Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jimmy Snuka Remembers the U.S. Championship Belt

An Iconic Image from 1970s 
Mid-Atlantic Wrestling sends Jimmy Snuka down Memory Lane
by Dick Bourne

It is always a special moment when a connection is made with one of the “old timers," seeing them warmly react to something that was special from a time long ago when I loved wrestling so much.

Such was the case in Charlotte at a legends convention in 2010 when I asked "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka to have his photo made with my replica of the United States heavyweight championship belt he once held for Jim Crockett Promotions. Snuka was working his way through a long Saturday afternoon, signing autographs and taking photos with fans. He didn’t seem too particularly engaged by it. 

I walked around the table and handed him the belt and told him I didn’t want to be in the photo, I just wanted him to hold the belt.

When he looked down at it, his eyes lit up and a huge smile spread across his face.

“Bruddah!” he exclaimed, and looked at me, almost as if to wonder if this could somehow possibly be the actual belt he held all those many years ago. This replica did look that good. 

“Bruddah, this is old days! Good times!” he said with a huge grin on his face. He actually started holding the belt out for other fans to see it. “Me and the Nature Boy!” he exclaimed with a smile.

U.S. Champion Jimmy Snuka, 1980
“Yes," I said, "and you with Gene Anderson in 1980.” I was marking out at how excited he seemed.

“Yes! Yes!” he replied, looking back at the belt. “Mr. Gene Anderson, bruddah! Good times!

He posed for a photo, holding the belt in his left hand, making his trademark “superfly” sign with his right, a genuinely happy smile on his face.

It seemed for just a few moments he was taken back to a period of time that he had not thought about in many years. I’m guessing that most fans want to talk about the WWF with him, his feuds he had with Bob Backlund, Don Muraco, or Roddy Piper. But the sight of that distinctive looking center plate on the replica U.S. belt definitely connected with him and he seemed to be reflecting nostalgically back to his earlier days nearly three decades ago in “Anderson’s Army” and his red-hot feud with Ric Flair over this title in the Mid-Atlantic territory. 

After the photo was taken, he looked briefly at the belt again, smiled, and then handed it back to me.

“Very nice, bruddah," he said. "Very nice.”



From an upcoming book on Jim Crockett's United States Championship
Originally published August 10, 2010
on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway




The 2010 photo of Jimmy Snuka with the replica U.S. belt was taken by Peggy Lathan.
Want your own replica of this famous belt? Contact Dave Millican at DaveMillicanBelts.com.