On Sunday, the wrestling world lost one of its true innovators. The master of the top rope Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka passed away at the age of 73. The cause of death has not been made available but from his recent legal issues we do know that he was in failing health. In 2015 Snuka had to have surgery that required three quarters of his stomach to be removed as a part of complications he experienced from stomach cancer. During this time Snuka was diagnosed with dementia which was one of the reasons that he wasn’t seen fit to stand trial.
Snuka’s passing is just 12 days after the Leigh County, Pennsylvania judge decided not to continue to pursue the third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges from the death of Snuka’s ex-girlfriend Nancy Argentino1983. On May 10th of 1983 Argentino’s body was found at the George Washington Motor Lodge in Allentown, PA. The WWF was in town doing some tapings at the time.
Snuka had an amazing career that began in the 1970s as he was a star in the territories. The legacy of Superfly will always be as one of the most exciting entertainers that ever entered the ring. Today its commonplace to see a high flyer but Snuka took his place in the air way be it was cool to do so. Breaking into the business in the Pacific Northwest for Don Owens, he had a notable feud with another young wrestler, Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Traveling around in the NWA territories as most wrestlers did that day Snuka was popular everywhere he went with his bodybuilder physique.
Superfly was very popular in the Mid-Atlantic Territory where he teamed with Paul Orndorff to become a tag team champion and defeated Ricky Steamboat to win the US Title. The legend of Superfly came to grow in the WWF as he had big matches against then champ Bob Backlund in the Garden. There was a 1982 steel cage match for the world title between that two men that saw Snuka leap off the top of the cage. In 1983 against Don Muraco for the Intercontinental Championship in a steel cage match, Snuka made his most legendary leap off the top of the cage. In a match where he had already lost because Muraco escaped the cage, he dragged “The Magnificent One” back into the ring for the moment that would live on in wrestling history.
Snuka was a popular babyface in the WWF throughout the 1980’s. After leaving the WWF he spent 2 years in the emerging Eastern Championship Wrestling which late became Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). He was the company’s first champion and help build the foundation that would make it competitive national promotion.
Superfly was semi active in the business from the late 1990s all the way into the 2010s. He appeared in independent promotions and performed in various one offs for the WWE. He was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in its 4th ever class in 1996. The wrestling world will miss the presence of its original high flyer.
Keith B. Holt
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