Monday, July 8, 2013

Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story by Jimmy Snuka with Jon Chattman

Why I read it: I was 11 when the Superfly flew off the cage. How could I not tune in from that point on?

Summary: A first-person telling of the life of one of the greatest professional wrestling superstars in American history.

My Thoughts: Jimmy Snuka is not the man I thought I knew. And there's good and bad in that statement.

The Jimmy Snuka I knew was a hero, through the eyes of an 11-year-old. He battled Roddy Piper, for goodness sake, the most evil man on the planet (although even then, Piper made me laugh). He flew from the top of the turnbuckles, and more, from the top of the cage. He did things that made my jaw drop, things no other wrestler would dare try.

That was before I knew what was going on, before I understood it was all an act. Even after I did figure it out, I followed the Superfly as much as I could. I never understood why he dropped so low out of the WWF (now the WWE) picture. I read his name in results from Eastern Championship Wrestling, but, as there was no broadcasted program in the area where I lived, I didn't get to see him during those years.

Over the years I came to understand the roughness of life in professional wrestling, always on the road, often injured with no chance of an offseason to heal. I began to see that the life was split; definitely glamorous on the stage, tedious, even painful on the road. I watched the Von Erichs die, one by one, for instance, and inwardly winced every time one did. A sadness overwhelmed me at times for these men to whom I looked up as a child - obviously erroneously, but what the hell did I know?

With the Superfly, I just had no idea. Cocaine and drinking problems grounded him, caused him to make some bad decisions. He had been beaten as a child, had a terrible upbringing. Ho took steroids, although they weren't as villified in those days as they have become today. And I had no idea that he was involved in an incident with a girlfriend that preceded her death. She had cuts, bruises and major head trauma when the ambulance came for her. The case was never really closed. The question remains, does his story fly? Did she slip and hit her head, or was there physical abuse that led to her death?

I'm conflicted on him. He's made great strides to turn his life around and by many people's admissions is one of the kindest, gentlest people you'll ever want to meet - at least those people quoted in his book, who, of course, are a biased crowd. I can understand his humanity, and I even get the effect his childhood had on his adult life. But the whole Nancy Argentino story just troubles me, more deeply than I ever thought anything from that era would at this point in my life.

So Jimmy Snuka has hurt me, brudda (as he would say). I want to love him like I did as a kid, but don't know if I can any more. He's definitely a fallen hero in my eyes, but I'm not sure how far he's fallen.

(As a complete aside - I was interested in the story he told in the book of how Tommy Dreamer was the first wrestler to ever kick out of the Superfly splash. Finishers like that one are sacred; you don't just give them away easily. But the story is mistaken. Just Google Kevin Von Erich and Jimmy Snuka from the early 1980s, and you'll see Kevin kick out more than a decade earlier.)

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