The man who invented highflying wrestling: "Argentino" Antonino Rocca is the next member of The Class of 1995 we will take a look at here in the WWE HOF'ers Blog!
Real Name: Antonino Rocca (born: Antonino Biasetton)
Birthday: April 13,1921
Death: March 15,1977
Weight: 224 lbs
Trained by: Stanislaus Zbyszko
Inducted by: Diesel
Notable Titles Held:
WWWF International Heavyweight Championship (2x)
NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship (2x)
NWA World Tag-Team Championship (Capitol version)
AWA World Heavyweight Championship (Ohio version)
WWC North American Tag-Team Championships
Notable Promotions Wrestled:
WWE (former: WWWF)
Antonino Biasetton moved to Argentina from Italy before the World War 2. He played soccer and rugby before transitioning into professional wrestling, he was trained by former World Champion: Stanislaus Zbyszko.
He wrestled under the ring name "Antonino Rocca" which he would later legally change his name into. For the bulk of his career Rocca wrestled in the New York territory and due to his popularity was able to revive said territory from dying.
Because of his unique showcase of acrobatic skills, Rocca became popular among the fans and was the biggest draw for Capitol Wrestling Corporations (now the WWE) during it's early years. He was such a box office draw that he headlined Madison Square Garden for seven straight years!
Rocca did not only have a successful singles career, but a tag-team one as well when he teamed up with Puerto Rican legend: Miguel Perez. Together they held the NWA Capitol Tag-Team Championships. The belts would just be abandoned later on thus they never loss them in a match!
Around the 60's, the CWC was renamed World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) and in 1963 they crowned "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers as it's inaugural World Champion beating Antonino Rocca in the finals of a tournament in Brazil, but as we know this so-called tournament is just fictional. Rocca continued working with the WWWF until the 70's and even faced off and tagged with Bruno Sammartino, who would eventually surpassed him as the big draw of MSG.
While working for the WWWF, Rocca also did tours in Japan but mainly as a referee. It is said that Kanji Inoki got his screen name of "Antonio" because of Rocca. In his final years he competed for Carlos Colon's WWC and reunited with Miguel Perez and they won the tag-team titles there. His final major appearance was with the WWF officiating the boxing match between Andre the Giant and Gorilla Monsoon.
Sadly Rocca died on March 15,1977 at the age of 55 due to a urinary infection. His funeral was attentended by thousands of beloved fans and made the front page of newspapers in NYC.
Antonino Rocca was a man ahead of his time. He invented what is a crucial part of wrestling especially nowadays and that is: highflying. Back then what he did was amazing to the crowd and some veterans found it as "killing the business" but Rocca did not hesitate on using such style and by doing so, he became the biggest name in wrestling during his prime!
A pioneer for sure, Rocca also innovated many of the moves we see today in wrestling. People say Kazuchika Okada has the best dropkick in wrestling, but dare I say Antonino Rocca has the greatest dropkick I have ever seen!
While he may not be that known to a lot of younger fans these days, Antonino Rocca's legacy is still being felt to this day and as long as we see a wrestler fly high, his contributions will never die.
*He is the only wrestler to canonically fight Superman in the world of DC Comics!
*In the 1976 horror film "Alice Sweet Alice" starring Brook Shields, Rocca was featured in a short part.
*He invented the Argentine Backbreaker submission hold.