When “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka took that leap of faith off the steel cage onto rival Don Muraco before a sold-out Madison Square Garden, it changed the game.
In 1984, high-flying moves weren’t as prevalent in WWE as they are today. The historic visual helped inspire the likes of Mick Foley -- who was there that night as a fan in the crowd -- to pursue their dreams. Then there were other iconic moments with Snuka including his appearances on Piper’s Pit and his participation in the first WrestleMania.
Looking beyond his controversial life outside the ring, it’s hard to deny Snuka made an undeniable mark in pro wrestling. That was evident when reaction flooded social media from family, colleagues and fans after news on Sunday (Jan. 15) of his passing broke. They mourned the loss of a charismatic Tarzan-like figure who contributed to WWE’s explosion in popularity in the 1980s.
Even in the decade that followed, Snuka made an impact. The WWE Hall of Famer was the first victim and set the tone of what would become The Undertaker’s undefeated streak at WrestleMania. The Pacific Islander also played an integral part of the early days of ECW, becoming its first champion.
Growing up, I never really got to see Snuka in his heyday. So I was happy to be there live in 2009 when he joined Roddy Piper and Ricky Steamboat to face Chris Jericho at WrestleMania 25 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Those few minutes gave viewers one last look of man in leopard print..in his element.
I spoke to Snuka three years ago ahead of the autobiography, “Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story.” It was an enjoyable conversation, helped along by his wife Carole, who was there for him through some tough times.
I will always remember feeling excited hearing Snuka’s trademark, “Brudda” during the course of the question-and-answer. Thanks to an appearance later on at a Florida Supercon event, I was able to hear it in person. He was appreciative and complimentary about the story I wrote. I know because he gave me a “Scott, Thank you brudda.”
His legacy in WWE currently lives through daughter Tamina, a WWE Superstar.
“I’m very grateful to my daughter for keeping her name on the list there,” Snuka told me during our conversation.
“I’m really proud of her. She really surprises me at times when she is in there. I get tears in my eyes. That’s the love that I have for her. It’s a beautiful trademark brudda.”
Snuka died in South Florida on Sunday (Jan. 15), according to reports, because of complications from his ongoing medical problems. He was 73.
- Pro Wrestling On The Web