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Bula vinaka Jimmy Snuka!

CULDEN KAMEA
Monday, February 18, 2008

I can just see all you WWF fans salivating at the mere mention of one of WWF's Hall of Famers - Jimmy Superfly Snuka, but did you know of his Fiji connection? Well this is his story.

But before that let me tell you about a fantastic discovery that I made yesterday up at MH Superfresh in the lofty heights of Tamavua!

I know that fresh coconut cream doesn't send everyone's pulse racing or hormones raging - so I guess only Tongans would understand why I was shaking uncontrollably in the Superfresh aisle at the sight of one litre of pure virgin coconut cream, beautifully packaged, chilled and ready to serve - my goodness this had to be the best thing since the invention of lamb flaps! Only $8.49 a litre and the soft plastic pack has a very smart re-sealable top for re-use!

If like me you suffer from the onset of giddiness and feinting spells when asked to wash the dishes, or scrape the coconuts, this my friends is a life-saver and bound to enhance the peace and love in marriages all over the Pacific!

Needless to say that I bought two packs and two bundles of duruka for my Tongan bride as a late Valentine's Day present and she just loves me for it - real Mills and Boon romance stuff! We're on a roll! But I digress . . . .

Jimmy Snuka was born in Fiji on May 18, 1945 as James Reiher.

I know the Reiher family well and spoke to Moira Reiher - his first cousin, about Jimmy's Fiji connections and what a revelation this turned out to be!

Jimmy Snuka's great grandmother was an Adi Losana of Bua; her Father was the third signatory to The Deed of Session which effectively seeded the Sovereign of Fiji to HRH Queen Victoria of England in 1874.

Jimmy's family left Fiji for the Marshall Island's when he was a young boy and then from there they moved on to live in Hawai'i where in 1969 Jimmy Snuka made his professional wrestling debut as Jimmy Kealoha.

Throughout the early seventies Jimmy wrestled in the NWA Pacific Northwest territory based in California, against early wrestling stars such as Jesse Ventura and Buddy Rogers and in 1973 he defeated Bull Ramos to win his first NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight title. A title which he was to win and lose on six separate occasions as his fan base grew.

In 1977 Jimmy Snuka won the Texas Heavyweight title and his finishing move - the superfly body splash was a growing crowd favourite!

Promoters, quickly recognising Snuka's growing popularity with the superfly body splash move, in which Jimmy swan-dived his opponent from the top-rope of the wrestling ring to finish them off, were happy to lift their ban on any action on the top rope and so began a new era in professional wrestling thanks to Fiji's very own Jimmy Snuka!

In 1979 Jimmy Snuka defeated Ricky Steamboat to win the vacant Heavyweight Wrestling Title of the USA!

Later that year Snuka successfully defended this title against Ric Flair.

In 1982 Jimmy Snuka joined the WWF, showcasing his talent to a much larger and more culturally diverse audience. His unique wrestling style set a new standard in the WWF. His tremendous speed, power and agility, combined with a fearless array of aerial tactics left many fans in awe!

Jimmy Snuka's finishing move, the superfly body splash off the top rope of the ring was his unique trademark and very popular with the fans.

On June 28 1982 at a packed out Maddison Square Garden in New York City, Jimmy Snuka cemented his place in WWF and American sports history when, in his WWF World Heavyweight Title match against Bob Buckland, with the ring enclosed within a steel cage, Jimmy Snuka climbed to the very top of the fifteen feet high steel cage and with 80,000 fans in the Garden going absolutely nuts, Jimmy Snuka swan-dived Buckland lying semi-conscious in the ring below!

Well, bloody Buckland spied Snuka diving didn't he and true to WWF script he rolled out of the way just in time as Jimmy Snuka crashed head-first into the mat! Bob Buckland crawled out of the ring and steel cage with his life and title intact while Jimmy Snuka writhed in pain from his dive! This was the most unforgettable moment in his career and the Maddison Square Garden crowd stayed back until Snuka was helped from the ring by medics, giving him a pro-longed standing ovation! The bout was later voted the 1982 WWF Match of the Year - thanks to Jimmy Snuka!

Jimmy Superfly Snuka from Fiji was now a WWF living legend! Throughout the 1980s during the height of his WWF fame, Jimmy Superfly Snuka teamed up with in tag team matches, or wrestled against the biggest stars in WWF wrestling including Ray Stevens, Capt. Lou Albano, Andre the Giant, the Wild Samoans, Superstar Billy Graham, Don Muraco, Sgt. Slaughter, Roddy Piper and Tito Santana.

In 1984 in one of the most infamous events in WWF history, Roddy Piper taunted Snuka with bananas and coconuts before smashing a coconut on Jimmy Superfly Snuka's head!

Not surprisingly, the Superfly bounced back winning two revenge matches after that belting Piper in the process, but in their third fight Piper broke Jimmy Superfly Snuka's neck putting him out of action for several months!

Such was Jimmy Superfly Snuka's popularity and fame at this time that his character appeared in a Hulk Hogan Cartoon in 1985.

Jimmy Superfly Snuka teamed up with Hulk Hogan on May 4 1985 to beat Roddy Piper and Bob Orton Jr. in a memorable WWF revenge match.

Although Jimmy Superfly Snuka did not win any titles during his time with the WWF he was one of their most popular, if not the most popular wrestler in their stable throughout the early 1980s! After a period wrestling in the lesser known American Wrestling Association, the Superfly returned to WWF Wrestlemania V in May 1989 but left again in 1993 after only limited success.

On November 16 1996 Jimmy Superfly Snuka, whose family connections in Fiji stretch back to Bua, Vanua Levu and the signing of the Deed of Session in 1876, was inducted into the World Wrestling Federation Hall of Fame! This son of Fiji has been adopted by the people of New York and particularly the wrestling fans of Maddison Square Garden.

His special bond with New York fans was strongly heard more recently during an episode of The Late Show with David Letterman, produced in the big apple, when he was interviewing fellow Pacific Islander, The Rock, about his WWF career and he named Jimmy Superfly Snuka as a wrestler who had inspired him - the audience responded in overwhelming applause.

Jimmy Superfly Snuka continues to work in nostalgia bits for WWF, as well as working in US Independent shows and conventions. As recently as January 27 2008 he appeared in pay-per-view wrestling event.

Long live Jimmy Superfly Snuka!





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