Friday, October 13, 2017

Action Figure Friday: Jimmy Snuka and Ric Flair

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway 
Photographs by Mike Simmerman

One of the most brutal and bloody feuds of 1979-1980 in the Mid-Atlantic area was between "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka and "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.

The two battled over the United States Heavyweight championship. Flair had voluntarily forfeited the title in August of 1979 after he and Blackjack Mulligan won the NWA World tag team titles from Paul Jones and Baron Von Rachke. The NWA put the title up in a one-night tournament in Charlotte on September 1 of that same year. The man who came out on top of that night's single elimination tournament was Superfly Snuka.

Bob Caulde interviews "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers
manager of the U.S. Heavyweight Champion Jimmy Snuka
Snuka had been one of the area's most popular combatants for some time, but had recently developed a more vicious style in the ring after taking on "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers as his manager in July. By the time the tournament rolled around on 9/1, Snuka was a full-fledged member of the "heel" brigade. He defeated "Mr. Wrestling" Tim Woods and Jim Brunzell on his way to the finals where he defeated the odds-on favorite Ricky Steamboat for the title.

Meanwhile, Flair and Mulligan had lost the NWA World tag titles back to Jones and Raschke, and Ric was hungry once again to regain the U.S. championship, a title he had held on several occasions over the last two and a half years. In late 1979, Buddy Rogers sold the contracts of his wrestlers to Gene Anderson, now in his furst stint guiding the careers of others after a succesful in-ring career as part of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew with brothers Lars and Ole Anderson.

Flair and Snuka headlined cards for months as Flair fought in vain to regain the title. Finally on April 20 in Greensboro, NC, Flair took the measure of the Fiji islander and reclaimed the title for a fourth time.

Years later, Snuka still held fond memories of that time in his career and his time with the U.S. championship belt. I wrote about that in an earlier post: Jimmy Snuka Remembers the U.S. Championship Belt.

Mike Simmerman's photographs of his action figures rekindle some of the images from that classic rivalry in Mid-Atlantic area.