The Tragic Details About Jimmy Snuka

WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka was known in the pro wrestling world for popularizing the airborne style used by so many other wrestlers of subsequent generations. His signature move, the Superfly Splash (seen at YouTube) is now so common in wrestling matches that you're probably surprised to find out that someone actually had to invent it. "His dive off the top of the steel cage onto Don Muraco at Madison Square Garden as hundreds of flash bulbs went off will forever live as one of the most memorable moments in WWE history," reads his official WWE obituary.

Snuka, whose real name was James Reiher, was born in Fiji, grew up in Hawaii, and also lived in Camden County, New Jersey. After a successful stint as a bodybuilder, he started working as a professional wrestler in the 1970s and made his WWE debut in 1982, helping the organization on its skyrocket rise in popularity with his high-flying antics. According to Sportskeeda, he had an iconic feud with another legendary egomaniac, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, and was defeated by The Undertaker at WrestleMania VII, becoming the first vanquished opponent in that renowned wrestler's unforgettable 21-victory run of undefeated matches known in the WWE universe as simply "The Streak." Although Snuka would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996, one incident from the early '80s would mar his reputation until his death in 2017.

Did Jimmy Snuka kill his girlfriend back in 1983?

Just before losing his years-long battle with cancer in January 2017, Jimmy Snuka had avoided being put on trial for what prosecutors said was the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, who was found dead in their hotel room in Pennsylvania in 1983. According to NBC News, her death had initially been ruled an accident. Snuka always maintained his innocence, claiming she had died from a drunken fall, but Argentino's family wasn't buying it. After investigators determined that her death was accidental, her family slapped Snuka with a wrongful death suit. The wrestler, who developed a drug problem after Nancy's death, reportedly told her family that he did not have the money to pay them the civil judgement of $500,000.

After the local newspaper looked into Argentino's death once again in 2013, investigators reopened the case. However, NBC reported the year before his death that Snuka was "a broke, grayhaired shell of a man ... his body battered by cancer and his mind crippled by what his wife and lawyers say is dementia brought on by brain trauma related to decades of high-velocity, crowd-pleasing collisions with opponents — and inanimate objects like the coconut that rival Roddy Piper once smashed against Snuka's head." Prosecutors accused Snuka of faking it (he was a professional wrestler, after all), but the judge in the case did not agree, ruling that the former "Superfly" superstar seemed "vacant" and "leadable."

Jimmy Snuka always maintained his innocence

Snuka went to his grave averring that he'd had nothing to do with the death of Nancy Argentino. "Many terrible things have been written about me hurting Nancy and being responsible for her death, but they are not true," he wrote in his 2012 autobiography Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story. He said her death haunted him for decades afterwards. "To this day, I get nasty notes and threats. I never hit Nancy or threatened her. I never wanted to harm her." Snuka said that they both struggled with drugs and alcohol, but that day they had only been drinking. "That day she fell on the concrete ... She fell by accident and I didn't realize how bad she was hurt."

But he didn't come away completely guilt-free. Despite not being directly responsible for her death, he still blamed himself for not getting her the help she needed in time. "I feel terrible that I didn't get her checked out by a doctor sooner ... I felt really bad, and it's been hard every day since."

Still, not everyone was buying it. After fellow wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson mourned Snuka's death on Twitter with Samoan words of condolence, some followers responded with comments like, "Is that Fijian for 'I got away with it'?" and "One less murderer in the world." No matter what your opinion of Superfly was, his influence on the sport he loved was undeniable and endures to this day.