One word: Superfly. The name is legend. Although he is known for inspiring many with his breath-taking, high-flying offence and his unrelenting fury inside the ring, what should not be forgotten about Jimmy Snuka is that he broke the mould of the brutish, savage stereotype of the South Pacific wrestler that some promoters loved to script.
Although he was proud of his roots, Snuka’s persona evolved into much more than that. He became an athletic livewire capturing the imagination of fans with his high-flying, furious style of wrestling that was the perfect match for such foes as “The Magnificent” Muraco, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Bob Orton, Jr. and the infamous Colonel DeBeers.
Unlike some wrestlers, Snuka was fortunate to have had more than one defining moment in his career. His steel cage match against “The Magnificent” Muraco for the Intercontinental Championship, in which he leapt off the top of the cage onto a prone Muraco, inspired an entire generation of future stars. What is often forgotten though is the important role Don Muraco played. At the true height of his career, Muraco, who would go on to unforgettable feuds with Ricky Steamboat, Bob Backlund, Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson. That night, he brought the best out of Snuka and sacrificed just as much as the Superfly did in that iconic match.
Snuka’s grudge matches with Roddy Piper would become one of wrestling’s most legendary feuds. Piper’s unbelievable attack on Snuka during an episode of Piper’s Piper would cement their war in wrestling history. Snuka would later be replaced by the Tonga Kid, who would go on to become Tama of The Islanders tag team. The Tonga Kid was billed as Snuka’s nephew, although he was no relation.
Although he didn’t wrestle in the actual match, Snuka’s presence during the main event of the first WrestleMania was critical. In Hulk Hogan and Mr. T’s corner, Snuka was the perfect foil to Piper and Orndorff’s cornerman: ‘Cowboy’ Bob ‘Ace’ Orton.
In the American Wrestling Association in 1987, Snuka’s notorious and bloody feud with the blatantly racist Colonel DeBeers shaped Snuka into a hero taking a stand against hatred. While DeBeers went as far as to hang Snuka at ringside and piledrive him into the concrete floor, the Superfly wouldn’t back down challenging DeBeers in a series of strap matches, No DQ matches, Coal Miner’s Glove matches and a Polynesian Death match.
Snuka was also ECW’s first World Heavyweight Champion in 1992, defeating Salvatore Bellomo in a tournament final. Snuka would lose the title a day later to Johnny Hotbody, ECW’s first Television Champion. Snuka would win the title back three months later, hold it for two months until he lost it to, none other than, Don Muraco in September of 1992.
When he essentially retired from in-ring competition, only making appearances here and there such as his match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania 7, Snuka’s inspiration became quite apparent when stars like Mick Foley, Tommy Dreamer and Bubba Ray Dudley began to come into their own in the business.
Despite the unresolved death of his girlfriend Nancy Argentino forever hanging over his life and therefore his legacy, there is no denying the impact and influence The Superfly had on the industry, fans and wrestlers alike leaving us with some of the most memorable moments in pro-wrestling history.