The final member of the Class of 1994 we take a look at the late great Gorilla Monsoon!
Real Name: Robert James Marella
Birthday: June 4,1937
Death: October 6,1999
From: Rochester,New York,USA
Weight: 400 lbs
Trained by: Stu Hart
Inducted by: Jim Ross
Notable Titles Held:
WWWF US Tag-Team Championships (2x)
WWC North American Heavyweight Championship (2x)
WWA World Tag-Team Championships (2x)
IWA World Heavyweight Championship
Notable Promotions Wrestled:
WWE (fka: WWWF)
Maple Leaf Wrestling
St. Louis Wrestling Club
Robert Marella was born in Rochester,New York and he was an alumni of Jefferson High School becoming a top notch athlete in football, track and field, and amateur wrestling. Already at this time he weighed in at 300 pounds and was affectionately nicknamed "Tiny" by his teammates.
After high school he continued to be a standout athlete in college, having a successful amateur wrestling run going even as far as to getting 2nd Place in the 1959 NCAA Championships. The same year he embarked on his journey as a professional wrestler, he first debuted under the ring name "Gino Marella" an Italian-American babyface gimmick who would sing in Italian prior to his matches, kinda similar to Nikolai Volkoff only minus the boo's. He soon realized that fans paid more attention to outlandish monster heels during those days and revamped his whole character by growing a beard and billed himself as "Gorilla Monsoon" from Manchuria.
Gorilla Monsoon was supposed to be this "savage-esque" character who does nothing but beats up his opponents, and to Marella's credit, it worked! He found success with this gimmick and on October 4,1963 got his first high profile match when he fought Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship. The two continued to have a long feud for the title and had multiple headliners at Madison Square Garden, although Monsoon was never able to beat Bruno for the belt.
When Vince McMahon Sr. created the WWWF, Monsoon became a shareholder for the company due to his close relationship with the man and booked several of the WWWF's territories and was one of their biggest heels, both literally and figuratively. Even though he was at 400 pounds by this time, Monsoon was an agile big man and could wrestle 1 hour time limits. He formed a tag-team with another legendary villainous big man: Killer Kowalski and together they won the WWWF US Tag-Team Championships defeating Skull Murphy and Brute Bernard!
Monsoon & Kowalski also main evented MSG against Bruno Sammartino and Victor Rivera in a 2 falls to 1 match and they've successfully defeated the babyface team! This was the only time the duo of Sammartino and Rivera loss a match together. He also had a great tag-team run with Professor Toru Tanaka beating many babyface tag-teams over the course of their run. In the late 60's Monsoon turned into a fan favorite by rescuing his old rival Bruno Sammartino from an attack by "Crazy" Luke Graham and in the 70's he was set in for a feud against the top heel back then: "Superstar" Billy Graham. He briefly turned heel again in 1977 when he had that boxing match against Andre the Giant in Puerto Rico, with Andre winning the match.
On June 2,1976 an infamous incident occurred in Philadelphia when boxing great Muhammad Ali stepped in the ring to confront Gorilla Monsoon after the latter's match with Baron Mikel Scicluna. Ali was doing his "dance" and throwing jabs at Monsoon, when Gorilla grabbed him and put him on his trademark Airplane Spin. Monsoon never revealed if this segment was planned or not and has commented "I never saw him before and haven't seen him since." This moment is still one of the most remarkable things in the careers of both men.
When Vincent J. McMahon took over his father's company in 1980, a young Hulk Hogan who was a heel at the time wrestled a beloved Gorilla Monsoon. The two faced each other in Monsoon's home state of New York and Hogan managed to beat him under a minute, causing a riot on Madison Square Garden, the riot went so far that police on horses had to be called to calm things down! On August 23,1983 Gorilla Monsoon put his career on the line against Ken Patera who defeated him and he did stay true to his word and laced up his boots for good. He did stay with the WWF and began his career as a commentator and on-screen personnel.
Post in-ring retirement, Gorilla Monsoon became the voice of the WWF throughout the 1980's and he had unforgettable moments both in the commentary desk and outside with Jesse Ventura and his bestfriend Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Due to his wrestling background, Monsoon was a perfect fit for the commentary being able to tell stories well during matches, how certain moves affect certain body parts, etc. He also had many memorable catchphrases through the years most notably his "Will You Stop?" usually being retorted at his Weasel buddy.
Along the way Gorilla Monsoon would also play a role as an authority figure, being the "President of the WWF" when Jack Tunney left the company. He had a few memorable moments as president, but his commentary is what most people would remember in his post in-ring career. In WrestleMania 9 Monsoon stepped down as the play by play commentator for the newly recruited Jim Ross. His final appearance with the company was being one of the three judges for the Brawl For All event, they only briefly showed Monsoon on camera due to his failing health whilst receiving a deserving standing ovation from the crowd. Sadly on March 6,1999 he passed away at the age of 62.
I gotta be honest, I only know Gorilla Monsoon more as a commentator and his duo with Bobby Heenan is often coined by many as the greatest commentary duo in wrestling with JR and King being the only other deserving duo for that position.
I have seen a few of his matches here and there, and during his prime Gorilla is the best big man during his era! Back then you got guys like Haystacks Calhoun and Man Mountain Mike who were only really there as sideshow attractions, but Monsoon is not only an attraction but can go in the ring with the best of them!
He was a universally respected legend and will always be one of the most integral personalities in the history of WWE.
*Former WWE Intercontinental Champion: Santino Marella got his ring name in tribute to Monsoon.
*His adopoted son: Joey Marella worked as a referee for the WWF.
*The term "Gorilla Position" was named after him in his honor.
*He is the first to call Bret Hart "The Excellence of Execution."
Thanks For Reading.