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Jimmy Snuka
Ring name(s) Jimmy Snuka
Billed height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Billed weight 250 lb (110 kg)
Born May 18, 1943 (1943-05-18) (age 66)
Fiji
Resides Clifton, New Jersey, USA
Billed from Fiji
Trained by Danny Hodge-Eubank
Debut 1969

James William Reiher (born May 18, 1943) is a semi-retired Fijian professional wrestler and actor, better known by his ring name of Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. Originally from the Fiji Islands, Snuka wrestled for several wrestling promotions in the 1970s and 1980s. He is best known for his time in the World Wrestling Federation in the early to mid-'80s, and is credited with being the first ECW Heavyweight Champion and introducing the high-flyer style of wrestling to the WWF.[1] His biological son James Jr. [2] is also a professional wrestler, who had wrestled in the WWE on its Raw brand as Sim Snuka and a daughter Sarona Snuka who is a wrestler.

Contents

Wrestling career

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Early career

Reiher was active in amateur bodybuilding in Hawaii in the 1960s. He also enjoyed some success as a professional bodybuilder, earning the titles of Mr. Hawaii, Mr. Waikiki and Mr. North Shore.[3] Reiher opted to go into the more lucrative career of professional wrestling due to his uncertainty of making a living in bodybuilding.[4] According to the Wrestling Museum, "as a result of working out regularly at pro wrestler Dean Ho's gym in Hawaii, Snuka came into contact with many of the wrestlers who worked in the South Pacific region and, eventually, he decided to explore his options in the "sport.""[3] According to Snuka's official website, "Hawaii was the ground in which Jimmy first stepped into the squared circle as Jimmy Kealoha."[5] As Jimmy Kealoha, Snuka made his debut fighting Maxwell "Bunny" Butler in Hawaii in 1969. Snuka's website further states that "Afterwards, the move to the mainland saw Jimmy wrestle for Don Owen’s NWA Pacific Northwest territory where he held the belt as Heavyweight Champion six times. The first title win came when Jimmy Snuka pinned Bull Ramos on November 16, 1973."[5] It was in this territory James Reiher a.k.a. "Jimmy Kealoha" transformed himself into Jimmy Snuka. Also in Pacific Northwest Wrestling, along with winning the NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight title six times between 1971 and 1976, Snuka held the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championship six times along with partner Dutch Savage. Snuka also had his first notable feud in this Oregon-based promotion with another rookie, Jesse "The Body" Ventura, and these series of grudge matches would last about two years.

Snuka also wrestled in several other National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) regions, including Texas. In 1977, Jimmy won both the Texas Heavyweight and Tag Team titles. After enjoying success in Texas, Snuka left for the Mid-Atlantic where he formed a tag team with Paul Orndorff. Orndorff and Snuka defeated Baron von Raschke and Greg Valentine to become the tag team title holders in 1979. Snuka also garnered success in singles competition in the Carolinas, because on September 1, 1979, Jimmy defeated Ricky Steamboat to hold the United States title. Snuka also formed a tag team with Ray Stevens while with this promotion.

Snuka's career eventually led him to Georgia. In Georgia, Terry Gordy and Jimmy became the NWA National Tag Team Champions by defeating Ted DiBiase and Steve Olsonski. He became identified with the "I Love You" sign language gesture, which he displayed as he jumped from the ropes in his signature move, which became so popular among fans that promoters began relaxing their ban of top-rope maneuvers so as to accommodate Snuka's exciting aerial style.

World Wrestling Federation

1982

In January 1982 Snuka entered the then-named World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as a heel under the guidance of Captain Lou Albano. Snuka lost several title shots at WWF Champion Bob Backlund; their most famous match together was a Steel cage match at Madison Square Garden on June 28, 1982 in which Snuka leapt from the top of the cage, barely missing Backlund who managed to escape the cage for the win. The contest would be declared Match of the Year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated.

