While the subject of the latest Dark Side of the Ring episode from Vice didn’t focus on the sexiest of topics, “The Assassination of Dino Bravo” made for an intriguing watch for a man that turned out to be a casualty of both the end of the territory era and, apparently, the mafia.
Modern fans that don’t have a taste for the classics may not be familiar with Bravo (Adolfo Bresciano), best known to fans like myself for his seven year WWF run from 1985 through 1992.
The doc does a good job at setting up just how big Bravo was in his home province and country of Quebec, Canada, and International Wrestling, specifically. As their top star, longtime champion, and part owner, he was the type of regional star that the territory era was built around.
Eventually, though, the WWF steamroller killed the territories and the once hot organization was no different, losing The Rougeau Brothers, Rick Martel, and then in 1985, the reluctant Bravo to a big money contract.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but despite being hugely over in Montreal, Bravo never fully got a big run in WWF. He was paired up with Jimmy Hart, dyed his hair blonde, and did eventually get singles matches with Hulk Hogan and tag matches against Hogan alongside Earthquake. But by 1992, WWF didn’t renew his contract and he dropped out of the business altogether.
And that’s where our story takes the turn. With family ties to the mob and wanting to sustain an expensive lifestyle, Bravo became part of the world of organized crime and specifically an enforcer with a focus on the contraband cigarette trade.
Throughout the episode, those interviewed do a great job at painting the picture of who Bravo was and who he became. His wife, Diane, and daughter, Claudia, were standouts, conveying the raw emotion of having their husband/father brutally murdered in their home and being the ones to initially come home to it. Claudia, especially, still struggles with his death, saying one of her two children looks exactly like his late grandfather.
Friend of the site Pat Laprade, Tony Mule and Gino Brito of International Wrestling, the always on Jacques Rougeau, Rick Martel from a previous interview, and two Canadian mafia journalists round out the group responsible for also filling in the blanks, a welcome respite from the bickering of Jim Cornette and Vince Russo on other episodes.
To this day, it is still unknown who put 11 bullets in the 44-year-old Bravo’s head and chest on that cold March 1993 night as he sat watching a hockey game. Everyone has theories and potential reasons that are given in the episode, but the death of Dino Bravo remains an unsolved pro wrestling related mystery and the perfect fodder for this series.
Notes & Thoughts
- I was curious why Bravo was just done with the business after his WWF run was over instead of looking for opportunities in WCW or elsewhere. He had been in the game for 20 years, but wrestlers usually just don’t seem to just leave the business. I read that he did an overseas tour, but perhaps the demand wasn't there anymore.
- I would most compare this episode to last season's Gino Hernandez episode with the unsolved mystery element while I liked the Hernandez episode more.
- A Rougeau story of Bravo staying true to his Montreal Canadiens fandom is an entertaining one. One thing is for sure: Rougeau definitely is comfortable in front of the cameras.
- It’s not mentioned in the documentary, but Bravo was actually a WWWF tag team champion for three months with Dominic DeNucci in 1978, an NWA tag team champion, and also the WWF Canadian champion, a short-lived title that no one remembers that was created in 1985 and shuttered in 1986.
- This Tuesday's episode will be an interesting one to gauge interest as they focus on "Dr. D" David Schultz, he of the slapping John Stossel fame and a few interesting stories through the years.