The People Who Kept Asking Questions In The Jimmy Snuka/Nancy Argentino Case

Talking with the reporters who kept asking what really happened to Nancy Argentino, the girlfriend of Jimmy Snuka.
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On Tuesday, WWE Hall Of Famer “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, 72, was charged by a grand jury with involuntary manslaughter and third-degree murder in the 1983 death of his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino in a Whitehall Township, Pennsylvania hotel room. The incident itself had long been the subject of debate and speculation among pro wrestling fans, and Snuka himself has been on the record with several differing versions of his side of the story. Wrestling history is rife with this sort of dark stuff; what sets the case of Jimmy Snuka apart is how it moved beyond the realm of speculation.

Autopsy reports, which were uncovered by the Allentown Morning Call in 2013, refute Snuka’s claim that the 23 year-old Argentino hit her head accidentally on the side of the road, hours before Snuka called the paramedics. That is the last bleak chapter in the long story of Snuka and Nancy Argentino—a story that has been told both by Snuka himself and the Argentino family, which cooperated with Irv Muchnick in the 2013 ebook, Justice Denied.

I reached out to two of the people who have done the most to shed light on this case, both when it occurred and in the many years since. Pro wrestling has changed a lot in the three-plus decades after the incident; the WWF that taped syndicated TV shows in nearby Allentown is now the WWE that fills arenas and stadiums for its pay-per-views, Monday Night RAW and SmackDown. But there is an enduring tragedy, here, and questions that have spanned the generation between the outlaw years in which this crime occurred and today's nascent wrestling boom.

Larry Reisman was just out of college in 1983, working for the Bethlehem Globe-Times when he noticed Snuka’s name in a police report. On Tuesday, Reisman tweeted out his story, which he rediscovered in 2013. He recounted, via email, his connection to this week’s events.

“If memory serves me correctly,” says Reisman, who now is a community editor at the Press Journal on Florida’s Treasure Coast, “there was a rather routine incident report I found mid-morning (working for a PM paper) about a woman seriously injured in a hotel room. I knew enough about wrestling to make the connection.”

He’s being modest, here. Reisman edited a national collegiate wrestling publication in his spare time, and had met then-WWF champion Bob Backlund while covering a Division III tournament. Asked whether the incident changed his opinions on pro wrestling, Reisman says it did not: “I always saw it as entertainment. Over the years, though, the WWF/E got WAY bigger, [more] dramatic and violent thanks to cable.”

That day, he phoned into the paper’s office, hurrying to give dictation of the facts, with co-worker Chuck Dervarics rewriting and adding to the story. “It would have been a lot easier nowadays,” Reisman said, “using my cellphone keyboard.”

While the event was formative in Reisman’s career, the story itself didn’t gain the amount of attention it would have today: “I don’t recall much local reaction at all,” he says. “No one in the media really knew what happened to cause the death, and the autopsy was never revealed.”

Reisman only really started to look back on the case itself after the 2013 Morning Call article. “I’m glad reporters there got information that we could not get between 1983 and early 1985,” he told me. While Reisman’s reporting got the story started, it would take years for it to reach anything like a resolution.


Adam Clark now works at the Newark Star-Ledger, but in 2013 he signed up to look into the cold case with Kevin Amerman while working for the Morning Call. While Amerman worked the legal angle, Clark went down to Philadelphia and read through documents used in a 1985 wrongful death suit filed against Snuka. That suit found in favor of the Argentinos, who were unable to collect due to Snuka’s alleged financial problems.

“I volunteered to work on the story because I thought it could be really compelling,” said Clark via email. “We approached the story the same way we would any other story. In this case, one of the individuals just happened to be a celebrity.”

Clark knew a bit about Snuka going into the report, though his partner had clearer memories of Superfly. “Kevin told me a story about his brother trying to do the 'Superfly Splash' when they were kids and breaking his bed,” Clark wrote. “So he definitely knew more about Snuka's background.”

Even though Clark and Amerman knew they had a compelling story, Clark is still surprised by recent developments. “We didn’t write the story with the expectation that the case would be reexamined or charges would be filed,” he said. “The goal was to tell a story that a lot of our readers probably had never heard before or had long forgotten.”

That said, Clark does think the investigation has made a difference. “The Argentino family has said previously that it believes the renewed interest in the case all started because of the reporting that The Morning Call did.” That’s something, and not just for the Argentinos.


We don’t know what will come from Jimmy Snuka’s recent charges, arrest, and release on bail. Snuka is now well into his seventies, and is battling stomach cancer, which was factor in why he was allowed to post bail in the first place. Snuka’s lawyer is already claiming that his client is suffering from dementia, and may not be fit to stand trial. Both Adam Clark and Laurence Reisman admit to being amazed at how things have played out already.

“It stemmed from an incident report most reporters—especially those who knew nothing about pro wrestling—might have overlooked,” says Reisman. “I sometimes wondered: If I had not found this, would it ever have been reported?”

Adam Clark sees hope in the results. “I think the story shows that there is a still a place for in-depth, investigative journalism in the changing media landscape,” he wrote. “As far as we know, there had been no signs of progress in the case for 30 years. It’s anyone’s guess what will happen as the legal process unfolds. I know that Nancy’s family has been quoted as saying the announcement yesterday was a relief.”

In a profession that yields little in the way of palpable rewards, let alone resolutions, that in itself is an achievement. The people dedicated to trying to find out what happened in the hotel room shared by Jimmy Snuka and Nancy Argentino did not quite find an answer. But they kept asking the questions.

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