Legendary wrestler Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka dead at 73
By Joe Gibel
Legendary professional wrestler, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka died on Sunday Jan. 15 at age 73.
Jimmy Snuka, known throughout the wrestling world as the innovator of the high-flying offence wrestling style and his “superfly splash” from the top turnbuckle, died from complications of stomach cancer.
Wrestlers and fans around the world paid their respects on television and through social media to the hall of famer including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who first broke the news of Snuka’s death. Snuka’s daughter and current WWE superstar posted a picture with the message “I love you dad,” on her Instagram account the night of his death.
The Fiji Island native enjoyed success in bodybuilding before his career in wrestling. Snuka made his wrestling debut in 1970 in Hawaii under the name Jimmy Kealoha. He found his biggest success in the World Wrestling Federation where he debuted in 1982 as a violent villainous character managed by Captain Lou Albano. He received several world title shots against Bob Backlund including one in a steel cage which would later be declared 1982 Match of the Year by Pro Wrestling Insider.
Even though he was intended to be a villain, Snuka’s athletic style won over the fans. After firing and feuding with Albano, Snuka was solidified as a fan favourite leading up to what was the defining moment of his career.
In 1983 Snuka was booked in yet another steel cage match. This time he would take on “Magnificent” Don Muraco, but it was not what happened during the match that was significant. After the match ended Snuka dragged Muraco back in the ring, climbed to the top of the 15-foot steel cage and connected with a “superfly splash” on top of Muraco. Many future wrestling superstars cite this as the main reason they decided to get into pro-wrestling including WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley. Snuka was named 1983 Wrestler of the Year by WWF Magazine.
Over the next 30 years Snuka travelled the world wrestling, sharing his love and passion for the sport with fans and wrestlers alike. He worked for many wrestling agencies such as New Japan Pro Wrestling, The American Wrestling Association, Eastern Championship Wrestling and Windsor Ontario’s own Border City Wrestling.
“I was blessed to have worked with and known Jimmy over many years. He was always a kind and giving person who was happy to share his knowledge with younger wrestlers,” said Scott D’Amore, owner of Border City Wrestling. “I have many fond memories of Jimmy on the road and in the ring. Many of them involve sitting around a hotel room after shows just listening to stories and sharing laughs.”
For over four decades Snuka to thrilled fans with his high flying “superfly splash.” Wrestling past age 70, the wild man from Fiji always entertained the crowd. He retired in 2015.
In August 2015, Snuka’s wife, Carole, announced that he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Snuka had surgery to remove his lymph nodes and part of his stomach. In December of 2016, it was announced that Snuka was in hospice and had six months left to live. He died on Jan. 15, 2017 at the age of 73 in Pompano Beach, Florida.