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FORMER WWF & ECW STAR SALVATORE BELLOMO PASSES AWAY

By Mike Johnson on 2019-02-10 08:54:00

Salvatore Bellomo, who had a long international career, but might be best remembered in his undercard role for WWF or his run as an early era babyface for ECW, passed away late last night following a long battle with cancer.  Bellomo was 67 years old at the time of his passing.

Although billed from Sicily, Italy, Bellomo was actually born in Belgium, where he broke into the business working carnival events, trained by a wrestler identified as Nino.   In that era, there would be attractions where a promoter would challenge someone to beat their champion wrestler.  The idea would be to get fans to put up money for the chance and then have the wrestler beat them.  To get over the idea that the wrestler was on the “ropes” and was an easy target, in order to entice potential challengers to part with their money, there would be a ringer in the crowd to challenge and have what amounted to a worked fight to get over the idea the wrestler was getting tired.  Bellomo would often play that role, of the “challenger” coming out of the crowd who “almost” beat the champion, setting the stage for the next mark to be fleeced.

Bellomo worked the carnival circuit as the fair traveled across Europe through Germany, Austria, France, England and other countries before making his way to the United States in the 1970s.  Although best remembered in an enhancement role in the WWF in the 1980s, Bellomo worked in a number of different territories before that, including Los Angeles as Tino Bellomo and a nice run in Canada.  He also worked for a bit for EMLL in Mexico and in Japan for IWE.

While in Canada, Bellomo worked in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary, where his ring name was changed to Salvatore Bellomo.   While working in Canada, he held the NWA Pacific Coast title, having a short run with it after beating Gene Kiniski.  Bellomo held it for a month before dropping it to Jean Louie.  Bellomo would also hold the NWA Canadian Tag Team titles on two different occasions during that run, once with Iron Mike Sharpe and once with Bill Cody. 

Sal Bellomo debuted for the WWF in 1982.   It was Peter Maivia, who Bellomo has always identified as his hero and mentor, who was Bellomo’s connection to get into the WWF, suggesting Bellomo sending the promotion photos of himself as they were on the lookout for a new Italian star after Bruno Sammartino.   Bellomo was brought in as the babyface “Italian,” but ended up being cast in the role of undercard hero, beating lower card villains and occasionally getting a win over mid-card talents, but was most likely going to be putting over heels who were getting larger pushes.  His highest profile appearances included wrestling Bob Backlund in the Philadelphia Spectrum and being a guest on one of the early editions of Piper’s Pit, where Piper mocked him by asking Bellomo why he was even there, since Piper hadn’t ordered a pizza. 

Bellomo’s goal was to compete in Madison Square Garden, something he did more than two dozen times, including putting over Bobby Heenan.   Bellomo continued to work as an enhancement talent for WWF through the mid-1980s and was all over WWF TV regularly, including some memorable appearances on WWE's comedy series TNT.  His last appearance for the company saw him lose to Brad Rheighans at a Nassau Coliseum live event in 1987. 

Bellomo returned to Europe, where he wrestled for years to come for Otto Wanz’s Catch Wrestling Association.  The biggest promotion in Europe, CWA would operate out of Austria but tour different companies, often running the same building nightly for long stretches of time.  Wrestlers loved it because they would have regular work without the daily grind of having to travel hours to shows every night.    The promotion would run long tournaments, such as the Catch Cup, building to a big final event.  During that period, Bellomo worked with a number of European stars of that era, including Dave Taylor, Tony St. Clair, Steve Wright, Rambo, Dave Finley and even names touring Europe such as Owen Hart, Rip Rogers and Derrick Dukes.

While it appeared to the average viewer that Bellomo quietly had disappeared from the business after his WWF run in the 1980s, he was living in Pennsylvania.  When he learned of a local promotion running in Philadelphia, ECW, he contacted Tod Gordon to ask about coming in.  Gordon, a lifelong wrestling fan, was aware of who Bellomo was and thought having someone local with some name recognition to fans could only help his fledgling independent promotion.  Imagine Gordon’s surprise when the Bellomo who arrived wasn’t the clean-cut babyface Bellomo of WWF fame but a longer haired, bearded Wildman who looked more like Pampiro Firpo than Bob Backlund!

Bellomo became a regular for Eastern Championship Wrestling and put over Jimmy Snuka in a tournament final with Snuka becoming the first-ever ECW Champion.  Bellomo had won a Battle Royal earlier in the show to set up the match.  He lost a Loser Leaves Town match to Tony Stetson to set up a return to the CWA in Europe, before returning.  Bellomo would work for ECW off and on through 1996, initially as a heel but eventually turning babyface after a promo where he proclaimed that he wanted to be a hero to the kids watching.

While ECW later became known for bloody violence, Bellomo was a loveable fixture on the undercard, feuding with The Rockin’ Rebel.  The storyline was that Rebel had injured him, leading to ECW asking fans to send letters of support to Bellomo.  When he returned, Bellomo began tossing stuffed animals out to the crowd, with the idea that kids had sent them to him while he was in the hospital to feel better.

Bellomo would appear on ECW TV regularly when it aired on Sportschannel Philadelphia, even teaming with The Sandman to compete in a tournament to crown the ECW Tag Team titles, eventually losing in the finals to Eddie Gilbert and The Dark Patriot.  He feuded with Sir Richard Michaels, leading to a strap match at Ultra Clash ’93.  Rebel, who had been suspended in storyline for his attack on Bellomo (imagine how this reads now given the level of atrocities later commited in ECW!) returned to attack Bellomo after, continuing their feud.

When Paul Heyman took over as ECW booker, the storylines changes as he focused more on younger, new talents.  Bellomo remained but was used more in a veteran support role where he would work undercards, putting over heels Heyman was pushing.  Bellomo lost to Mr. Hughes at the groundbreaking “Night the Line Was Crossed” event in February 1995.  This was truly the show that put ECW on the map and set it on its course to become something special.  Bellomo would not receive another sustained push but would pop up from time to time working undercard bouts before finishing up in 1996, where he beat JT Smith in his final match in Plymouth Meeting, PA.

After ECW, Bellomo continued to wrestle locally in Pennsylvania, including regular appearances for WXW out of Allentown, run by Afa the Wild Samoan.  Bellomo would work against and team with younger talents, even getting a WXW Tag Team title run with The Mad Russian.    He would also work for Tommy Dee in New York City as well:

Bellomo moved back to Europe in the early 2000s, where he opened a wrestling school in Belgium that at one point, had over 50 students at the same time.  He worked for a number of promotions across Europe, appearing mostly in Belgium and The Netherlands.  He wrestled as late as last year and was a veteran fixture for professional wrestling in those countries.

On behalf of everyone associated with PWInsider.com, we’d like to express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and fans of Sal Bellomo.

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