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The real reason Superfly Jimmy Snuka was top dog in the early 80s

Jimmy SnukaI mentioned in my previous blog that Superfly Jimmy Snuka was very popular in his WWF heyday, as he caught fire with pro wrestling fans in 1982-1984.

Jimmy Snuka started his WWF run as a heel, feuding with Bob Backlund and Pedro Morales over their respective championships, but soon after he turned babyface. At the height of his popularity, Snuka was likely the most over good guy to grace the ring.

Sure, Snuka’s moves were exciting, but the real reason he was such a great protagonist? The heels who opposed him.

Think about it – when he turned babyface, it was because Captain Lou Albano and legend Ray “The Crippler” Stevens brutalized him before a match, busting him open in a bloodbath. Stevens topped off the attack with two piledrivers on the floor.

[adinserter block=”2″]At the time, Albano was one of those characters that most fans hated, and you desperately wanted to see someone kick his tail. The beauty of Albano is that the babyfaces rarely got their revenge on him, which made his angles even better.

Stevens, to be honest, was kind of along for the ride in the Snuka feud, and he faded away from the WWF by mid-1983. But that worked out for Snuka, because before long, he was head-to-head with a man I consider the greatest heel in WWF 80s pro wrestling: Magnificent Muraco.

Wrestling’s Greatest Feuds – Jimmy Snuka vs. Don Muraco

Do you remember Muraco sitting on Buddy Rogers’ Corner (the forbearer of all WWF wrestler interview talk shows) complaining that no one gave him respect as Intercontinental Champion, all while dressed in a sports jacket and bandana?

Muraco jawed with Snuka, who was in the ring awaiting a match, and soon enough they were brawling. Muraco ripped the overhead microphone off the cord and cracked Snuka with it, leading to a “Censored” red X that blocked the TV screen to shield viewers from the gore.

Months later, Snuka gave a crazy interview in an empty arena with Vince McMahon, and the feud culminated with one of the most memorable scenes in WWF history: Snuka giving Muraco the Superfly splash off the top of a 15-foot, err, 8-foot-high steel cage in Madison Square Garden. However, Muraco retained the title through a fluke win. Future WWE and TNA superstar Mick “Cactus Jack” Foley was even in the crowd that night.

Then, in 1984, Jimmy Snuka was the guest on Piper’s Pit, with the coconut shot heard ‘round the world. Snuka once again lit up rings as he pursued Rowdy Roddy Piper for the rest of the year.

[adinserter block=”1″]By 1985, Snuka’s spotlight had faded, in part due to his own demons and also because of Hulk Hogan’s rise to prominence.

These days in the WWE, the feuds (and reasons behind them) are often so contrived, even by pro wrestling standards. How did Undertaker end up in a “vegetative state”? Who is the mystery man behind Nexus?

By comparison, Snuka’s WWF feuds involved a much more direct recipe: Blood, guts, and revenge.

Maniacal Snuka interview:

Scott Wallask has followed wrestling for 30 years and writes about growing up watching the WWF in the 1980s on his blog the Boston Garden Balcony.

Check out Jimmy Superfly Snuka on the WWE Greatest Wrestling Stars of the 80s DVD set by clicking here.

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  1. Snuka's promos were terrible for the most part; he would just ramble on incoherently. But he was always able to convey intensity, even if you had no idea what he was saying. The moment where Snuka loses it after being humiliated by Piper was classic.

  2. Wasn't he also accused of murdering a woman in a hotel room during the 1980s? I remember one of the wrestling scandal books making hay with that one.


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