Born: April 12, 1914
Died: September 20, 2013
Mario Louis Fornini was born April 12, 1914 in Castrocielo, a small town in the Lazio region of Italy. After World War I, his family moved to Hoboken, where he counted among his childhood friends Frank Sinatra. Mario and his older brother, Lou, wrestled at Demarest High in Hoboken and Lou became a professional wrestler in the early 1930s. Through Lou, Mario met notorious wrestling promoter Jack Pfefer. Pfefer was the man who publicly stated the obvious: that pro wrestling was scripted. Pfefer rechristened Mario as Angelo Savoldi, imaginary brother of Jumpin’ Joe Savoldi, a former All-American football star for Notre Dame and backfield mate of Red Grange with the Chicago Bears.
Angelo Savoldi began building a reputation as a talented and entertaining “junior heavyweight”—a category for wrestler just under 200 pounds—when World War II began. He served in the Navy and resumed his career in the country’s midsection during the 1950s. Angelo drew big crowds, especially in Oklahoma, a hotbed of postwar wrestling. He was the NWA World Junior Heavyweight champion three times between 1958 and 1964.
In the late 50s, Oklahoma-born Olympian Danny Hodge came to prominence and Angelo was cast as his nemesis. High theater turned to near-homicide when, during a match between the two, Hodge’s father entered the ring and stabbed Angelo with a pocketknife, opening a wound that took 70 stitches to close.
During the 1970s, Angelo wrestled in the World Wrestling Federation and was a minority investor in WWF. He trained several budding pros and, in the 1980s, created International Championship Wrestling with his sons, operating out of his home in Parsippany. One son, Joseph Forini, took the name of his father’s long-ago magniary ring sibling, Jumpin’ Joe Savoldi, and was ICW champion four times. Angelo passed away in 2013. At the age of 99, he was believed to be the oldest former wrestler in history.