Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was arrested in September 2015 on third-degree murder charges relating to the 1983 death of Nancy Argentino, but Snuka never went to trial after being found mentally unfit. Snuka died shortly after the charges were dismissed in January 2017. This week’s Dark Side of the Ring focused on the circumstances surrounding the case and its revival almost 30 years later.
The episode opens with the background of Snuka’s entry into wrestling and rise in the WWF before Nancy Argentino’s older sister, Lorraine Salome, describes Nancy’s background and her immediately intense relationship with Snuka. Snuka stories from both Salome and Louise Argentino paint Snuka as reserved, but highlight darkness underpinning Nancy and Snuka’s relationship. A story about Snuka trying to apologize with an offer of cocaine for threatening Louise, a retelling of a domestic violence incident, and Nancy’s reveal that Snuka was married with his wife and children at home are all red flags the Argentino family raise when telling the backstory of the relationship.
One thing Dark Side of the Ring has been getting right this season is getting these perspectives from the affected that are often outside of the world of professional wrestling and get their stories drowned out by industry noise in the process. This was another home run in terms of presenting those often untold stories and they really added to episode. The most intriguing parts of the story come from Allentown, Pennsylvania’s The Morning Call journalists Kevin Amerman and Adam Clark, who recount the details of the death of Argentino and Snuka’s evolving story for years prior to their 30th anniversary coverage of the case that eventually brought the cold case back into active investigation.
Having actual journalists on this episode seems like a must going forward because of how refreshingly straightforward their talking head segments seem to be in comparison to one or two wrestlers trying to create memorable soundbites at the cost of the story each show.
Where this episode really suffers is the color provided from those closest to Snuka and the case. The Tonga Kid, Sam Fatu, recalls being in the car with Snuka and Argentino on the trip to Allentown just a day before Argentino’s death, but can’t even remember Argentino’s name multiple times in the episode before concluding that Snuka could never have hurt anyone. Carole Snuka, Jimmy’s second wife and widow, serves as the recount of Snuka’s autobiography and acts as a catalyst to the rumors that Vince McMahon met with the Allentown police with a briefcase and left without one. Don Muraco simply relieves his working relationship with Snuka.
While these interviews don’t necessarily make for compelling viewing, they could be a stand-in for the creator’s opinion on Snuka’s side of the case. It would be one of the most obvious cases of taking a side in the editing room in this series, but isn’t altogether inappropriate given what is presented in the episode.
In all, it was interesting to see this episode seem to take more of a stance about the subject and it didn’t detract from the documentary perspective. In fact, the show continued to do well what it has all season in bringing in some of the affected voices outside of the industry while adding a new touch by bringing in journalists that provide a good tonal counterbalance to wrestlers going over the top in their segments.