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Pacific | Tonga

How The Rock’s mum inspired the first Tongan female wrestlers

They are taking social media by storm presenting their own indigenous culture in an industry that has predominantly involved Samoans.

Updated

They want to fix the lack of Tongan representation in professional wrestling.

Steffanie Manukainiu (Kaoz) and Ashley Manukainiu (Kona) are twin sisters known as the Tonga Twins and are the only Tongan female wrestlers in the professional arena.

Kaoz said they pursued a career in the entertainment sport after a conversation with someone backstage at a Fifth Harmony concert.

“We went backstage and Ata, who is Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson’s mum, schooled us on what can happen and that we could be the first Tongan female wrestlers and that would be history.

From there we went with it and we’ve made history.”

Kaoz and Kona are part of the Women of Wrestling competition (WOW) and are the current tag team champions, having held the title for over 200 days.

After their decision to start training in the art of wrestling, they trained with legends of the sport such as Solofa Fatu Jr (Rikishi) and Reno Anoa’i (Count Black Pearl).

Knowing their sport is played at a high level of physicality, the Tonga Twins say they have tried many diets to keep their bodies up with the demand and have made their Tongan food part of it.

“I stick to my manioke (casava), I’m sticking to what I know, and I’m coming to a point of embracing who I am and being big-boned is who we are,” Kaoz says.

Kona added, “There are so many diets we’ve tried but it just doesn’t work. My dad just tells us ‘if you’re going to eat, just work it off, and work out every day if you’re going to eat like that’.”

In their younger days, basketball was where they thought their calling was until Kona stopped to raise her newborn after high school, and Kaoz had a stint in college basketball.

They first appeared on All Elite Wrestling (AEW) as The MK Twins and displayed the Tongan culture through their kiekie (cultural belt) and their tekiteki (head feather), which they still use.

Kaoz says that if they are going to be The Tonga Twins, they are going to make sure they represent their heritage through their name and outfits.

“The promotors wanted our headpieces to be straight the way the Samoans have it, and we said no because when we do the teki (side nod) to the left, we need the side headpiece to stay.

If we’re going to be authentic, we need to go all the way.”

The sisters’ parents are from Kolonga and Houma villages in Tonga and moved to California in the United States to raise their children.

Despite the twins’ explosive Pacific personalities during their ring walk-outs, both say previous to this career they were shy and feel wrestling has brought them out of their shells.

Kona understands that being on a large platform like WOW means they carry the weight of inspiring a new generation of Tongan women wrestlers.

“It means a lot because it’s not just me and my family, it’s for a whole island, and then for the other islands the whole Polynesian islands.

It’s a big weight on our shoulders but I love it because I want to see all the generations come right behind us and we’re going to be here to help.”