Craig Wilson and Brian Damage
Welcome to the third edition of This Week in Wrestling in 2017. Today, Craig talks ‘Superfly’ Jimmy Snuka while Brian shares some of the most interesting pictures and videos he’s stumbled upon over the last seven days.
Remember Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka
It was announced last Sunday that the legendary Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka had died because of stomach cancer, today we remember a larger than life character who played a significant role in the expansion of Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation in the 1980s.
Born in Fiji on May 18, 1943, James Wiley Smith would gain worldwide fame because of his high-flying exploits within the ring as the legendary Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka.
The news was announced, initially via the Instagram page of his daughter Tamina and then the Twitter profile of The Rock, that he had died at the age of 73.
Snuka is regularly mentioned in the list of guys who could have led the WWF to worldwide prominence had Vince McMahon not been able to snap up Hulk Hogan from the AWA, such was fan appeal during the early 80s, which is ironic considering he entered the promotion as a heel.
During his time as a villain, under the tutelage of Captain Lou Albana, Snuka received several title shots against then champion Bob Backlund, including the infamous steel cage bout which featured Snuka diving from the top rope.
Soon, in no small part due to his athletic in-ring work, fans began to cheer ‘Superfly’. His turn was completed via a storyline that it transpired that Albano had been cheating him financially. Buddy Rogers would become his new manager as Snuka feuded with Albano, Freddie Blassie and Ray Stevens. As well as defeating many of Albano’s charges, he would beat his former manager in a steel cage match at the iconic Madison Square Garden.
The following year, he would enter a programme with “Magnificent” Don Muraco – a feud that would result in another splash off the top rope, this time at MSG, that would be witnessed by, amongst others, Mick Foley and inspire him to become a wrestler.
After returning to his hotel after a TV taping, Snuka placed a call for an ambulance. Upon arrival, its personnel found his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, injured. She was transported to Allentown’s Sacred Heart Medical Center, where she died shortly after. The coroner’s report stated that she had died because of traumatic brain injuries that were consistent with a moving head striking a stationary object. Autopsy findings show she suffered more than two dozen cuts and bruises. Although charges were not pressed at the time against Snuka, the case was left officially open.
A feud in 1984 would come against one of the most over heels on the WWF roster in ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, which featured the now infamous moment when Piper smashed a coconut over his rival’s head. This programme also stretched into 1985, also resulting in Snuka being in the corner of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. at the first WrestleMania for the main event pitting the babyfaces against Piper and Paul Orndorff. In July of that year, Snuka left the company.
Between 1986 and 1989, Snuka would split his time between New Japan Pro Wrestling and American Wrestling Association. In the latter, he would appear at WrestleRock 1986, teaming with Greg Gagne against Bruiser Brody and Nord the Barbarian before feuding with Colonel DeBeers, an angle based on a storyline racist dislike DeBeers had for Snuka.
In 1989, he was reintroduced to the WWF faithful at WrestleMania V. Later, he would return in an in-ring capacity but soon found himself in traditional territory of veterans – helping put over the stars of the future. In January of 1990, Snuka made his Royal Rumble debut where he lasted 17 minutes – removing Akeem and helping eliminate Earthquake from the bout – before being eliminated by eventual winner Hulk Hogan. The same year he would make his WrestleMania in-ring debut in a losing affair against Rick Rude.
His 1991 Royal Rumble appearance was less successful as he lasted just eight minutes before being eliminated by Road Warrior Hawk. He is perhaps more famous for his WrestleMania loss twelve months down the line, when he became the first loss of the Undertaker’s streak. By February 1992, Snuka was gone from the WWF after a 3-minute stint in that year’s Royal Rumble and a house show loss to Shawn Michaels on 8 February.
Snuka was involved, the following year, in setting up Eastern Championship Wrestling and would be the promotion’s first champion, leading them through to 1994 when Paul Heyman took over and renamed the company Extreme Championship Wrestling.
A fleeting return to the WWF occurred the same year including a house show win over Brian Christopher and two appearances on the recently debuted WWF Raw.
Now aged 50, Snuka’s time at the top ended but he would still make fleeting returns both to the WWF as well as the squared circle within many independent promotions across the USA. One such appearance saw him inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1996 and appear at that year’s Survivor Series PPV.
In the early 00s, he would return to our screens and resume his associated with ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper. The first came in 2004 for TNA at ‘Victory Road’ when he was the guest on ‘Piper’s Pit’. In 2008, he appeared in the Royal Rumble and battled Piper before both were tossed out by Kane.
In 2009, he made only his third in-ring WrestleMania appearance in a losing affair, alongside Piper and Ricky Steamboat, in a 3-on-1 handicap match against Chris Jericho with Snuka eliminated first after tapping out to the Walls of Jericho. The following November he made his final on-screen WWE appearance when he appeared alongside his daughter Tamina in the corner of The Usos against Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov on an episode of Raw.
On September 1, 2015, 32 years after the incident, Snuka was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter for Argentino’s death, he would plead not guilty on November 2. The following June, Judge Kelly Banach ruled that Snuka was not mentally competent to stand trial for the murder and that a new hearing would be held six months later to re-evaluate his competency. On 3 January 2017, Judge Banach dismissed the charges after deeming that Snuka was not mentally fit enough to stand trial. Several weeks later, it was announced that Snuka had passed away.
Some will remember him for his aerial moves inside the ring and his splashes off the top of steel cage while others will remember him for the death of Nancy Argentino. However you choose to remember Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka, there is no doubting that he had a huge impact on the world of wrestling while also spending much of his life with the death of his former girlfriend hanging over him.
Let’s see if you can spot the one “security” guy in this picture that would go on to have a solid pro wrestling career… *Hint* It was/is for TNA wrestling.
Before we got the trademark nWo logo that we all know oy now, this was apparently the original look of the New World Order logo…
This is Lana at a recent NXT house show…great googly moogly
Food for thought…
The WWE toys that they come up with…
Long before Brock Lesnar coined the phrase “Suplex City”, Goldberg had that bestowed upon him in WCW as per Ringside magazine.
Awesome drawing of New Japan’s Kenny Omega from his look at Wrestle Kingdom 11.
After retirement, WWE Hall of Famer Rikishi keepin’ real busy….
Ah, yes, remember the Divas division?
Former pro wrestler Bob Sapp doing a Japanese pizza commercial…I think.
Last Week on the Blog
In last week’s Sunday Sermon we discussed occasions when we’ve met wrestlers; On Monday we had pt. 2 of ‘Meanwhile, in WCW‘; on Tuesday we looked back at the career of Jake Milliman, Wednesday saw us revisit the 2007 Royal Rumble; Thursday’s Top Five featured overrated wrestling matches and we rounded off the week by sharing our wrestling predictions for 2017, which we’ll revisit next January to see how we fared.
Next Week on the Blog
All previous ‘This Week in Wrestling’ pieces can be read here.