Stevens and Albano brutalized Snuka to kick off his babyface turn

Many people, including me, point to the Piper’s Pit with Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka as a seminal moment in the WWF in 1980s. I’ve argued that it’s perhaps the greatest angle ever in federation history.

We also remember fondly Snuka’s battles with Magnificent Muraco, including the now historic leap off the steel cage in Madison Square Garden.

But no discussion of Snuka feuds and angles would be complete without giving a nod to his babyface turn in 1982, during which he was beaten down and bloodied by Captain Lou Albano and Ray “The Crippler” Stevens. If you’ve never seen this angle, it is awesome and brutal.

The background: Wrestling legend Buddy Rogers hosted a segment called Rogers’ Corner, which was the precursor to Piper’s Pit and many other similar interview segments seen in the WWF in the ’80s and ’90s. Rogers had been investigating whether Albano stole Snuka’s money he earned, and meanwhile Albano continuously berated Snuka. Up to this point in his WWF tenure, Snuka had never uttered a word in any type of interview or promo.

The situation peaked when Rogers told Snuka the money was gone, but he was free of Albano’s contract. Snuka then spoke for the first time, telling Rogers, “I would like you to be my manager.”

Snuka then went to the ring to battle Stevens, which was a neon red hint that he was about to turn given that you rarely saw heel vs. heel matches on TV. Albano started arguing with Snuka in the ring, and Stevens grabbed manager Freddie Blassie’s cane and wrapped it around Snuka’s chest.

Albano ripped the island beads off Snuka’s head and walloped him in the forehead, bloodying the Superfly up (in the clip, you can see Snuka clearly gig himself). It was a gory scene as Albano and Stevens threw Snuka over the top rope, and then Stevens gave Snuka two piledrivers on the concrete floor. The piledriver was considered a dangerous finishing move at the time, and to do it on the concrete was villainous.

Snuka was a mess, shaking in mock convulsions as Rogers, referees, and others ran out to help him. It was one of the craziest attacks you’ll ever see in pro wrestling.

I saw Snuka’s first match as a babyface from the balcony in the old Boston Garden at a matinee card in December 1982, when he foughtAlbano in a hugely anticipated grudge match. Rogers even accompanied Snuka to ringside that afternoon. It was unreal how over Snuka was with the crowd, and it marked the start of a two-year period during which Snuka was arguably the hottest wrestler in the business.

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7 comments

  1. Pingback: Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka — dead at 73 — took us to emotional highs in the ’80s | Boston Garden Balcony
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  4. Michael

    The Snuka face-turn was one of the greatest angles ever in wrestling, right up there with the Bruno/Larry Z exhibition match where Larry turned on Bruno, setting up Shea Stadium 1980. I vividly remember watching this angle on Championship Wrestling on our old 25 inch wood paneled UHF/VHF knob TV with rabbit ear antenna. The crowd heat was amazing; fans were on the verge of rioting, throwing stuff at Albano, Stevens, and Freddie Blassie!

  5. J.Cee

    If I can add that back in the days of regional promotions across the NWA, as well as within the WWF, it wasn’t uncommon for some wrestlers to have a change of attitude in order to keep themselves employed within the promotion. There was a buildup for weeks on the TV tapings before Snuka’s switch, thus setting up the next angle. It was a great way for wrestlers to extend their shelf-life for a whole different set of opponents. To expand the point to Graham’s reign (’77/’78); to see good-guy wrestlers like Garea and Strongbow, who would be otherwise skipped-over in championship matches at the Boston Garden during Bruno’s or Backlund’s reign.

  6. Chuck Mullen

    @BostonGardenBalcony – While I find it “wrong” to mention the “gigging” part, the truth is, Jimmy did it himself. Not Albano. If you watch closely he does it, after the 1st or 2nd shot after Stevens was holding him, and he was on his knees. But you are for sure right he was literally on fire, and was one of my favorites growing up. I would of hoped he would of retired while he was still relevant, but of course that does NOT happen in the wrestling business, unless you DIE EARLY or are brutally injured (Edge). Great angle. Its these types that are missing now a days, and seriously the lack of BLOOD hurts the angles. It really does, HIAC matches and no blood?? #AreYouSeriousBro?

    • bostongardenbalcony

      Thank you for the correction, you’re quite about Snuka cutting himself. It’s a hard debate about blading — yes, blood does add drama to angles and matches, but I’m not sure I could argue with a wrestler who says he doesn’t want to cut himself. Most people would say, “Why not use blood capsules?” but I think only wrestling fans would understand why blood capsules just don’t seem as “legitimate.”

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