There is no shortage of wrestling autobiographies.
After Mick Foley’s memoirs shot to the top of the New York Times’ bestsellers list, practically every grizzled old-timer of the wrestling business put pen to paper (or, in most cases, hired a ghostwriter to do the actual writing).
Some have been compelling and illuminating – such as those written by Bret Hart, Chris Jericho and William Regal – while others are sloppily assembled cash-grabs (Chyna’s stands out among the worst, both for subject matter and spelling).
What we’re left with is a niche publishing market that is oversaturated with yarns about old rivalries, the rigors of the road, backstage mudslinging and the inevitable “it was real to us” sermon.
To truly stand out from the rest, a contemporary wrestling memoir needs to offer something new, something different, something unexpected.
Here’s something: Jimmy Snuka has released an autobiography despite being totally illiterate.
Because he can neither read nor write, Snuka enlisted the help of ghostwriter Jon Chattman, who does his best Snuka impression throughout Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story.
Aside from that intriguing detail, unfortunately, the book offers little else to elevate it above countless wrestling books that tend to populate the bargain bin of second-hand bookshops.
Because the ghostwriter aims to convey the Superfly’s true voice, the language is simple and peppered liberally with Snuka’s favorite nickname for everyone, Brudda. At times, it feels like every sentence ends with the word Brudda, as if it’s a piece of punctuation.
The most intriguing aspect of the autobiography – and surely the thing that will pique most readers’ curiosity – is the promise that it will explore the mysterious death of Nancy Argentino.
In May 1983, a few hours after a WWF show in Pennsylvania, Snuka called 911 saying his girlfriend was injured and needed an ambulance. Argentino died in hospital of “undetermined craniocerebral injuries,” and Snuka has long been considered by many to have been responsible. Although he was never criminally charged, Argentino’s parents won a half-million judgment in U.S. District Court.
Snuka has been quiet on the issue for decades, and although the autobiography promises to set the record straight about what really happened, the section titled “About Nancy Argentino” is brief and mostly unsatisfying. Although he presents a scenario in which a drunken Argentino slips, there is no mention of the civil suit against him (he does gently insinuate, however, that Vince McMahon might have given Argentino’s family a briefcase of hush money).
Aside from a few such passages, however, the book is mostly free of “dirt” or anything particularly insightful.
Amid many, many mentions of his famous leap from a steel cage onto Don Muraco at Madison Square Garden, there are plenty of anecdotes about the vagabond lifestyle of a professional wrestler.
We learn that Snuka was a womanizer, an alcoholic with a Jekyll/Hyde duality, an avid pot smoker and, back in his heyday, a hardcore partier prone to no-showing events.
But with age (he’s nearly 70) has come some maturity. He says he loves everyone he has ever met (making for very little mudslinging or name-calling in the book).
Because the book is short and the prose is dead-simple (and so padded with “brudda”), it can easily be devoured in one sitting. Unfortunately, the reader doesn’t feel particularly nourished afterward.
Those looking for deep insight and behind-the-scenes gossip should look elsewhere. Avid fans of the Superfly, however, will enjoy the friendly, conversational tone adopted by Snuka’s ghostwriter. It reads as if it were actually written by its subject, which is rare among ghostwritten autobiographies.
By the end of this short and unremarkable memoir, you might not have any new insights into the wrestling business (or the controversy surrounding Nancy Argentino’s death), but you may feel as if Snuka is your brudda from anudda mudda.
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