WRESTLING HERITAGE

C: Tony Cassio


Tony Cassio


In a wrestling career that seemed to fit itself into a relatively short twenty years Tony Cassio certainly crammed a lot into it.


Tony Cassio, he adopted the wrestling name from his family name Cassisa, was born in Durban, South Africa with Italian heritage, the eldest of five children. That was in 1935, the 19th June to be precise, and daughter Cassie has been told by family members that he earned the nickname 'Little Nono' as he was so much like a little Italian Grandfather, organising games for everyone to play together and sorting out any squabbles between them to keep the peace. Those seem to be personality traits that remained with him all his life, with George Passalaris telling us that Tony was always ready to offer a helping hand when he arrived in Britain.


Tony left South Africa early in 1959. He already had some wrestling experience in South Africa and was soon taken on by Dale Martin Promotions. South Africa was now a distant land and he was to remain forever the Anglo Italian Dynamo. Tony's weight made him an ideal opponent for a wide range of opponents from the lighter men such as Johnny Kwango and Mick McManus to fully blown heavyweights Yuri Borienko and Johnny Yearsley.


By the early 1960s Paul Lincoln was looking for talent for his fledgling wrestling promotion and in 1960 Tony began working for independent promoters in the south of England. Greek wrestler George Passalaris remembers Tony well, and told us how his new friend had introduced him to Paul Lincoln. Tony was one of George's first opponents on a Paul Lincoln show. It was obviously a good match because we have found it not only recurring around the south of England, but in northern England too and as far north as Edinburgh. Other regular opponents at the time included Reg Trood, Bob Kirkwood and Fred van Lotta.


In December, 1961 we were surprised to find a sudden move back to Joint Promotions. Maybe they made him a good offer, or maybe it was the lure of television. Just six months later he was given national exposure when Dale Martin Promotions gave him his big chance on television. He took it, leading Clay Thomson until the seventh round when the more experienced Scot gained an equaliser. Tony punished Thomson for two rounds trying to gain a submission but the result was a very creditable draw for the young Cassio. He was to become a familiar figure to television audiences, meeting opponents of increasing size and stature: Johnny Czeslaw, Les Kellett, Ricky Starr to Bruno Elrington.


In the early 1960s Tony was a very prolific worker, not just in the south of England but around the country and to Spain also. Making a study of his opponents we were surprised to find just about every heavyweight of note listed. Following the unmasking of the White Angel on a Paul Lincoln show in1962 Tony adopted the persona in Joint Promotion rings, wearing the same outfit that had been given to him by White Angel Al Hayes. Life was certainly busy for Cassio, who reached the next milestone of his career in 1967.


It was in late 1967 that Tony left Joint Promotions for the last time and set himself up as a rival promoter of his former bosses at Dale Martin. Centurion Promotions were created, employing many former Dale Martin workers that included Don Stedman, Josef Zaranoff and Docker Don Stedman. Tony himself worked on these shows under three guises, as himself and two masked characters, The Gladiator and The White Angel. As was common practice at the time Dale Martin Promotions went on the offensive against their latest competition, to the extent of staging shows in the same town and on the same night they knew Centurion Promotions were promoting.


Tony saw out his career with the independent promoters. He began to cut down appearances in the 1970s. Like many other wrestlers he went into pub management at The Oak Tree in East Acton. He disappeared from our wrestling radar in 1973, but it wasn't until seven years later, on 19th June, 1980 that he wrestled his final match. There was no Tony Cassio on the poster that night. He was the Godfather and his opponent was Dangerous Danny Lynch.


Tony Cassio died on 11th April, 2017.

Page added 19/06/2022