The Gorilla Factor: The Life of a True Gentle Giant

Matthew HesterSenior Writer IMay 1, 2009

Hello, everyone. I hope all is well, and as always I wish you all nothing but the best. Today, I would like to talk about one of the more legendary figures in our history of pro wrestling. The man I am referring to is the late great Gorilla Monsoon.

If you are a older wrestling fan you know as do I, that we grew up listning to him calling the matches for the WWF. He touched our hearts in many ways whether it be watching PPVs watching primetime, or just his match calling in general.

If you're the newer generation of wrestling fans, do yourself a favor and watch some of the older matches from the early and late 80s. I promise you that you will be in for a treat, and ya might even learn something in the process.

Robert James Marella ("Gorilla Monsoon") was born in 1937 in New York. He left our world sadly in 1999 due to heart failure and diabetes, but in the process he left lasting memories for millions of wrestling fans all over the world.

Gorilla Monsoon had a outstanding athletic career in high school and collage. He held  many track and field records, and finished second in the 1959 NCAA wrestling championships. He was inducted into the Ithaca College Athletic HOF in 1973.

He found his true calling in 1959 when a local promoter Pedro Martinez discovered him, and brought him into the world of professional wrestling. Monsoon traveled all over the country and was a popular draw wherever he went. He even did some time in Stampede Wrestling, Stu Hart's legendary promotion.

It wasn't until 1963 though that he caught his first real break in the business. After he decided to go heel, he wrestled Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF title. Monsoon later that year also became a sixth shareholder of the company.

Gorilla Monsoon raised the bar on how the big guys should wrestle, and had many outstanding matches with another late great, Andre the Giant.

In fact one of his most talked about matches today is is boxing match with Andre, in which Monsoon was left knocked out in a puddle of water in Puerto Rico.

In 1969, he went babyface and went on to wrestle some of the WWWF's top heels, and later on 1976 he had his famous in-ring incident with Muhammad Ali. Where it resulted in Ali getting cought in one Monsoon's finishing moves the airplane spin.

After that Monsoon was quoted as saying, "Ali was trying to get publicity for an upcoming gimmick fight for a fortune against Antonio Inoki and he apparently wanted to use me as a warm-up for publicity," Marella recalled.

"I was in the ring, waiting for my regular match, when Ali jumped through the ropes, kicked of his shoes, tore off his shirt and began screaming at me. I picked him up and tossed him to the mat with a 'giant swing'. But I gave him a break and didn't use my 'Manchurian splash'."

Marella insisted the episode was not contrived. "I never saw him (Ali) before and haven't seen him since."

Monsoon's in-ring career slowed down in the 80s, he hung up his boots after his last match with Mikel Scicluna. He had few in-ring returns once as part of the body slam challenge with Big John Studd, but other than that, stayed away from the squared circle.

It was soon after that Monsoon started a new phase of his legacy as a booker and commentator. He was now the voice of the WWF working most of the shows at MSG, WWF Wrestling Challenge, WWF All-Star Wrestling and Prime Time Wrestling. He also called the first eight Wrestlmanias and other WWF PPVs.

If Picasso was to painting, Monsoon was to commentating he had a very unique style that is second to none. In that time of the WWF, wrestling was still marketed as a sport and he called like it was one.

The passion in which he described the action was remarkable, he was very articulate in describing the action. So much so that you could close your eyes and you would know exactly what was going on in the ring, and at a time when characters were to be sold he sold them to the T.

Gorilla Monsoon was the perfect straght man for his heel sidekicks, most notably with Jesse "The Body" Ventura and his long time friend Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. The chemistry shared with those two, makes them in most people's minds the greatest duos to call a match.

He also was noted for some of his crazy rants while calling a match. Many are still referenced to today, when Hogan came out he would often yell "This place is going bananas" or many times you would hear him say "WILL YOU STOP" after his many banters with Heenan.

But probably his most famous was his Wrestlemania 3 line, “The irresistible force meets the immovable object.”

The phrase is still used to this day.

Gorilla Monsoon was also noted for giving a few wrestlers their names for their moves and gimmicks. It was Monsoon that coined the phrase excellence of execution, and coming up with the name for Undertaker's tombstone pile driver.

He handed over the stick to Jim Ross in the early 90s, but did make a few guest spots on PPVs. He called the action with Randy Savage in the 1994 KOTR and also did 1994 Royal Rumble and Survivor Series.

He was inducted into the HOF in 1994 in a very heartfelt speech in which gave most of his praise to his wife.

He remained behind the scenes for a while and also played the president of the WWF for a few years. He eventually had to stop due to his health problems.

In 1999 Gorilla Monsoon passed away due to his heart problems. He left the fans, wrestlers, and family with a lot of great memories over the years.

I for one grew up listening to him, and to say he made me the wrestling fan I am today would be a understatement.

Here are a couple quotes after is passing from some of the many lives he touched.

Jesse (The Body) Ventura: "The loss of Gorilla Monsoon saddens me deeply. He was both a friend and a colleague."

George (The Animal) Steele: "Monsoon was a very astute, very intelligent individual and a great friend."

Well thank you for taking the time to read this I hope you enjoyed it. I know I enjoyed writing it, but for me to say this is a proper tribute as Gorilla Monsoon would say would be a "miscarriage of justice."

Good day and God bless.

(Sites used to get some of my info came from N.Y. Times, Slam Wrestling archives, WWE.com and Wikipedia.)

Related

    Complete Monday Night Raw Recap

    WWE logo
    WWE

    Complete Monday Night Raw Recap

    Erik Beaston
    via Bleacher Report

    NXT Stars Ready for Main Roster in 2019 Shake-Up

    WWE logo
    WWE

    NXT Stars Ready for Main Roster in 2019 Shake-Up

    Anthony Mango
    via Bleacher Report

    Lars Sullivan, EC3, Nikki Cross and More to Be Called Up

    WWE logo
    WWE

    Lars Sullivan, EC3, Nikki Cross and More to Be Called Up

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report

    Vince to Take Back Raw with Shane, Stephanie and Triple H

    WWE logo
    WWE

    Vince to Take Back Raw with Shane, Stephanie and Triple H

    Joseph Zucker
    via Bleacher Report