July 19, 2012
Blast From the Past: The Caped Crusader and Wonder BoyWrestling Revue, October 1966
By ROGER BAKER - SLAM! Wrestling
Digging into the archives of writer/photographer Roger Baker, we revisit a Wrestling Revue magazine cover story from October 1966 on The Caped Crusader and Wonder Boy. Batman was Tony Marino, while Robin was John Foti. Check out Roger's story -- which we vet for the kayfabe of the era (in red) -- and his amazing photo gallery of The Caped Crusader and Wonder Boy, with a little of Marino on his own as well.
But, alas, in the year 1966, this was all to change. Television viewers were teased for weeks with preview glimpses of a new kind of show heretofore reserved for the comics only. A public, hungry for entertainment that was "way out," yet somehow believable in the broadest sense, welcomed the dashing, smashing duo of Batman and Robin.
The show occupies prime time on a national TV network and has a following from all age groups that numbers in the millions. Therefore, it is not surprising that the wrestling world has recently been invaded by another smashing, dashing duo appropriately billed as the Caped Crusader and Wonder Boy. NOTE #1
As we go to press the center of their activities is in Eastern Canada and parts of New York State.
On the night that they made their debut in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, I made a point of visiting them in the dressing room to see for myself just what all the fuss was about. The room they occupied was filled with other wrestlers of different shapes and sizes in various stages of undress. Some seemed amused with the new pair, some annoyed and others were completely indifferent.
One wrestler whose name will remain anonymous kept mumbling under his breath, "What the h--- is this business coming to anyway, is it a circus now or a sport?"
"Hey Batman and Robin," I yelled above the dressing room din, "tell me something about yourselves. What gave you the idea of using this gimmick? Do you think the wrestling fans will go for it?"
The Crusader, thinking I was ribbing him, gave me a hard, cold look. Then, recognizing me, his expression softened. NOTE #2 He said, "You're looking for a story for Wrestling Revue. Okay! I'll answer your questions but be sure to get the facts straight. This is no 'gimmick' in the way you mean it. We are deadly serious about this new role.
"As you know, I am no 'Johnny-come-lately' in the grunt-and-groan game, right? (I nodded in the affirmative.) Since the beginning of my career I have always played it straight and scientific. I have always believed in giving the other guy an even break. To me wrestling is a contest of strength and skill.
"However, the trouble with this business is the fact that it is infested with guys who are barroom brawlers instead of wrestlers. Some of them wouldn't know a wrestling hold if they saw one. All they do is punch, kick, stomp, butt, use their elbows, knees, chairs, pieces of metal and so forth. They don't care what they do or how they win.
During our spirited one-way conversation Wonder Boy was silent but I could see he was itching to add his own version to what his partner had already said.
"We are on a campaign to defeat and humiliate as many ruffians in this business as we can. We are especially out after bad guys like Bulldog Brower, Dick the Bruiser and Mad Dog Vachon, who need to be taught a lesson. The Crusader is the man to teach them this lesson. He is fast, strong, and has limitless endurance plus a tremendous repertoire of scientific holds. He also has plenty of counters to call on which will combat any of the foul deeds these cads dare try on him."
The kids flock around this pair on every appearance in each arena where they appear. Their entrance into the ring is preceded by the Batman theme on the public address system. This really sets the fans on the edge of their seats and the cheers are deafening as they bound into the ring with all the color and drama of a real-life Batman and Robin.
Wonder Boy acts in the capacity of confidant and second to the Crusader but becomes involved in most of the Crusader's matches when his opponents take exception to the presence of his little partner at ringside. Recently in Toronto the Crusader's opponent, Bulldog Brower, in a fit of anger, took a swing at Wonder Boy, who is only half his size, and then chased the plucky little masked man all the way to his dressing room in an effort to get hold of him. Fortunately for Wonder Boy, he makes up for his lack of stature with extra speed.
How long this pair will campaign against the forces of evil in the wrestling business is anybody's guess, but, judging by their reception today, they have a lengthy period ahead of them in which to portray their famed namesakes.
Tony Marino lives in Florida now, and recently made an appearance at a roast of old friend Dominic Denucci in Pittsburgh.
Roger Baker was a writer and photographer for magazines like The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, Wrestling Revue, and Boxing Illustrated from 1958 to 1973. An archive of his contributions to SLAM! Wrestling are here. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.