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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Heel Turns: Remembering the Superfly

Posted by Achilles Heel On January 16

Achilles HeelOne of the most remarkable aspects of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s amazing career is how late it began. Snuka, who died Sunday at age 73, didn’t make the transition from bodybuilding until the latter half of his 20s. He was in his mid-30s by the time he appeared on the national radar by joining the NWA’s Mid-Atlantic promotion.

By the time Snuka exploded onto the scene in WWE (then the WWF), he was 38 years old. At that age, many wrestlers are on the downside of their careers. But Snuka was hitting his peak.

His feuds with the Magnificent Muraco and Roddy Piper are legendary. Snuka’s leap onto Muraco from the top of the steel cage in Madison Square Garden (video) and the Piper’s Pit in which Piper busts a coconut over Snuka’s head (video) are two of the most memorable moments in wrestling history.

Snuka’s legacy, however, is tarnished by the events of May 10, 1983. After a television taping in Allentown, Snuka called for an ambulance. When paramedics arrived at his hotel room, they found his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, badly injured. After being taken to the hospital, she died from head injuries.

Snuka, who maintained that Argentino’s injuries were suffered during a fall, was not charged initially in the case. But 32 years later, Snuka was charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. The charges were dismissed on Jan. 3 because, according to the judge, Snuka, who was in hospice care and, according to his attorney, suffering from dementia, was not mentally fit to stand trial.

Argentino’s death, along with a 1984 sting in a rehabilitation facility, may have contributed to the fact that Snuka never won a championship while in WWE. The lack of gold did not prevent Snuka from being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996 (Muraco gave the induction speech).

Despite not winning championships, Snuka made an enormous impact in WWE. It’s difficult – even for someone as talented as the Greek God of Wrestling – to describe how captivating Snuka was when he burst onto the WWE scene. Nobody turned the channel when Snuka was on the screen.

The Superfly, managed by Capt. Lou Albano, was presented as a barely-under-control savage. With his bare feet and leopard-style spotted or tiger-style striped trunks, Snuka projected an animal magnetism. His intensity, both in the ring and in his, at times, nonsensical interviews, added to his lure and mystery.

And then there was the Superfly splash. It’s routine these days for wrestlers to leap off the top rope. But it wasn’t routine when Snuka started doing it. The crowd would tingle with anticipation as Snuka climbed to the top turnbuckle. He would pause at the top for dramatic effect, and then leap from the top turnbuckle, squashing his opponent with the impact.

Snuka was not a small man. He packed a lot of muscle onto his 5-foot-10-inch frame. His Superfly splashes, like his matches, were an incredible combination of power and agility.

The fans loved Snuka so much that he became a fan favorite. The fans would boo Albano, yet cheer Snuka. Achilles Heel remembers a match against WWF champion Bob Backlund at the Spectrum in which Snuka defied Albano by refusing to use illegal tactics. If he was going to win the title, he wanted to win it fair and square.

Snuka never won that title, or any others in WWE (although he won numerous championships in promotions around the United States). He also never had a career-defining WrestleMania moment. At the first WrestleMania Snuka was in the corner of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T for the main event against Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff. But Snuka was already 42 years old. He later was the first victim in the Undertaker’s legendary WrestleMania winning streak, but he never had the memorable WrestleMania match to add to his legacy.

But Snuka didn’t need a WrestleMania moment to cement his legacy. He had already established himself as a wrestling legend.

Yes, Snuka may have achieved even greater heights if he had started his career at a younger age or if he had been born late enough to play a larger role in the early WrestleMania era, but the Superfly left an indelible mark on the professional wrestling industry.

To paraphrase Albano, Snuka was often imitated, but never duplicated.

There was only one Superfly Jimmy Snuka.

*****

CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: The two-night United Kingdom Championship Tournament was another unique presentation on WWE Network. Like last summer’s Cruiserweight Classic, the UK Tournament was different from the “regular” WWE shows.

The winner was 19-year-old Tyler Bate, who defeated Pete Dunne in the tournament final. That’s quite an accomplishment for someone so young.

Local fans may know Bate as half of CHIKARA’s Campeonatos de Parejas, which means tag team champions. Bate and Trent Seven, known as Moustache Mountain, won the titles last August in Philadelphia. Bate will likely have to give up his CHIKARA title.

The plan is for WWE to produce a regular show focused on British wrestling. Obviously, Bate will play an important role in that show.

