Name: Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka
Year Inducted: 2012

Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka

“Well, brutha, the most important thing is my wrestling. I love it. I enjoy it. I love to meet the people, especially when I travel around the world. The most important part of my wrestling career is that I love the business of it. I love it,” Jimmy Snuka once said.

That love was reciprocated by fans around the world. Few stars of the 1980s were as iconic as Snuka, who along with Hulk Hogan was considered one of two top babyfaces in the WWF at the height of its national expansion.

Snuka’s athletic moves and superfly splash from the top turnbuckle every night in the 1970s and 1980s were a forerunner of the high-flying style that took over in the 1990s. “Well, I guess I created it all for them, brutha, you know and I love it,” Snuka said. “I love it because I guess I’m a role model, you know, and everyone wants to follow you.”

The 6’0”, 250-pound Snuka was born James Reiher (since legally changed to Snuka) on May 18, 1943 on the island of Fiji in the South Pacific. His family migrated first to the Marshall Islands, then to Hawaii when he was 11 years old. Attending school for the first time, he struggled in his new home, entertaining tourists at the Polynesian Cultural Centre with his fire and knife dances and falling into the bodybuilding culture. While training for competitions, such as Mr. Hawaiian Island and Mr. Waikiki, and playing rugby, he met a lot of the wrestlers in Dean Higuchi’s gym, known at various times as Dean’s Gym, the Power House and the Health Studio of Hawaii.

His first territory was the Pacific Northwest, where the raw rookie did feats of strength, Fijian dances, and tricks such as opening pop bottles with his teeth or arm wrestling over a burning candle to downplay his lack of training. Soon he was traveling from territory to territory, learning how to captivate (or enrage) a crowd like few others ever have.

The Snuka-Roddy Piper feud started with an unforgettable coconut to Snuka’s head during a Piper’s Pit segment. This segment was a large part of the underlying excitement for the main event of the firstWrestleMania, where Superfly was in the corner for Hulk Hogan and Mr. T as they battled Piper and PaulOrndorff, who had Bob Orton in their corner.

In and out of the WWF/WWE throughout the decades, Snuka carved such a legacy that he was brought back, at age 64, to team with Ricky Steamboat and Piper against Chris Jericho in a legends match at WrestleMania25. Two of his own children took to the ring as well, with his son, Sim, working in the WWE as Deuce, and his daughter as WWE Diva Tamina.

 

- Greg Oliver



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