As you’ve certainly heard by now, Jimmy Snuka passed away earlier this week at the age of 73. He had a variety of health issues, including stomach cancer.

WWE put together a moving tribute package, celebrating Snuka’s life and accomplishments. Wrestlers new and old took to social media to express their sympathies at Snuka’s passing, from the Rock and Roman Reigns, to Triple H, Charlotte, and Chris Jericho.

Likewise, to Jimmy Snuka’s family and friends, we express our deepest sympathies.

But given the circumstances that surrounded Snuka’s life, the way his death has been treated by WWE is grossly irresponsible and should be a major cause for concern.

You’re likely aware that Snuka was implicated in the 1983 death of Nancy Argentino, with whom he was having an affair at the time. In a lengthy write-up of Snuka’s life for the Wrestling Observer, Dave Meltzer noted Snuka’s reported history of domestic abuse. Snuka’s first wife, Sharon, confided in the wife of the original “Nature Boy,” Buddy Rogers, that Snuka had beaten her.

Jimmy Snuka was later arrested in New York after reports were made that he’d attacked Nancy, his 23-year-old mistress. She traveled with him, and was found dead a few months later in Allentown, PA. The coroner described her injuries as consistent with domestic violence and recommended a homicide investigation, but police officially ruled the death an accident, saying she slipped on the side of the road, hit her head on a rock, and was found dead the next day.

Those circumstances were suspicious, and the Argentino family certainly blamed Snuka. They filed a wrongful death suit for $500,000, which they won in a default judgement. Snuka never paid, claiming he was “destitute” despite his tremendous success in WWF at the time.

A local Allentown newspaper wrote a feature on Nancy’s death thirty years later. The incident had become a city secret, and following the publication, local authorities reopened the case. In 2015, a Grand Jury indicted Snuka on third degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges.

Snuka’s attorney argued that the defendant was mentally unfit to stand trial, and after a conversation with Snuka in 2016, the judge agreed, but left the case open in the case his mental state improved. In January of this year, she no longer believed that was possible, and the case was dismissed.

Snuka died less than two weeks later.

The truth of Nancy Argentino’s death will now never be known, and whether Jimmy Snuka was involved will forever be a legal mystery.

But in promoting Snuka as a legend and in giving so much time in tribute to his death, WWE is attempting to sweep a very real, very serious accusation–and possibility–under the rug. When Snuka was arrested in 2015, his Hall of Fame page on was removed. That’s typical for any Hall of Famer’s arrest–the same happened when Jerry Lawler and his girlfriend were both arrested on domestic violence charges–but when charges are dropped, they’re typically quick to restore the affected entries. That wasn’t the case with Snuka.

Since Snuka’s death, however, WWE seems determined to make its viewers forget all the questions they had regarding what happened. The tearful tribute on Monday Night Raw left no room for that, nor does the collection of historic Snuka moments recently uploaded to the WWE Network. Many fans bemoan WWE’s rewriting of history when it comes to the Monday Night Wars and the company’s portrayal of WCW, but ultimately that’s a battle of corporate interests and a question of who had the better TV show. While the truth of Snuka won’t be known, the questions left behind are far, far bigger than that.

Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka was a legendary pro wrestler whose work more than earned its place in WWE history. That work is wonderful, and served as an inspiration to many. For fans, it may be possible to separate the accusations from the work Snuka did, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But WWE’s compliance in diminishing the weight of those accusations is grossly irresponsible, and wrestling fans should not be willing to accept it.

In terms of Snuka’s in-ring legacy, I think a recent Facebook post from Mick Foley says it well.

“I am struggling with both the news of Jimmy’s death, and the knowledge that he may have been responsible for the death of a young woman in his motel room in May, 1983. Unfortunately, that death is inextricably entwined in the life-story of Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka, making the celebration of his life and career so much more difficult. I have been asked many times to comment on the matter, but haven’t until now, simply because I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t. I hope that the final judgment of Jimmy Snuka will take into account the kindness with which he treated both fans and friends and the love he had for family and close friends. But Jimmy will likely be remembered as much for what allegedly took place on that one terrible night as he will be for his magnificent career. I don’t know how to reconcile this man’s heroic feats inside our world, with the tragedy he likely played a role in outside of it, but I have always found wisdom and comfort in these simple words from Bruce Springsteen: ‘trust the art, not the artist.'”

I’m sure whatever your opinion is, it’s a strong one–Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook.


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