Jimmy “Superfly" Snuka, wrestling legend and childhood hero to the millions who grew up watching him in the ring in the 1970s and 80s, has passed away today at age 73. It has been reported he suffered from stomach cancer and the famed grappler had been in a hospice since mid-December.
“Our family @TaminaSnuka asked me to share the sad news that her dad Jimmy Snuka has just passed away. Alofa atu i le aiga atoa. #RIPSuperfly,” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson posted on Twitter this afternoon.
“WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka has passed away,” the WWE posted on their website. “Snuka is regarded by many as the pioneer of high-flying offense because of his Superfly Splash from the top turnbuckle. His dive off the top of the steel cage onto Don Muraco at Madison Square Garden as hundreds of flash bulbs went off will forever live as one of the most memorable moments in WWE history. WWE extends its condolences to Snuka’s family, friends and fans.”
Snuka, a WWE Hall of Famer, has been referenced a slew of times throughout the years in hip-hop songs by the likes of Wale, Grand Puba, MF Doom, 2 Chainz and Fat Joe.
Snuka, born James Wiley Smith in Fiji, rose to superstardom during his first stint in the WWF from 1982-85. With his muscular build, tiger print trunks, and bare foot wrestling, Snuka literally rose to the top of the ranks as a fan favorite (although he originally began as a bad guy) fighting in classic feuds with The Magnificent Muraco and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.
Superfly has one of the most signature highlights in wrestling history, jumping off the top off a steel cage onto Muraco during their October 1983 match at Madison Square Garden. The following summer, Snuka and Piper kicked off their rivalry on the TV segment “Piper’s Pit” when the “Scottish” villain hit Snuka over the head with a coconut. In March of 1985, Snuka was in the corner of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T as they took on Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff in the main event of Wrestlemania. In March of 1991, Snuka also played a significant role in Wrestlemania history becoming the first of 21 straight opponents to lose to the Undertaker at the annual super show. The Taker’s streak is most lauded in wrestling history. In 2006, Snuka was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
The last couple of years of Superfly’s life, however, were not as pleasant. In 2013, authorities re-opened the murder investigation of Snuka’s former girlfriend Nancy Argentino who died in 1983 in their hotel room. In 2015, Snuka was charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in her death. Snuka plead innocent. Last summer, Snuka was ruled mentally unfit to stand trial and just a couple of weeks ago, the judge in the case upheld the ruling and dismissed the charges. Snuka is survived by four children and a wife.
RIP Superfly. My family, @saronasnukawwe gave me this amazing pic she took of her dad only a few short months ago. I immediately got choked up when I first saw this as she told me he sat there in this chair for hours and just watched his old wrestling promos and matches... in complete silence. Never said a word, just watched and reflected. Got choked up over the thought of what must've been going thru his mind in these hours watching himself... pride, joy, regret, satisfaction, pain, love. I wondered if at any point he sat here wishing he could do it all over again. Or, if he sat here completely at peace with his incredible, inspiring, wildly successful and at times extremely complicated life he's lived. Well before there was WrestleManias, PPV's, big money guaranteed contracts, the internet or pro wrestling being coined, "sports entertainment", it's hard to articulate how "on fire" this man was in the early 80's and how much he impacted and electrified the wrestling business' bottom line. His wrestling promos had a quiet intensity that made you believe every word that came out of his mouth and you just knew that you had to run down to Madison Square Garden and buy your tickets because he was going to electrify that night. Another Garden sell out. I grew up with this man as our families lived together in Hawaii and North Carolina. His children Jimmy Jr, Liana, Sarona and Ata all idolized him, as did I. Awesome memories. To the world, he was known as the iconic Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka but to me he was and will always be, simply.. uncle. Rest in peace, uncle. Fly high bruddah..now you have real wings.