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Tony Parisi (1941-2000)


Real NameAntonio Pugliese

Lifespan - 1/22/1941 - 8/19/2000

5’11” 240 lbs. - Niagara Falls, ONT

Athletic BackgroundWrestling

Teacher(s) - n/a

AliasesAntonio Pugliese, Tony Calza, Antonio Parisi, Tony Pug

Peak Years`65-`75

Place in HistoryIn the years after World War II, immigrants from Italy came to North American steadily and were able thrive, often in Italian enclaves.  Antonio Pugliese, whose family settled in Niagara Falls, was an amateur wrestler who was broken into the pro ranks by Bert Ruby. He switched between his birth name and the simpler Tony Parisi throughout his career.  During that period, pro-wrestlers often played up their real (or even made-up) ethnic heritage and that could help them develop a strong character in certain markets. In the Northeastern US, Australia, Toronto and Detroit, areas with sizable Italian populations, he played up his Italian heritage.  As a lover of opera, he even worked as the heel “Tenor” Parisi, although other than that, he was a career-long babyface. Parisi eventually found a friend and partner in Gino Brito and the two teamed off and on for years. Known as “Cannonball,” he was known for his highflying, specifically his flying butt-sit splash finisher.  Pugliese was brought to the WWWF in 1965, billed as the cousin of Bruno Sammartino. He played the role of the face that up-and-coming heels would smash before being programmed with the champ. He left the WWWF for Australia, where he made big money as a top babyface. The promotion had many Italian fans and Pugliese was successful as a tag partner of Mario Milano, Domenic Denucci and Don Leo Jonathan.   By this point, he had made enough money to start investing in his hometown. A motel and restaurant became his main focus and Tony Parisi was much more selective about where and when he wrestled. He returned to the WWWF, teaming with Gino Brito (who worked as “Louis Cerdan”) and winning the tag titles from the Blackjacks and later dropping them to the Executioners (Killer Kowalski & John Studd under masks).  He continued to be semi-active for another decade, mainly working around his hometown. Montreal was still a viable market and Tony Parisi was able to team with Gino Brito and Dino Bravo to cater to the area’s Italian-Canadian fans. In the 1990s, Parisi was one of the driving forces behind WCW’s Ilio DiPaulo shows in Buffalo. His death in 2000 at the age of 58 was unusual as it was quite young, but there were many deaths of young wrestlers that happened around the same time.  Tony Parisi is now remembered as part of that Italian connection that came to New York (as well as Montreal, Toronto and around the Steel Belt) and were able to achieve a level of success not unlike Tony “Battman” Marino, Domenic Denucci and Gino Brito.