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Canvas and spandex collided in an all-out, muscle-bound brawl on April 11, as Bensonhurst’s Our Lady of Guadalupe again hosted East Coast Professional Wrestling — an event that raised money both for the school’s athletics program and for one of New York’s fallen Finest.
The 500-strong, sold-out crowd included both longtime pro-wrestling fans and newcomers — but everyone left converted into afficionados of pure testosterone power.
“We took that unorthodox union of Catholic schools and professional wrestlers, and we put on a show for the non-believers,” said organizer and wrestler Tony “Bulldog” Biella, a Bensonhurst native. “There’s nothing like sitting in a sweaty gym in that atmosphere. The smell is in the air, and the farthest you are from the ring is four feet. And we made the non-believers believe.”
Biella’s brother, Father Michael Bruno, said the opening prayer, then it was on to eight face-offs between rugged, red-blooded warriors of good and evil.
Among the champions of machismo were beloved wrestling legends like Tony Atlas and Nunzio. The event also marked the debut match of Ben “Great White Buffalo” Benedetto, a high school friend of Biella’s. Benedetto triumphed over fascist Canadian tag team Axis Powers in a Battle Royale, with some help from Biella, who entered the ring to save his buddy’s neck.
Benedetto also helped Biella in the weeks leading up to the battle with promoting the show and helping to secure sponsors for Guadalupe’s sports teams and the Joseph Pritchard Scholarship Fund, named for nypost.com/2013/03/25/off-duty-cop-killed-in-lie-crash/">an NYPD officer who died last year in an accident on the Long Island Expressway.
“He’s really become my right-hand man,” said Biella, who keeps the streets safe when not wrestling as Officer Anthony Passaro.
Benedetto helped out his pal later in the ring, during Biella’s grudge match against Little Tony Moose. Tony Moose ruined Biella’s bout last year with his mentor, Gino Caruso, by raiding the ring before the pin — and Biella was out for revenge.
After an intense blow-for-blow exchange that left tables and folding chairs in pieces, the two landed outside the ring — where the Axis Powers decided to attack Biella. The Brooklyn Bulldog quickly dispatched one of the nefarious north-of-the-border twins, but was outnumbered until the Great White Buffalo intervened. Both Axis Powers were sent running back into the locker room, and the Bulldog and the Moose went back into the ring. After another round of reversals and folding chairs, Biella cornered his foe and performed his signature move — the running bulldog.
“That ended the chapter of Little Tony Moose,” Biella said.
The veteran wrestler declared the event a victory — both for himself and for Guadalupe and the Pritchard Fund — which are still totalling up the take. And wrestling fans got a new dynamic duo — the Bulldog and the Buffalo — to champion the American way against the Canadian heels.
“Good triumped over evil, and now I don’t just have a friend, but someone I call brother in the ring,” said Biella.