Originally published April 22, 2010
The number one way to make money in pro wrestling has always been with a compelling rivalry. Nothing draws bigger at the box office than a rivalry pitting good vs. evil. Today I spotlight one of professional wrestling’s greatest feuds.
“Superfly” Jimmy Snuka vs. “Magnificent” Don Muraco
The year was 1983. Jimmy Snuka was now a full-fledged babyface coming off of a feud with Ray “The Crippler” Stevens and his former manager, Captain Lou Albano. The blowoff to their feud saw a brutal match stopped in Madison Square Garden between Superfly Snuka and the Captain himself.
Don Muraco had won the WWE Intercontinental title back from Pedro Morales and was finishing up a feud with the Rock’s father, Rocky Johnson. The Magnificent Muraco was rolling through his second reign as Intercontinental champion and was becoming one of the most hated men in all of pro wrestling.
This is truly a feud that epitomized everything about good and evil for a wrestling fan. Jimmy Snuka was everyone’s hero. He was one of the first national stars with the looks of a bodybuilder. Snuka had this charisma that would give you chills whenever he would make his comeback to win the match. Not too mention that his finishing move, the “Superfly Splash” was exciting and innovative for that time period. Snuka would leap off of his opponents from the top rope with his “patented” Superfly splash.
The Magnificent Muraco, on the other hand, was the villain that you loved to hate. He was in good shape but had a bit of a belly. He carried himself like a slob and enjoyed every minute of it. Muraco would spit, he would scowl, and he would even eat a hot dog on occasion as he was finishing his opponents on Saturday morning wrestling. Unlike Snuka who was monotone on interviews, Muraco was loud, obnoxious, and cocky. It was inevitable that these two warriors would collide at some point in the WWE. Muraco was also managed by Snuka’s former manager and rival, Capt. Lou Albano.
It all started when the Magnificent Muraco was a guest in Roger’s Corner. Former WWWF champion, Buddy Rogers was interviewing Muraco, and Muraco was going off as always. Off-camera Jimmy Snuka was entering the ring for his match. Muraco took this as a sign of disrespect.
Muraco began yelling at Snuka. Muraco approached the ring and continued screaming at Snuka. Snuka smiled and laughed at Muraco. Muraco returned the laughter with a spit. Snuka quickly retaliated with a plancha, which was something never seen in America. Snuka was now on top of Muraco outside of the ring and going nuts.
The two brawled on the floor with Snuka ripping Muraco’s clothes off. The attack was so violent that the WWF put an “X” on the screen. There wasn’t a fan at home who didn’t wish that they could see what was going on beyond the “X.” The battle lines were drawn and the war was on.
To watch one of wrestling’s most famous angles click here.
This was the first feud in wrestling that I got excited about as a wrestling fan. Sure, there had been feuds for titles or revenge but this one was bigger. This was about me wanting to see Jimmy Snuka tear Don Muraco apart and win the I-C belt.
The WWE matches between Jimmy Snuka and the Magnificent Muraco lived up to expectations. Even today on DVD, their matches still hold up. The intense atmosphere in the buildings when Superfly Snuka and Don Muraco made their entrances was just awesome. Neither guy had loud rock music as they entered the ring, just the looks of arrogance and fear on the face of Muraco and the looks of confidence and anger on the face of Snuka.
Most of their matches would begin with a brawl. Muraco would usually attack first only to be cut off by Snuka. The matches would see a story told of Muraco trying to hold on to his belt, yet feeling over-confident at times while Snuka was only interested in pounding Muraco. The matches would usually turn into a bloodbath ending with Muraco barely escaping with the I-C belt. Some matches would end with Snuka pounding a bloody and defenseless Muraco. The referee would try and pull Snuka off of Muraco at the count of five, but Snuka was so incensed with hatred that he would shove the referee off of him and get himself disqualified. Some matches would end with both men brawling and the referee disqualifying both of them. There wasn’t a fan in the place that didn’t believe Snuka could beat Muraco for the belt, and wouldn’t pay to see the rematch.
The classic climax of the feud would occur on October 17, 1983 in the most famous professional wrestling arena in the world, Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. The ring would be surrounded by a 15-foot high steel-cage. The only way to win this match would be to escape over the cage or through the door. Once this match was announced, there was no way I thought Magnificent Muraco would escape with the title.
The match was televised on the USA network and in today’s climate would probably have been one of the biggest pay-per-view matches ever. The atmosphere was so tense that you could cut it with a knife. This was arguably the most anticipated match in WWE since Bruno Sammartino fought Larry Zbysko at Shea Stadium a few years earlier.
The match started off like previous matches with Snuka pounding Muraco. The match was a see-saw of back and forth action which saw both men bloodied and battered. The end of the match was one of the craziest endings of a match. Snuka wound up head-butting Muraco, and the impact of the move caused Muraco to fly backward through the door of the cage. The winner of the match was Don Muraco.
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe that Jimmy Snuka lost and neither could Snuka. Snuka dragged Muraco back into the cage, bodyslammed him, and climbed up to the top of the cage. Standing at the top of the cage like a God, Snuka put up his hands signaling the “I love you,” to the fans and then jumped about 18 feet in the air crashing down on an immobile Muraco who laid bloodied and battered awaiting the splash. Muraco may have won the battle, but Snuka won the war.
The match is available on a DVD compilation of WWE steel-cage matches. To check it out on Amazon, click here.