Tony Marino, a former bodybuilder who became an international star in the 60s and 70s, passed away earlier today at the age of 90.
Born Tony Silipini, his death was first reported by Cauliflower Alley President Brian Blair, who was a close friend.
"Tony Marino left us this morning to go to a better place. I've enjoyed Tony's company for many years, especially the last six months in the rehab facility, where we would visit almost every week. Tony was able to see his 90th birthday on April 20th. He was most humbled by his recent induction into the KWSA Hall of Fame. Tony will be sadly missed."
Silipini was a name bodybuilder in the magazines in the 50s, who placed sixth in the 1953 Mr. America contest along with winning best chest.
He started wrestling in 1956 under his real name, with his bodybuilding credentials exaggerated into being a former Mr. America winner. He started using both his real name as well as Tony Marino depending on where he worked, and also was known in Australia and Hawaii for Jim Barnett and Ed Francis as Dino Lanza.
He wrestled full-time through 1977, usually as a top babyface star. from the mid-60s on.
His first major stardom came in Pittsburgh in 1966 as Battman, when Batman became a huge television show starring Adam West. The gimmick is best remembered in Pittsburgh for Bruno Sammartino's promotion and Studio Wrestling. Sammartino, when he'd speak about how he didn't like all the gimmickry in wrestling, it would be brought up by people that he used Battman as one of his top babyfaces. At times he was accompanied by John Foti as Robin.
His unmasking on Pittsburgh television was one of the most memorable television wrestling moments in that city of that era.
In the WWWF, Marino would come in at times but he was based in Pittsburgh and would regularly team with Sammartino.
He was best known for a run as the WWWF International tag team champions with Victor Rivera. The two defeated Toru Tanaka & Mitsu Arakawa for the titles on December 9, 1969, in Madison Square Garden, winning two straight falls. They held the titles until June 15, 1970, where they were in the co-feature under Sammartino vs. Crusher Verdu, losing to The Mongols, who were Josip Peruzovic (later Nikolai Volkoff) & Newton Tattrie. The tag team title match was a huge part of the show which broke the 50-year old Madison Square Garden gate record set by the legendary Earl Caddock vs. Joe Stecher match.
In the 70s, Marino had his most success for The Sheik in Detroit and Toronto, headlining and drawing many big crowds as a single, but more often as a tag team, being the regular partner of Flying Fred Curry and Bobo Brazil, and holding the area's NWA world tag team titles seven times.