Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Martino Angelo in Toronto

Former wrestler Martino Angelo enjoyed some success in Toronto from 1962 to 1965 as a manager the fans loved to hate.
Tough as nails

He had started wrestling in the early 1930's all over the north and northeast U.S. and had wrestled as a main event star around his local Hamilton for promoter George Hills in the mid 1940's under his real name Angelo Curto. He came in to Toronto as Martino Angelo to wrestle in Sept 1962 on the same card Johnny Valentine made his Toronto debut.

He had at one time been a top junior heavyweight holding the Midwest Wrestling Association World Junior Heavyweight title around Columbus and Dayton, Ohio in the early 1940s. He would later gain recognition as the NWA World Light-Heavyweight Champion (Hollywood, California version) in the mid 1940s battling the likes of Dangerous Danny McShain and Wild Red Berry.

MLG Photographer Roger Baker remembers Angelo

'Martino was short in stature, but he was a genuine tough guy, his facial features resembled a man who had been in many fist fights, as well as hundreds of rough house wrestling brawls.'

He and John Yachetti (wrestling as Gino Angelo) had already been travelling in other areas but Angelo first managed Yachetti - as The Beast - in Toronto in May 1963 for a bout against Gene Kiniski. Star reporter Joe Perlove referred to Angelo not as his manager but as his 'keeper' and right from the start he was a thorn in the side of whomever his charge was facing.

Roger covered this bout for a wrestling magazine. He made note of the fact that big Gene, long hated in these parts was beginning to show signs of becoming a hero. The fans actually cheered Gene against The Beast. This is the same guy they would chase under the ring and on many occasions Kiniski would be lucky to get out of the ring alive.
Helping The Beast

Roger would describe The Beast as a 'fireplug with a fur-coat' indeed! At one point Angelo reached under the ring rope and grabbed Kiniski's foot tripping him up. The Beast pounced on him and got the big win.  Kiniski then took after Angelo outside the ring and delivered a good beating, setting a soon to be standard as far as receiving his fair share of action - on the outside.

Next opponent up was Bulldog Brower, the top villain in the area in the main event no less. As with Kiniski the fans sided with Brower, not exactly cheering him but hating him less as compared to Angelo and The Beast.

Again a win with interference from Angelo and a rare loss for the Bulldog. Another win 2 weeks later vs Brower and they set a special rules match for the following week.

Angelo was to be suspended in a cage above the ring to keep him from interfering in the bout. The time Brower got the win when The Beast was kayoed outside the ring by Johnny Valentine. The equally hated Valentine had sneaked up the ramp, his arm in a cast from a recent injury, and flattened The Beast when ref Tiger Tasker's back was turned.

They repeated that stipulation for a bout with Whipper Watson in Aug 1963, Watson winning when The Beast failed to make it back to the ring after a ten count.

After Valentine had healed up (and turned good guy) he got his chance at The Beast and this time Angelo was handcuffed to 'Gentleman' Jim Hady to even it out.

Roger relates his impressions of Angelo and The Beast

'The Beast was a very compact built man, he was incredibly strong, his entire body was covered in a thick coat of shiny black hair, if he were to catch an opponent in his famed bear hug, the opponent faced the prospect of having a cracked rib or two. '

'This wrestling fan almost bumped into the Beast while he was hunched over eating a sandwich at a lunch counter in Thorncliff Mall. This would have been in the mid 1960's, can remember saying hello to him but he let me know by his eyes leave him be while he had his lunch. '
In the middle of the Powerlock 

They would continue the trend over the next year with many of same special rules for the bouts. For one they had both Angelo and Pat Flanagan in the cage above the ring, Flanagan there to make sure Angelo couldn't get to help his charge in his bout vs Whipper.

In July 1964 The Beast got a shot against visiting WWWF champ Bruno Sammartino, and yet again Angelo interfered.

In April 1965 Angelo continued his cheating ways, this time during a bout of Bruno vs Johnny Powers and would begin accompanying the soon to be star - Powers..

Roger recalls an incident around this time.

'This reporter can remember one Sunday evening at MLG when Martino Angelo was at ringside with his current charge Johnny Powers who was working as a heel. A deranged fan swung a bicycle chain at Angelo and as a result of this cowardly act Martino sustained a nasty gash to the right side of his face. The police had a hold of this fan, and I later learned that the police told Martino that they would leave him alone in a room at the Garden's with his assailant if he so wished, Martino very generously let the guy off. '

'Powers was a superb athlete, and in top shape. He once told me that as a young man he belonged to a rowing team and that he had done many hours of sculling in dirty old Hamilton bay. This no doubt contributed to the considerable strength and muscularity that he possessed. Powers enjoyed a prolonged stay in the Toronto area, and went on to become an international wrestling star.'

Thanks as always to Roger Baker
We will look at Powers in an upcoming post with more fabulous photos from Roger

*some info on Angelo from an excellent profile by Gary Howard on Yachetti on Slam! Wrestling