Even though Snuka was a heel, the Northeast fans started to cheer on Snuka and his athletic style. An angle was created late in the year which revealed- on an episode of Buddy Rogers' Victory Corner- that Snuka was being financially ripped off by Lou Albano, thus releasing Snuka from Albano's managerial services. Albano then attacked Snuka and with the help of "Classy" Freddie Blassie's newest arrival, Snuka's former tag team partner Ray Stevens, beat Snuka bloody in front of a TV audience. The vicious attack, concluding with two piledrivers by Stevens on the concrete floor, solidified Snuka's new role as a face seeking to settle the score. Upon becoming a babyface Snuka brought his former manager from the Mid-Atlantic territory, "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers, back on as his new manager and embarked on a mixture of tag and singles matches against Stevens and Albano across the region. Snuka was now a star at the beginning of Vince McMahon's expansion and a candidate for what would become Hulk Hogan's role in the company, but outside-the-ring issues and lack of mic skills were factors that would hold him back from ever capturing a WWF title belt.

1983

Snuka would also have a famous feud with "Magnificent" Don Muraco in 1983, which began after Snuka entered the ring for a preliminary match while Muraco, the Intercontinental Champion, was being interviewed. Muraco, enraged at the perceived lack of respect, confronted Snuka at ringside, triggering a wild brawl in which Muraco's street clothes were torn off and Muraco bloodied Snuka with a microphone.

This feud led to a defining moment of Snuka's career on October 17, 1983, in a steel cage match at Madison Square Garden. The match ended in a loss for the Superfly, but afterwards he managed to drag Muraco back into the ring and this time connect with the most famous Superfly Splash of his career, off the top of the 15-foot (4.6 m) high steel cage.[6] Future wrestling stars The Sandman, Mick Foley, Tommy Dreamer, and Bubba Ray Dudley were all in attendance at the event, and cite this match as the reason they decided to aggressively pursue professional wrestling.[6] This is also where commentator Gorilla Monsoon's infamous exclamation "Superfly perched...fifteen feet high!" was born.

1984

In June 1984, Snuka became embroiled in an intense feud with one of the WWF's top heels, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, through a notorious incident that would be perhaps the most infamous of either wrestler's career. In a segment of Piper's Pit, Piper brought bananas and coconuts to the interview to make Snuka "feel more at home" but said he didn't get a tree for Snuka to "climb up and down like a monkey." Piper then proceeded to smash a real coconut on Jimmy's head when he turned his back momentarily. This was followed by a beating with a belt before the WWF cut to a commercial. The attack led to a series of bitter grudge matches between the two that were played out over venues across the US throughout the summer of 1984. The remainder of Snuka's initial WWF stint would see him frequently tangling with Piper one way or another, often via tag matches or wrestling Piper's closest ally, Bob Orton, Jr. Snuka also famously defeated Orton at The War to Settle the Score, and put Orton's left arm in a cast for over a year. The feud played a small part in the first ever WrestleMania in March 1985, when Snuka acted as a cornerman for Hulk Hogan and Mr. T when they faced Piper and Paul Orndorff (with Orton in their corner). The Superfly vanished from the WWF in August 1985, though he still appeared in cartoon form when Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling premiered the following month.

American Wrestling Association (1986–1989)

After a stint in alcohol/drug rehab, Snuka resurfaced in the American Wrestling Association (AWA) replacing the injured Jerry Blackwell as Greg Gagne's partner in a tag team match against Bruiser Brody and Nord the Barbarian at WrestleRock 86. Snuka would split his time between the AWA and Japan throughout 1986 and 1987. His most notable feud in the AWA during that time was with Col. DeBeers, who refused to fight Snuka because of his race. However, he was able to sneak-attack Snuka by pushing him off the top rope onto the floor and administering several face-first piledrivers. This led the way for a series of grudge matches in 1987.

World Wrestling Federation (1989–1992)

Like many aging veterans before him, Snuka re-emerged in the WWF at WrestleMania V on April 2nd, 1989 to help put over younger stars, like Curt Hennig and Rick Rude, losing to the latter at WrestleMania VI.[7] In 1991, he was also the first PPV singles opponent for The Undertaker. The Undertaker would be a top contender in the company for many years to come, in part from Snuka letting him win in a squash at WrestleMania VII; this began his Wrestlemania undefeated streak.

