Jimmy Snuka’s death on Sunday afternoon at the age of 73 brought great sadness not only to his old WWE colleagues and today’s crop of Superstars, but also to his many fans from around the world. One of those fans is Snuka’s fellow WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley, who has always credited “Superfly” for inspiring him to get into professional wrestling.
On Sunday night, Jimmy Snuka died after a long battle with stomach cancer, just one month and a half after the Allentown Morning Call reported that he was sick with an unspecified terminal illness and has only six months to live. Born as James Wiley Smith in Fiji in 1943, Snuka was first known as a bodybuilder and was already in his late-20s when he made his professional wrestling debut. He began his first run in WWE in 1982 as a heel character, but by 1983, he had transitioned to a babyface, or heroic role, and was feuding with the villainous Don Muraco for the Intercontinental Championship.
As a student at Cortland State University in 1983, 18-year-old Mick Foley hitchhiked to Madison Square Garden to watch his boyhood hero Snuka take part in a steel cage match against Muraco, with the Intercontinental belt on the line. In his 1999 autobiography, Have a Nice Day, Foley wrote about this youthful adventure of his, a life-changing event which triggered his desire to pursue a pro wrestling career, one where he witnessed Snuka perform a death-defying move – a leap from the top of the steel cage after he had lost the match and failed to gain the title from Muraco.
Aside from Foley, several other future WWE Superstars, including Bubba Ray Dudley and Tommy Dreamer, were at Madison Square Garden to watch the now-classic match live. Dudley and Dreamer have also credited Snuka vs. Muraco at MSG as the reason they went into professional wrestling, further establishing Snuka’s legacy as a wrestler who wasn’t afraid to sacrifice his body for the sake of putting together a quality match.
As one of the more eloquent names in the world of pro wrestling, as well as one who’s very active in social media, Mick Foley took to Facebook on Monday morning to post a lengthy, yet heart-felt tribute to Jimmy Snuka, whose death brought great sadness but also some mixed feelings to his fellow Hall of Famer.
In his post, Foley again referenced Snuka’s Madison Square Garden cage match against Muraco, calling Superfly’s top-of-the-cage leap as an example of “professional wrestling as (an) art.” He also put over Snuka’s ability to use his facial expressions and his eyes to connect with the fans, who reacted passionately even before that now-classic Superfly Splash off the top of the cage.
Foley, however, took some time to the proverbial elephant in the room in the light of Jimmy Snuka’s untimely death – the three-decade-plus-old allegations that the wrestler had been responsible for the death of his then-girlfriend, Nancy Argentino.
In 1983, Snuka was accused of physically assaulting Argentino, who died of her injuries after allegedly being left in her bed following the assault. The case was reopened in 2014 when it was found that Argentino, then only 23, died of traumatic brain injuries. According to People, homicide charges against Snuka were dropped earlier in January, seven months after he was determined to be mentally incompetent to stand trial due to his dementia.
“I have been asked many times to comment on the (Argentino murder allegations), but haven’t until now, simply because I didn’t know what to say,” wrote Foley. “I still don’t. I hope that the final judgment of Jimmy Snuka will take into account the kindness with which he treated both fans and friends and the love he had for family and close friends. But Jimmy will likely be remembered as much for that one terrible night as he will be for his magnificent career.”
In conclusion, Mick Foley expressed his desire to focus on the good things Snuka accomplished as a pro wrestler, and how the in-ring “art” that he created inspired him to have a dream and follow it.
“I would be a different man without the influence of Jimmy – a man without a dream. He was a true artist who inspired others to create moments that might stand the test of time – moments that might be remembered for years, decades even a lifetime. Thank you Jimmy Snuka for inspiring me.”
[Featured Image by Michael Buckner/Getty Images]