Former professional wrestler Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka died on Sunday, January 15, 2017, the WWE announced. He was 73.
Snuka died at his son-in-law’s home in Florida. Attorney Robert Kirwan II said Snuka was taken Sunday to the home near Pompano Beach so that he could spend his last moments there. Kirwan said Snuka died “due to complications from his ongoing medical problems” but did not elaborate.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tweeted his reaction to the news, ending with, “alofa atu i le aiga atoa”, Samoan for “Love the whole family”.
— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) January 15, 2017
Over the past two years, Snuka faced charges related to the death of former girlfriend Nancy Argentino in May 1983. On Jan. 3, murder charges against Snuka were dismissed by a Pennsylvania judge who ruled that Snuka was not competent enough to stand trial.
“The family is simply heartbroken. It’s been a long journey,” Kirwan said on Jan. 3. “They are grateful to the judge for dismissing the charges against him.”
Lehigh County Judge Kelly Banach on Jan. 3 dismissed the murder case against the retired WWE star after the defense said he had dementia, was in hospice care in Florida, and had six months to live.
Snuka was charged with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in 2015 in the death of Argentino — more than three decades after her body was found in their Whitehall Township hotel room.
Prosecutors allege she was beaten, while Snuka maintained she died from a fall. Authorities reopened the investigation after The Morning Call newspaper raised questions about the case in 2013.
Snuka’s wrestling career dated back to 1970, and he had multiple runs with the World Wrestling Federation, now the WWE. His 1983 jump from the top of a steel cage during a match against Don Muraco at Madison Square Garden is widely considered one of the most iconic moments in pro wrestling history.
He appeared intermittently for the WWE in the later stages of his life. Snuka’s final two appearances for the company were at WrestleMania 25 in 2009, when he, Ricky Steamboat and Roddy Piper wrestled Chris Jericho in a 1-on-3 handicap match, and a surprise 2008 Royal Rumble appearance at MSG. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996.
Kirwan said Snuka spent his final moments surrounded by family after he was brought to the home of his son-in-law on Sunday morning, not far from the VITAS Hospice Unit at Broward Health North in Pompano Beach, Florida, where he had been hospitalized since Dec. 17.
“It’s with a heavy heart and sadness that he’s gone,” Kirwan told ESPN.com. “It was a long year and a half journey, and it’s unfortunate that he passed away right after the case was finally dismissed.”
Kirwan was notified by Snuka’s family shortly after 1 p.m. of his death. Kirwan said the cause of death was not disclosed, but Snuka had been battling a number of ongoing problems including dementia and an infection.
During a December hearing to re-evaluate Snuka’s mental state, his wife, Carole Snuka, told a judge via live video that her husband had been placed in hospice care and was given six months to live. Kirwan said Snuka was ruled not physically well enough to travel and did not attend the Jan. 3 trial that cleared his name.
Kirwan said that although there’s no timetable in place for when Snuka’s family will make a public statement, there is a large sense of relief and peace that he is no longer in pain. Snuka’s daughter, Tamina Snuka, a pro wrestler signed with the WWE, shared her goodbye to her father on social media.
As a teenager, Kirwan watched Snuka perform on television each Saturday morning. Kirwan said Snuka still had a huge following of fans and former friends in the business who stayed loyal despite the recent headlines.
“I don’t think he will go down in history as anything other than what he was: a legend in the wrestling world and just a good person,” Kirwan said. “I haven’t heard one person say anything bad about Jimmy who knows him from the wrestling days, and many came to support him [in recent months.]
“Jimmy was bigger than life. Whenever you were in the room with Jimmy, you knew that you were in the room with Jimmy Snuka. Even when he was in his weakest condition, he still had a personality about him.”
Hattip to ESPN/AP