Gorilla Monsoon Biography
Claim to Fame: Professional wrestler and commentator
DOB: June 4, 1937
Date of Death: October 6, 1999
Diabetes Type: unknown
Robert Gino Marella, better known as professional wrestling superstar Gorilla Monsoon, grew up in New York State. Marella displayed an aptitude for wrestling from a young age, as his impressive high school wrestling career demonstrated. During his senior year at Ithaca College, Marella finished second in the 1959 NCAA wrestling championships. He set a number of records for the college in discus and shot put as well as wrestling, records that would last nearly 10 years after his graduation.
Marellas talent and impressive size (in 1959 he was 350 pounds and over 65) attracted the attention of wrestling promoter Pedro Martinez, who signed Marella shortly after graduation. Marella, affectionately known as Tiny by his teammates in college, first assumed the persona of Gino Marella, a proud Italian-American who sang in Italian prior to every match. After a number of years, Marella realized that the real stardom was won through heel characters, or bad guys. He reinvented himself as Gorilla Monsoon, a 400-pound Manchurian giant who wrestled bears, spoke no English, and ate raw meat, which he washed down with the blood of his opponents. Gorilla Monsoon was almost an immediate hit.
Marella wrestled as Gorilla Monsoon until 1980, when he retired from the ring and took up positions backstage as commentator, referee, and storyline president of the WWF. He was close with WWF owners Vincent J. and Vincent K. McMahon, who would later describe him as one of the greatest men [he] had ever known.
In 1999, Marella passed away in his home from diabetes-related heart failure. He left behind his wife of over 40 years, Maureen; his son Victor (Marellas son Joey had died five years earlier in a car accident); and his daughters Sharon and Valerie. Within his lifetime, Marella was inducted to both the Ithaca College Athletic Hall of Fame and the WWF Hall of Fame.
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