Some wrestlers, man, they just have IT. And if you want to know what IT looks like, you look at Angelo Mosca. Though he was never a true international star, content with being a top touring talent on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and in his home country of Canada, he surely embodied what a heel wrestler should look like in that era. An intimidating physique, a fearsome reputation based on genuine athletic competition, and a direct and easy to understand promo style. In the era of TV squashes on Saturday meaning sold tickets on the house show circuit, he was the ideal man for the job. Amazingly it was his second occupation, and like a lot of major wrestling stars of that era like Big Cat Ernie Ladd, and Wahoo McDaniel, he was an incredibly accomplished football player. However, his gridiron was in Canada in the high tempo, big hits world of the Canadian Football League.
His sporting career began at Notre Dame, where he was drafted to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1959 as the 350th draft pick. Given Phillies traditionally awful playing reputation at the time, and the likelihood he wouldn’t fit in the league that didn’t think that much of him, he went up North to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats where he would have a Hall of Fame career and would become the single most successful player in terms of Grey Cup Finals and wins in the history of the sport. In a 14-season career, he went to 9 of the Grey Cup finals and won 5, an incredible statistic for any league. He would also play for Ottawa and Montreal in those 14 years but his greatest successes came as a Tiger-Cat.
Wrestling came into his life not long after his start in Hamilton, under Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn. While he was a successful player, money in Football either in the CFL, AFL, or NFL was not terrific and it was common for players to have second jobs. Due to the physical nature, travel commitments and road lifestyle, Football Players of any ilk were made for the job, and Mosca slipped into the circuit as an intimidating heel early in his career. Having brought his tough man reputation from the CFL as a defensive tackle, he once put a late hit on a Willie Fleming that all but assured Hamilton won in a Grey Cup Final, he had the ideal media image of a dirty player to build up on. Not turning face for another ten years he milked all he could out of the character as a mainstay in Toronto. Touring the whole of North America to keep himself a fresh face in his home territory, he would end up in the WWWF, as it was then, in 1981.
Vince McMahon Snr saw the potential in Mosca and pushed him as a monster heel against the then-champion Bob Backlund. While Backlund turned Mosca away as a challenger, Moscsa would the feud with future stooge and recently turned babyface/commentator Pat Patterson. Patterson complained about Mosca’s rule-breaking ways, which if you know anything about Pat’s pre-WWE career is a bit rich, and it set up a long term feud for Mosca. Mosca’s run came to an end in 1985 where he switched sides and became the main NWA promoter in Ontario. He would run the NWA card Moscamania which would pull in 12,000 fans in 1985 but give ever diminished returns the following year as Mosca called in quits on an industry that had extended his career in sports.
He would be made a member of the CFL Hall of Fame in 1987, and continue to make PR appearances for the CFL and Hamilton into his retirement. In 2015 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and he passed away Hamilton, though he was an American born in Massachusetts, his greatest fame rested in around Canada. He passed away on November 6th, 2021.
A well-rounded territory monster, he would have a great influence on many other football players who would enter the squared circle.
Feature Pic Courtesy of Globe and Mail