When I die, I don't want people to be sad. I want people to be happy, because I'll be with my friends. - "The Boston Bad Boy" Tony Rumble
It was 7 years ago today that "The Boston Bad Boy" Tony Rumble died suddenly of a massive heart attack.
Most wrestling fans would have been familiar with Rumble from his hosting of Mario Savoldi's old ICW (later ICCW) TV shows. Around these parts, Tony Rumble was the owner and promoter of the Century Wrestling Alliance, later becoming NWA New England.
His exposure on the ICW/ICCW shows made him something of a local celebrity. He was street smart, as opposed to book smart, and a tremendously effective promoter. The CWA/NWA NE dominated the area as far as local promotion goes. Rumble had a knack of being able to pick up sold shows (events where a school or organization would buy the event for a set price) and then promote events off of the sold show. While he was never what you'd call wealthy or even well off, he did made a living from wrestling during much of the last 5 years of his life.
At its best, CWA/NWA NE was a collection of top national (and even some occasional international) stars and some interesting local talent. Rumble also had what he called his "Whack Pack." Guys who were there just to be amusing or entertaining. They gave the promotion a unique character, much like Rumble himself.
Rumble's friendships with the likes of Jim Cornette and Kevin Sullivan put the promotion in a very unique place in the late 90's. Before the beginning of developmental territories that WWE uses now, Rumble was one of those few who had the ear of decision makers in the then-WWF and WCW. Rumble was also still friendly with former ICW proteges like Taz and Tommy Dreamer, as well as Paul Heyman. In New England, Rumble dominated the local scene, such as it was at the time.
In fact, NWA NE was really the first "serious" independent promotion in the region. The company had a cable access TV show called "Mass Madness," produced by a bright young cable access producer named Pat Doyle. The production was fairly high quality for its time and the shows had everything from great wrestling with top talent to funny wrap-around segments. The show eventually made its way onto broadcast TV on an independent UHF station out of Derry, NH. The show used a different format on broadcast TV and lasted 16 weeks before the station wanted to change the deal and get paid for the show. A local car dealership - Atlantic Toyota - had agreed to sponsor the show, but pulled out at the last minute. It was a hard blow to Rumble, who passed away a few weeks later.
Those who knew him remember him fondly. They remember his as a mentor who gave people a chance to perform who would have otherwise not had that chance. He helped a lot of guys get into the national spotlight. He was a larger than life character, always fun to be around and quick with a great story.
But the real person behind Tony Rumble was a lot more complex. Anthony David Magliaro was a street kid whose parents died young. He had a difficult childhood and life with few bright spots. One of Tony's joys as a boy were the monthly wrestling shows at the old Boston Garden. At a Garden show in 1966, Bruno Sammartino and Gorilla Monsoon had a match where the ring broke in the middle of the match. It was the moment that Tony decided he wanted to be a wrestler, and years later he fulfilled that dream. He eventually took on the persona of "The Boston Bad Boy" Tony Rumble and that was when Tony's life really began.
We became close friends over the last 6 years of his life. He loved wrestling with all his heart, as he did his wife, Ellen, her children and his first grandson, Hunter.
Tony's sudden death threw the New England wrestling scene into turmoil. Rumble was an irreplaceable commodity. His widow tried to put the promotion in hands that would continue the business, but they were the wrong people for the job. The solid business that Tony had built over 6 and half years, crumbled within 6 months. Eventually, Tony's widow turned the operation over to Jason Dellagatta, who had wrestled for NWA NE as Jason Rage. At the urging of Ellen Magliaro, Jason Rage became Jason Rumble, the "son" of Tony. While Jason was no relation to Tony in real life, the promotion did continue under his direction, but Jason did not have the experience as either a wrestler or a businessman to be effective in either role.
With Tony gone, it was inevitable that other promotions would spring up and try and occupy the same place it held on the New England scene. By the time of his death, the business was changing rapidly. The sold shows became more difficult to get and the ability to book top names from WWF and WCW dried up. It became clear, at least to me, that the region called for a different model for doing business. To try and imitate what Tony did would be impossible, because so much of it worked because of him and his personality.
I think about Tony Rumble every single day. He was one of those characters that simply don't exist anymore and probably never will again. And while I am sad that he is not here to lend his street-wise wisdom, humor and love to this world, I pray that he is happy wherever he is now.
Rest in peace my friend.