*****

EMBIID TO WWE? Everyone had a good time this past week with a fan creating a Joel Embiid entrance on WWE 2017, and then Embiid doing Triple H’s water-spitting entrance before Friday’s win over the Hornets. Triple H even acknowledged the gesture and offered Embiid tips on how to improve the entrance. This will all be wonderful until Triple H ropes Embiid into making an appearance with WWE. Then Sixers fans might not find the notion of their often-injured franchise player involved with WWE to be so amusing .

*****

WAR OF WORLDS IN PHILLY: Tickets go on sale this week for Ring of Honor’s War of the Worlds Tour, which comes to Philadelphia’s 2300 Arena on Sun., May 14. The tour features wrestlers from Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Tickets go on sale Wednesday for Ringside Club members, and on Friday for the general public. The 2300 event will be a television taping.

*****

KING AND CASTLE: Although there are a few months until Supercard of Honor XI on April 1 in Lakeland, Fla., Ring of Honor has already announced that Dalton Castle will challenge Adam Cole for the world title. The flamboyant Castle, the winner of the 2015 Top Prospect Tournament, has complemented his personality with a tough in-ring style.

Cole has some obstacles to overcome before reaching Supercard of Honor with the title. He is involved in some tag team events in early February in Texas, but must defend the title against Bobby Fish on March 4 in Manhattan. It’s likely that Cole will also have to defend the world title on March 10 at Ring of Honor’s 15th anniversary show in Las Vegas.

*****

DESERVING CHAMPION: It’s difficult to believe that Chris Jericho never won the United States Championship until last Monday on Raw. It doesn’t matter how Jericho won. What’s important is that he won.

Jericho has been incredible during the past year. Winning the championship is a well-deserved reward for a fantastic performer.

*****

UNDERTAKER RETURNS: As Achilles Heel suggested would happen in last week’s Heel Turns, the Undertaker declared last week on Raw that he will enter the Royal Rumble. The Undertaker is added to an impressive field that currently includes Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler, Braun Strowman, Chris Jericho, Baron Corbin, The Miz, Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods. Lesnar is scheduled to be on Raw this week (tonight).

*****

RUMBLE RUNDOWN: In addition to the Royal Rumble match, the Royal Rumble includes Kevin Owens defending the WWE Universal Championship against Roman Reigns (with Chris Jericho suspended above the ring in a shark cage), A.J. Styles defending the WWE World Championship against John Cena, Charlotte Flair defending the Raw Women’s Championship against Bayley, and Rich Swann defending the WWE Cruiserweight Championship against Neville. That’s a stacked lineup!

*****

OMEGA’S OPPORTUNITY: Speculation continues that Kenny Omega, coming off an awesome match at Wrestle Kingdom 11 in Tokyo, will be coming to WWE. The two contributing factors to the rumors are Omega announcing he is taking a break to consider future opportunities and John Cena sending out tweets alluding to Omega.

*****

TAG TEAM COLLISION COURSE: Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa have been fighting champions. After winning the NXT Tag Team Championship over The Revival (Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder) in a 2-out-of-3-falls match at Takeover: Toronto that many consider to be one of the best matches in 2016, Gargano and Ciampa have defended the titles numerous times against top teams.

They beat Akira Tozawa and Tajiri in Japan and TM61 in their home country of Australia. They beat The Revival again last week on NXT’s regular Wednesday show on WWE Network, resulting in a match against Authors of Pain (Akam and Rezar), winners of the 2016 Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic, at Takeover: San Antonio on Nov. 28.

NXT Takeover: San Antonio will also feature Shinsuke Nakamura defending the NXT Championship against Bobby Roode. Asuka will defend the NXT Women’s Championship in a fatal four-way with Nikki Cross, Billy Kay and Peyton Royce.

*****

GACY RETAINS: Joe Gacy successfully retained the Combat Zone Wrestling Championship on Saturday by defeating Rickey Shane Page at CZW Awaking at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees. CZW will return to Flyers Skate Zone on Feb. 11 for CZW Eighteen.

*****

YOUNG LIONS IN PHILY: The Young Lions Cup Tournament will highlight CHIKARA’s first event of 2016, which will take place at CHIKARA’s Wrestle Factory as part of National Pro Wrestling Day.

*****

FAMILY AFFAIR: The Greek God of Wrestling wishes WWE had allowed the Wyatt Family to hold the Tag Team Championship for a longer period of time before moving to the inevitable breakup storyline.

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