It was one of the most memorable moments in wrestling history. Here, Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka open up about their classic coconut segment on Piper’s Pit, how it developed, and the alleged permanent damage Snuka suffered as a result of the attack.
Joining back up with the WWF in 1984 gave Roddy Piper a chance to show off his top-notch mic skills with the invention of Piper’s Pit, a weekly interview segment where Roddy would interview the other wrestlers, usually berating, attacking or insulting them in the process, claiming, “Just when they think they have the answers, I change the questions!”
The segments became one of the main staples of WWF television in the ’80s and it gave Roddy Piper a chance to build storylines and use the show as a platform to catapult himself to the top of the company with his eccentric high energy performance and witty improvised lines.
On March 28, 1984, at The Field House in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, Roddy Piper invited guest Jimmy Snuka to come on to his show for a segment that launched a memorable feud between the two wrestlers. Snuka, who had been a guest on Piper’s Pit already, requested another visit to the show as Roddy didn’t allow Snuka the chance to get any words in edge-wise the first time around. Snuka wanted to finally get his chance to speak his mind.
Right from the start of the segment, Roddy again didn’t allow Snuka to speak. Rather, Piper kept pulling the microphone away from Snuka and talking over him before he could get a word in.
In reality, WWF management knew Jimmy Snuka was not the greatest of talkers and that Piper would be the one responsible for generating the build-up for this feud.
In a moment wrestling fans won’t likely forget, The Hot Rod brought out a grocery bag full of items to make Jimmy feel more at home.
The first item Piper pulled out of the bag was a pineapple, to remind Snuka of the women of Fiji. Bushy on the top and round all over. Then, Piper brought out some bananas, started peeling them, and arrogantly lobbed them in Snuka’s direction. To add further insult, Piper took coconuts out of his bag and one by one dropped them haughtily on the table. Snuka, finally having enough of Piper’s antics, went to put his microphone down but was instantly met with a smashed coconut upside his head courtesy of Roddy Piper.
The impact of the coconut caused Snuka to stumble over, bringing the Piper’s Pit set crashing down to the ground with him. Piper, clearly not finished with his shaming of Snuka, spit and smashed banana pieces into his downed opponent’s face, took his leather belt off, and proceeded to whip Snuka repeatedly with it while calling out jabs like “Come on boy!” and “You ain’t nothin’!”
Jimmy Snuka would eventually clear the cobwebs after the attack and charge after Piper but not before Roddy ran to safety in another room slamming the door behind him on Snuka’s face. The segment ended with Snuka having to be held back by several WWF wrestlers and officials. A memory etched in the minds of fans forever.
JIMMY SNUKA (via Cult of Whatever): “Well, first of all, I have to tell you when he hit me over the head with that coconut we hadn’t planned it. He just did it out of the blue…”
RODDY PIPER: “I improvised almost everything I did. There was no rehearsal. I had no script to work with like they do today. I could do thirty minutes on a Puerto Rican with freckles. Because the Pit was improvised, no one wanted to do it. After a while, the best talkers in WWF were coming on and it became a battle of wits. It never mattered if I lost or won, because you were watching…”
JIMMY SNUKA: “Roddy was a real character, and with me coming from the Fiji Islands, he was teasing me about eating bananas, pineapples. Then, from nowhere, he picks up the coconut…”
RODDY PIPER (via Freezerbox): “Oh man, I hit him hard… so hard it would have killed a mule…”
JIMMY SNUKA: “I was just staring him down because I ain’t going to look away. I’ve got to see everything happening, you know? When it happened, brudda, when it happened and he hit me over the head with that coconut; thank God I had my bandana on, you know? But still it cut me open and I got so dizzy. I just kept going one way and I remember going into a wall and went down…”
RODDY PIPER: “[Do I regret hitting him so hard?] Yeah. A little bit. Jimmy Snuka, he’s one of the greatest. He outranks me, man. They told me that when he got back to his dressing room, he just sat there for like ten, fifteen minutes. Nobody could talk to him. He just stared down. He’s never quite been the same…”
JIMMY SNUKA: “That whole thing, brudda, is where it started. We both knew, when it was all said and done, I told him, ‘I think we got them…'”
RODDY PIPER: “Jimmy Snuka is the one responsible for the popularity of Piper’s Pit – not Roddy Piper.”
