Jimmy Snuka

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Jimmy Snuka
Jimmy Snuka in 1981 at a wrestling event in the Maple Leaf Gardens arena in Toronto, Canada.
Birth name James Wiley Reiher
Born (1943-05-18) May 18, 1943 (age 72)[1]
Resides Clifton, New Jersey, United States
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Jimmy Snuka[1]
Jimmy Kealoha[1]
Lani Kealoha[1]
Tami Snuka[1]
The Superfly[1]
Big Snuka[1]
Silver Shadow[1]
Billed height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Billed weight 250. lb (113 kg)
Billed from The Fiji Islands[2]
Trained by Danny Hodge[2]
Debut 1969[1]

James Wiley Reiher (born May 18, 1943), better known by the ring name Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, is a Fijian semi-retired professional wrestler and actor. He is signed with WWE, working in their Legends program. Snuka wrestled for several promotions in the 1970s and 1980s. Snuka was the first ECW World Heavyweight Champion and held the title on two occasions. He is best known for his time in the (WWE) World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in the early to mid-1980s and is credited with introducing the high-flyer style of wrestling to the WWF.[2] His children, Jimmy Reiher, Jr. and Tamina Snuka, are also wrestlers.

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Early career[edit]

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] While working at Dean Ho's gym in Hawaii, Snuka met many of the wrestlers who worked in the South Pacific region and decided to try the sport.[3] Snuka made his debut as Jimmy Kealoha fighting Maxwell "Bunny" Butler in Hawaii in 1970.[5] He later moved to the mainland and wrestled for Don Owen’s NWA Pacific Northwest territory where he held the belt as Heavyweight Champion six times.[5] He first won the title by pinning Bull Ramos on November 16, 1973.[5] It was in this territory, that Reiher transformed himself into Jimmy Snuka. Snuka also held the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championship six times with partner Dutch Savage. Snuka also had a two-year feud with another rookie, Jesse "The Body" Ventura.

Snuka also wrestled in several other National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) regions, including Texas. In 1977, he won both the Texas Heavyweight and Tag Team titles. Snuka then left for the Mid-Atlantic where he formed a tag team with Paul Orndorff. In their first television match they defeated the NWA World Tag Team Champions Jack and Jerry Brisco in a non-title bout. Orndorff and Snuka defeated Baron von Raschke and Greg Valentine to become the tag team title holders in 1979. On September 1, 1979, Snuka defeated Ricky Steamboat to hold the United States title. Snuka also formed a tag team with Ray Stevens while with this promotion. His career eventually led him to Georgia, where he teamed with Terry Gordy to win the NWA National Tag Team Champions by defeating Ted DiBiase and Steve Olsonoski.

World Wrestling Federation (1982–1985)[edit]

In January 1982, Snuka entered the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as a villainous character under the guidance of Captain Lou Albano. Snuka lost several title shots at WWF Champion Bob Backlund, including 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.[6] The contest would be declared Match of the Year by Pro Wrestling Illustrated.[6]

Even though Snuka was a villain, 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 with the help of "Classy" Freddie Blassie's newest arrival, Snuka's former tag team partner Ray Stevens. The attack solidified Snuka's new role as a fan favorite seeking to settle the score. Snuka brought in his former manager from the Mid-Atlantic territory, "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers and embarked on a mixture of tag and singles matches against Stevens and Albano across the region.

Snuka also feuded 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. 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 afterward he dragged Muraco back into the ring and connected with the most famous Superfly Splash of his career, off the top of the 15-foot (4.6 m) high steel cage.[7] 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.[7] Snuka was named the 1983 Wrestler of the Year by Victory Magazine (soon to be renamed WWF Magazine) for his efforts.

In June 1984, Snuka became embroiled in an intense feud with one of the WWF's top villains, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. In a segment of Piper's Pit, Piper brought bananas, pineapples, and coconuts to the interview to make Snuka "feel more at home" but said he did not get a tree for Snuka to "climb and down like a monkey." Piper then proceeded to smash a coconut on his head when he turned his back momentarily. The attack led to a series of 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 defeated Orton at The War to Settle the Score and put Orton's left arm in a cast for over a year (although, the injury healed in real life long before, Orton continued to wear the cast). 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)[edit]

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 split his time between the AWA and Japan throughout 1986 and 1987. His most notable feud in the AWA during that time was with Colonel 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.

