Search This Blog

Sunday, January 15, 2017

RIP Brudda

"Macho Man" Randy Savage..."Rowdy" Roddy Pipper..."Superfly" Jimmy Snuka.

They're all gone.

The Rock, Dwayne Johnson announced it on Twitter today:

Don't be so fast to dismiss this as another wrestler death. Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka made childhood that much better.

He was beloved in my home. My dad and I had season tickets to the World Wrestling Federation at the old Los Angeles Sports Arena. We would go every six weeks and sit ringside. My best friend Charlie was the Samoan. I was the Superfly. Snuka introduced me the the rigors of manipulating an audience. As a kid, you dreamed of having everyone in the room glued to your every word in the your future boardroom. He gave you the inspiration to take that into your life, albeit a more calm version.

He was mesmerizing and his interviews were legendary. When the mic was turned over to him, nothing could stop him. Don't believe me? Watch this tour de force from 1983:

I first caught a glimpse of him on Ted Turner's WTBS Georgia Championship Wrestling. He was a wild man who disrupted matches. They didn't let him speak muchbut then he met Vince McMahon.

The Superfly made the move to McMahon's World Wrestling Federation in 1982 as a heel (or bad guy), kicking off a memorable rivalry with champion Bob Backlund. Strangely enough, every had a tough time booing him and many were heartbroken (yes, I said heartbroken for a wrestling match) when he attempted the fame "Superfly Splash" off the top of the steel cage, with Backlund rolling out of the way just in time. I took the word of the announcers who claimed he was 25-feet above his prone opponent. I don't think I have recovered to this day when I discovered it was more like 10-feet.

Snuka did the heavy lifting in an era prior to Hulk-a-Mania as the World Wrestling Federation's biggest star. In the pre-Hulk Hogan days, he was selling out arenas and setting Saturday morning ratings records without even being champion - no small feat. He became national news with his most memorable moment (and possibly in the history of wrestling) after he turned into a fan favorite and was assaulted by "Rowdy" Roddy Piper on an episode of "Piper's Pit."

In one of the most infamous, racist segments to ever appear on television, Piper smashed a real coconut open on Snuka's head, then began to whip and yell superstar.

Through it all I was there, taking pictures at ringside and living and dying with every interview. I modeled my speeches after him and practiced speaking in front of a mirror because of him. I flew to Hawaii to visit Charles one year and convinced him to show me the Superfly's home, hoping to get a selfie with him before there was even such a thing. Alas he wasn't home.

I grew up and got a real job and a college degree and along with way listened to the girlfriends and people who ripped on fake wrestling. What they didn't know is that the Superfly was a real hero. To me at least. He taught me how to command a room and not look back. He taught me that when life smashes you with coconuts, you get up and persevere. Life takes perseverance. Snuka was at the forefront of that somehow. He was a mentor of a future Media Guy.

Today, at 73, James Reiher Snuka aka Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka is gone.

RIP Brudda.