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Baron Michele Leone (1909-1988)

Real NameMichele Leone

Lifespan - 6/8/09 - 11/26/88

5’10” 218 lbs. - Pettorano sul Gizio, Italy

Athletic Background - Wrestling

Teacher(s) - Michele Leone

AliasesMichael Leone, Mike Leone

Peak Years`48-`55

Place in HistoryThe career of Baron Michele Leone encapsulates the monumental shift the sport of pro-wrestling went through from its Depression Era peak to the Golden Age on television.  He, like many others, was a classically trained wrestler when he broke in, but when he retired, it was as an over-the-top heel character whose theatrics and royal character had made him both a champion and celebrity.  Michele Leone was introduced into the sport by an uncle of the same name and was able to leave his little Italian hometown for opportunities in bigger cities, foreign countries and, eventually, in America.  He was nothing if not adaptable.  Leone not only took on a more raucous style in the ring, but he became known as the “Mighty Mouthpiece” for his penchant for trash-talking.  Following some success on the East Coast, he signed a deal with Johnny Doyle to begin working in California with his new “Baron” persona in tow.  The Los Angeles market was perfect for Baron Leone who was put in with the likes of Gorgeous George, Antonino Rocca and Lord Blears on his way to becoming a double champion by defeating Enrique Torres after only a year.  His personality not only drew in the fans, but opened up opportunities in Hollywood for him.  His star was shining brightly, but his regional “world” title claim grabbed the attention of the NWA.  When it became apparent that Lou Thesz would be coming to town and leaving as the undisputed world champion, promoter Johnny Doyle decided to make the match a memorable one.  The build proved to be successful with over 25,000 in a minor league ballpark for the first pro-wrestling gate of over $100,000.  The two, who were diametrical opposed personalities, had a successful rematch before going on the road with a series.  Leone was rewarded with a subsequent run with the NWA World Junior Heavyweight title for a year and a half.  After that run, Baron Leone largely retired from the sport.  He was struck by car in 1988 and died from his injuries.