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Yesterday, WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka passed away after a battle with stomach cancer and dementia. He was 73 years of age.
It’s ironic because I’m re-reading Mick Foley’s first autobiography and I’ve just finished reading the chapter where Foley hitchhiked to New York to attend the famous steel cage match between The Superfly and Don Muraco where Snuka dived off the top of the cage onto his fallen opponent. Mick Foley wasn’t the only future wrestler in attendance on that night in Madison Square Garden. Other future stars watching that show were The Sandman, Tommy Dreamer, and Bubba Ray Dudley. All of whom have credited that moment as the reason why they wanted to become professional wrestlers.
My earliest memories of The Superfly are from Snuka’s second run in the company from 1989 to 1992. He was the big, muscular guy with the shaggy black hair and the leopard printed tights. I also remember his comeback spot where his eyes would almost bulge out of their sockets and he would go wild on his opponent.
Snuka’s spot in the company at that time was much like what many veterans were put in before him where he was used to help put over younger talent such as Mr. Perfect, Rick Rude, and Million Dollar Man. His most famous defeat at that time was against The Undertaker at WrestleMania VII, which began Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak. His final match was against a future Hall of Fame member and WWE Champion, Shawn Michaels.
Snuka held many championships in his career, none in WWE, but he was the first ever ECW Heavyweight Champion. He was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
I’m sure people will bring up the death of Nancy Argentino. I admit that I’m not knowledgeable about the situation, nor do I feel qualified to talk about it. Instead, I want to share Mick Foley’s thoughts on it from his own tribute to The Superfly:
I am struggling with both the news of Jimmy’s death, and the knowledge that he was responsible for the death of a young woman in his motel room in May, 1983. Unfortunately, the death of Nancy Argentino is inextricably entwined in the life-story of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, making the celebration of his life and career so much more difficult. I have been asked many times to comment on the matter, but haven’t until now, simply because I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. I hope that the final judgment of Jimmy Snuka will take into account the kindness with which he treated both fans and friends and the love he had for family and close friends. But Jimmy will likely be remembered as much for that one terrible night as he will be for his magnificent career. I don’t know how to reconcile this man’s heroic feats inside our world, with the tragedy he likely x played a role in outside of it, but I have always found wisdom and comfort in these simple words from Bruce Springsteen: “trust the art, not the artist”.
Jimmy Snuka should be remembered as one of wrestling’s most colourful characters. He’s a guy that influenced many people to get into the sport and should be remembered as a true artist that will stand the test of time.
R.I.P Superfly. Thank you for the memories.