Eastern Championship Wrestling (1992–1994)

After leaving the WWF in February 1992, Jimmy toured with various smaller organizations in the early 1990s and played a role in the formation of Tod Gordon's Eastern Championship Wrestling (ECW) organization along with Don Muraco and Terry Funk. Snuka was ECW's first ECW Heavyweight Champion and toured with the company through 1994. ECW would later be taken over by Paul Heyman, who would rename it Extreme Championship Wrestling.

Semi-retirement (1996–present)

Snuka (center) with Ricky Steamboat (right) and Roddy Piper before their match against Chris Jericho in WrestleMania XXV

He was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1996. He also continued to spend much of his time with East Coast Wrestling organizations through the late 1990s and into the 2000s. During this time, he wrestled the Metal Maniac in a series of matches that spanned across many independent wrestling promotions. Snuka won nearly every one of these matches.

During the later half of the 1990s, Snuka appeared for both major wrestling promotions, the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling. He would make periodic appearances for the WWF, such as competing at the 1996 Survivor Series. Snuka received a lifetime achievement award from WWE in 2002 at Madison Square Garden and began to be thrust into skits by WWE in 2004/2005. Snuka also appeared on WCW Monday Nitro in early 2000, where he gave Jeff Jarrett a Superfly Splash off the top of a steel cage. Snuka also participated at the first XWF TV tapings, accompanying his son, Jimmy Snuka, Jr. to the ring for some matches, including one match where they both delivered the Superfly Splash to prone opponents.

In 2005, he appeared at the WWE Homecoming, where he delivered a Superfly Splash to Rob Conway with a ring full of legends at his side like Dusty Rhodes and Billy Graham. He also took part in a backstage skit, chasing after a partially disrobed Mae Young with a wad of Ted DiBiase's money. He was a part of the Taboo Tuesday pay-per-view, where fans voted for him (ahead of Kamala and Jim Duggan) to team with Eugene against Rob Conway and Tyson Tomko. Snuka won the match, pinning Conway after a superfly splash. He also appeared at the 2007 WWE draft edition of Raw in a vignette for Mr. McMahon appreciation night.

Snuka in a match against Bob Orton, Jr.

On June 24, 2007, Jimmy Snuka was introduced as Sgt. Slaughter's tag team partner in the open invitational match for the WWE Tag Team Championship at Vengeance. Snuka was ultimately pinned by his son.

In 2008, Snuka appeared in the Royal Rumble. He was in the match less than 5 minutes and primarily focused his efforts on onetime nemesis, Roddy Piper. Both were quickly eliminated by the next entrant, Kane.

On the March 2, 2009, edition of Raw, he was attacked by Chris Jericho during a parody of Piper's Pit. This was part of a storyline where Jericho was disrespecting and attacking legends. Two weeks later on the March 16, 2009, Raw, Snuka, Roddy Piper, Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat attacked Chris Jericho.

It was announced that at Wrestlemania XXV on April 5, 2009, Snuka would be teaming with Ricky Steamboat and Roddy Piper to face Chris Jericho in a Legends of Wrestlemania Handicap Match. Ric Flair was also in their corner. Snuka was the first eliminated by Jericho, who eventually won the match.

On November 28th, 2009 he teamed with his son for the first time ever at an NWA Upstate event in Lockport NY. Superfly & Deuce faced the NWA Upstate Tag Team Champions Hellcat & Triple X in a non title match. The Snuka's won the match via pinfall.

Personal life

Jimmy Snuka and his wife have created a reality show called The Superfly Challenge. It was recently shot in New York, New Jersey, and Maryland. Filming took place at the New Berlin Diner and Nikolai Volkoff's farm.

Jimmy is also an avid poker player. He was at the Poker4Life tournament in New York City and raised $100,000 for the charity. When the Superfly was done, all five tables still in play halted and applauded him with a standing ovation.

Snuka wrestles on the Independent Circuit in his home state of New Jersey on a regular basis.

Snuka also has a daughter who wrestles in World Xtreme Wrestling

Snuka also is the part-owner of Bodyslam University in South Florida and teaches there once a month.

