More than four decades after he began diving off the top rope, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka is still setting his sights high. In fact, the 69-year-old wrestling legend’s latest goal is about as lofty as they come.
Snuka wants to end the Undertaker’s streak.
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“I’m going to let him know right now,” Snuka said in his recognizably raspy voice. “I’m the guy that’s going to break that record.”
It’s been 22 years since the “Deadman” kicked off his storied WrestleMania win streak by beating Snuka at WrestleMania VII in Los Angeles. In what turned out to be one of the most historically significant defeats of his career, Snuka knew he had been in the ring with somebody special.
“It was a pleasure for me to do that, because I knew he was going to become somebody,” Snuka said. “He’s such a wonderful guy — really down to earth and everything. By me looking at his character and everything, brother, I loved it. It was totally different.”
And as The Undertaker prepares to extend his record to 21-0 at WrestleMania XXIX this April in New Jersey — Snuka’s home state — “The Superfly” thinks it only makes sense for “The Streak” to end as it began.
“If it ever gets back to the WWE, they’re going to say, ‘You know, you’re right,’” said Snuka, who still competes on the independent circuit, in part to stay in shape if he ever gets the call. “I miss all the WrestleManias. I would love to be in it, brother.”
The WWE Hall of Famer has been doing a lot of reflecting lately. His autobiography, “Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story” was recently released by Triumph Books. In it, Snuka candidly discusses his 44-year wrestling career. No subject was off limits, including the mysterious 1983 death of Snuka’s girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, in a Pennsylvania hotel room.
“I wanted to be honest about it, and everything is in the book,” Snuka said. “She was a very good friend and I was very sad that this happened.”
The book details Snuka’s rise from a boy growing up in the Pacific Islands to becoming a bona fide wrestling sensation in the early 1980s. Rumors have long circulated that Snuka was originally in line for the championship push that instead went to Hulk Hogan during WWE’s national expansion. Still, Snuka said he has no regrets.
“It’s like this, my brother: If it’s meant to be, then it will be. But it wasn’t meant to be. So it didn’t be,” said Snuka, who holds no ill will toward Hogan. “I can’t be mad at this guy. It’s not my way.”
Snuka left WWE in 1985 and returned four years later with plenty of fanfare. But, once again, a big money run at the top of the cards eluded him, and Snuka was relegated to the midcard. Snuka said he didn’t let it get to him.
“You can’t control the business, because they’re the ones that bring you in and pay you,” Snuka said. “I’m not a glory guy about anything. I just wanted to work to support my family.”
That family includes two children who followed in his footsteps — his son, Jimmy Jr., who once wore the WWE Tag Team Championship as Domino; and his daughter, current WWE Diva Tamina.
Snuka said he was proud to help train his kids, but insisted that they first go to college and earn an education. When the time was right, Snuka lay down in the ring and had his daughter jump off the bottom rope and splash him. He then moved further into the middle of the ring, and had her do it again — this time off the middle rope.
“Then, after that, I said, ‘Now this is the main one that you have to feel. Once you accomplished this one, you got it,'” said Snuka, recalling moving into the center of the ring—and then moving a little further. “Brother, she splashed me. I was very surprised that she went that far.”
Snuka said he couldn’t be any prouder of his children, and still dreams of one day teaming with his son and daughter in a six-man tag team match in the WWE.
Snuka said today’s WWE stars could learn a lot from his generation of wrestlers.
“Back in the old-school days when I learned back in the '60s, the psychology of our business back in those days was totally different than the psychology of the young kids today,” said Snuka, adding that part of the problem is wrestlers being given very little time in the ring to develop their craft. “They’re rushed. They don’t have their timing down. Us old-school guys, we’d go 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour.”
One WWE superstar that Snuka still enjoys watching is the man who calls him, “Uncle Jimmy” — The Rock. Snuka said he took great pride in helping a young Dwayne Johnson learn the ropes. And for all Johnson’s Hollywood success, Snuka said he’s not surprised to see The Rock return to the family business.
“This kid is always going to come back, because he loves it. It’s in his heart, brother,” Snuka said. “Take a good look at him. Watch his eyes. They’ll tell you how much he loves this business.”