Dark Side of the Ring – The Assassination of Dino Bravo
Written by Dino Bravo Sucks
I gotta admit – I was NOT prepared for that.
I knew the story behind Dino Bravo, and most of the facts presented in the latest edition of the Dark Side of the Ring series about his murder. I knew about the contraband cigarettes and the ties to the Canadian mafia. Even with all that beforehand knowledge, I was still not prepared to deal with the impact his death had on his family.
According to the documentary, this was the first time that Bravo’s family had spoken out regarding the events of his untimely demise. His widow and daughter’s grief was readily evident throughout all their talking head interviews, many of which were hard to watch. There were a few smiles (usually when looking at pictures of Bravo), but you can tell the family hasn’t gotten over this heinous act – and who can blame them for that?
The documentary focused more on his family than his wrestling career, though it did offer some more insight to his pre-WWF past to viewers. Bravo was THE top star in Montreal’s International Wrestling organization and was also the booker. He found himself falling into the same traps that others in his position fell into, booking himself on top at the expense of other top talent (the Rougeaus, Rick Martel and others).
Jacques Rougeau (looking like a cross between an andromorphic penis and John Michael Higgins) talked about how he wanted to be moved up the card while in Montreal, but Bravo was reluctant to give up his spot on top. So Rougeau took an offer from the WWF to make more money as McMahon was expanding his national dominance over the independent federations. Bravo held out as long as he could, but his once thriving promotion that was at one time drawing 2 million viewers a week finally had to close after losing so much talent to Vince.
It’s also during this segment that they talk about the long-rumored match with Hulk Hogan, which was cancelled because Vince was afraid that the fans would side would Bravo over Hogan. This seems…. far-fetched. Hogan was SO. OVER. In the 1980’s, and Dino Bravo was the worst…the absolute worst. For whatever reason, the match never happened and led to the eventual downfall of Montreal.
Bravo himself took an offer to work with the WWF, for a rumored $300K/year, with an upside of close to $1 million/year. He was paired with Jimmy Hart (who somehow hasn’t aged a day) and was inserted into the mid-card. He started to make money – and to my immense frustration, was overly protected almost every time he went out and wrestled. The man simply never lost – whether it be WrestleMania, Survivor Series or Superstars – if Bravo was on the card, more often than not he was going to have his hand raised in victory.
And oh boy did he spend the money he made. He bought a huge house, jewelry, and fancy cars – even going so far as to buy his 4-year-old daughter a Porsche and tell her “That’s going to be yours”, and if I can be honest….that’s kinda baller. This illustrates part of what I wasn’t prepared for – Bravo clearly loved his family and doted on his daughter. It was truly heartwarming to see how much he cared for her and how much it impacts her to this day.
The success in the WWF wasn’t without it’s downfalls, though. McMahon “suggested” that Bravo dye his hair blonde and become anti-American. Bravo wasn’t in love with the gimmick, but couldn’t pass up the lucrative paydays the WWF was offering. There were several talking heads that indicated that Bravo was never comfortable playing this role – and in fact was so used to being the hero in Montreal that playing a despised villain didn’t come naturally. To this, I offer some damning praise to Bravo – I hated your guts because I wanted you off my TV. He looked so comfortable as a heel – smug, boring ring style, being cowardly – he was really good at it. So maybe Bravo wasn’t the absolute worst.
That pretty much sums up the wrestling portion of the documentary – it then delves into how after he left the WWF he was struggling to maintain his expensive lifestyle and was looking to increase his revenues. His uncle was connected to the Montreal mafia (possibly the head of it, depending on who you ask) and started using Bravo as muscle to collect debts. His widow stated in a talking head that she wasn’t comfortable with this new lifestyle and that the people he associated with in the mafia were much more outrageous than those in the WWF.
We then get to March 10, 1993 – Bravo was found in his home, shot 17 times (7 to the head, 10 to the torso). Read that again. He was shot SEVENTEEN times. I’m really not sure how you shoot someone in the head SEVEN times, either. But here’s where the documentary gets really grim.
Bravo was discovered in his easy chair in his living room by his wife and young daughter. I simply cannot imagine the trauma they experienced (nor do I want to). Neither his widow or daughter want to go back to that time in their memories, and that’s easy to understand. There were several confusing elements to the crime – including no sign of forced entry or struggle, the door being unlocked and no witnesses.
(I’d also like to comment that it seemed super weird to me that his wife was taking their daughter to ballet class at 9:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, and not returning home until after midnight.)
The documentary goes into great detail speculating why Bravo was shot – including smuggling cigarettes for the Canadian Native Americans. The prevailing theory seems to be that Bravo was involved in a cigarettes and cocaine deal worth $400,000. Bravo arranged for a pickup at a storage facility, but somehow the deal went wrong and the buyers were intercepted by the Royal Canadian Mounties (not the Jacque Rougeau version, sadly).
That $400,000 mistake probably cost Bravo his life – and he seemed to be expecting it. The documentary mentions that Rick Martel declined to be interviewed (which is a big loss for this subject matter), but they replayed an interview that Martel did back in 2007 that said Bravo was anticipating the end of his life very soon. In all fairness, Bravo DID seem to be a pretty terrible gangster, because according to talking heads he was very forthcoming about his illegal activities and smuggling. Even in a life of crime, Dino Bravo was the worst….the absolute worst.
There is no resolution to the murder of Dino Bravo. One newspaper reporter speculated that the Native Americans may have contracted out the killing with some motorcycle gangs that Bravo did business with. The police declined to be interviewed because the case is still officially open and not subject for discussion. The only thing left is a shattered family that is still obviously trying to put the pieces together from a horrific event.
The final scene with Bravo’s daughter Claudia made tears come to my eyes. She’s very obviously in grief, and talks about how much she misses her father, and how much she wishes he were still here to be a grandpa to her two children. She tells her children stories about her father, and how his absence has left such an enormous void in her life.
I was not prepared for this documentary to focus so much on Dino Bravo the man. I (clearly) don’t care for Dino Bravo the wrestler, but Dino Bravo the husband, father and friend was well loved and fondly remembered. Everyone in his life is still feeling an impact from his untimely murder almost 30 years ago, and he clearly still has a legacy in the Montreal area. So maybe, just maybe, Dino Bravo WASN’T the absolute worst.
(Yes he was.)