Dark Side Of The Ring — “Jimmy Snuka & The Death Of Nancy Argentino” (en.wikipedia.org)

Kyle Dunning

Hello! Today, I bring you the 9th edition of a series looking at the TV show Dark Side of the Ring. This episode looks at the mysterious death of Nancy Argentino, a young woman who Jimmy Snuka dated in the early 80’s at the height of his wrestling popularity. The case remains open to this day. Please check the links for all of my previous reviews to date:

  1. “The Killing Of Bruiser Brody”
  2. “The Match Made In Heaven”
  3. “The Montreal Screwjob”
  4. “The Mysterious Death of Gorgeous Gino”
  5. “The Last of the Von Erichs”
  6. “The Fabulous Moolah” – Part #1″
  7. “The Fabulous Moolah” – Part #2″
  8. “The Assassination of Dino Bravo”

Jimmy Snuka


Jimmy Snuka and The Death of Nancy Argentino”

What is mysterious about this case is the differing accounts. First, I would like to thank of The Morning Call for bringing the details to light. None of the recent facts would have been revealed without their research. And while justice may never be served, it should not stop anyone from uncovering the truth. Otherwise, it would mean other similar incidents could go down the same, long forgotten road of no repercussions.

Before we continue, I urge you to have watched the episode if you have not done so already.

From there, I would also urge you to read the following from melmagazine.com.

Who Failed Nancy Argentino?

It takes the Dark Side of the Ring episode and expands on it with snippets of media coverage, along with highlighting key parts of reports. There is also a previous conviction highlighted within Snuka’s alien file. It says that Snuka pleaded guilty to an assault charge one month before Nancy’s passing. Much of this does not add up. The problem though, is it was so long ago that many who could give first-hand information cannot (or choose not to) remember the events accurately.

Dark Side Of The Ring
Click on the image for the rest of the story.

Unlike some previous episodes, everyone had something relevant to add. However, there are three speakers who I am skeptical of. Before I do, let me tell you how WWE responded to the Snuka case being reopened so many years later:

“WWE expresses its continued sympathy to the Argentino family for their loss. Ultimately this legal matter will be decided by our judicial system.”

Below is a more detailed, unconfirmed account of the final meeting that took place before the case went cold in 1983, taken from The Morning Call:

“By all accounts in police records and recent interviews with those involved in the case, McMahon and the WWF were fully cooperative with the police investigation. On May 27, 1983, The Morning Call reported that District Attorney William Platt, now a Pennsylvania Senior Superior Court judge, said the investigation into Nancy’s death was nearly complete. “It’s just a matter of getting everybody together,” Platt was quoted as saying, referring to the investigators and attorneys involved in the case, according to the article.

Five days later, on June 1, 1983, Snuka and McMahon met with Platt, then-Assistant District Attorney Robert Steinberg and Mihalakis, the medical examiner, in the DA’s office law library. Whitehall Police Detectives Gerry Procanyn, Al Fritzinger and Vincent Geiger were also at the meeting, according to police records. There’s no official record of what was said and Snuka doesn’t remember much of what happened, according to his book. “All I remember is [McMahon] had a briefcase with him,” Snuka wrote in his autobiography. “I don’t know what happened. …The only thing I know for sure is I didn’t hurt Nancy.”

Steinberg, now a Lehigh County judge, said Snuka didn’t say much and McMahon “did all the talking.” “I remember Vince McMahon being what Vince McMahon has always been — very effusive. He was very protective, a showman,” Steinberg said, noting he couldn’t recall specifics of the conversation. “He was the mouthpiece, trying to direct the conversation.”

Procanyn said McMahon gave authorities the phone numbers of wrestlers and managers they wanted to speak with. Fritzinger could not be reached for comment and Geiger died in 1984. Platt wouldn’t comment when asked if Whitehall police pushed for charges to be filed.”

