Wrestler Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka has died. The wrestler known for his high-flying leap off the ring’s top rope that flattened his opponents passed away on Sunday, January 15, 2017 at the age of 73.
Actor and former wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced Snuka’s death on behalf of his family. The World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. also confirmed Snuka’s death on its website. Snuka’s family did not release the cause of death.
Snuka’s health took a turn for the worse in recent years. He suffered from a bout of stomach cancer in 2015 and underwent intensive surgery in which three-quarters of his stomach, several lymph nodes and a piece of his large intestine were removed. He had also been diagnosed with dementia and showed signs of a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTC is an Alzheimer’s-like neuro degenerative disease associated with repeated hits to the head.
Snuka was placed in home hospice care in October of 2016 and moved to in-hospital hospice care at Broward Medical North near his home in Florida on December 17. Snuka was taken Sunday to his son-in-law’s home near Pompano Beach, FL, so that he could spend his last moments there.
Snuka’s “Superfly Splash” leap from the top turnbuckle helped catapult the Fiji-born wrestler to fame in the World Wrestling Federation in the 1980’s. He was later inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Snuka’s death comes 12 days after a Lehigh County, PA, judge dropped third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges against him in the 1983 death of his ex-girlfriend, Nancy Argentino. The case was dismissed after the defense said Snuka had dementia, was in hospice care in Florida and had six months to live. At a hearing last month to re-evaluate his mental fitness, Snuka’s wife told the judge that the family struggled to keep him from leaving home during bouts of psychosis in which he thinks he’s late for a wrestling match.
Argentino’s death has been a cold case for decades. On May 10, 1983, she was found unresponsive in a hotel room in Allentown, PA, where the WWF taped its matches. Snuka called paramedics, but he was gone once they arrived. Argentino was pronounced dead a few hours later. Her family won a wrongful death suit against Snuka in 1985, but authorities didn’t charge him in the death. Her family contacted the Lehigh County District Attorney and asked him to examine Snuka’s 2012 memoir, “Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story”. A grand jury reviewed excerpts and decided to press charges. Snuka was charged in September 2015, 32 years after Argentino’s death.
Snuka was one of 50 former wrestlers named as plaintiffs in a July 2016 lawsuit against the WWE for long-term brain damage they say was incurred during their wrestling careers.
To read more about Jimmy Snuka, here is his Wikipedia page.
Here is a clip of the WWE’s Great Leaps of Faith No. 2: “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka splashes Don Muraco…
Photo: Wikipedia/Paparazoo Photography