Posted April 29th, 2020 by 1Wrestling News Team

The Mystery Of The Dynamic Duo: When And Where Did Battman And Robin Wrestle?

By Trapper Tom Leturgey

Pittsburgh–For many fans of Pittsburgh’s Studio Wrestling, Tony Marino’s “Battman” was a huge deal. The local incarnation of the then-TV character burst onto the scene, not in Pittsburgh, but (according to Wrestledata.com) in Cleveland on March 31, 1966. There, Battman defeated Paul DeGalles in 5:15 at the Cleveland Arena.

In the NWA (Detroit version) heavyweight title match that March, The Sheik defeated Fred Curry before a crowd of just over 2,300. At this time, Battman was wrestling primarily for the Sheik’s NWA.

(There is a “Battman” listed as tagging in a loss with Gorilla Monsoon in February, 1966 but the Buffalo, New York-based Marino didn’t wrestle anywhere else around there at that time, and it would be surprising to lose in a random tag team debut, so It’s likely that is a mistake or not Marino.) The Adam West-helmed Batman television show debuted on January 12, 1966.

It’s common knowledge in wrestling fan circles that Marino’s “Battman” featured two t’s to differentiate and presumably avoid lawsuits from the TV crime fighter. However, the DC comics spelling is frequently used in everything from Civic Arena wrestling programs to news filings, results and other promotional pieces.

Around this time, John Foti was wrestling almost exclusively in Canada for Stu Hart’s Stampede promotion. The 5’9”, 215-pound Canadian native, 38, and Marino, 35, 5’9” and 235-pounds, were on cards together in 1965, months before the show debuted. Foti was asked to be the Boy Wonder.

Despite urban myth, there’s no proof whatsoever that the Dynamic Duo ever worked as a tag team. In fact, there is little no proof that the famed duo extended beyond a photo session with photographer Roger Baker. [More on this below.]

In April, Battman wrestled all over the east, from Buffalo to Cincinnati, Toledo to Detroit and Toronto; and the Caped Crusader got the win wherever he went. In singles competition, he remained undefeated in May, but lost in a tag team contest with Lou Klein against Nicoli Volkoff (not the Nikolai Volkoff of later WWF fame) and Boris Volkoff.

Foti, announced from New York, spent the vast majority of his time north of the border for Stampede. He was never involved in a recorded tag team match with Battman during this time, and “Robin” can’t be found in singles competition.

The two reportedly debuted at the Maple Leaf Gardens, but actually didn’t compete in a match together.

On July 24, 1966, WWWF Champion Bruno Sammartino defended his title in the Maple Leaf Gardens against Dr. Bill Miller (Bruno won by count out). On the same card, Battman lost in a tag team match with partner Johnny Powers. Although they knew each other before this, Sammartino may never have seen Marino as Battman before this.

Exactly two months later, Battman debuted in Pittsburgh on Studio Wrestling’s September 24, 1966 broadcast in a win over Jim Grabmire. He would become a staple of weekly television broadcasts and mid-card house shows for several years.

A short time later, the Dynamic Duo were featured in a huge photo on the cover of Wrestling Revue Magazine, along with editorial teases for The Crusher and Mildred Burke. In a feature remembering Foti, Greg Oliver’s Slam Canoe Sports featured a photo gallery of Battman and Robin, most likely taken by Roger Baker on May 1, 1966 (based on match results). One photo appears to be staged as the in-ring Battman and his Ward sign autographs for fans standing on the outside. Another photo shows Robin standing on the apron and chatting with Battman. Behind them is an empty arena. Plus, the article confirms that Robin is Battman’s “second and confidant.” Robin did get involved momentarily when a rival had Battman illegally on the ropes. (The entire gallery, with candid backstage photos with fans, is still available on the Slam Canoe Sports site.)

The magazine had to reinforce to fans that Battman and Robin were on the scene. However, the team didn’t last long, if they really worked together at all.

When Marino returned to Toronto, he didn’t often bring the mask in late 1966. He wrested as Tony Marino, the respected Italian. Most of the time, Foti wasn’t on those cards.

It’s interesting to note that on November 7, 1966 (after the magazine’s release and at the height of the TV show’s craze) Battman defeated John Foti in one-on-one action in Lethbridgem Alberta Canada, as well as the next day in Edmonton. Both events were for Wildcat Wrestling, the NWA and Stampede. Foti wrestled for the rest of his short life. Sadly, Foti took his own life on April 29, 1969. He was 41.

Battman spent most of his time in the Pittsburgh region, which was now owned by Sammartino. By February, 1967 Battman was routinely tagging with The Living Legend. Later he would tag with “Jumpin’” Johnny DeFazio. There’s never been a suggestion that Foti was ever in Pittsburgh or Western Pennsylvania.

The Batman TV show went off the air in March, 1968 but continues to live on famously in syndication and cultural lore. Pittsburgh’s “Battman” wasn’t as omnipresent after the cancellation; however, Marino would continue to wrestle in the cowl from time to time for many years.

Marino, who lives in Florida, recently turned 89.

Category: Wrestling.

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