June 27, 2010
SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Cuban Assassin
BORN: January 27, 1945 in San Juan, Puerto Rico
5'7", 250 pounds
The original Cuban Assassin, Angel Acevedo, tried to retire from wrestling in 1992, but kept getting drawn back in. He kept his training up, and would get invited to shows near his home outside Calgary, reluctantly accepting the invitations.
Then one day, he entered the ring and got a big surprise. "Before the people used to boo me, call me names -- oh, every thing in the almanac! When I go now, people stand up," explained 'Cubie' to SLAM! Wrestling. "In New Brunswick, they've got signs, 'Cuban Assassin #1', 'Cuban Assassin is my dad', 'Cuban Assassin the real 3:16'."
Acevedo, now 55, attributes part of his popularity to longevity, but also treating people right. "When I'm in the ring, I'm really violent. But when I'm on the street, I'm a real gentleman." He's more than willing to give out autographs, even in restaurants where he really stands out with his wild mane of black hair, and his impressive beard.
Born in January 1945 in Puerto Rico to a Cuban father, and Puerto Rican mother, Acevedo and his family moved to Cuba when he was only seven months old. He was an amateur wrestler in school, and knew something of the pro game. But it was boxing that got ahold of him first, and he turned pro. It didn't last.
"When I was in boxing, I was 135 pounds. Then I put my weight up when they convinced me I could go in wrestling. I started wrestling when I was 180 pounds. I went to 250, but my weight now is 230," explained Acevedo. He spent three years training for wrestling in Florida, and debuted with Eddie Graham's promotion in the Sunshine State.
Why wrestling? "The money was there. When you're in boxing, you're nobody. You fight maybe once a year. You make $7,500 for one fight ... when you're wrestling, and the people like you, the promoters, they have to pay you."
Professional wrestling took him around the world, and he's quick to rattle off locations: Japan 17 times, South Korea, Hong Kong, Germany eight times, France, Italy, South America, Tennessee, Calgary.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, he calls The Maritimes his favourite place in the world to wrestle. "The money is steady, it's summer, and I like the place. That was the first place, I came from Cuba to the United States. And the United States to Canada. And the first border that I crossed, I was driving from Boston to St. Stephen, New Brunswick. It was summer, and I never spent a winter there. I love the summer there."
He recalled wild battles out east with The Beast and Leo Burke, whom he calls his toughest opponent, hold for hold. And his infamous tag team with Sweet Daddy Siki, which continued later in Kansas City.
Atlantic Grand Prix promoter Emile Dupre admitted that he was a little taken aback by the Cuban Assassin's appeal in the Maritimes. "Personally, he didn't impress me right away... somebody had to point it out to me," he explained. "The people just grabbed him and that was it. He was a very favourite guy around here ... for not being a real big guy, he sure got over."
His gimmick was unlike anything ever seen in the area, particularly as he debuted during Grand Prix's heyday, when giants like Andre the Giant and Don Leo Jonathan were packing them in. "It was something different for around this part, a Cuban," said Dupre. "His gimmick with the long hair, the fatigues, Castro look. It was something different."
The other memorable part of the Cuban Assassin gimmick was that there was often more than one of them. Cuban Assassin #1 would team with Cuban Assassin #2, like there was some factory out in Havana churning out short, stocky, evil heel wrestlers.
This past summer he teamed with a new Cuban Assassin #2 on the Grand Prix circuit -- his 28-year-old son Richie, from a previous marriage. It came as a bit of a surprise to Acevedo that his son wanted to follow him into wrestling. He knew that Richie was into karate, but didn't learn that he had started wrestling until getting some photos of the action in the mail.
Acevedo does some construction and handyman work when not wrestling these days, and lives outside Calgary now, with his second wife and their two children. He has two other offspring in West Virginia, including Richie. He's been living in Canada since 1976, and met his current love in 1978. But how did the wives feel about the wild hair and beard? "They like me like that," he laughed. "If I shaved, maybe they'd change their minds!"
Calgary was a great location for Acevedo to get overseas to wrestle. And, of course, it was home to Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion, for which he wrestled for when he wasn't travelling the globe.
Being one of the senior wrestlers on the Stampede circuit meant that Acevedo had to help bring along the youngsters. "Bret Hart's first match was against me in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1977, I think," said the Cuban Assassin. "Chris Benoit, he was like a kid when he started in the business."
To this day, he still helps out young wrestlers at the shows. Helping a youngster along is fine line between giving them confidence and dashing their dreams. "I tried not to get too rough with them, tried not to let them get too nervous," said Acevedo. "Then after the match finished, if I've got time to go around to the dressing room, I go. And I tell 'you're doing great, kid. Don't get excited, don't get nervous. Think what you're doing there.'"
Cubie is a multi-time tag team champ in the Stampede promotion, including stints with Franciso Flores and Honky Tonk Man Wayne Ferris. But to him, the best partner was Gerry Morrow. "I'm from Cuba. He's from Martinique, 60-70 miles away. He speaks French, but he speaks Spanish and he speaks Japanese, and he speaks broken English like me."
The duo, at one point dubbed the Cuban Commandos, worked well together. "If I was in trouble in the ring, I give him a signal. If he was in trouble, he give me a signal. But don't say that to the people -- they're going to find out!" he said while laughing.
Of all the places that the Cuban Assassin travelled, and all the wrestling moments, he said that going to Germany was the most wonderful of them all. "Everybody's telling me how bad Germany was, how bad the people were. I went there, and I've got hundreds and hundreds of fans. I can't believe it. I learned the language, a little bit to get by. Now I've got nothing but German friends. They have to be one of the best peoples in the world."
-- By GREG OLIVER, SLAM! Wrestling
Watching Stampede Wrestling when I was growing up, my favorite moment was when Ed Whelan introduced the Cuban Assassin and his hair by Mixmaster. Ed always did have a way with words.
Hans Rasmussen, email@example.com
In The summer at Grand Prix Wrestling The Cuban Assassin was always there. I went every week at the North Sydney forum and always loved to see the Cuban Assassin come out! I remember him always fighting The Beast! And he used to have that little white weapon that he would hide in his boot! And I can say that I can't wait to see The Cuban come to North Sydney again for another Grand Prix tour!
Danny Long from North Sydney, NS
I have a great story to tell you. Back in 1988, when it was in its prime, Stampede Wrestling came to my hometown Nanaimo, BC. At the time Bad News Allen was the champ, and the evil duo of Honky Tonk Wayne and the Cuban Assassin were the tag champs. That night Chris Benoit and his partner Ben Bassarab had a shot at the tag titles. It never surprised me when Honky Tonk got to "The Show" because that night he proved to me he was the ultimate heel. At the show, me and 3 of my best friends had ringside seats. The whole match between the 4 was rather uneventful, except for the fact that Honky Tonk kept yelling expletives at us and we got on our chairs and fingered him and screamed right back at him. The match ended when the Cuban Assassin pulled out a taped-up metal object and suckered Benoit in the throat with it. The Assassin rolled Benoit up with the pin.
The exciting part was still to come. After the match, Honky Tonk continued swearing at us as he was leaving the ring. Once he stopped and was leaving the arena with the Assassin, my friend and I snuck up behind them and kicked them in the ass. Playing along, Honky Tonk and the Assassin proceeded to chase us around the arena waving their tag titles at us!!! I had never been so scared in my life! After a brief chase I ended up diving head first into the penalty box (the boards for hockey were still up). When I mustered up enough courage, I peaked out and the evil duo had left the arena. To this day, my proudest moment is the time I kicked "The Greatest Intercontinental Champion Ever" right in the ass!!