. “I might say to everyone who’s rising up in Vallejo, don’t observe the group. Be you. Be your personal particular person. Do one thing along with your life that might preserve you out of the streets.”