Professional wrestlers have been billed from virtually everywhere. Notables have represented each of the fifty states and most countries worldwide. Some even hail from that mysterious place called Parts Unknown! Let’s take a trip back to the wrestling world of the ’80s and prior as we reveal our legends’ real (and kayfabe) hometowns.
1. Gorilla Monsoon – Manchuria
According to wrestling lore, legendary manager Bobby Davis discovered Gorilla Monsoon wading nude in a mountain stream in Manchuria.
Monsoon became a massive success in the WWWF, taking the champion, Bruno Sammartino, to the limit on many occasions. Billed at 6’7″ and 401 pounds, many East Coast fans, feared that the Manchurian Gorilla could dethrone Sammartino.
During one match, a Sammartino dropkick cracked a couple of Monsoon’s ribs. The Manchurian Giant wrestled for almost an additional hour, resulting in a 90-minute draw.
The wrestling world was aghast in 1969, as Monsoon unbelievably came to the aid of his arch-rival Sammartino, as Toru Tanaka attacked him. Moreover, Monsoon’s babyface turn inexplicably included a superb command of the English language.
Perhaps Monsoon was secretly taking a Rosetta Stone course all the while?
In reality, the Rochester, New York-born Robert James Marella was a highly intelligent and gifted athlete who attended Ithaca College, where he was a standout wrestler.
After his fabled wrestling career was over, he paired up with Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan to form arguably the greatest broadcast team in the history of professional wrestling.
The beloved Gorilla Monsoon passed away on October 6, 1999, at 62.
Only in our fantastic sport can a naked man from the mountains of Manchuria become an articulate broadcaster from Willingboro, New Jersey.
2. Baron Mikel Scicluna – The Isle of Malta
Any discussion of the origins of professional wrestlers must include the great man from Malta: Baron Mikel Scicluna. There was always something intriguing about this regal, statuesque villain.
Scicluna bore the Maltese cross on his resplendent robe and was indeed the Maltese Mauler. What more proof was required than that?
As the years unfolded, it became known that the great Baron wrestled as Mike Valentino in Canada and around the country.
As fate would have it, Mike Scicluna, son of the great Baron, was able to put to bed a lifelong mystery, as he confirmed on Dan and Benny In the Ring that his legendary dad not only grew up in Malta during World War II but also became a Maltese police officer.
Bet the sight of a 6 foot 6, 272 pound Officer Scicluna would immediately put one on the right side of the law.
"He was from a little town in the middle of Malta called Birkirkara," Mike offered as an exclusive scoop on his father.
"He was born there, spent most of his childhood there, and went through the war.
"They just tried to stay fed; they were at war with the Germans on the island. The Germans continually bombed them; it was quite a childhood growing up.
"He was always active in sports in gyms and things like that, though. But yes, he was from Malta."
Now if we can only solve the other Scicluna mystery: Why did he inevitably grab his own ear in pain whenever he was punched in the stomach? Inquiring minds want to know.
3. Chief Jay Strongbow – Pawhuska, Oklahoma
In stark contrast to the legitimate Maltese pedigree of the great Scicluna, the journey of Chief Jay Strongbow started a fair distance away from downtown Pawhuska.
Born Joseph Luke Scarpa in Nutley, New Jersey, the good Chief toiled for many years in the territory system, experiencing notable success in Georgia Championship Wrestling (GCW) and Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF).
Scarpa was able to relocate to Oklahoma, become a full Native American Chief, travel to Washington, and defeat The Continental Nobleman, Joe Turco, in 15 days.
Only in wrestling, correct?
However, unlike most wrestling gimmicks, which were temporary and varied from territory to territory, this one stuck forever.
After his legendary career ended in the mid-’80s, Strongbow moved into WWF administration and worked there for many years.
Although the Strongbow name is kayfabe, the good Chief truly earned his headdress.
4. Ivan Koloff – Moscow, Russia
In what has to be one of the most shocking events in professional wrestling history, The Russian Bear, Ivan Koloff, did the unthinkable and ended the almost 8-year reign of the Italian Superman, Bruno Sammartino, in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden on January 18th, 1971.
Unlike many title changes, this one had no controversy. Koloff clearly pinned Sammartino in the middle of the ring, much to the dismay of the crestfallen crowd.
Nevertheless, it was a match that will go down as one of the most significant in the annals of the sport.
As did Strongbow, Koloff toiled in the territories for several years before his ascent to the top. Koloff, born Oreal Donald Perras in Montreal, Canada, wrestled for several years as the villainous Red McNulty from Dublin, Ireland.
On December 30th, 1967, McNulty came out on the short end in a match against Emile Dupre in Seattle, Washington.
McNulty, like Joe Scarpa, magically transformed himself in 9 days, becoming Ivan Koloff and defeating Eddie Auger in Montreal for the International Wrestling Association.
In retrospect, Chief Jay had it easy; he merely had to change his ring attire. Koloff needed to drop an unnatural Irish accent and acquire a menacing Russian accent.
Uncle Ivan did this with absolute perfection, much to the delight of his legion of fans who adore and respect him.
5. Special Delivery (S.D.) Jones – Antigua/Philadelphia
For over a decade, Conrad Ephraim entertained fans in the WWWF/WWF as S.D. Jones. Special Delivery was alternately billed from Philadelphia and “Antigua In The British West Indies.”
Ephraim was indeed from Antigua.
Although Special Delivery would win the occasional match versus Johnny Rodz and later on Baron Mikel Scicluna, he more often than not came out on the short end against the main event heels in the territory.
He would, however, usually mount a substantial offense and was even pushed on occasion, particularly in the Baltimore area.
