The man known to the WWE Universe as “Superfly” built a career spanning four decades on his aerial acumen and fearlessness. Snuka brought attitude to the altitude above ringside by routinely defying gravity to attain an edge over his rivals. The Fiji native didn’t just ascend the ropes to get to the top of his profession — he did it better than anyone who came before him.
It was a thing of beauty when Snuka successfully rose above his opponents, just as he did in defeating Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat for the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship in 1979. His perfect Superfly Splash on Don Muraco from the top of a 15-foot steel cage on October 17, 1983 left an indelible mark on the WWE Universe — especially for Mick Foley and others sitting in the Madison Square Garden crowd that day.
Of course, there’s a reason they’re called high-risk maneuvers. Snuka learned that the hard way on June 28, 1982 at MSG when his Superfly Splash from the top of the 15-foot steel cage missed WWE Champion Bob Backlund. He was reminded again at WrestleMania VII when a mistimed slingshot moved Snuka into the record books as the first casualty of The Undertaker’s undefeated streak on The Grandest Stage of Them All.
The erratic Superstar could find himself in larger-than-life moments away from the WWE ring as well. In one of the most legendary editions of Piper’s Pit, Snuka stood up to one of his greatest rivals, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, before Hot Rod infamously smashed a coconut on Snuka’s head. He also holds the distinction of being the first World Heavyweight Champion in Eastern Championship Wrestling history — a company that would one day embrace hardcore action as Extreme Championship Wrestling.
WWE enshrined Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka into the Hall of Fame in 1996, but his induction by Muraco didn’t signal the Polynesian Superstar’s retirement. He returned to the ring at Taboo Tuesday in 2003, stood in Sgt. Slaughter’s corner for 2007’s Vengeance: Night of Champions and battled Chris Jericho at the 25th Anniversary of WrestleMania – a quarter of a century after Snuka stood in Hulk Hogan’s corner at the inaugural WrestleMania.
For all of his achievements, today’s Superstars can thank Snuka for simply proving that the sky’s the limit for WWE greatness.