Italian-American Wrestler Dominic DeNucci, former WWF, WWA, and Stampede Tag Team Champion as well as a former AWA US titleholder, has passed away at the age of 89 years old whilst recovering from a heart attack. While his career was long and featured several high points, in the last few years his work as a trainer has been his most publicised work.
DeNucci was born Dominic Nucciarone in Venice, Italy on January 23rd 1932. After a career in Greco-Roman as a youth, a basis that would make him an in demand guy for his athleticism. He began his first run not as a DeNucci, but a Bravo. The Original Dino Bravo. Dominic and Dino would become an in demand tag team throughout the Canadian territories in the late fifties and early sixties. Winning tag gold everywhere they went. With the end of the team came the start of a new name as Dominic would use a name that would stick; DeNucci, as in popular early 60’s Rock ‘n’ Roll singer Dion DeNucci.
Moving through San Francisco in 1963, he caught on as a solo wrestler and when Atlanta Promoter Jim Barnett opened up Australia as a territory known as World Championship Wrestling. The top title was the IWA Championship. Barnett was a genius promoter and his roster reflected his old NWA connections. The big names of the era, André the Giant, Killer Kowalski, The Briscos, Dusty Rhodes all made the trip down under, but it was DeNucci who Barnet pushed as the Ace of the promotion-winning the title three times between 1964 and 1970. The last legacy of the Melbourne promotion would be that Barnett would reuse the name for a TV show based around his Atlanta Promotion some years later that would go on to be the biggest promotion on earth.
While going back and forth to Australia, DeNucci worked the NWA Circuit from Toronto to Florida, up and down the Eastern Seaboard picking up tag titles along the way with partners like Tony Parisi. He would also become a mainstay in Japan. Working for the JWA in the mid-sixties, literally the only show in town for many years. He stayed loyal to the company until AJPW started and he went with Baba feuding with The Destroyer over the PWF US Title.
In 1967, he landed in New York and Vince McMahon Snr’s WWWF. He would work the territory for the next fifteen years. Snr loved using an ethnically diverse roster to match up with his ethnically diverse fan base. Tagging DeNucci up with former WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino they won the international tag titles in 1971. He would enjoy a first World Tag Team title reign with Victor Rivera in 1974 though would defend the titles with Pat Barrett when Rivera quit the promotion. A third would come at the expense of Professor Tanaka & Mr Fuji with the second Dino Bravo in 1978. He would go on to challenge for the Intercontinental Title in the early 80s. His career would begin to wind down as he was put on the back burner and placed in an enhancement position so he decided to move on and back to Canada. Back to the second Dino Bravo’s territory in Montreal and then back to the AWA.
After wrestling, he became well known as a trainer, of Shane Douglas, Mick Foley and WCW/Smokey Mountain Referee Brian Hilderbrand. Immortalised in Foley’s Book Have a Nice Day. Foley also noticed that when finding bookings in the early part of his career, DeNucci could speak four languages and negotiate deals in far off lands while he felt like he had to learn life all over again.
DeNucci’s legacy in pro wrestling is assured. He is survived by his son Tony, also a wrestler. DeNucci came from a different wrestling era. His work was exemplary and easily judged by the length of time he spent in the world’s top promotions. Fifteen years in the WWF alone was a career most wrestlers couldn’t dream of. The fact he worked for 30 years at the top level and as a major drawing card was a testament to his talent, skills and work effort. Thank you, Dominic.
Featured Image courtesy of AEW