Book Review: “Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story”

This is a wrestling biography not many people know about. Hell, I didn’t know it existed. But it is truly amazing when you have a library card and do an online search with the call number 769.812…

I need to be honest up front: I was never a big Jimmy Snuka fan. By the time I became a wrestling fan, in 1989, Snuka was little more than a jobber on the WWF totem pole. Did he have an interesting look? Surely. Was he great in ring, or on the mic? I did not know, because by that point, Jimmy wasn’t getting much more than ten minutes in ring and maybe two or three in depth promos a year. My lasting memories of the man dubbed Superfly were of him inexplicably making an appearance at WrestleMania V; of him getting squashed at Mania VI by Rick Rude (although that match offered some funny commentary from Steve Allen of Tonight Show fame: “I like Snuka because he’s wearing my wife’s underpants.”); and of course, WrestleMania VII, as the man who initiated Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak.

Don’t get me wrong, as the years went along, I became smart to some of Snuka’s exploits. I was a BIG Mick Foley fan in the 1990’s, and WWF did a magnificent job of showing just how great an influence Jimmy Snuka was to a young Mickster, notably the match from 1983 against Don Muraco. When I started following ECW in the mid 1990’s, I became aware that Snuka was the first ever ECW Champion. I know, not the same ECW it would become, but it is still a historical tidbit.

I will state this though: I wish I could have experienced the Jimmy Snuka phenomenon as it was happening. Hell, even retroactively. It was just there were so many other goings on in the late 90’s/early 2000’s that had my undivided attention. It was just that Jimmy Snuka sort of fell through the cracks with me.

It was in that vein that I picked up Jimmy Snuka’s book from the library and was hoping for some enlightenment, hoping it would provide me with some sort of impetus to go and watch old footage of Snuka.

Instead, the book left me scratching my head.

Its not that there isn’t enlightening material in the book. Far from it. It documents Snuka’s beginnings as an Island boy to the pinnacle of the wrestling profession. The book just falls flat at times though. Snuka had a prolific career in ring…and possibly a more prolific career OUTSIDE of the ring.

The best parts of this book are the testimonials from other wrestlers, workers such as Ricky Steamboat, Matt Bourne, Mick Foley, Roddy Piper, Rocky Johnson, The Rock, etc etc. I never realized how close Snuka and The Rock were, for instance. Christ, can you imagine having an “Uncle Superfly?” Sounds pretty damned cool to me.

Listen, I have always provided myself on a certain degree of biographical information in these reviews…that aren’t really reviews. My point usually is to hope to elicit a few of you to go out and further your already extensive wrestling knowledge. This book is different.

While I could acknowledge the books strengths, there are far too many weaknesses. The book is one of the most contradictory bios on a wrestler I have ever encountered. Take this small excerpt for example:

“Years later (Buddy Rogers) became my neighbor in New Jersey, and I believe he had an affair (with my wife). I also think he bashed me to people and said I got (my wife) hooked on drugs. But I didn’t force (my wife) to take drugs. We just did them together. But I was responsible for bringing the drugs into our home.

Trust me, that excerpt is just the tip of the iceberg. Jimmy admits to cheating on his wife religiously, but becomes upset when she does. The quick section on the infamous Nancy Argentino episode is just ridiculously conflicted. Superfly had nothing to do with it, brah, or the preceding days events involving 6 policemen and their German Shepherds arresting Snuka in a hotel room. Nope. Total misunderstanding. If you want more information on this stuff, even Irv Muscnick’s book is better. Snuka gives you nothing. He maintains that he was not on cocaine that evening where Argentino died, but states more or less that he was on coke throughout his entire WWF run. He maintains he drank a shit ton while in the WWF, but was just drinking lightly that day. While smoking weed. Throughout the vast majority of the book leading up to this point, page 91 might I add, Snuka comes across as almost loveable. And for the remaining pages of the book after this, Snuka almost, ALMOST becomes detestable.

Listen, I am far from what one would call a respectable human being. I have dealt with some pretty foolish demons. But Snuka seems the master of denial. There is a whole section about what an awful drunk Snuka was. Yet Jimmy glorifies his drinking, mentions going through a quick dry out, epiphany…and maintains he could still have a drink here or there. That is NOT the way recovery works, trust me. You can either handle it or not, drink or not, drug or NOT. It took almost divine intervention in the form of a pretty serious physical issue that got Snuka to finally quit drinking…somewhat. He almost was on death’s door, recovered…and STILL was going towards the bottle. MY. GOD.

Another thing mentioned by Snuka in his book is his infidelity. Now, while some wrestlers tend to show some remorse for cheating on their significant others, Snuka almost makes no effort, instead regaling in his infidelity. The infidelities seem to be Snuka’s career highlights. He pretty much states that Wilt Chamberlain and Ric Flair don’t have shit on him. Later on in the book, Snuka relates a story, besides that Buddy Rogers one, that he felt his wife was cheating on him with a neighbor. Now throughout the book, and especially during the Nancy Argentino section, he states that he “…nothing but loves the women brudda. I would never hit them.”  Yet he describes amazing physical battles with his WIFE Sharon for the better part of their marriage. Yes, she seemed to be siphoning off his money, but, Christ man, have some consistency in your OWN memoirs.

These are just a few of the inconsistencies in this book, and there are many, which is saying something seeings as its only 173 quick pages. People have been asking me to rate books. I don’t like doing that, as it seems to me like rating the LIFE of a wrestler, and that is unfair. Instead, I will start rating these books using these three ratings:

BUY IT

READ IT

TRASH IT

In that order. Read it really means check it out of your local library. Buy it means it is well worth your hard earned dollars. Trash it is reserved for the dregs of wrestling books, the absolute bottom of the battle, or, in wrestling parlance, the drizzling shits. This book is borderline. And it is not bordering on BUY IT, that is for sure. I will have to give it a READ IT if only because of the testimonials given by Snuka’s peers. Snuka seemed to be a pro’s pro, and that alone is admirable. Plus, Snuka was a freakish natural athlete, so that has to count for something.

Unfortunately, for all the laid back island bravado, it just seems to this reader that Snuka was a maladjusted human being. Almost bi polar, or MPD afflicted. I am sure diving from the top rope, headbutts, and drug abuse did not help his memory. But this book, well, it is not the ***** affair the man was looking for. Far, far from it. As far from American as the Fjii Islands.

But, brudda, its still worth reading.