WWE wrestling legend Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka has died at age 73. For the last several months, Snuka had been living in hospice care and was told in late 2016 he'd only have a few months to live. While the end of his life was marred by controversy, his influence on the wrestling business can not be overstated. Superfly was one of the main players who helped capture the imagination of the fans heading into the WrestleMania era. His over 30 year career included many memorable moments and incredible matches, however, five moments stand out.
As we reflect on the man inside the ring, here are the five most iconic moments of Jimmy Snuka's career.
The Leap, part 1
The All American champion took on the Wild Samoan in one of the most memorable title defenses of Bob Backlund's long championship reign. When Snuka first climbed to the top of the cage, everyone's heart dropped. No one had seen anything like that before. It defied both logic and gravity. Unfortunately for Snuka, the leap missed and allowed Backlund to sneak out for the win. But the impact of the jump would ignite an entire generation. Snuka once spoke about the match itself.
"I’m not a glory guy or anything like that, but it was such a great pleasure for me to wrestle Bob Backland, the champion at the time,” Snuka said. “He was such an awesome guy and such a great champion, and it was such a privilege to be able to wrestle him so early on in my WWF career in a title match at Madison Square Garden. Jumping off the cage at the Garden, you couldn’t even hear yourself. I loved it so much. Things like that just stick in your heart.”prevnext
The Leap connects!
In one of the most legendary matches in WWE history, Jimmy Snuka delivered a spectacular Superfly Splash from the top of the steel cage onto Don Muraco at Madison Square Garden on October 17, 1983. Unfortunately for Snuka, Muraco had already won the championship when he fell out of the cage. But no one remembers that. Especially, Mick Foley, who was in the crowd that night.
A teenaged Mick Foley was so impressed by Snuka’s feat that he devoted a career to performing acts of self-destruction that apparently seemed like a good idea at the time.
Foley wasn't the only one influenced by this jump. It is without doubt the grandfather of every crazy, extreme high flying, death defying move that has followed it. It may not seem like much now, but at the time, it was mind blowing.prevnext
The coconut smash
One of the most iconic moments in wrestling history happened in 1984 when Roddy Piper made himself the greatest heel in the business by completely degrading Jimmy Snuka in one of the most racially insensitive angles imaginable. Of course, that was the point. Piper's over the top racism was sadly pretty standard for the early 80s, but when he cracked Snuka over the head with a coconut and then began to whip him with his belt, saying "come on boy", there was no man more hated in the wrestling business. Snuka allowing this to happen helped elevate Roddy Piper to the kind of top level villain that could make a crowd want to pay good money to see his demise. According to Snuka, the whole thing was improvised:
“Well, first of all I have to tell you when he hit me over the head with that coconut we hadn’t planned it; he just did it out of the blue,” Snuka said. “Roddy was a real character, and with me coming from the Fiji Islands, he was teasing me about eating bananas, pineapples, then from nowhere he picks up the coconut and just hits me around the head.”prevnext
WrestleMania Main Event
While not an in-ring participant in the first ever WrestleMania main event, Jimmy Superfly Snuka was selected as Hulk Hogan's enforcer and number two babyface for a reason. In 1984, Superfly was still a huge draw and his feud with Piper only added more fuel to the fire between the two teams. When Piper's illegally casted right hand man, Bob Orton, tried to get involved in the match, Superfly sprung to action and became the equalizer that the Hulkster needed to pick up the victory for himself and Mr. T.
I highly recommend going back and watching this match on the WWE Network to see where it all began and appreciate just how far the WWE has come.prevnext
The Undertaker's Debut
Not all iconic moments are victories. The Undertaker's historic Mania winning streak began with a WrestleMania contest against the legendary Superfly at WrestleMania VII in 1991. While Snuka was past his prime, he still carried enough weight and respect to make Taker's victory all the more impressive for its time. Every legend passes the torch to an emerging star on his way out, and when Snuka found himself on the wrong end of the Tombstone, he blowing out his torch so that the Phenom's could shine brighter.prev