Homicide Suspect in Girlfriend's Death

On May 10, 1983, a few hours after Snuka had performed in a WWF TV taping at the Lehigh County Agricultural Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Snuka placed a call for an ambulance. When emergency personnel arrived on the scene at Room 427 of the George Washington Motor Lodge in nearby Whitehall Township, they found Snuka’s girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, in bad shape. She was transported to Allentown's Sacred Heart Medical Center, where she died shortly after of "undetermined craniocerebral injuries." Deputy Lehigh County coroner Wayne Snyder said “Upon viewing the body and speaking to the pathologist, I immediately suspected foul play and so notified the district attorney." Snuka was the only suspect involved in the subsequent investigation.

Among the facts and allegations that cast suspicion upon Snuka’s role in Argentino’s death were:

  • Various people report that Snuka gave contradictory explanations for the incident to different people, including:
    • Argentino slipped and hit her head at the side of the road when he and she had stopped to relieve themselves,
    • he and Argentino were fooling around outside their room, when he accidentally knocked her to the ground,
    • he and Argentino were quarreling at the side of the road, when he unintentionally shoved her hard enough to knock her to the ground.
  • Other marks were found on Argentino’s body besides the skull damage.
  • Fellow wrestler Buddy Rogers (who traveled and worked closely with Snuka) said Snuka openly snorted cocaine and was “uncontrollable” when under the influence. Rogers and Snuka also lived on the same street, and Rogers asserted Snuka’s wife often sought refuge from his abuse at their home.
  • Three months before Argentino’s death, police were called to a Howard Johnson's hotel in Salina, New York over a violent incident involving Snuka assaulting Argentino. Snuka pleaded guilty to violent felony assault with intent to cause injury, received a conditional discharge on counts of third-degree assault, harassment, and obstruction of a government official, and donated $1,500 to a deputy sheriff’s survivors fund.
  • Nancy Argentino’s younger sister alleged that she was threatened with serious violence by Snuka. Argentino family members say that they were contacted by a former Snuka girlfriend, who said he had broken her ribs, he had a habit of slamming women against walls, and that she had tried to warn Nancy about him.

Charges were not pressed against Snuka, although the case was left officially open, meaning no official judgment on whether the incident was accidental or homicide was ever made. In 1985, Argentino’s parents won a $500,000 default judgment against Snuka in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, although Snuka appears not to have ever paid, claiming financial inability to do so.[8]

Acting career

Snuka played himself in the film Buffalo Bushido by Peter McGennis, shot in Buffalo, New York, in 2007. Snuka appeared in the 2008 film Shoot Out of Luck co-starring Willie Nelson and Randall "Tex" Cobb.

In wrestling

Snuka in a match against Bob Orton, Jr.
Characteristic pose of Snuka
  • Finishing moves
  • Signature moves

Championships and accomplishments

  • Other honoree (1996)
  • NWL WRESTLING
  • NWL Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • WWWA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • Other titles
  • Tri-State Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • USA New York Championship (1 time)
  • USA Pro Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • SXA United States of America Championship (1 time)

Notes

1Jimmy Snuka's reigns occurred while the promotion was an NWA affiliate named Eastern Championship Wrestling, and was prior to the promotion becoming Extreme Championship Wrestling and the title being declared a world title by ECW.

References

  1. ^ WWE: Superstars > Hall of Fame > Jimmy Snuka > Bio
  2. ^ "Snookered by internet "sources"". Under the Ring. http://pojoslam.blogspot.com/2007/08/snookered-by-internet-sources.html. Retrieved 2007-08-09. 
  3. ^ a b http://www.wrestlingmuseum.com/pages/wrestlers/jimmysnuka2.html
  4. ^ World Wrestling Federation (Producer), Snuka, J. (Writer), & Graham, D. (Director). (1982). Spectrum wrestling [Motion picture]. USA: World Wrestling Federation.
  5. ^ a b http://www.jimmysnuka.com/bio.asp
  6. ^ a b Foley, Mick. Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks (p.34)
  7. ^ "Wrestlemania VI results". World Wrestling Entertainment. http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania/history/wm6/results/. Retrieved 12 April 2009. 
  8. ^ Muchnick, Irv. Wrestling Babylon: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal (p.125-131)

Further reading

  • Foley, Mick (1999) Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks. ReganBooks. ISBN 0-060-9299-1.

External links


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