“The Dino Bravado” : The Tragic Death of Wrestling Superstar Dino Bravo

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“…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?…”

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. —Rick Martel

The rumor mill also ran rampant, stating that no one knows why Bravo never tried to go to WCW; I too even speculated as to why Dino wouldn’t try and go out south to a promotion that was happily scooping up former WWF talent between the years of 1992 forward. “The only game in town” (as stated by Martel) wasn’t necessarily true as former WWF mainstays like Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Davey Boy Smith, Rick Rude and others had made the jump to WCW and done well, so it was kind of odd to hear that Bravo hadnt tried to do the same. A little more clarity came to that when I discovered a comment on a “Slam! Sports” post:

“Dino Bravo was my favorite wrestler since the beginning of the 80’s until the end. I had the chance to train with him in Laval; where he lived ( 5 minutes from Montreal ), I must admit that he was a very distinguished and generous person to all of his fans in Quebec!I am only shocked by the tragedy that occurred since he was the father of a beautiful little girl.He mentioned to me a few months before his death that he had been screwed by the WWF. He was considering ending his career in the WCW but he wasn’t sure because of his family (he didn’t really want to move from Montreal). Past is past but I will never forget this powerhouse that bench pressed 675 pounds in front of everybody in “Atlantis gym” in Laval and always gave his best in the squared circle. – WE WILL ALL REMEMBER YOU! “BON VOYAGE CHER AMI”…(translated: “nice trip dear friend”) —Nicholas Tetrault


Not wanting to move his family from Canada, Bravo chose to pursue a life of organized crime. Upon hearing the term “Cigarette smuggling” one might giggle, thinking “how in the world do you smuggle something that is legalized and isnt a weapon?” The reddit post I happened upon was also kind enough to detail this piece of information:


[*Cigarette smuggling is the illicit transportation of cigarettes from an administrative division with low taxation to a division with high taxation for sale and consumption. The practice, commonly used by Organized crime syndicates and rebel groups, is a form of tax evasion. In Canada, between 63 and 79 percent of the price of a package of cigarettes is tax. As of 2009, illegal cigarettes were believed to be a $1.5 billion industry in Canada.]

If Dino joined the crime syndicate in 1992 following his WWF release, that means his involvement was only a year or less. The debate on why he was killed is also one full of twists and turns and mostly misinformation, with the Martel interview being the most reliable and helpful source. In an effort to get the information to you (the readers) correctly, I will simply quote the Martel interview and will not speculate my own ideas or “guesses” like so many others on the internet:

“Back then in the early 90s the [illegal] cigarette trafficking* in Canada started. A lot of people were doing it. So Dino got into that…[He] went to see the Indians. The Indians had the river so they could pass cigarettes [across] like crazy – or arms – whatever. And the Indians were big wrestling fans, you know? So when they saw Dino they were like, ‘Oh man..!’ They started dealing strictly with him. So Dino had the monopoly with the Indians. He started doing really well.


[After awhile] the cigarette business was doing so great that the cocaine people started saying, ‘Hey, maybe there’s some money in there for us too…’ So the big cocaine guy apparently went to see Dino and said, ‘Look, let me in on your cigarette deals and I’ll let you in on some cocaine deals…’


So what apparently happened is they did some kind of agreement…Dino had a $400,000 shipment in some warehouse somewhere and it stayed there for like, three days…and on the third day when the cocaine guy went to pick it up, the police were there, so they were blaming each other. Dino was saying, ‘You should have picked it up [on] the first day and it never would have happened – you shouldn’t have let it sit there…’There was a lot of heat on Dino. This was a week before he died.”—Rick Martel

Cigarettes smuggling turned into Cocaine smuggling and shortly after, Dino was gone. I have closely followed this case since discovering the news sometime around 2006 and every little piece I compile depicts a man painted into a corner, trying to tip toe out while supporting his family. It makes me wonder what could have been if Dino chose to go to WCW rather than take the route he chose.

As a 30 year old man, I now deeply appreciate his contribution to the business; something I was unable to do as a child. I am highly entertained by Dino Bravo doing push ups with a 460 lb “Earthquake” on his back, his willingness to help get incoming talent over, guys like “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and “The Texas Tornado” all owe Bravo a nod in developing and working with their WWF characters; and most of all how he innovated the “airplane spin”, a move in which you hold a man on your shoulders and spin them into dizziness before dropping them to the mat. I only wish it didn’t take a great tragedy for me to find an interest in Dino’s career.

***interesting sidenote but I believe its Dino Bravo who is doing the airplane spin on the television in the movie “Encino Man” during the scene where Pauly Shore & Sean Astin are teaching Brendan Fraser how to fight***

It has taken me almost 10 years to compile enough worthwhile information to write this piece. All of the puzzle pieces depict a man who loved his craft, a man who loved his family and a man who touched the lives of many people, be it wrestling fans or anyone who knew him otherwise. To his family and friends, he was simply Adolfo Bresciano, born in italy; but exported to Canada, a country he loved and took pride in; He was a loving husband and father, who just so happened to be strong enough to bench press more than 500 lbs and toss grown men around a ring for a living. To the wrestling masses, he was Dino Bravo; the stout, strongman clad in the colors and emblems of his native Quebec, doing what he loved to do for our entertainment. I will borrow a line from the movie “American History X” to end this piece; “…always end a paper in a quote, because someone has already said it best…” and to end this I have chosen a quote I found on a forum, from presumably the nephew of Dino Bravo to describe the measure of his life, hoping he will never be judged by that last few months he spent working in an organized crime ring:


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