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Rocca in 1956
|Born||13 April 1927|
|Died||March 15, 1977 (aged 49)|
New York City, United States
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Antonino Rocca|
|Billed height||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|Trained by||Stanislaus Zbyszko|
Career[change | change source]
Rocca was responsible for the revival of the New York City Metropolitan-Area territory in the late 1940s which would eventually become part of the modern World Wrestling Entertainment. Rocca would become one of the most well-known wrestlers in America during the golden age of television and had an uninterrupted seven-year run of headlining or co-headlining every main-event at the Garden. Aside from singles competition, Rocca had a successful tag team career with Miguel Pérez. Both Rocca and Pérez were known for drawing huge crowds to Madison Square Garden on a regular basis.
During the early 1950s, he held two regionally-recognized versions of professional-wrestling's world heavyweight singles-championship while he still headlined nationwide which was frequently in territories where other wrestlers were the recognized champs. In 1949, he competed for the New York City-area territory owned by Joseph Raymond "Toots" Mondt and the Johnston family of promoters and was considered to be the box-office draw that helped bring wrestling back to Madison Square Garden, on a regular basis, for the first time since 1938. In 1957, during a match against Dick the Bruiser, a riot erupted at Madison Square Garden when Rocca was busted open by Dick the Bruiser.
He formed a successful tag team with Jose Miguel Perez in 1957. They won the NWA Capitol World Tag Team Championship and were never defeated after winning the title but it was abandoned after around five years. During 1959 and 1960, he briefly worked with Kola Kwariani and Jack Pfefer, who took effective control of the Garden's wrestling office. Rocca set the post-World War II record for wrestling-attendance at Madison Square Garden's 49th–50th Street location, drawing 21,950 fans in a singles-match against "the Amazing Zuma," a/k/a "Argentina Zuma," on January 2, 1960, as was reported by the New York Times.
After he was demoted, and because of the arrival of Buddy Rogers as the featured star at MSG in 1961, he left the WWWF and briefly set up a competing promotion (which was supported by Jim Crockett, Sr. and others) based at the Sunnyside arena in Queens, NY but it was believed to have failed and it shut down. During the mid-1970s, he teamed up with Vince McMahon to handle the color commentary on the WWWF's weekly television show. On February 25, 1977, he made an appearance with World Wide Wrestling Federation and officiated a boxing match between Gorilla Monsoon and André the Giant at the famed Madison Square Garden.
Championships[change | change source]
- American Wrestling Association (Montreal)
- AWA World Heavyweight Championship (Montreal version) (one time)
- American Wrestling Association (Ohio)
- AWA World Heavyweight Championship (Ohio version) (one time)
- Stampede Wrestling
- Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame
- NWA Capitol Wrestling
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (Capitol version) (one time) (with Miguel Pérez)
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Northeast version) (one time) (with Miguel Pérez)
- Southwest Sports, Inc.
- NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship (two times)
- World Wrestling Council
- WWC North American Tag Team Championship (one time) (with Miguel Pérez)
- World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation
- WWF Hall of Fame (Class of 1995)
- CWC/WWWF International Heavyweight Championship (one time)
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum (Class of 2003)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)