Gorilla Monsoon: Wrestling Legend to Beloved Commentator

Robert James Marella, better known by his ring name Gorilla Monsoon, was a towering figure in the world of professional wrestling. Born on June 4, 1937, in Rochester, New York, Marella’s journey into wrestling began with an impressive collegiate career at Ithaca College, where he was a standout athlete. His transition to professional wrestling saw him initially perform under his real name, but it was his rebranding as Gorilla Monsoon that made him a household name.

Early Life and Wrestling Career

Marella’s early life was marked by athletic prowess, which he carried into his professional wrestling career. After graduating from Ithaca College in 1959, he entered the wrestling world, quickly making a name for himself. His character, Gorilla Monsoon, was billed from Manchuria, and with a manager to do the talking, he became one of the most feared heels in the industry. His immense size and unique gimmick, which included the famed Airplane Spin and Manchurian Splash, made him a formidable opponent in the ring.

Transition to a Fan Favorite

The 1970s marked a significant turning point in Monsoon’s career. Initially one of the most despised figures in wrestling, a storyline involving a rescue by former rival Bruno Sammartino led to Monsoon becoming a beloved fan favorite. This shift in character alignment showcased his versatility and endeared him to a broader audience. His in-ring prowess and charisma led to memorable feuds and matches, including a high-profile incident with Muhammad Ali, further cementing his legacy in the wrestling world.

Commentator Role and Legacy

As Monsoon’s in-ring career began to wind down, he transitioned to a role behind the microphone, where he became the voice of WWE programming for a generation of fans. His commentary was filled with memorable phrases, or “Gorilla-isms,” that have become part of wrestling lore. Monsoon’s partnership with Jesse “The Body” Ventura and later with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan are remembered as some of the most entertaining commentary teams in wrestling history. Despite mixed reviews from critics, Monsoon’s contributions to wrestling commentary were significant, influencing the style and presentation of wrestling broadcasts for years to come.

Monsoon’s legacy extends beyond the ring and the commentary table. He was a partial owner of WWE and played a crucial role behind the scenes. The area behind the entrance curtain, known as the “Gorilla Position,” is named in his honor, a testament to his lasting impact on the industry. Monsoon was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994, a recognition of his contributions to the sport.

Conclusion

Gorilla Monsoon’s career spanned from the late 1950s to the late 1990s, a period during which he evolved from a feared heel to a beloved commentator. His legacy is not just in the memorable matches or his distinctive voice on commentary but in the respect and affection he earned from fans and peers alike. Monsoon passed away on October 6, 1999, but his influence on professional wrestling endures. Whether as a menacing giant in the ring or the voice calling the action, Gorilla Monsoon remains an indelible part of wrestling history.

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Professional Wrestling

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