If you’re around my age group (Mid-40’s) you grew up watching the WWF back in the early 80’s. We remembered moments that left a mark in our memories whether it was certain feuds, select images, or specific matches. In the case of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, who passed away at the age of 73, he did all three for me.
The feuds? How can anyone forget when Snuka arrived in the WWF and shot up the roster as the top heel and a big threat to then champion Bob Backlund? He never defeated Backlund for the belt but the feud was a memorable one that led to one of the all-time memorable photos of Snuka at the top of the steel cage ready to plunge with his Superfly finisher. Yes, he eventually missed Backlund and ultimately lost the match but the image is iconic. That finishing move alone was something no one had ever seen before. It was unheard of. In fact, it was extreme! Snuka led the path for wrestlers of today where moves like the frog splash are now commonplace.
Snuka entered the WWF as a heel but his popularity sky rocketed when he turned face. His feud with the Magnificent One Don Muraco was legendary that included another iconic photo like the one against Backlund but with a bloody forehead and the worldwide I love you in sign language. Snuka did connect on that Superfly but just like the Backlund match, he lost the match too. For Snuka, it didn’t matter whether or not he won the match, he caught the eyes and gradually the hearts of professional wrestling fans.
His feud with Roddy Piper may have been one of the most polarizing feuds in the professional wrestling history. The Piper’s Pit in 1984 was where it began where Hot Rod practically racially insulted Snuka and then capped it off smashing a coconut against Snuka’s head. Could you have loved Snuka more and hated Piper even more? Watching Piper slowly slithering his way out the door when Snuka is held back incensed and ranting in his native language was genius entertainment. In other words, it was extreme in the sense of segments outside of the ring.
Ironically, he became the inaugural Eastern Championship Wrestling champion which eventually became Extreme Championship Wrestling. And to add to his legacy and the history of the WWF, Snuka was the first victim of the Undertaker’s WrestleMania win streak. That match was symbolic and ironic in that all those acrobatic moves were no match against the Dead Man.
His personal life became headlines in the past year because of a 1983 murder case but the case was eventually dismissed. That may have temporarily tainted his personal life but it will never taint the flair Sunka had for the professional business. So anytime you see a match where a wrestler does a superplex or a flying elbow remember this was not possible if not for Jimmy Snuka. That was extreme!