A Man With No Regrets
Anyone wondering why traditional British wrestling has a following twenty years after being removed from our television screens should talk to Leicester's Ron Marino. Long after retiring from the ring Ron's love of the sport remains infectious.
"We must have been mad," Ron told Wrestling Heritage, "travelling around the country, wrestling every night, helping with the ring. But I loved every minute of it and wouldn't change a thing."
Ron's story is untypical. He wasn't one of those starry eyed youngsters who got hooked as he cheered and booed the heroes and villains, setting his heart on emulating the stars of the ring when he was older.
"No, not at all," said Ron, "My dad took me along to watch the wrestling at the local baths when I was a kid. But I wasn't struck, and only went just the once."
Ron was drawn into wrestling by his friend, Pete LaPaque. At the time Pete was training at the Granby Hall, Leicester, under the guidance of Jack Taylor. It took quite a bit of persuasion but eventually Ron agreed to accompany his friend to one of the Saturday afternoon sessions.
Having been thrown around the mat by Jack Taylor a bruised Ron was then put in with heavyweight Tony Ancell. The experience was not a pleasurable one for Ron, who breathed a sigh of relief when Taylor shouted, "That'll do." Relief was short lived as he went to leave the ring. "Not you," shouted Jack, who then brought in a succession of experienced pros to give the youngster a good pasting.
Going home on the bus Ron decided to sit downstairs, the aches and pains of being thrown around the mat for the best part of the afternoon made the decision an easy one. As he travelled home Ron was sure the experience was not one he wished to repeat. So when Pete asked him if he was going back the following week no one was more surprised than Ron when he heard himself utter the words, "Yeah, okay."
Ron, of course, had been subjected to the Jack Taylor lesson of roughing up a newcomer to test whether or not they had the willpower to succeed in the world of professional wrestling. It was a lesson that was to continue for quite a few weeks before Jack decided that Ron had proven himself and was ready for a bit of tuition.
In the months that followed Ron was taught the wrestling basics. The initial goal was to learn enough to be ready to step into the ring in front of paying customers, a goal that was reached early in 1963. On 16th February Ron made his professional debut on a Jack Taylor show in Wellingborough. In the opposite corner was his friend Pete Lapaque. Friendship was no consolation, though, and Pete taught Ron the lesson of just how big a gap there is to fill to make it in the professional ring.
"I lost by a knock out," said Ron. "Pete just seemed to toss me around at will. One of the times I was thrown out of the ring and counted out. It wasn't so much that I was hurt, more that I was just breathless and worn out. I was very nervous, of course, but I did have one bit of luck. A group of workmates had come along to see how I performed, but fortunately they hadn't told me in advance or I'd have been even more nervous."
The young Ron, billed as Dino Marino in those early bouts, had done enough to persuade Jack Taylor he had a future. After only a half dozen or so bouts for Jack Taylor young Ron was noticed by other independent promoters, and bookings began to increase. In those days there was a wealth of talent working on the independent circuit, enabling Ron to continue to learn the trade as he wrestled increasingly experienced and skilful wrestlers.
The boy who had reluctantly gone along to the Granby Hall was now devoted to the wrestling business. Putting up posters, erecting the ring, wrestling most nights of the week, the Leicester man couldn't get enough of the sport. When one promoter was starting out he even asked Ron to help build his ring. Ron was happy to oblige, putting to good use his skills as a joiner, which was his day job.
Ron worked in the building trade for over twenty years, eighteen of them for the same employers. Although he wrestled most nights of the week he always preferred the back-up of a stable, full time job.
When Max Crabtree took over the management of Joint Promotions he was always on the look out for new talent. Max had employed Ron when he was promoting independently, and so it was natural that he asked the Leicester wrestler to come and work for him on the Joint circuit.
Ron was pleased to do so, and was soon given national exposure on World of Sport when he debuted against Sid Cooper in December, 1979. He would have been introduced to television audiences a few weeks earlier but his contest against Johnny Saint was recorded and never transmitted.
Whilst television appearances were one of the highlights of his career Ron did tell us of one moment of sadness. On 27th August, 1981, he was booked to partner his namesake (and no relation) Mike Marino in a tag match in Birmingham. Mike was held in great respect by Ron and he was proud that he was to work alongside the mid heavyweight champion. Tragically Mike Marino died suddenly just three days before the bout was due to take place.
An enjoyable interlude for Ron in the early eighties was when the co-creator of Crossroads, Peter Ling, asked him to help with the choreography in the musical Teaneck Tanzi the Venus Flytrap.?
As we talked to Ron it was obvious that here was a man who had enjoyed his successes in his quarter of a century career, but remained very modest about the pleasure he had given fans. His love of the sport was infectious, but surely a man must have some regrets over twenty five years.
"Regrets? No. I loved every minute. I'd do it all over again."