What to Make of the Intriguing Testimony of Sam (Tonga Kid) Fatu in the ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ Episode on the Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka Murder of Nancy Argentino?

VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ Producers: We’re Not Responsible For the Train Wreck That Was VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring After Dark’ on the Jimmy Snuka Murder Case
April 18, 2020
After the Jimmy Snuka After-Show Debacle, VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring After Dark’ May Be Going … Dark. For Real.
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PREVIOUSLY:

“‘Dark Side of the Ring’ Blanket-Censors the Jimmy Snuka Murder Cover-Up Back Story,” April 15, https://concussioninc.net/?p=14393

“Time For a Deep Dive Into the VICE TV / ‘Dark Side of the Ring After Dark’ Censorship of My ‘Live-to-Tape’ Interview About the Ongoing Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka Murder Cover-Up in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=14399

“Muchnick on Irish Podcast ‘Off the Ball’ Pro Wrestling Edition, Discussing Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka’s Murder of Nancy Argentino and Other Topics,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=14403

“VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ Producers: We’re Not Responsible For the Train Wreck That Was VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring After Dark’ on the Jimmy Snuka Murder Case,” https://concussioninc.net/?p=14410

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by Irvin Muchnick

VICE TV’s Dark Side of the Ring did a decent job of at least leaving the strong impression that Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka killed his girlfriend Nancy Argentino just outside Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1983.

In the course of noting that the documentary fell woefully short of explicitly exposing what the local police and prosecutor knew and when they knew it, and also misread and hyped the role of the wimpy, cover-up-enabling Allentown Morning Call, I don’t want the only focus of my reviews to be how I got shafted in the edit of my interview for the episode — as well as downright censored in my purported “live to tape” remarks made for the post-show, Dark Side of the Ring After Dark.

The main positive aspect of DSOTR was new information approaching bombshell level: the testimony of an ex-wrestler, Sam Fatu. In an interview recalling how Snuka had mentored him, Fatu stated unequivocally that he was a third person in the car driving into Allentown, along with Snuka and Argentino, and there was no incident of Nancy stopping by the roadside to pee (during which, in one of Snuka’s many mix-and-match accounts, in turn swallowed by the authorities with deli mustard and sauerkraut, she purportedly fell and struck her head).

How reliable is Fatu’s statement? In my view, taking measure of everything said by him and by retired Whitehall Township police chief Frederic Conjour, plus everything else we know, Fatu very likely was telling the truth and not confusing a memory of a car trip with Snuka and Argentino on another occasion.

My conclusion isn’t a slam dunk. But I do believe Fatu offered a significant new contribution to the narrative of the Superfly getting away with murder, with the assistance of a corrupt local criminal justice system.

I’ve been making this point in my own post-DSOTR commentary, including in my interview, the day after the broadcast, with “Off the Top Rope,” the pro wrestling podcast of Ireland’s Off the Ball.

One of the interviewers there, Richie McCormack, interjected that Dave Meltzer, of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, had just tweeted that Fatu actually was not booked on the May 10, 2013, Allentown television tapings to which Snuka was headed. Some are interpreting this as a major pumping of the brakes on acceptance of Fatu’s account. Confronted with Meltzer’s account, I did what I always try to do, which is (1) generally and in good faith process all new information I come across, and (2) in that old joke, which happens to be true, acknowledge that Dave Meltzer has forgotten more about the pro wrestling business than I’ll ever know.

Close examination of exactly what Meltzer said does not, however, invalidate Fatu’s account. Far from it. In an exchange of emails with me, Meltzer didn’t grade the degree of the likeliness or unlikeliness of Fatu’s story. Meltzer only wanted to convey his known facts about Fatu. Meltzer said: “He was around [the World Wrestling Federation during this period] and had occasional prelim matches.  His first match was May 2, 1983, but then didn’t have a second match until a few weeks later.”

