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A recent episode of an ongoing docuseries dedicated to the dark underbelly of professional wrestling tackles a mysterious death and asks, was a young woman's death an accident or was she killed by a professional wrestling superstar?
Vice's “Dark Side of the Ring” took on the death of Nancy Argentino in a new episode, which aired April 12. Argentino was dating World Wrestling Entertainment wrestling star James Reiher Snuka — known professionally as Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka — when she died under suspicious circumstances in 1983. Adding to the controversy was that Snuka was married to another woman whom he had children with at the time of his relationship with Argentino.
As the episode showed, Snuka’s drug use had escalated so much by 1983 that his 22-year-old mistress, Argentino, also became his pseudo-manager — as nobody else wanted to deal with his alleged reckless behavior. She ended up driving him to wrestling matches and planning his schedule, which, in turn, may have put Argentino in harm's way.
The docuseries recounted one incident in January 1983 in which Snuka allegedly assaulted Argentino in a hotel. She later dropped charges and claimed he didn’t hurt her.
Months later, on May 10, 1983, Argentino and Snuka traveled to Allentown, Pennsylvania to tape an episode of championship wrestling. Hours later, paramedics responded to their motel room where Argentino was found unresponsive.
"Dark Side Of The Ring" claims that Snuka initially admitted to several people that he either shoved or hit Argentino earlier that day. He allegedly said she became lethargic and then unresponsive.
However, by the next day, he apparently changed his story and claimed that Argentino fell down on her own when they made a bathroom roadside pitstop on their way into Allentown. As the docuseries points out, there was another passenger in the car with them who doesn’t recall any fall.
A follow-up interview with Snuka was conducted by investigators on June 1. It was attended by WWE CEO Vince McMahon, the Allentown Morning Call reported in 2013. Snuka’s wife, Carole Snuka, told the producers of “Dark Side of the Ring” that her husband told her that McMahon came into town with his briefcase and told him it was “done.”
The docuseries noted that police documents prove that the meeting took place and lasted an hour — but there are no notes to indicate what was discussed during that meeting.
"I would only say there wasn't anything significantly said or done and that's why there's no record of it," Frederick Conjour, the former police of police with the Whitehall Township, told the docuseries. Conjour insisted the case was investigated the best it could have been investigated.
After that meeting, investigators ruled Argentino's death an accident.
Her family claimed that WWE offered them $25K following her death. In 1985, they won a $500K wrongful death lawsuit against Snuka but he contended he was broke and never paid it, the Morning Call reported.
The case seemed all but forgotten by the general public until interest was renewed in 2013, when the Morning Call did an anniversary story on Argentino’s death.
An autopsy report obtained by Morning Call journalists at that time showed that the medical examiner wrote that they “believe that the case should be investigated as a homicide until proven otherwise,” the Morning Call reported in 2015.
As a result, the case was brought before a grand jury and Snuka was charged with murder in 2015. Because of his failing health, however, a judge ruled him mentally unfit to stand trial.
Snuka died 10 days after the ruling. His wife maintains that her husband did not kill Argentino.
The episode shined a renewed light about the mysterious death. It also questions the controversial meeting between McMahon and authorities back in 1983, saying perhaps Argentino's death wasn't investigated properly because Snuka was an asset to the company. (It would not be the first time that outrageous rumors have swirled about wrestling mogul McMahon.)
WWE has not responded to Oxygen.com’s request for comment.
It’s been an exceptionally busy month for McMahon and his company. President Donald Trump appointed him to an advisory group dedicated to reopening the country during the coronavirus pandemic, all while WWE has continued running its weekly live wrestling — Florida has deemed WWE an essential business — without a live audience. The WWE has also furloughed many workers amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Due to COVID-19 and current government mandated impacts on WWE and the media business generally, the Company went through an extensive evaluation of its operations over the past several weeks,” a statement from the company reads. It adds, “Given the uncertainty of the situation, the Company also identified headcount reductions and made the decision to furlough a portion of its workforce effective immediately.”
It stated that the furlough of some employees is expected to be “temporary in nature.”
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