Interview - Mike Capano

I/V: Mike Capano, Wrestling Historian & Vice President of the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame:
5th June 2003

What's your background, and that of the PWHOF?

In the early 50's, my uncle was a professional wrestler who went by the name of Leonardo Dante. He wrestled mostly in the northeastern part of the United States. Because he could not speak English, being from Argentina, my father was his manager.

Leonardo was close friends with Antonino Rocca. They trained and wrestled together until my uncle enlisted in the army. In 1997 I had an opportunity to apply for my wrestling promoter's license in the state of New York. As the owner of "New Breed Wrestling", I conducted shows in New York State from 1997 to 2000. During this time I had met Tony Vellano who was an official with the New York State Athletic Commission. In 2001 Mr. Vellano contacted me to see if I would be interested in helping with events for the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.The PWHF is a not for profit organization. The founding fathers were Tony Vellano and George "The Animal" Steele. Since I was no longer promoting,I was more than happy to be involved. After running several autograph sessions I was elected to sit on the board of directors for the PWHF. One of my main functions is promoting the PWHF.

What are your aims and objectives?

The Profesional Wrestling Hall of Fame is also a chartered museum with the the New York State Department of Education. We not only hold induction ceremonys for those being enshrined but also have a museum located at 123 Broadway in Schenectady, New York. There are hundreds of displays of pictures, posters, ring attire,memorabilia and also a library. Many of these items date back to the 1900's. The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum honors the inductees and educates the wrestling enthusiast. Many of the younger fans are only interested in what they see on TV and don't realize there is over one hundred years of wrestling history or that wrestling has been on TV since the early 1940's. The first televised wrestling show was produced in Schenectady, N.Y.

What is your position?

I was elected Vice President of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in 2002. My functions include everything from promotion of the PWHF nationally and internationally to assisting with events to displaying memorabilia at the museum.

When, how and why did you start making a real difference to pro wrestling heritage and history?

One of the biggest obstacles we have had to over-come was credibility. Because this had not been done before the wrestling community watched to see how this was going to turn out. The weekend of May 17th 2003 we completed our second annual Induction. We have gained national recognition and we are being supported by the wrestling industry. The PWHF has also been promoted world wide. There were about one thousand people that attended the last induction weekend. There were also people that flew in from Japan and around the world to attend.Without the support of everyone in the wrestling industry and the fans the PWHF would not be able to continue. There are many retired wrestlers that have been forgotten. These wrestlers are the fathers of professional wrestling and do need to be remembered and honored. Wrestling was and still is a big part of history not just in the United States but world wide.

What is the biggest misconception about old time pro wrestling?

The biggest misconception is that wrestling is not real or fake. Of course everyone knows wrestling is a predetermined, that's were the entertainment comes from. What the wrestlers of today and yesterday put themselves through is not fake.If you talk to just about any one who has been in the business for many years, they will tell you it takes a special person to fall off of a 20' cage, go threw a table and continue to wrestle. Almost every wrestler that has been on the road for a number of years lives with the physical pain every day. Many wrestlers have had surgery at one time or another. How many athletes in other professions can continue to perform with a fractured rib or a broken hand. This is part of life if you want to wrestle. There is nothing fake about a broken bone.

Who are your biggest supporters?

The support the PWHF gets comes from several different areas and groups, that is what makes the PWHF continue to succeed. The support also comes in various forms. The wrestlers support the PWHF by donating memorabilia and also by promoting within the wrestling industry or attending functions the PWHF puts on. The promoters help by letting the PWHF sell and promote at wrestling shows. The fans support the PWHF by attending the functions and also by donating memorabilia or purchasing PWHF merchandise such as shirts, hats, posters, etc.. . The media supports the PWHF by covering events, running stories or by posting press releases and upcoming events. We also get financial support from the local community and sponsors.

How do you raise awareness?

We are continually promoting the PWHF and events. This is done through the internet, newspaper, radio and TV. The PWHF is promoted not only nationally but worldwide.

What are your most treasured wrestling items?

