The WWE-produced Jimmy Snuka tribute video on Raw drew mixed criticism from the Internet wrestling community, some praising it, and some coming down hard on WWE for making a tribute to an alleged murderer.
The murder charges against Snuka, which were dropped earlier this month after he was deemed unfit to stand trial, pretty much dominated Snuka’s final year and a half on this earth. When Snuka was charged, he was also removed from the WWE Hall of Fame website as WWE distanced itself from him and the case.
Snuka was arraigned on November 2, 2015 in Lehigh County Court for the killing of his mistress Nancy Argentino, a case from 1983 which went cold until it was re-opened by the District Attorney following an investigative report in the Morning Call newspaper.
The 72-year-old former professional wrestler was charged two months earlier with third-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter after a grand jury determined he repeatedly assaulted Argentino in the former George Washington Motor Lodge in Whitehall Township, then left her in bed to die.
While all charges against Snuka were dropped due to his severe battle with dementia and another losing-battle with stomach cancer, WWE officials were left in a tricky situation where they were going to get criticized if they showed or not showed some kind of tribute on Raw.
WWE went all out instead, first showing the “in memoriam” graphic at the beginning of the show, then Michael Cole going over the story, followed by a tribute video and screenshots from Twitter of past and present WWE Superstars paying tribute to Snuka.
Snuka’s daughter Tamina works for WWE, which makes it even more of a weird situation. There are even many rumors of Vince McMahon knowing about the alleged murder and allegedly paying off someone when Snuka was questioned back then. Snuka was one of McMahon’s biggest stars in the early 80s.
In his biography book, Snuka wrote that he remembers McMahon and himself meeting with District Attorney William Platt, Assistant District Attorney Robert Steinberg, forensic pathologist Isidore Mihalakis, Whitehall Police Detectives Gerry Procanyn, Al Fritzinger and Vincent Geiger in the DA’s office law library. There’s no official record of what was said.
“All I remember is [McMahon] had a briefcase with him,” Snuka wrote. “I don’t know what happened. The only thing I know for sure is I didn’t hurt Nancy.”
This is not the first time that WWE got blasted for airing a video tribute for one of their wrestlers. When Chris Benoit died, the company canceled Raw and dedicated the whole show to him replaying some of his best matches. Just a few hours later it emerged that Benoit killed his family before committing suicide, with some still arguing that WWE knew what went down before Raw but still decided to go ahead with the tribute.