After re-watching Return of the Jedi recently, I started to wonder about Jabba and his criminal empire.
All the sources I've read agree that Jabba is immensely powerful, and his influence was such that even the Imperial forces were reluctant to cross him.
But physically, Hutts just don't seem particularly intimidating. Sure, they're big, and they have huge mouths, but Jabba seems practically immobile, and the Wookieepedia entry on Hutts indicates that this is not uncommon for older Hutts.
My first thought was that perhaps Jabba leveraged a family inheritance to build a criminal empire, but Wookieepedia indicates he started small, as a "high risk gunrunner". The details are very sparse:
Jabba started small, finding early work as a high-risk gunrunner, along with his lifelong friend Ephant Mon. During Senator Palpatine's rise to power, the Hutt was one of several gangsters who made his bid for dominance. His competitors included Sise Fromm, the then-kingpin of organized crime in the galaxy and Prince Xizor, fledgling heir to the Black Sun criminal empire. Though neither Xizor nor Jabba were by any means young, both had just been handed the reins of power established by their respective criminal families. While Fromm played war games, Xizor and Jabba sensed the winds of change and spent their resources garnering favor with those who seemed to be shifting into power.
I guess being a slow, ponderous slug-like being is less of a disadvantage once you're flying a ship, but even then its not like their arms look particularly dextrous. It seems like the Huttese physiology would be nothing but a series of disadvantages for an aspiring crime lord.
How did Jabba parlay a career as a high-risk gunrunner into a notorious crime lord? Currying favor with up-and-coming galactic powers would seem to only lead to becoming a lackey to one or more of those powers, yet Jabba seemed to have evolved into a power in his own right, beholden to none.
Are there any canon references that provide details on his rise to power?