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What We Learned From Dark Side Of The Ring: Jimmy Snuka and the Death of Nancy Argentino

On May 10th, 1983, one of WWF’s biggest stars in Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka was embroiled in a case where his girlfriend at the time had mysteriously died.

Snuka had been questioned by the police and eventually, the case went cold. Snuka hadn’t been charged, and Nancy Argentino’s passing had seen no justice. However, 30 years later an investigative news reporter dug into the case a little further and it was reopened by police, with Snuka going to trial for her murder.

In the latest episode of Dark Side Of The Ring, we get a look from those who knew Snuka and Nancy, and those who were involved in the case. Here is what we learned.

Snuka Had Become a Heavy Drug User

This isn’t exactly a shock, as several stars from the pro wrestling industry have had their numerous bouts of drug addiction and alcoholism. However, Snuka’s addiction to cocaine had become so bad that both himself and the WWF had become reliant on Nancy Argentino to chaperone him to events and make sure he got there on time, as his on-screen manager, Buddy Rogers, wanted nothing to do with ‘Superfly’ off-camera.

This screams that there was more going on behind the scenes with Snuka, as his home life and road life were becoming very distant realities, with his TV persona becoming more and more synonymous with his real life.

Snuka’s Relationship With The Argentino Family Was Strange

While The Superfly was a charismatic powerhouse on-screen, this did not mirror his personality outside of the squared circle. The Argentino sisters were initially okay with their sibling dating Snuka, but after meeting him on several occasions, he had started to showcase some very odd tendencies.

He would sit in the corner of the room at family gatherings, making no attempt to strike up a relationship with the family. He would just sit and watch, which obviously made the relationship a fairly uncomfortable one between them from the off.

One of Nancy’s sisters, Louise, once sat down for Chinese food with the pair, but after chatting with her sister, Snuka put up his hand in the air and essentially force choked her. I don’t know if he thought he was Darth Vader during one of his many trips, but this especially rose up as a red flag to Louise, who immediately left the table. 

Snuka and Nancy followed, with Jimmy offering Louise cocaine to calm her down, which further highlighted how reliant he had become on the drug.

Snuka Told Different Stories To Several People

Upon Nancy’s death back in 1983, Snuka claimed to police that while driving to film Championship Wrestling for the WWF in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Nancy needed to take a bathroom break. On her way back to the vehicle, Snuka claimed that Nancy slipped and hit her head on the pavement. Snuka left her to rest while he went to film his matches for WWF, and when he returned, she had died.

However, when speaking to several other wrestlers, it became evident that Snuka had been telling people different accounts of what had happened. He said to colleagues in the locker room that he had pushed her and she hit her head on the wall. To others, he said they were wrestling and she must have hurt herself.

All of these different stories are obviously very suspicious from Snuka’s side of things but aren’t enough for the police to prosecute him over.

What wasn’t known to police is that Sam Fatu, aka The Tonga Kid, was supposedly sitting in the rear of the car. He did not claim to have any knowledge of the story of Nancy stepping out of the car and hitting her head.

This Incident Wasn’t The First

A few months before her passing, Argentino and Snuka had got into a fight at a New York hotel. Nancy had been dragged by her hair by the wrestler and Snuka was in such a rage when the police arrived that he fought off several of them, as well as a police dog. Snuka’s behaviour at this time should have been more of a red flag to the Allentown police department as he was clearly suffering from bouts of violent tendencies.

Argentino ended up dropping the charges on Snuka – a sad fact that happens regularly in abusive relationships. He ended up paying a $1,500 donation to a charity as his punishment for a smaller charge.

Vince and Snuka Met With Police

This is probably the most interesting highlight of this episode. According to widow Carole, Snuka didn’t know how to read or write English, so whatever Vince put in front of the wrestler, he trusted and signed.

When his book was released in December 2012, the world learned of a previous meeting between Snuka, McMahon and the Allentown police department. The episode implies that McMahon made the charges disappear as following this meeting, the Allentown PD essentially stopped their investigation into one of the WWF’s top stars.

Allentown PD ’s Investigation Was Not Thorough

Frederick Conjour is the former Chief of Police for the Whitehall Township, where Nancy died. He said he believes that the detectives did the best job they could, although that can’t have been true if two investigative reporters uncovered more about the potential murder 30 years later.

The autopsy of Argentino stated that the head trauma was not consistent with a single fall, but consistent with a moving head striking an object. The doctor who performed the autopsy recommended this case should be investigated as a homicide.

If Sam Fatu was in the back of the vehicle that night, why did the police not find out that information from the wrestler? Conjour stated that there were never any contradictions to Jimmy’s story.

The meeting between McMahon, Snuka and the Allentown PD was the only singular meeting that was not transcribed. Conjour stated he doesn’t remember the meeting and this wouldn’t have been transcribed only if there was nothing of note that happened in the meeting. That seems unlikely, being the only singular meeting in the entire investigation that wasn’t, and following on from this, the police department dropped the case. Following this meeting, Snuka told his wife that “Vince said it is done and over”. 

Fishy, to say the least.

The Argentino Family Got Nothing

After the death of Nancy, the WWF called her mother and asked if $25,000 would go some way to helping the family get through this, to which her mother asked “Do you think my daughter’s life is worth $25,000?” before hanging up.

They took Snuka to court, and won a $500,000 settlement, but never received any money from Snuka. He didn’t show up to any of the court dates, and the family decided to move on out of disgust for the whole situation.

What we can establish from this episode of Dark Side Of The Ring is that this is sadly a situation that will never be truly resolved. Snuka went to trial back in 2013 after journalists Adam Clark and Kevin Amerman uncovered more information that hadn’t been explored during the initial investigation. However, due to his failing health, the judge threw the case out and Snuka passed away ten days later.

This means the Argentino family will sadly get no justice for their sister’s death, while Snuka’s legacy will always remain tarnished by the events in Allentown that night. The Argentino’s have stated that at least something came from this and even him going to trial was some kind of justice for the family, but in reality, this should have been resolved 30 years prior back in 1983, so that there could have been a full conclusion and trial over whatever did happen that night between Jimmy and Nancy.

Credit has to go out to the Dark Side Of The Ring team for this episode. The number of people they got involved was amazing – everybody from one of the paramedics at the scene to the Chief of Police who’s department investigated the incident. 

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The author of this article can be found on Twitter @DRL_1990Thanks so much for reading!

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