JIMMY SNUKA: “Bruh, you know, I still have a headache…”
Jimmy Snuka Left Permanently Damaged by Coconut Incident on Piper’s Pit?
The coconut headshot delivered by Roddy Piper on Piper’s Pit allegedly affected Jimmy Snuka throughout his life. The purported damage caused by that coconut spot from 1984 was even used by Jimmy Snuka’s lawyer in a bid to disprove Snuka’s ability to stand trial for the murder of his mistress, Nancy Argentino in 2015, over thirty years after the segment took place.
According to Snuka’s attorney, Robert J. Kirwan, he argued in court that the coconut was supposed to be shaved thin on one end, to crack like an egg but Piper hit Snuka with the wrong end. As a result of this, Kirwan contended that this attack played a part in Snuka’s cognitive difficulties later in life and as one of the reasons Jimmy Snuka was unfit to stand trial for murder.
While Snuka was unable to recall many of the injuries that led to his head trauma later in life, he was able to recount the coconut incident which left him dizzy and disoriented for years to come.
You can read more about Jimmy Snuka and the Death of Nancy Argentino on our site here.
One interesting thing to note here is that Snuka, in his interview with Cult of Whatever, stated that he didn’t know that he was going to be hit in the head by a coconut. This is not how he later remembered it in his book Superfly: The Jimmy Snuka Story by Jimmy Snuka with Jon Chattman.
Snuka wrote, “We spent hours planning our famous edition of Piper’s Pit — you know the one, where [Piper] brought in all the bananas, pineapples, and coconuts to make me feel like I was back on the island. When we were rehearsing that, I told Piper to hit me with the coconut. He looked at me like I was crazy, but I knew it’d heat the crowd up. He asked me if I was sure, and I was like, ‘Brudda, you better hit me with that…'”
“Roddy did just that,” Snuka continued, “and things went nuts from there. I loved it.”
WWF road agent ‘Chief’ Jay Strongbow was responsible for gimmicking the coconut to ensure that it shattered upon impact. According to both men, Strongbow shaved one side of the coconut so that it would break easier on Snuka’s head. The issue that came later was when Piper hit Snuka on the head with cameras rolling, he accidentally hit him on the wrong side of the coconut. While the coconut smashed apart on impact, the blow to the head was much more severe than anticipated.
Despite having lingering effects from the spot, Snuka wrestled a match afterward on that show which he won.
In regards to Roddy Piper, he was never really sure that the coconut was rigged at all, and while the spot was practiced beforehand, Jimmy Snuka tearing down the set wasn’t part of the plan. Roddy had two other Piper’s Pit segments to tape that day and the set had to be rebuilt for his other segments with Terry Daniels and later Chief Jay Strongbow. The leather belt whipping of Snuka was also improvised, and Snuka was said to be none too pleased about that.
And about the coconut incident changing Jimmy Snuka in real life, according to Ring The D**n Bell, Roddy Piper expressed that Jimmy was never really the same after their Piper’s Pit segment. Snuka, who according to Piper was usually quite friendly off-camera, became more reserved and would often stare blankly into space. He also said that one night after one of their matches, Snuka attacked him unprovoked in a hotel hallway.
Regardless of the situation behind the scenes, Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka both admitted they loved each other as brothers and were close friends.
“I loved [my feud] against my friend Roddy Piper,” Snuka noted in his book. “The fans loved it, too. You’ll notice I say I love everybody in this book, but it’s true. I can get along with anybody. I just let everything go and hold no grudges.”
Snuka continued, “The two of us were like oil and water on TV. I remember Piper had so much heat on him — it was like nothing we had ever seen before. Piper’s Pit was just completely unbelievable. I feuded with Piper for a while, but I feel we got to finish the story because I ended up leaving the WWF.”
The Piper’s Pit segment that set up the legendary feud between Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka truly was nothing we had ever seen before. It was a classic moment fans are sure to never forget.
Watch the infamous moment Roddy Piper attacked Jimmy Snuka with a coconut on Piper’s Pit:
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