Guest Author - Vance Rowe
Robert Marella, better known as Gorilla Monsoon was probably one of the most colorful professional wrestlers of his time and not just because of his colorful terminology when he called wrestling matches for the WWF. His early gimmick was that of someone who traveled with a gypsy caravan. His storyline also consisted of him saying that he wrestled bears, could not speak English and drank the blood of his opponents. He grew a long beard and weighed over three hundred pounds so not many people would argue with him. Most of the fans were genuinely scared of him as well. He wrestled as a heel for most of his career and had a long running feud with Bruno Sammartino.
However, Gorilla Monsoon is probably most famous for his altercation with Muhammed Ali. Gorilla just finished up a match with Baron Mikel Scicluna and Ali was at ringside. Ali had always said that a boxer could beat a wrestler in the ring and he had an upcoming bout with the legendary Antonio Inoki. To train for this, Ali started bad mouthing wrestlers and Gorilla himself. He climbed into the ring and taunted Gorilla by dancing around and throwing jabs in Gorilla’s direction. Gorilla soon grabbed him, put him in an airplane spin and dumped him down onto the mat. Ali’s people quickly jumped into the ring and dragged the visibly shaken Ali from the ring.
Gorilla Monsoon had become a face in the later part of his career and was in a match with Hulk Hogan, who was a heel wrestler at the time and they had a match in Madison Square Garden which was definitely a pro Gorilla venue at the time. Vince McMahon wanted Hogan to beat Monsoon in under a minute and when he did it, the fans were irate. So irate that they chased Hogan from the building and tipped his car over. Mounted police had to come in and quell the disturbance.
After he retired from active competition, Gorilla Monsoon became a color commentator for the televised matches alongside of Jesse “The Body” Ventura. The two complemented each other’s styles and while Jesse was a pro-heel commentator, Gorilla was just the opposite. He also played an on-air president of the company after Jack Tunney retired and performed the functions as the General Managers do today for each of the WWE Brands. He was loved and respected by everyone who knew him, both inside and outside of the squared circle. Gorilla Monsoon sadly passed away in 1999 due to complications from diabetes.
The WWE has paid homage to Gorilla by naming the staging area behind the curtains as the “gorilla position” because this is where he spent most of his time when he was not on-air anymore. Also, a young Italian wrestler named Anthony Carelli was given the name Santino Marella in tribute to Gorilla’s last name. He was also inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame in 1994 and during a tribute to Gorilla when he passed; Vince McMahon said that he was one of the greatest people he had ever known.