As Fatu recounted on Dark Side, he was a teenage troublemaker whose mother in San Francisco shipped him off to Pennsylvania to train as a pro wrestler under her brothers Afa and Sika, “the Wild Samoans.” In that first match referred to by Meltzer, at a WWF house show in Connecticut, Fatu was billed as “Wild Samoan No. 4.” The fact that he wasn’t booked on the Allentown tapings a week later does not in any way disqualify what he told DSOTR. Fatu was training with his uncles and hanging around the company. And plausibly, he was traveling with Snuka, who had taken the youthful fellow Pacific Islander under his wing, as the circus troupe barreled into Allentown.

Fans will recall that the next year, 1984, Fatu would get a major push as “the Tonga Kid.” Snuka had just done that famous TV angle in which Rowdy Roddy Piper taunted him on Piper’s Pit, in a segment that culminated with Piper smashing a coconut across Jimmy’s head, causing him to collapse into and knock down the set and find himself at the mercy of a beatdown. Until, that is, the Superfly regained his senses and roared back — but, of course, too late to dish retribution on Piper, who had retreated behind a locked door.

Snuka soon went into drug rehab and was unable to make many of his dates for the subsequent Piper feud at arena shows. WWF promoter Vince McMahon took the bold damage-control step of introducing and pushing Fatu, “the Tonga Kid,” and it largely worked in a program of semi-main and main events throughout the circuit. A Washington, D.C., TV news sports anchor, George Michael, was a big mark for the surrogate Tonga Kid, a kind of Superfly 2.0, and did a feature about him for his nationally syndicated Sunday night highlight show, The George Michael Sports Machine.

Now, when it comes to the Dark Side interview, we’re talking about an ex-pro wrestler here. I’m not saying that it’s impossible that Fatu was making up the story of driving into Allentown with Jimmy and Nancy, as a way to insert himself back into the public spotlight. It’s also possible, as Snuka’s widow Carole suggested, that Fatu’s memory was simply faulty and he was confusing another car ride. But one thing is clear from the post-DSOTR podcast amplifications of producers Jason Eisener and Evan Husney: While Fatu might not have been fully aware of the implications of his new testimony, in terms of its contradicting Snuka’s desperate attempted alibi, Fatu was not ambushed by DSOTR. Fatu he knew exactly what he was saying.

The interview on the documentary following Fatu’s, with retired police chief Conjour, only reinforced the account of the Tonga Kid.

The main output from Conjour was what a fool he made of himself by contending that Snuka’s multiple and conflicting cover stories would have had little or no bearing on whether he should at least have been frigging charged and brought to trial in 1983. But additionally, Conjour — for whatever reason and with whatever foundation — also owned up to having heard something along the lines of there being a third person in the car with Snuka and Argentino.

If what Conjour said was accurate, then it only adds to the mountain of evidence of a police and district attorney-engineered, and Allentown Morning Call-enabled, cover-up. As I’ve written on numerous occasions, the cops would claim, for the 2013 Morning Call reporters, that they more or less accepted Snuka’s peed-by-the-roadside theory. Yet they never even bothered to drive Snuka around in an attempt to locate the spot where the incident had supposedly occurred.

Crooked Whitehall detective Gerald Procanyn and a fellow officer did, however, drive 100 miles to Brooklyn to advise the Argentino family not to worry their pretty little heads over the cause of their dead daughter and sister’s fatally fractured pretty little head. Nancy’s sister Louise told me the police explained to the family, with absolutely no scientific backup, that, who knows? … maybe Nancy had a congenital condition that had made her especially susceptible to a tragically extreme bad outcome from a mild or basic traumatic brain injury.

Sammy Fatu true or Sammy Fatu false?

Let’s just say that, until persuaded otherwise, I come down on the side of Sammy Fatu true.

WRESTLING BABYLON: Piledriving Tales of Drugs, Sex, Death, and Scandal (ECW Press, 2007)

JUSTICE DENIED: The Untold Story of Nancy Argentino’s Death in Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka’s Motel Room (ebook, 2013)

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