Return to WWF (1989–1992)[edit]

Snuka re-emerged in the WWF at WrestleMania V on April 2, 1989. He made his televised return to action on the May 27 episode of Saturday Night's Main Event, defeating Boris Zhukov.[8] After a brief feud with The Honky Tonk Man, Snuka made his in-ring pay-per-view debut at SummerSlam '89 against "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase. Snuka lost the match by count-out as a result interference from DiBiase's bodyguard Virgil, though he gained a measure of revenge after the match by knocking DiBiase to the floor and hitting Virgil with the Superfly Splash.

By the later part of 1989, Snuka was put into a spot like many veterans before him, being used to help put over other rising stars such as "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig. At the Survivor Series, Snuka and Hennig were each the final remaining members of their opposing teams, with Hennig pinning Snuka to win the match for his team.[9] In January 1990, Snuka made his Royal Rumble match debut, lasting 17 minutes and eliminating two competitors before being eliminated by the eventual winner, Hulk Hogan. Snuka had his first WrestleMania match at WrestleMania VI, where he was defeated by Rick Rude.[10] When the Intercontinental Championship was vacated after WrestleMania, Snuka entered the tournament to crown a new champion. He would be eliminated in the first round when he once again lost to Mr. Perfect. At that November's Survivor Series, Snuka joined Jake Roberts and The Rockers in a losing effort against Rick Martel, The Warlord and Power and Glory.

On March 24, 1991, Snuka was defeated by The Undertaker at WrestleMania VII, which began The Undertaker's undefeated streak at WrestleMania.[11] In January 1992, he competed in the Royal Rumble for the vacant WWF Championship, but lasted only 3 minutes before being eliminated by The Undertaker. Snuka left the WWF soon after, his last recorded match being a loss to Shawn Michaels on February 8, 1992.

Eastern Championship Wrestling (1992–1994)[edit]

After leaving the WWF in March 1992, Snuka 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 was later taken over by Paul Heyman, who renamed it Extreme Championship Wrestling.

Semi-retirement (1996–present)[edit]

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. On August 15, 1997, Snuka wrestled The Masked Superstar at the IWA Night of the Legends show in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Snuka won the match via disqualification when his opponent hit special guest referee Rick Steamboat.[12][13]

During the later half of the 1990s, Snuka appeared for both major wrestling promotions, the WWF and World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He would make periodic appearances for the WWF, such as competing at the 1996 Survivor Series, he received an standing ovation at this event. Snuka received a lifetime achievement award from WWE (formerly the WWF) 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.

On June 22, 2002, Snuka won the International Wrestling Superstars (IWS) United States Championship by pin fall against King Kong Bundy in Atlantic City, New Jersey, proving to the world that he could still fly.

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 Superstar 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. On July 1, 2006, Jimmy Snuka wrestled for 1PW's Fight Club 2 event where he teamed with Darren Burridge to defeat Stevie Lynn and Jay Phoenix.[14] A year later he appeared at the 2007 WWE draft edition of Raw in a vignette for Mr. McMahon appreciation night. On June 24, 2007, Snuka was introduced as Sgt. Slaughter's tag team partner in the open invitational match for the WWE Tag Team Championship at Vengeance, but he 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. Also in 2008 he trained Aloisia (wrestler) who would later appear on FCW and NXT.

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

On March 28, 2009, Snuka participated at a ICW "Night Of Legends" event edition of 2009, where he fought and defeated former rival Bob Orton, Jr.

On November 28, 2009, he teamed with his son at an NWA Upstate event. They faced the NWA Upstate Tag Team Champions Hellcat and Triple X in a non title match. The Snukas won the match via pinfall.

On November 15, 2010, Snuka made an appearance on an "old school" edition of Raw, where he stood by his daughter Tamina, in the corner of The Usos during their match against Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov.

In 2011, Jimmy Snuka competed at JCW: Icons and Legends event competing in a Battle Royal match won by Zach Gowen.

On May 11, 2014, Snuka teamed up with fellow wrestler, The Patriot, to defeat the team of Brodie Williams and Mr. TA at a Big Time Wrestling event.

Personal life[edit]

Snuka at the Top Rope Promotions event held in North Attleboro, Massachusetts on July 31, 2011

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. He also is the part-owner of Bodyslam University in South Florida and teaches there once a month. Snuka is also an avid poker player. He was at the Poker4Life tournament in New York City and raised $100,000 for the charity.

