Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka — dead at 73 — took us to emotional highs in the ’80s

So, WWF fans from the 1980s, how did the late Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka leave his mark on you? Was it the Superfly off the steel cage or the coconut?

For me, it was that moment in 1984 when Rowdy Roddy Piper smashed the coconut into Snuka’s head, and then mushed a banana in his face and whipped him. It may be the greatest angle in ’80s.

But there is not a more iconic 1980s moment in the WWE’s history than Snuka’s leap from the top of the cage onto the Magnificent Muraco at Madison Square Garden in 1983, a moment that several wrestlers a generation later — including Mick Foley — pegged as an inspiration.

That’s the reason Snuka still resonates with us all these years later: He brought a fiery emotion to his angles and matches. The heels didn’t just attack Snuka. Instead, they humiliated him — remember Muraco spitting on Snuka? — and we as fans felt it. And when Snuka was out for revenge, he was a madman.

Video: Snuka vs. Piper and the famous Piper's Pit angle

You don’t see that type of anger any more, when feuds come and go quickly. You don’t get mad for wrestlers the way we got mad for Snuka.

He will forever be burned into the brains of ’80s fans who remember his feuds with Bob Backlund, Muraco, Captain Lou Albano, Ray “The Crippler” Stevens, Piper and others.

The Superfly died on January 15 after a battle with stomach cancer. Despite his golden years in the WWF — when he was arguably the hottest wrestler in the country — it is bittersweet these days to look back at Snuka’s career because of his alleged actions outside the ring.

For the family of Nancy Argentino — Snuka’s girlfriend back in the day who died under suspicious circumstances in 1983 — any possible justice will now never be served. Snuka was indicted for her murder an incredible 32 years after Argentino’s death, but a judge later ruled him mentally incompetent to stand trial. And now Snuka is gone, too.

So while we all look back at Snuka’s great moments in the WWF, Argentino’s family will no doubt mourn once again for her passing so many years ago. It’s a reminder that the people we cheer, boo, and mark out for are also, sometimes, not good people.

I’ll have more to say about Snuka’s history in Boston in an upcoming post.

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4 comments

  1. Mike

    It was two for me, the coconut, and the steel cage splash. Man, this blog is great. I hope you keep updating it. I love these old school stories. My first look at the WWF, yes the WWF, was The Best of Hulk Hogan #1, and after that I was hooked. I’m 42 now, and at the time I watched the Hogan tape I was only 8. Thanks for the work on this blog, I love it.

  2. CT

    First Dusty, then Roddy and now the Superfly. All of them gave us young kids excitement every Saturday morning back in the early 1980s. Sad they are leaving us. Growing up in New England, I was a big WWF fan. I remember when Capt. Lou Albano debuted Jimmy Snuka on TV in 1982 and then when he betrayed him with Ray Stevens. In that instant, my friends and I became Superfly fans! It is understated how going to a Jimmy Snuka match at a house show was off the chats. The fans reacted to every move by him and his opponent. Looking back, it was so organic and magical in a way. They talk about “pops” wrestlers get from the crowd, Jimmy Snuka walked out with no music, just keeled, gave the I love you sign and the crowd when ballistic.That was a true pop, can’t compare to anything we see today. Just watch any of his MSG matches on Youtube. My favorite Jimmy Snuka match was when he faced Sgt. Slaughter inside a steel cage in October 1983 at the Hartford Civic Center (one week after the famed MSG cage match with Muraco). As Gorilla Moonson would say “you can cut the electricity with a knife and they are hanging from the rafters”. All of that was true, the place was sold out and blew the roof of the building with that match. Ahhh…memories of our youth!

  3. Terry Keefe

    Good remembrance. It’s hard to believe Snuka wasn’t a biggest star in the other territories before arriving in the WWF in the winter of 1982, I think it was. When my friends and I saw him for the first time on the “Championship Wrestling” television show, we were blown away by his athleticism – the leaping over opponents and, of course, the Superfly Splash. Snuka was pushing 40 by the time he got to the Northeast, also, so we presumably weren’t even getting him at his peak. He was an immediate sensation as a heel and the first opponent of Backlund’s since Superstar Graham to really get cheers (that I remember, there may have been others but the likes of Killer Khan sure weren’t getting heel cheers). That the death of Nancy Argentino wasn’t covered extensively by even the New York media, as Snuka was quite famous in the Northeast by 1983, is very surprising. That publicity might have derailed the WWF’s expansion before it really got started. As a kid, I didn’t understand why Snuka was pushed into a supporting role when Hogan returned, but can certainly understand why now.

  4. Michael

    Well said! The brilliance of Snuka’s early run with the WWF was that he made a connection with the audience at the outset with his set of moves as well as his charisma. He had that “it” factor Vince and HHH sometimes mention. Even when he started as a heel managed by Capt. Lou Albano, his incredible timing and athleticism captivated the audience. I, as a 10 year old kid in 1982, could not believe what he was doing in the ring and even though he was a rule breaker, I could not wait for his “Superfly” splash.

    Let’s see if the WWE will pay homage to him on tonight’s (1-16-2017) RAW.

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