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Dark Side of the Ring Season 2 Episode 6 Review: ‘The Assassination of Dino Bravo’

Dark Side of the Ring
Photo Credit: Viceland

In the 1980s, as Vince McMahon’s (then) World Wrestling Federation expanded, the professional wrestling business was still a predominantly regional business. The Von Erichs had Dallas and the Carolinas belonged to The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. In French-speaking Canada, there was no bigger star than Dino Bravo.

Although he was born in Italy as Adolfo Bresciano, he grew up in Montreal and became a hero to the Quebecois audiences. Built like a Clydesdale made out of bricks, he was the top star and the booker of Lutte Internationale/International Wrestling. Life was good for him and his family. Interviews with his friends, widow, and his now-grown daughter paint a picture of a doting father and smiling strongman.  Wrestling legend and undeniable character, Jacques Rougeau, reminisces about their friendship, bar fights, and business dealings rather fondly.  Even as the WWF expanded to lure away many of his top stars, when he finally gave in and sold Lutte Internationale to become a bleached blond villain in WWF, he made enough money to maintain his fierce pride.

After seven years of carrying a sign that read “USA is NOT OK!” and being the foil of “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, The Ultimate Warrior, and Hulk Hogan, he was no longer a top name and in his 40s. It was time to step away. And that’s the point where Dark Side of the Ring transitions into their Unsolved Mysteries territory. Wrestlers and family interviews are joined by those with crime reporters.

With a million-dollar home and a lifestyle predicated on making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, something had to take wrestling’s place. Bravo found that in family, literally and figuratively. He was related to Vic and Frank Cotroni, powerful mafia figures that controlled everything from “baseball bat elections” to vending machine placement.  Financial need, a reputation for fearlessness, and a 500 lb bench press were the ideal formula for a Cotroni debt collector and enforcer. Jacques Rougeau and (in a 2007 interview) Rick Martel give a bit of information about Dino feeling like he was in danger during that time.

Within a year of his last WWF match, Dino Bravo was murdered in what is still an open investigation. His wife had taken his daughter to ballet class and returned find his body riddled with bullets sitting in front of a hockey game on TV. The front door was unlocked and a handgun and an automatic weapon were left at the scene.  

Friends speculate that the scene suggests he knew his killer. Dino Bravo’s widow and daughter talk about his frequent trips to First Nations reservations, a common (and tax-free) step in cigarette and alcohol smuggling between the US and Canada. Biker gangs like The Hell’s Angels and Rock Machine were pushing strong in Quebec and would be in an all-out war by the next year.  

In yet another one of Dark Side’s cautionary tales, it seems that, even for a man so loved, there is shortage of suspects for his murder.  

Dark Side of the Ring, ‘The Assassination of Dino Bravo’ is now available on YouTube, and Vice.


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