All of the items at the museum are treasured. Many of the items or memorabilia at the PWHF can never be replaced. You can get an autographed picture of "The Rock" or "Hulk Hogan" but you will never get another autographed picture of "Antinino Rocca" or "Andre the Giant".

What other media exposure have you garnered?

The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame has had coverage from television, radio, newspaper and internet. We have done TV shows and nationally syndicated radio talk shows. Madison Square Garden
Network conducted interviews during the induction weekend. Reporters from Japan flew in to cover the induction weekend.

Do you think the general public respects pro wrestling more these days, than days gone past?

I think fans today take wrestling for what it is, entertainment. Twenty to forty years ago more of the fan base thought the storylines were real. Wrestlers were physically attacked or had their cars attacked by a mob of fans that were angry at them for what they had had done or said at a show.

Who was the greatest worker and brawler of all time?

The greatest worker or brawler 100 years ago is so much different from the wrestler of today. Each era has had it's great wrestlers.

Who are the most well known wrestlers and wrestling personalities that you have dealt with re the PRHF?

Because this is the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum, the majority of wrestlers we deal with are legends. This past induction Nick Bockwinkel, The Fabulous Moolah, Killer Kowalski and Dick" the Destroyer" Beyer were all in attendance. We have also had functions with George "The Animal"Steele , Ox Baker, Butcher and Mad Dog Vachon, Johnny Valiant, Greg "The Hammer "Valentine, Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Captain Lou Albano, "Hacksaw "Jim Duggan, Brutus Beefcake and these are just a few.

What years does the PRHF cover, and what are your favorite eras, and why?

Because this has never been done before the PWHF had to go as far back as the 1800's so we cover over 100 years of wrestling history. I personally do not have a favorite era but if I did have to pick a period I would have to say pre 70's because the storylines were less complicated and wrestling was not as over-exposed as it is today.

Why do you think pro wrestling fans are particually passionate about what they love, and how many fans actually respect what the wrestling legends did for the business, to get it to the state it is in today?

Professional Wrestling Fans of today are more educated about the sport of wrestling. They understand the abuse the wrestlers put themselves through to entertain the crowd. They understand that the wrestlers are not doing this to win the superbowl or a world series but to win over the fans.

What do you think, or know, the reason was that inspired Vince McMahon Jr to start to acknowledge wrestling's glorious past?

The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum has no affiliation with any wrestling promotion. The WWE does have its own hall of Fame which is for those who have worked for WWWF, WWF or WWE. We include everyone in the professional wrestling business and date back to the 1800's. Vince McMahon knows very well what it takes to be a professional wrestler. He knows these wrestlers of the past deserve to be honored and are very big part of wrestling history. You can not have a great promotion without having great wrestlers and I believe Mr. McMahon is giving those the recognition they deserve. Mr. McMahon is in his 50's and still climbs into the ring on occasion, how many athelets can do what these wrestlers do when they are over 50 years old? How can you not give them respect?

What are your curretn projects?

We are currently putting a fundraiser dinner together and possibly a Legends Cruise.

How has the internet helped and hindered you?

The internet has definately been a help, without it we would not be able to reach thousands of wrestlers and fans world wide.

What wrestling websites do you visit?

When I send out updates or press releases there are about 300 news sites and reporters I mail. I also send to wrestlers and promotions that also have websites which totals around 2000 mailings worldwide.

What else should our audience know?

The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame consists of a 14 member board of directors and a 22 member selection committee.No one on the board or committee gets paid for their time and input spent with the PWHF, it is strictly voluntary.The function of the board of directors is to promote,operate,maintain and conduct the induction ceremonies for the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum. The selection committee is to nominate those to be inducted.The board of directors are made up of an attorney, accountant and businessmen . George"The Animal" Steele and Hillbilly Cousin Luke both are board members. The selection committee is made up of wrestling historians, writers and authorities on the pro wrestling business.

For further information contact Tony Vellano (518)356-3473, or Mike Capano (518)725-5272, or visit