The Jimmy Snuka Story
Jimmy Snuka with Jon Chattman
Synopsis: The life and times of WWE Hall of Famer Superfly Jimmy Snuka.
There was a lot of destruction in the business, and I was at the center of it. Some people say I did drugs to fit in, but it was just hard to turn the drugs down when they were all around me. And there was a lot to celebrate when I was working in New York. I was thrown in the main events right away and I drew instant pops from the crowd from the very moment I started.
But like I said, there were times when I was in another country instead of being in the States, and Vinnie would try to track me down. Many people lied for me, but Vinnie started to use me less and less after that. I knew I was wrong to skip out on matches, but I was angry. Looking back, it's hard to know who was most at fault. On one hand, they promised me I would be the main guy in the company, and then Hulk Hogan got all the attention. On the other hand, I had plenty of baggage on my own.
Superfly Jimmy Snuka is one of the few major wrestling legends that I would argue is probably underexposed, at least compared to icons such as Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Andre The Giant. Yet here's someone who has been wrestling longer than I've been alive (I'm not quite 40 yet, kids) and has been a part of WWE, WCW, AWA, NWA, ECW, WCCW... heck, he even made an appearance for TNA in 2004.
At first, I figured the book may be a tough read because, let's face it..... English was never Superfly's strong suit. By Snuka's own admission, he never learned how to read or write. Thankfully, co-author Jon Chattman ( I Love The Red Sox/I Hate The Yankees; A Battle Royal In The Sky) is able to set things right and offer a candid look at the WWE Hall of Famer. Still, it's definitely the voice of Snuka, so expect tons of references to "brudda", "brah" and "TV Wonderland" peppered throughout the book.
The authors are aided by a wide variety of wrestling legends, including Mick Foley and Rowdy Roddy Piper (both of whom wrote introductions to the book), Bob Backlund, Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Don Muraco, Mean Gene Okerlund, Gerald Brisco, Terry Funk and Tito Santana, each of them providing short bursts of commentary throughout the book. Think Flair's To Be The Man or Freddie Blassie's Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks and you'll get the idea. In some wrestling books, it's a nice enhancement and in some, it gets in the way of the text. Here, the outside voices definitely work.
Snuka's upbringing is different than most others, legitimately living as an islander before entering the worlds of bodybuilding and wrestling. At a young age, he's not even sure who his real mother is because he's passed back and forth between her and his grandmother. It's very much a rags-to-riches type of story, one you're unlikely to hear elsewhere.
My biggest concerns with the book lie with the inconsistencies. Snuka openly admits that he cheated on his wife for years, but speaks ill of his ex-wife for doing the same thing. Snuka presents himself as a mostly kind person who wouldn't speak ill of anyone, and then badmouths - albeit gently - everyone from Vince McMahon to Hulk Hogan. I suppose his point is that he doesn't hold grudges, which is fine, but it takes a while for the reader to realize that.
And, not to nitpick, but Snuka laments his WrestleMania loss to Mr. Perfect at WrestleMania V. They never fought at that event; I remember well that he made a brief nonwrestling appearance before the Ronnie Garvin vs. Dino Bravo match. And even in an appendix near the end of his own book, it notes Snuka was at WrestleMania V but NEVER WRESTLED. Could this have not been caught by a proofreader?
Having said that, the negative parts are easily outweighed by the warmth Snuka shows for his own family and his current wife. Between moving to Las Vegas for a year to train his son (who later competed as Jimmy Snuka Jr., Deuce and Sim Snuka), talking about the relationship with his daughter (current WWE Diva Tamina Snuka) or the rest of his non-wrestling family, it becomes apparent that he cares a great deal for the Snuka clan. There's even a section at the end that talks about the nicknames he has for various family members.
Of note - Snuka addresses his problems with drugs and alcohol head-on, which was a factor in him leaving the WWF shortly after the first WrestleMania. He also addresses Nancy Argentino, a girlfriend he was accused of killing in the early 1980's (Snuka maintains she had slipped on the ground and suffered a fatal concussion). Such admissions are refreshing in the literary world, where Hogan and others often try to mask the controversial issues.
Overall recommendation: Transitional Champion. I want to stress that this isn't a bad book or anything. It's a fun little read, but I wouldn't rush to my local bookstore to pick this one up. There are far better accounts of professional wrestling in the 1980's, including books by Flair, Jerry Lawler and Bret Hart. Still, if you're fan of the Superfly, you could certainly do worse, brudda.