Dark Side of the Ring Review — “The Assassination of Dino Bravo”

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Hello! Today, I bring you the 8th edition of a series looking at the TV show Dark Side of the Ring. This is the first episode I am reviewing from the second season, although it seems I have jumped ahead by a few. Don’t worry, I do plan on finishing these in the end. So this time, we’re looking at the assassination of French-Canadian legend Dino Bravo.

  1. “The Killing Of Bruiser Brody”
  2. “The Match Made In Heaven”
  3. “The Montreal Screwjob”
  4. “The Mysterious Death of Gorgeous Gino”
  5. “The Last of the Von Erichs”
  6. “The Fabulous Moolah” – Part #1″
  7. “The Fabulous Moolah” – Part #2″


The Assassination of Dino Bravo”

I’ll admit to not knowing a lot about Dino Bravo before this, so I’m glad that they took the time to explain how big of a deal he was in Canada; before signing with the WWF. Many fans may not know how much he had to lose before signing with the powerhouse that was the WWF in the 80’s. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Chris Jericho narrating for the second season. Nothing against Dutch Mantel though! He did an excellent job in season 1. If you have yet to see the episode, you can watch it here:


The family dynamic makes this episode very personal. His Widow and Daughter sometimes speak French, so you have no choice but to read the screen quickly as they talk. I can imagine some struggling with this, as the words don’t stay on for long. Luckily, it doesn’t matter too much, as others explain the mystery well enough.


The main thing to take away from the family perspective, especially his daughter, is she’s still angry and wants justice against Bravo’s murderers. And rightly so, they have spent years not understanding what happened to him. The Mountie’s contributions surprised me, he was fantastic. Giving a wrestler’s and associate’s point of view(not a friend), he was around Bravo long enough to give us an unbiased opinion of his time in professional wrestling.

WWF Superpower

One side of the business we rarely hear about is how the mighty WWF outclassed so many promotions in the 80’s. Dino Bravo’s promotion was a victim of Vince McMahon’s expansion across the world, and it’s understandable that Bravo fought til he could no longer. We can’t blame him for giving up and siding with Vince, but we know he only signed because he needed to feed his family. Unluckily, this lucrative contract led to his downfall, as his newfound fame and money sent him on a lifestyle path of excess. There was no way he could afford to maintain this level of luxury after hanging up the boots.

Now, had he broken out like a Macho Man, or a Hulk Hogan, then he wouldn’t have ever needed to worry about money. But like they described, Bravo was aging and there wasn’t much time for him to get over. Vince knew this, and instead had him put others over, which went against Bravo’s pride and belief in himself. I gotta’ admit, whenever I have seen Bravo he hasn’t looked overly happy in his role. There was tons of potential there, but he signed at the wrong time. Had he got there five years earlier, maybe he would’ve had a better chance? But yeah, he had his own promotion to think about. Anyway, this concludes his WWF career. The important part comes after he retired.


The Mafia

The Cotroni Family is so well-known they can be read about here: Cotroni Crime Family


As a debt collector with a hot temper, he suited his new role doing work for his uncle’s mafia. By the time Bravo signed on though, Vincenzo “The Egg” Cotroni had been dead since 1984; so it’s not like he had protection if anything went wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if some in the Mafia were threatened by the fact he was a well-known TV personality. Partaking in criminal activities is tougher when people know who you are. Unlike his uncle, who spent much of his life keeping a low profile, Dino Bravo likely had the highest profile the Mafia ever had.

Not only that, but this wasn’t Bravo’s world. The Mafia would not take mistakes lightly, and Bravo was a wrestler, not a criminal mastermind dealing with espionage at the highest degree. By far the saddest part of the episode was at his funeral, when his daughter placed a picture of the family on his coffin. The fact she could only tell it was her Father because of his hands, tells us how brutal the shooting was. It had to be horrific for such a young child to go through that. All the while, the Mafia were making sure they weren’t involved, doing what they do best. Cover everything up and disappear without a trace.

