Almost 31 years ago, Jimmy Snuka was poised on top of the steel cage at Madison Square Garden in his WWF championship match against Bob Backlund, when he decided to do something that would change the face of professional wrestling as we know it. In that moment, he summoned the courage and took a leap of faith, much to the amazement of the crowd. And even though he would go on to miss the Superfly Splash, he would engrave his name in the history books as one of the trendsetters in professional wrestling. This was the man who inspired people like Mick Foley, Tommy Dreamer, Rob Van Dam and of course, Jeff Hardy to take up wrestling.
And 18 years later, you could see why Jeff Hardy embodied for the new generation of viewers, what Snuka had embodied for Hardy’s own generation. As he stood precariously on top of the ladder, looking down upon Bubba Ray Dudley lying on the table, in that moment he knew he had the key to fulfill his dream of making it big in the WWE and he somersaulted off to deliver one the most memorable Swanton Bombs of his career.
I do not claim that Hardy is the best wrestler of his time, actually far from it. His recent problems have even turned the staunchest of Hardy supporters (including the author) into skeptics. But what I would go on to say that he is the wrestler who has probably inspired the most number of youngsters to become professional wrestlers. And that is the purpose of this short article, to give credit where credit is due. Now I know there have been plenty of legends who you probably think would fit the bill of actually being the most inspiring, like Shawn Michaels for example. Shawn has proved himself to be the best in ring performer of all time and has rightfully earned the tag of Mr. Wrestlemania. But to appreciate that one needs a certain maturity and understanding of the business. We forget that for most of the masses, the WWE is a form of escapism, to leave your home and enter a wonderful world of entertainment through your television sets. And so, when I see Jeff Hardy, I see someone who can fly! And whenever he jumps off a ladder or from the top of the set, even casual viewers feel the adrenaline rush and the jaw dropping sense of amazement, which is actually what you came to watch.
That is why I feel that Jeff Hardy and Snuka are akin. They both make us believe that they are almost superhuman and that they can fly. And therefore I would not be scared to predict that somewhere down the line we might encounter a youngster who is up and coming in the ranks of the WWE who would say when asked of his motivation to become a wrestler that he decided to become a wrestler after watching Wrestemania 16.