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Posted in: Chair Shots
Chair Shots Presents: Superfly- Superstar to Fallen Hero
By Rob Simmons
Jan 15, 2017 - 5:19:20 PM

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Banner by Steven F’N Bell

I want to fly like and eagle to the sea.
Fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me

Some of my earliest memories of professional wrestling involve Superfly Jimmy Snuka. Back when I started watching, on the tiny black and white TV in my parent’s basement, Snuka was front and center in the WWF. In fact, the very first live event I went to, Snuka was in the Main Event, teaming with Buddy Rogers against Ray “The Crippler” Stevens and his former manager, Captain Lou Albano. Looking back now, the match itself was pretty awful. I mean how good could it have been really, considering two of the combatants were characters whose time had long since passed in the ring. But the spectacle of Jimmy Snuka was something that was completely out of the norm in that time of professional wrestling. In an era where the action was mat-centric, Snuka was flying around the ring on a wing and a prayer, leaping from the top rope onto his opponents with both grace and power.

Snuka’s feuds are legendary, from his WWF Title matches with Bob Backlund, to his infamous feud with The Magnificent Muraco, to the brutal confrontations with Rowdy Roddy Piper. No matter who Superfly was in the ring with, you could always expect there to be fireworks. I started my viewing relationship with Snuka very early in his first run in the WWE, and he immediately captured my attention and imagination. Needless to say, I wasn’t the only one to have their lives changed when they saw Snuka in the ring. In possibly the most famous match of his career, a steel cage match against Muraco in Madison Square Garden, Superfly influenced many fans in attendance who went on to become legends in the sport themselves. Mick Foley’s story of being a young fan at that show has been told many times, and he sites that very moment as the moment he knew he had to become a professional wrestler. But others were there as well, including Tommy Dreamer, The Sandman, and Bubba Ray Dudley, who went on to become part of one of the most hardcore organizations in wrestling, ECW.

Yet Snuka was “hardcore” before “hardcore” ever became a term associated with professional wrestling. When you think of Roddy Piper, it’s hard not to immediately think of Piper blasting a coconut across the skull of the Superfly, calling him all manner of derogatory names that were unheard of in that day and age. Their feud was violent, bloody, and very, very personal. But perhaps it was that violence that crept into Snuka’s psyche more than any of us knew. It was around that time that the WWE began to explode across the country, and we as fans saw the very first Wrestlemania. Despite Snuka’s popularity, it appeared at that time he had fallen out of favor as his only role at the original spectacle was to be the corner man in the Main Event for Hogan and Mr. T.

Snuka had his share of demons, and perhaps it was those demons that caused the beginning of the end for Snuka. He left the WWF during the height of his popularity to enter rehab, and in 1983 the most defining moment of Snuka’s life outside of the ring occurred; the death of Nancy Argentino. No one really knows what happened that day, and now with Snuka’s death no one ever really will, but by all accounts Argentino, Snuka’s then girlfriend suffered severe head trauma and showed signs of domestic abuse. At the time, no charges were pressed against Snuka, but it was apparent that something went terribly wrong, and a woman lost her life. All of this occurred as Superfly was stealing the show in the WWF, being named Wrestler of the Year. Time went on, and so did Snuka, continuing to carve a path throughout the wrestling world.

After he left the WWE the first time, he spent some time in both Japan as well as Verne Gagne’s AWA. Much like his feud with Piper in the WWF, Snuka’s feud with the AWA’s Colonel DeBeers focused on Snuka’s lineage and skin color. This was most certainly a very different time in the business when storylines like that were very common. In fact, racism was more prevalent than I’m even comfortable talking about, but it became a major focal point in most of Snuka’s career.

Any disagreements between Snuka and the WWF were washed away however as Superfly returned to the WWF in 1989, but he was never able to recapture the same excitement that he has in his first run. The feuds he was placed in were still fairly high profile, including ones with Honky Tonk Man and Ted Dibiase; a feud that saw Snuka have his first ever PPV match at Summerslam ’89. Oddly enough, even though Snuka was at the very first Wrestlemania, it wasn’t until Wrestlemania VI did Snuka have his very first match, losing to the Ravishing One, Rick Rude. The following year, Snuka became a very important part of wrestling history, becoming the very first victim of The Undertaker’s Wrestlemania streak.

It became more and more clear that Snuka’s time at the top was done, and despite making several more appearances for the WWF/E over the years, as well as appearances in WCW, Snuka was no longer the draw he once was. What made him legendary back in the early 80’s was now the norm in the sport, as wrestlers were becoming faster and more aerial than Superfly had ever been. The Superfly Splash, which made crowds leave their feet in arenas all over the world, was now a move that many, many wrestlers regularly had in their repertoire.

Snuka’s light had faded, and his past, once thought buried back in 1983 caught back up with him. After renewed investigation into the death of Nancy Argentino, Jimmy Snuka was arrested for her murder in 2015. Snuka’s time in the ring had caught up to him as well, as his wife stated that Superfly was suffering from dementia, resulting from his many years in the ring. To add insult to injury, Snuka was also battling stomach cancer. To those that believe in such things, it appeared that karma had come full circle, and the once shining star of the business had become another sad ending in a business that has had way too many sad endings.

I was a fan of Jimmy Snuka’s, as his career helped shape me as a wrestling fan, but for many newer fans, Snuka will mostly be remembered as that wrestler that may have killed his girlfriend. It’s a sad tale quite frankly, and one that unfortunately will never have a concrete resolution. Jimmy Snuka passed away today at the age of 73, and while he doesn’t fall into the category of a wrestler gone too soon, his story is one of fame gone wrong.


Until next time,
Rob Out!

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