Nancy Argentino death[edit]

On May 10, 1983, a few hours after Snuka had performed at a WWF TV taping at the Lehigh County Agricultural Hall in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Snuka placed a call for an ambulance. When emergency personnel arrived at Snuka's room at the George Washington Motor Lodge, they found that Snuka’s girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, had been injured. She was transported to Allentown's Sacred Heart Medical Center, where she died shortly after of "undetermined craniocerebral injuries." The coroner's report stated that Argentino, 23, died of traumatic brain injuries consistent with a moving head striking a stationary object. Autopsy findings show Argentino suffered more than two dozen cuts and bruises — a possible sign of "mate abuse" — on her head, ear, chin, arms, hands, back, buttocks, legs and feet. Forensic pathologist Isidore Mihalakis, who performed the autopsy, wrote at the time that the case should be investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise. Deputy Lehigh County coroner Wayne Snyder later said, “Upon viewing the body and speaking to the pathologist, I immediately suspected foul play and so notified the district attorney."[15]

Snuka was the only suspect involved in the subsequent investigation. Although charges were never pressed against Snuka, the case was left officially open. In 1985, Argentino’s parents won a $500,000 default judgment against Snuka in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, PA. Snuka appears not to have ever paid, claiming financial inability to do so.[16] On June 28, 2013, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin announced that the still-open case would be reviewed by his staff.[15] On January 28, 2014, Martin announced that the case had been turned over to a grand jury.[17]

In wrestling[edit]

Snuka in a match against Bob Orton, Jr.
Snuka in a 2009 match against "Cowboy" Bob Orton
Snuka in 2009
Jimmy Snuka performs his characteristic pose at a wrestling show in Englewood, New Jersey, 2009.

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

  • East Coast Pro Wrestling
    • ECPW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[19]
  • International Wrestling Superstars
    • IWS United States Championship (1 time)
  • National Championship Wrestling
  • National Wrestling Federation
    • NWF Heavyweight Championship (1 time, last)[19]
  • Northeast Wrestling
    • NEW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[19]
  • Tri-States Wrestling
    • Tri-State Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • Universal Superstars of America
    • USA Heavyweight Championship (2 times)[19]
  • USA Pro Wrestling
    • USA Pro Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
  • Other titles
    • SXA United States of America Championship (1 time)


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.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Jimmy Snuka Profile". Online World Of Wrestling. Retrieved 2011-03-14. 
  2. ^ a b c d e ""Superfly" Jimmy Snuka's WWE Hall of Fame Profile". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  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 c http://www.jimmysnuka.com/bio.asp
  6. ^ a b Cawthon, Graham (2013). The History of Professional Wrestling: The Results WWF 1963–1989. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. p. 369. ISBN 978-1-4928-2597-5. 
  7. ^ a b Foley, Mick. Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks (p.34)
  8. ^ Cawthon, Graham (2013). The History of Professional Wrestling: The Results WWF 1963–1989. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. p. 762. ISBN 978-1-4928-2597-5. 
  9. ^ Cawthon, Graham (2013). The History of Professional Wrestling: The Results WWF 1963–1989. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. p. 797. ISBN 978-1-4928-2597-5. 
  10. ^ "Wrestlemania VI results". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 12 April 2009. 
  11. ^ "Wrestlemania VII results". World Wrestling Entertainment. Retrieved 20 December 2011. 
  12. ^ Apter, Bill. "Names Makin' News." Inside Wrestling. Holiday 1997: 9+.
  13. ^ Smith, Wes (August 17, 1997). "My Night with the Legends". Solie's Tuesday Morning Report (Solie.org) 3 (208). 
  14. ^ http://www.talkwrestlingonline.com/forum/showthread.php?31685-1PW-Fight-Club-2-Results-Dear-Jesus
  15. ^ a b http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/mc-allentown-jimmy-snuka-grand-jury-20130628,0,3913636.story
  16. ^ Muchnick, Irv. Wrestling Babylon: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal. pp. 125–131. 
  17. ^ http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-jimmy-snuka-girlfriend-death-grand-jury-20140128,0,967904,full.story
  18. ^ http://www.cagematch.net/?id=5&nr=887
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2000). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Foley, Mick (1999) Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks. ReganBooks. ISBN 0-06-039299-1.

External links[edit]