“Beware the ides of March–”
The famous Shakespearean line pulled directly from the play “Julius Cesar” was all too fitting for former pro-wrestler Dino Bravo on March 10th, 1993. The man once known the world over as “The Canadian Strong Man” sat alone in his home in Vimont, Laval, Quebec on a cold, snowy winter night. His wife and daughter were both attending their routine ballet lessons as their beloved husband & father sat watching a game of hockey on television. It is speculated that sometime after Bravo’s wife and child left the house, a friend, colleague or person Dino both knew and trusted had entered the house by simply knocking on the door and having Dino invite them in. With no signs of forced entry and no footprints anywhere in the house’s snowy exterior, it is believed that this is the most likely scenario.
A friend knocked on the door, was invited in, they sat speaking with Dino as the hockey game carried on in the background and at some point, the assailant excused himself from the room, instead, walking behind Dino, taking his back and ending his life. Later that evening Dino’s wife returned home and found his body still sitting where he was when they had left, a remote control sitting loosely in his hand as his lifeless frame was riddled in 17 gunshots; 7 of which were in the head, the other 10 to his torso area, leaving the living room splattered in blood as his wife stood in shock, discovering all of this while holding their sleeping daughter in her arms. In what seemed to be a crime scene straight out of a mafia movie, the man that spent the 80′s dubbing himself as “The World’s Strongest Man” was gone. He was only 44 years old.
As a child, I was completely unaware of this story. I would regularly rent countless WWF Coliseum VHS video tapes from a small “mom & pop” video store and would scoff without hesitation anytime a Bravo match popped up; I am not talking about “scoffed” as in I disliked Dino as a heel, I scoffed because I was of the idea that wrestling should be more of a technical, high flying type of art form, and wrestlers of the mid 90′s like Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Shawn Michaels were captivating my attention over old school grapplers and strong men like Dino. Renting “older” era wrestling tapes was almost disappointing to me at that point as a 10-13 year old kid. I would pick them up and be in awe one minute watching excellent technical matches between teams like The British Bulldogs and The Hart Foundation, and the next minute I would be onto a 10 minute “snoozer” between two grapplers or over sized “big men” who spent 6 of those 10 minutes of match “testing strength” or holding their opponent in a simple arm twist or bear hug and found it extremely hard to believe that there was ever a point in the past that this captivated any kind of audience, let alone the masses that spawned the ultra popularity of pro-wrestling. As my casual fandom grew into a pro-wrestling addiction, I began learning more about this sport I love so dearly, yet somehow the pug-like strong man in light blue tights never came up on my radar, that is, until a boring summer evening forced me to find a way to entertain myself.
I threw in WWE’s first Bret Hart dvd set and let it play. I had seen it countless times, but never really focused on the little details. As the DVD played there is a scene where Bret talks about his first really big injury; a broken sternum in a match where Dino Bravo launched him from the ring apron and onto the steel security railing below. Not wanting to lose the contest to Bravo, Hart remained on the floor and allowed himself to be stomped, and worked over, eventually leading to him being counted out rather than being pinned or submitted. Out of sheer curiosity, I wondered if “The Hitman” had any real life beef with Bravo culminating in this incident, so I did what most people do and googled it. Instead of finding what I was looking for, I found a plethora of short articles and websites detailing the brief, yet grim circumstances surrounding Bravo’s death. After tearing through about 6-8 articles, I had pretty much only come up with the one story…
“Dino Bravo was murdered; shot 17 times from behind due to his involvement with smuggling illegal cigarettes over the Canadian border using his connections to the both the mafia and ties to the “natives” (who were given tax breaks on cigarettes sold on their reservations) to illegally import cigarettes. He was 44.”
I thirsted for more information from that moment forward. I would routinely ask in pro-wrestling forums, or search for answers in wrestling interviews and could never really get any new leads to what it all boiled down to. In fact, instead of leads, I seemed to garner more misinformation than information, as people debated the facts, some of which even arguing the minute details like the “actual” date of his death or if Dino even been discovered by his wife (a rumor told to me by 3 or 4 different forum posters) as it was greatly rumored that the two were separated and he lived alone in a small apartment due to years of money mismanagement and heavy spending. It wasn’t until recently when a transcript appeared on “reddit” detailing an interview with pro-wrestling legend “The Model” Rick Martel that really blew the case open for me.
In the interview, Martel detailed this all began when Vince McMahon called for Dino’s release from the WWF sometime around 1992. With the company looking to create flashy, exciting stars, guys like Dino Bravo were becoming passe. In an effort to save Dino’s career Martel kindly offered to form a tag team with Bravo:
“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…’ —Rick Martel
Bravo’s last high profile bout came at Wrestlemania 7; where he was defeated by “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich in a contest that clocked in at just a tad over 3 minutes. After that he was removed from television, relegated to working the “house shows” and smaller caliber events in the “B” cities with smaller venues and attendance, working as a “face” (good guy role) against lower mid-card wrestlers like “The Barbarian” or “The Mountie” before his career ended in April of 1992. A little before his release he confided in Martel that he would more than likely get involved with organized crime, as he knew nothing outside of being a professional wrestler and just so happened to have married into a family with an “uncle” who was the head of the mafia in Montreal, Quebec. Martel also confirmed that Bravo was also in over his head from years of poor spending, stating: