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High-flying pro wrestling star Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka dies at 73

Jon Herskovitz

Reuters

Fijian-born Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, one of biggest stars in professional wrestling in the 1980s, died on Sunday at age 73, less than two weeks after homicide charges were dropped against him in Pennsylvania for the 1983 death of his girlfriend.

Snuka, known for his high-flying offensive moves during decades as a wrestler, died at his son-in-law's home in Florida, surrounded by family and friends, according to his lawyer Robert Kirwan, who said the former wrestler had battled various ailments including dementia and had been in hospice care.

A judge in Allentown, Pennsylvania on Jan. 3 ended the case against Snuka after ruling him mentally incompetent to stand trial over the death of Nancy Argentino, who was 23 at the time of her death. Snuka long had been suspected in Argentino's death but charges were not brought against him until 2015, 32 years after her death.

Prosecutors said she was found with head injuries in their shared motel room in Allentown, shortly before she died. He was charged after a Pennsylvania newspaper, the Morning Call, found an unpublished autopsy that said Argentino's death should have been investigated as a homicide.

Snuka pleaded not guilty to third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.

Actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, a former professional wrestler, announced the death on Twitter on behalf of Snuka's daughter Tamina, a wrestler working for Connecticut-based World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), the world's top wrestling company.

"Our family @TaminaSnuka asked me to share the sad news that her dad Jimmy Snuka has just passed away," Johnson wrote.

"I love you Dad," Tamina wrote on her Twitter feed.

Snuka amazed fans of the choreographed mayhem that is professional wrestling with his "Superfly Splash," a dive off the top turnbuckle onto the chest of a prone opponent. Snuka was involved in the main event of the first WrestleMania show in 1985 and was a member of the WWE Hall of Fame alongside such stars as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant and "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair.

In a statement on its website, the WWE said it was saddened to learn of his death and hailed him as "the pioneer of high-flying offense" in the ring.

Snuka also was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, a separate organization.

"He was doing very poorly," Kirwan said of Snuka's health prior to his death. "Jimmy had charisma, even in his poor health, and as he was battling dementia."

Born James Reiher in 1943 on the Pacific island of Fiji, he later moved with his family to the Marshall Islands and to Hawaii when he was growing up, according his Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame biography.

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