However, Jones was known to charge towards a stunned opponent slumped in the corner, wherein said opponent would dodge him at the last second, and poor S.D. would clunk his head on the top turnbuckle and tragically end up “looking at the lights.
This prompted Gorilla Monsoon’s classic comment, “S.D. went to the well one too many times.”
Monsoon, however, was very non-specific regarding the location of the well. Was it in Antigua, or was it on Market Street in Philly?
The hypothesis is that Jones was interested in wells in both locales; the toll from traveling back and forth to said wells resulted in chronic fatigue, causing him to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
6. Frankie Williams – “I’m Columbus, Ohio”
Roddy Piper had recently arrived in the World Wrestling Federation. However, due to a healing injury, his action was limited to his weekly interview segment, Piper’s Pit.
The purpose of this show was to build heat between Piper and the star babyfaces, with the goal of a huge payoff down the road.
For reasons never revealed and unknown by Piper until just a few minutes before, Williams got the nod as Roddy’s guest.
In a three-minute unscripted segment, Piper ridiculed Williams for being a “lousy wrestler.”
Williams grabbed the microphone and told Piper, “I don’t run from nobody.”
A melee ensued, which saw Piper quickly dispatch Williams with a flurry of punches and a fairly stiff knee.
Sadly, Frankie Williams was never again seen on WWF Television.
Even though Frankie Williams indeed was a lousy wrestler statistically (his career winning percentage per the prowrestlingdata.com website is a paltry .120, counting a draw as a half-win and half-loss), this moment has forever endeared him to wrestling fans around the world.
Something about the hapless underdog brings out the good-heartedness in people.
The New York Metropolitans (Mets), in their inaugural 1962 season, managed to capture only 40 victories in 160 contests.
Their .250 winning percentage is the lowest in modern baseball history. And yet, folks flocked to Shea Stadium in droves to watch “The Amazin’ Mets.”
Yet, Wepner had a massive following for many years after the bout, inspiring Sylvester Stallone to create the ‘Rocky’ character with Wepner in mind.
Oh, and before you ask, Pumarejo (Frankie Williams) was actually from Cleveland
7. Stan Stasiak – Buzzard Creek, Oregon
How many of us were transfixed to our TV sets on Saturday morning, hearing the iconic Joe McHugh introduce the “Bad Man from Buzzard Creek?” Stan Stasiak was tall, with sideburns that would make Elvis envious and a scowl on his face that would scare off his own mother.
Stasiak was actually George Emile Stipich, born in Arvida, Quebec, Canada.
Like Ivan Koloff, he cut his wrestling teeth in Canada, debuting as Emile Koverly for the Calgary-based Big Time Wrestling promotion in 1958.
In the ensuing years, Stasiak divided his time between Calgary, Toronto, and the St. Louis Wrestling Club, where he adopted the name Stan Stasiak.
In 1965, Stasiak made his debut for Pacific Northwest Wrestling, where he assumed the mythical town of Buzzard Creek, Oregon.
Stasiak is known to most of us as “The Master of the Heart Punch” and for defeating Pedro Morales on December 1st, 1973, to capture the World Wide Wrestling Federation Heavyweight Championship.
The title change was a shock even to him. He was informed of it that day in the locker room.
Stasiak dropped the belt to Bruno Sammartino at Madison Square Garden on December 10th.
Although Stasiak was the ultimate transitional champion, with a reign of only nine days, social media is replete with pictures of Stasiak wearing the WWWF title belt with enormous pride.
Stan Stasiak should not just be remembered as a momentary champion from a town that doesn’t exist. Besides the WWWF Championship, Stasiak won gold on 33 other occasions, capturing championships everywhere he wrestled.
Stasiak defeated King Curtis Iaukea in October 1970 for the vaunted International Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Championship (Australia).
As a former champ, Stasiak also returned to headline against Bruno around the WWWF circuit, having box office success in 1976.
Stan Stasiak was a man’s man and a wrestler’s wrestler.
8. Tito Santana – Tocula, Mexico
Tito Santana was a mainstay in the WWF for well over a decade. He experienced tremendous success, twice capturing the vaunted Intercontinental Championship and winning the WWF Tag Team Championship with Ivan Putski and Rick Martel.
Such was his drawing power that many a night, Tito headlined large venues as IC Champ while Hulk Hogan appeared in other towns simultaneously.
The NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs drafted Solis; however, he was cut during training camp. Instead, he signed on with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League and played 13 games before transitioning to professional wrestling.
Tito Santana is a true rarity in professional wrestling because he spent his entire career as a babyface.
Santana was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004 and resides in New Jersey, teaching Spanish at Eisenhower Middle School in Roxbury Township. He has been married to Leah since 1976.
Now, if one were to type in “Tocula, Mexico” into Google Maps, one would draw a big fat blank, as there is no such place.
However, perhaps a WWF Creative employee was a tad dyslexic and was thinking of Toluca, Mexico, which does indeed exist.
Toluca is the state capital of Mexico, one of 32 states in the United Mexican States.
Now that the geography lesson is over, however, it doesn’t change the fact that Tito Santana is from Mission, Texas.
One of the most interesting but often underappreciated aspects of this beautiful thing we call professional wrestling is the “From” – the grappler’s point of origin.
While reading this, you have undoubtedly thought of several wrestlers with dubious origins.
Unfortunately, there are too many to include in one story, so we went with some of our favorite examples. Perhaps a follow-up is in the offing!
These stories may also interest you:
- Extreme Cases of Wrestlers Protecting Their Gimmicks
- 10 Surprising Moments WWE Deceived Their Fans
- Old School Wrestling: 10 Things Sorely Missed!
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