Recently, I’ve been watching a variety of old Piper’s Pit videos on YouTube. It reminds me of an era where people could cut promos, get heat, be controversial to sell tickets without the PC fanatics and cancel culture riding up ones bunghole. However, probably the most infamous of these skits was the one where Jimmy Snuka got smacked by a coconut. I decided to do some research on the subject matter because something struck me that I wasn’t aware of until the Dark Side of the Ring episode: the death of Nancy Argentino.
The actual death was dated May 10, 1983 according to Wikipedia. However, the case was left open. The infamous of Piper’s Pit occurred on March 28, 1984. Later on in 2015, Snuka was arrested and Snuka’s lawyer argued that the coconut incident affected Snuka to be able to stand trial. These series of events as well as some parts of the Dark Side of the Ring made me re-evaluate the situation.
One thing that was obvious was Snuka being heavily under the influence of coke when Nancy’s death occurred. More than likely, he got out of control and killed her on accident. Supposedly, as per the Dark Side of the Ring, there was a very secretive meeting between the police, Snuka and possibly McMahon. The police officer involved in the situation was interviewed during the Dark Side episode and it seemed quite apparent he was lying and possibly bribed because his explanations either made no sense, were inconsistent and just sounded like straight bullshit.
As Snuka was a very hot commodity in ’83, the case would have done a great deal of harm to McMahon’s rapid WWF expansion, especially as Snuka was playing a key part in the upcoming Rock-n-Wrestling connection angle, where he seemingly would partner with Hulk Hogan and Mr T on the first Wrestlemania. For whatever reason, that scenario didn’t pan out. In addition, Snuka also factored into merchandising heavily being advertised with the new LJN dolls/figures as well as being a prominent character in the cartoon.
Despite all these moving parts in place, Snuka seemed to have faded in 1985 in the WWF. In fact, as someone keen on him, I only got the opportunity to see him in an obscure local promotion called California Championship Wrestling (CCW), despite all the commercialism given to him around that period. It seemed really odd that he was going from the biggest promotion to something so obscure.
Looking at the timing of the Piper’s Pit, the fact that supposedly Roddy Piper had incidentally hit him with the wrong side, the fact that the lawyer knew what to say about the coconut and Snuka’s fading star, I have my theories of what happened here.
First, one theory is that this was secretly punishment from McMahon against Snuka for Nancy’s death. I’ve read some comments where people have mentioned or believed that Piper’s Pit really was a hidden vehicle for McMahon to bury people he did not like. And while Snuka vs Piper ended up being a hot feud, it really didn’t lead anywhere for Snuka in the end while Piper became a much bigger villain.
Another theory is that (and this is a long shot), they mutually agreed on hitting Snuka with the coconut to convince a possible jury that Snuka had mental issues and would not be able to remember what happened with Nancy. A few interviews suggested that the whole thing was impromptu but Piper did mention a few times how the bag of fruit was randomly chosen by some workers going to the super market and with one coconut being rigged. The thing is that Piper has been very reluctant in shoot interviews to break kayfabe, which makes the story seem somewhat questionable.
Given that wrestling was more protected at the time, everyone involved on the WWF’s side could have easily covered up the incident by using the coconut as a kayfabe excuse for brain damage, memory loss, amnesia, etc. as long as Snuka was able to keep things on his side quiet. Also, I figure that Snuka would be willing to go along with whatever they told them rather than go to jail and be indicted on murdering Nancy.
While Piper would go on to claim that Snuka never truly recovered, Snuka never recovered within wrestling to the same level of popularity as the early 80s, especially in the US. Instead, he would just be used to put others over in the WWF. But his aura was gone. I think at that point, he would do those jobs as a thank you to McMahon for saving him.