In response to this information coming to light, WWE responded with this statement:

“The insinuation that a group of medical examiners, detectives and prosecutors – including two who became judges – could have their integrity compromised and participate in improper activity during the course of a meeting is absurd, categorically false and insulting to all parties. We are hopeful that justice will prevail.”

Despite this, details of the meeting were never revealed. With that said, allow me to turn our attention to Frederick Conjour.

Upon my first watch, I assumed Conjour was somehow connected to the case. He wasn’t, in fact, he did not sit in on the meeting (which he dubbed unimportant despite it being the very last before the case went cold) or ever met Snuka despite being the Chief Of Police for the area. No one directly connected would come forward to comment, leaving Conjour to defend a police force that had suffered greatly under his watch.

Ironically, despite Dark Side of the Ring being about uncovering truths, Ivan Muschnik’s questioning of Conjour was censored heavily on the After Dark episode (where they sit down and provide further detail). With no reason given, After Dark episodes were cancelled after this, and Dark Side of the Ring producers stated it was not their decision, as After Dark was filmed by a separate company. Again, it is highly recommended you read Ivan Muschnik’s account of the choice to feature Conjour in this episode. It only raises more questions than answers.

“The One and Only Law Enforcement Voice in VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring’ Episode on the Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka Murder Case Was a Local Police Chief Who Got Fired the Year I Broke the Story”

Muschnik also praises David Bixenspan for helping to find more information on the story, along with questioning why The Morning Call refused to acknowledge long-time Lehigh County district attorney, James Martin, much like how Dark Side of the Ring failed to do.

Investigative Wrestling Journalist David Bixenspan Takes the Jimmy Snuka Murder Cover-Up Narrative to Another Level

Next up is Jimmy Snuka’s widow, Carol Snuka, who doesn’t appear empathetic. She seems annoyed at the fact that WWE would have Snuka sign things, while having no clue what the terms were. It’s like she’s passing the blame on to Vince McMahon. With Buddy Rogers not wanting to chaperone him (Snuka was taking a lot of cocaine and beating up his current wife Sharon), it’s understandable that Jimmy’s business ventures would be taken advantage of. In his book, Jimmy states that Nancy ruined his life is contradictory to how he acted at her funeral.

It sounds like the incident itself ruined his life, rather than anything Nancy had done while she was alive. Carol states that during the trial it was a “blessing” Jimmy had brain damage, because he didn’t know what it was about. Imagine how that comment sounds to the Argentino family… how is it any kind of “blessing” to have brain damage? So he didn’t have to face the music? It would have been devastating… for sure, but what about the lives of the Argentino family? While it probably wasn’t meant to be, it sounds harsh. I understand her wanting to defend Jimmy, but Nancy was 23 and lost her whole life and justice needed to be done.

Tonga Kid

And finally, let’s talk about Sam Fatu AKA Tonga Kid, who is a member of the famous Anoaʻi family. His son is Jacob Fatu of MLW, twin brother of Rikishi, and older brother of Eddie Fatu AKA Umaga. He’s here to give us a lighter account of Snuka as a human being in his early days working as his “cousin” Tonga Kid.

First off, his origin story differs to the one he tells in “Wrestling in His Blood” In the Dark Side of the Ring episode, he says he wasn’t interested in wrestling, but was a kid who got sent to juvenile prison for hitting a bus driver in San Fransisco. His parents sent him to Afa & Sika, who pretty much forced him in to the business at 16-years-old. And of course, who would protect him? Jimmy Snuka. Now, if we look at the other account, it states the following:

He was having scrapes with the law, so his Mother sent him to Afa & Sika for discipline. It was in fact Johnny Rodz who helped him through his first match, as Tonga Kid stood in as a replacement while wearing Snuka’s gear (because he didn’t have his own). He was seventeen, and Pat Patterson encouraged Vince Sr to sign him. The only other mention of Snuka I can see, is that he was “going through some problems”. Why did he not hail Snuka as his hero or talk about their tag team? Snuka is one of the Anoa’i family’s closest friends and they worked together for a short time in 1984 on TV; over a year after the incident.

