Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka

Jimmy Snuka

A legend of professional wrestling.

His matches with Roddy Piper, Don Muraco and Bob Backlund rate as some of the greatest ever.

James Reiher (born May 18, 1943) is an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name of Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. Originially from the Fiji islands, Snuka wrestled for several wrestling promotions in the 1970s and 1980s, although he is best known for his time in the World Wrestling Federation in the early to mid 80s, where his high-flying style made him a superstar.

After making his debut in Hawaii in 1969, Snuka would move to Portland soon afterwards, where he won the Pacific Northwest Wrestling (PNW) Heavyweight title six times between 1971 and 1976 and the PNW Tag Team Championship six times along with partner Dutch Savage. Snuka would also wrestle in several other National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) regions, including Texas, Mid-Atlantic and Georgia. He popularized the "I Love You" sign language gesture, which he displayed as he jumped from the ropes in his signature move, which became so big among fans that promoters began loosening their ban of top-rope maneuvers as to accommodate Snuka's popularity.

In January 1982 Snuka entered the then-named World Wrestling Federation (WWF) as a heel under the guidance of Captain Lou Albano; Snuka received several title shots at WWF Champion Bob Backlund, the final match being a famous steel cage match in which Snuka leaped from the top of the cage, barely missing Backlund who managed to escape the cage for the win. Even though Snuka was a heel, the Northeast fans started to cheer on Snuka and his athletic style. Eventually, Snuka's manager, Lou Albano, arranged for a match with "Classy" Freddie Blassie's newest arrival, Snuka's former Mid Atlantic tag team partner Ray Stevens. The match was a setup as Stevens, Albano, and Blassie attacked Snuka, using his seashell-braided headband as a weapon to bust Snuka wide open. Then, the trio threw Snuka to the concrete floor where Stevens delivered a pair of piledrivers, leading to the speculation that Snuka's neck had been broken. Albano and Snuka had finally split ways and Snuka became a face. Albano and Blassie would lead Stevens into their feud as co-managers of The Crippler. Former Champion "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers entered the feud and became Snuka's manager, leading to numerous Stevens/Albano-Snuka/Rogers tag team matches across the region. Rogers had also managed Snuka in the Mid-Atlantic territory. Snuka became the top draw at the beginning of Vince McMahon's expansion and was a candidate for what would become Hulk Hogan's role in the company, but outside-the-ring ring issues and lack of mic skills relegated him to the midcard.

After a few months of recovery from the loss of his girlfriend, Snuka's most famous career moment occurred on October 17, 1983 when he fought longtime rival "Magnificent" Don Muraco in a steel cage match in Madison Square Garden in New York City. The match ended in a loss for the Superfly but he managed to drag Muraco back into the ring and this time connect with his most famous Superfly Splash ever off the top of the steel cage at MSG. This single act cemented Jimmy Snuka as the top WWF wrestler of 1983 as well as led the way for today's generation of high fliers in the squared circle. Years later, WWE superstar Mick Foley and ECW Star Tommy Dreamer were both in attendance at the event and both attribute this match as the reason they decided to aggressively pursue professional wrestling.

The following year began with another highlight in his career with his year-long feud with Roddy Piper. After a segment on Piper's Pit where Piper (who had brought bananas and coconuts to the interview to make Snuka "feel more at home") berated Jimmy by calling him a "big shot" and "monkey", Piper proceeded to smash a real coconut on Jimmy's head when he turned his back momentarily. This was followed by a beating with a belt and further humiliation before the WWF cut to a commercial. Their matches were played out over venues across the US-- and concluded with Snuka acting as a cornerman for Hulk Hogan and Mr. T against Piper and Paul Orndorff (with Bob Orton in their corner) at the first ever WrestleMania in 1985.

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 would split his time between the AWA and Japan throughout 1986 and 1987. His most notable feud in the AWA during that time was with Col. DeBeers, who refused to fight Snuka because of his race until he was able to sneak-attack Snuka by pushing him off the top rope onto the floor and administering several face-first piledrivers, leading the way for a series of grudge matches in 1987.

Like many aging veterans before him, Snuka re-emerged to the WWF in 1989 to help put over younger stars, like Curt Hennig and Rick Rude. In 1991, he was the also first PPV singles opponent for The Undertaker who would be a top contender in the company for many years to come, in part from Snuka letting The Undertaker destroy him at WrestleMania VII.

After leaving the WWF in 1991, Jimmy toured with various smaller organizations in the early 90's and played a role in the formation of Paul Heyman's ECW (Eastern Championship Wrestling) organization along with Don Muraco and Terry Funk. Snuka was ECW's first heavyweight champion and toured with the company in arguably the best shape of his life.

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 1990's and into the 2000's, including periodic appearances for the WWF. Snuka received a lifetime achievement award from the WWE in 2002 at Madison Square Garden and began to be thrust into skits by the WWE in 2004/2005.

In 2005, he appeared at the "WWE Homecoming", in which he delivered a Superfly Splash to Rob Conway with a ring full of legends at his side like Dusty Rhodes and 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 2005 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.

Snuka continues to work in nostalgia bits for WWE as well as work for U.S. independent shows and conventions well into his 60's and seems to have no plans to retire. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife Carol. (Credit: Wikipedia).


Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka official website

WWE Hall Of Fame - Jimmy Snuka

Australian Sports Entertainment - Jimmy Snuka profile


Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka


Madison Square Garden


Wrestling Legends



Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka and Paul "Mr Wonderful" Orndorff