Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, the legendary wrestler more recently charged with the 1983 death of his girlfriend, has died. He was 73. The case against Snuka was dismissed earlier this month after a judge ruled him incompetent to stand trial. His death was announced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
On May 10, 1983, Snuka was in Allentown, Pa, with Nancy Argentino to film an event for WWF. Snuka said he came back from a taping and found Argentino “gasping for air and oozing yellow fluid from her mouth and nose.” Snuka said Argentino had slipped on the side of the highway and hit her head, but Snuka’s own accounts of what happened that night varied depending on who he was talking to, and an autopsy report ruled her death a homicide. No charges were brought against Snuka—fueling decades of speculation, especially about what Vince McMahon knew—until a Morning Call report in 2013 published details from the autopsy report and police reports.
On Oct. 17, 1983, Snuka climbed to the top of the cage in Madison Square Garden and threw himself onto Don Muraco. It was one of the signature moments of his career, five months after Argentino’s death. The crowd cheered.
Snuka would go on to become a fixture of pro wresting although, as David Shoemaker points out in the Ringer, not on his own terms.
He had given his body and blood to win the fans’ admiration, but the WWF’s heyday cost him his dignity, positing him as a (literal) cartoon islander —a reversion to his original trope, this time for the entertainment of kids around the world.
The Morning Call spoke with Argentino’s two sisters, who said they got no closure from his death. Lorraine Salome told the paper they might have gotten justice if Snuka had been charged immediately but “there were so many blockades.”