There are some strange comments made by Sam. Including the following:

  • “Jimmy had his girlfriend on the road with him, I don’t remember her name”
  • “Yes, I was (at the hotel on the day), we drove to Allentown, me, Jimmy and her. We jumped in to the car and drove there. It was fun, I was in the backseat and we had the Elvis going. Jimmy had some nice cologne on, and we just talked going to Allentown. Once we got there, Jimmy & Nancy went their way, and I went mine, and that’s when all that took place… when Nancy got killed“.

In another video after it was announced Jimmy Snuka go to court, Sam said the following at the 3:50 mark:

  • This man (Jimmy) loved her so much that I stopped traveling with him and he was traveling with her.

Was He In The Car?!

For someone who seemed adamant he was there on the day she died, his comments make little sense. First off, he can’t remember her name til someone reminds him in Dark Side of the Ring. How can someone know and love Jimmy so much that it took him decades to remember her name? This is one of the biggest incidents in his hero’s life, yet somehow can’t recall her name? After claiming to have gone on the road and knowing their relationship firsthand?

I don’t know understand why he says “when Nancy got killed”. Usually when an incident is deemed accidental through no fault of anyone else, you would say the person tragically, or sadly died/passed away. Why would he say she got killed?? I can forgive him if he just got mixed up with his words. But when I heard him say that, all I could say was… wait what! Why did you say it like that??!

The last comment completely contradicts his statement that he was in the car on the day of her passing. If this was to be Jimmy & Nancy’s last ride together, then Sam would never have “stopped traveling with him” to allow them more space. This account happened roughly five years before Dark Side of the Ring, so why did his story change? Was he in the car or not? His comments only raise more questions. His recollection contradicts not only himself, but Snuka’s changed story of the event.

Conjour appears to joke about someone being in the car; til the interviewer tells him that Sam said he was… and his demeanor instantly changes. You can see him grinning at the idea, but then he looks almost shocked to hear the claim. He scrambles around for an answer, before saying he “somehow had heard that”; but he can’t give specifics as it was so long ago. Both he & Fatu get frustrated because they can’t remember the details and we’re left wondering whether or not he was in the car. Carol defends them by saying Fatu is probably confused… but they aren’t lying. It’s just difficult to remember the whole thing.

Conclusion

There’s a lot to absorb here, even for me. After reading through everything, it’s clear there are so many holes in this story. But with Jimmy Snuka’s death, and no one willing to come forward at the risk of their livelihoods, it’s left to third parties like Ivan Muschnik, David Bixenspan, Adam Clark and others to dig around on the Argentino’s behalf. I feel really sorry for the family having to endure this incredibly obscene miscarriage of justice, and I hope that one day something substantial can be found.

I appreciate this episode because it did the job of explaining the case. However, it left so much off the table I had to go looking on the cutting room floor for the rest. There’s so much that wasn’t said, along with so many confusing, conflicting statements having no right making it to air, that I have to be critical of it. How can you make a documentary and leave out what they did? It’s not an accurate representation of what’s out there in the public domain.

If you can’t find someone who was/is directly connected to the case, then don’t bring in someone who wasn’t. It was awkward and most of what Fatu said… as nice of a guy as he likely is, left me scratching my head. With that said, I wouldn’t take this episode as the absolute, tell-all documentary of Nancy Argentino’s mysterious death. If you really want to know more, then you have no choice but to do a lot of reading. Let it be known though, that no one will ever know the exact details of what happened that day, because Jimmy took it to the grave.

And no one else is ever likely to spill anything substantial, because if they were going to it would’ve happened already. In closing, I’d like to take the time to thank all the linked publications and journalists who spent weeks, months, years working on uncovering the truth, and hope I can do my part by shining light on their works so wrestling fans around the world have a better idea of what transpired in May 1983. Thanks for reading.

Dark Side Of The Ring