Something that may not have been taken into account though, is that there was an internal struggle within the family during the mid-80s. By the time Bravo came along, he may not have known that The Rizzuto family had all but taken over. Perhaps they wanted to end The Cotroni line? There’s also the fact that Vincenzo’s brother Frank, who had taken over after he died of cancer, was sentenced to eight years in prison for manslaughter in 1987. This means neither Vincenzo nor Frank could look after Dino, and The Rizzuto family were the dominant power and likely saw him as an expendable pawn.

There’s also a recent story of this power struggle between factions, as of 2012:

“On November 4th, Joe Di Maulo, a longtime ally of the Cotroni family, was murdered outside his Montreal home. Police believe his murder is part of an ongoing power struggle between the Sicilians and their rivals.”


Contraband Cigarettes

There is talk that Bravo may have been killed by either a biker gang, or a native Indian group dealing with the contraband cigarette trade. We may never know who did it, and the case is still open, the way the murder happened is very Mafia-like. It had to be someone he trusted to let them in to the house. Luckily, Rick Martel opened up about Bravo’s connections with the Indians, possibly taking the trade from another group. The Rizzuto’s perhaps? Or maybe not. There is no way of knowing all these years later.

All that is known is that Bravo messed up, probably because he didn’t recognize the severity of the situation. The police found the warehouse and took one of the key figures, and someone had to take the fall. And if Bravo was meant to be in charge of the operation, then it would surely be him. Because The Mafia have killed people for making lesser mistakes. But it could also be the Biker’s, although I don’t know if they would have been so great at covering things up. In the end, Bravo got in to a dangerous world and paid the ultimate price. And it’s a shame, because he deserved to do more in the wrestling world. He would have made a skilled teacher to the next generation of French-Canadian wrestlers.


“Dino tried to stay in the [WWF] but he just couldn’t…Vince didn’t wanna have him back. I remember I called Pat Patterson and I suggested that I team up with Dino – because I liked Dino. I said, ‘I’ll take the bumps and [do] all the moving around and he can do the strong stuff…I’m sure we can make it work, you know?’ He said, ‘No, no…we just think that Dino doesn’t fit anymore in our plans…’
Dino had kind of painted himself in a corner. Dino liked the high lifestyle…he had a sports Mercedes, he had a big home, you know…and [suddenly] wrestling was over. Dino couldn’t be a 9 to 5 guy…he didn’t have any business experience of any kind. Wrestling was his whole life. And back then, WWF was the only game in town. So if he couldn’t do it for the WWF, what could he do? His uncle [by marriage] was the head of the mafia in Montreal. And he was always saying, ‘Dino, come work for me…’
I remember we were in Europe and he confided in me. ‘Rick…I know I could go into crime and do really good money…but I don’t wanna go that route…I know myself and I know what kind of guy I am…’ Dino was the kind of guy who [always wanted] more and more [but not when to stop]. He knew himself and he knew his demons. But then his [debts] and lifestyle got too much…and all of a sudden the revenue [wasn’t] coming in.”

Conclusion

While there is less meat to this subject than other episodes, I still found it to be an interesting topic. We may never know what led to the downfall of Dino Bravo, but the lesson we can learn is that no one is untouchable. You need to plan ahead, spend wisely, save everything you can, and don’t fall in to the wrong crowd. There’s no need to get in to criminal activity to pay your way, and motivation by greed to maintain a lifestyle you can no longer afford is never sustainable. Especially when you go from having everything to literally nothing in a short time.

I feel sorry for the family, who have to live with the mystery of Dino Bravo’s assassination. The case is still open, and I’d be surprised if they ever found anything, but it would be sweet if anything came to light. Even a small scrap of information would come as some comfort. I also praise everyone who spoke on the episode, as there were no shenanigans and they all added something to the show. With that said, I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I have reviewed it. See you next time for something completely different. Thank you!


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