He was born Anton Baričević in Zagreb, Croatia. He is claimed to have gone to work with a pick and shovel at the age of 6 and to have been able to uproot trees with a cable around his neck by age 12 (an anecdote that is not confirmed). In 1945, he arrived in Canada by refugee ship to Halifax, Nova Scotia. He never talked about his experiences in World War II, but some believe that he was psychologically affected by whatever he saw and experienced.
He was at the Bagnoli displaced persons camp during WW2.
Beginning in the late 1940s, Barichievich began a career as a strongman. He first made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1952 by pulling a 433-tonne train 19.8 metres. He later made it into Guinness by pulling four city buses loaded with passengers. He weighed 465 pounds (224.5 kg) and stood about 6 foot 4 inches (1.93 m). His suits were size 90 and his shoes size 28. He could eat 25 chickens or 10 steaks at one sitting. During the 1970s he toured the world as a strongman and performer, appearing in world capitals and on popular TV variety shows.
Despite his imposing stature, Barichievich is said to have sung with a soft, beautiful voice, and at one time wanted to tour with Tiny Tim. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he made increasingly eccentric demands: he said he would pull a Boeing 747 down the tarmac provided Boeing gave him a jet for his own personal use, and he approached Don King saying that he would do a fight film for one million dollars.
In addition to strongman exhibitions, he began professional wrestling. Barichievich purportedly almost won the Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship in wrestling in Calgary in 1971, but his unpopularity and appearance nearly resulted in a riot. His wrestling career continued into New Japan Pro Wrestling in the 1980s without much success. On December 8, 1977, he lost a notorious match against Antonio Inoki. The match took a turn for the worse when Barichievich inexplicably began to no-sell Inoki's attacks and then attack Inoki, causing Inoki to shoot on Barichievich, legitimately palm striking, kicking, then finally stomping him into a bloody mess.
Film and television
Barichievich appeared in several movies, including Quest For Fire and Abominable Snowman. He also appeared in the feature film A 20th Century Chocolate Cake (1983), directed by Lois Siegel. In addition, he made appearances on several television shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show and Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show.
As he grew older, he became a noted eccentric figure in his home town of Montreal. He changed the story of his background on at least two occasions. He claimed that, rather than being of Croatian descent, he was Italian. In his later years, he claimed that he was an extraterrestrial. Destitute and illiterate, he frequented doughnut shops in Rosemont (one had to leave a message for him at Dunkin' Donuts to reach him), as well as Berri-UQAM metro station, where he sold postcards of himself and brochures outlining his life story.
The Great Antonio died at age 77 of a heart attack while in a grocery store in Montreal. He is believed to have been married at least twice, once in Europe and once in Canada, but he left no known descendants. Before his death, he carried "every scrap of paper that had been written about him over the years, news clippings from all over the world, in garbage bags." After his death, discovered amongst the clippings was a letter from the office of Bill Clinton, and old photos of Barichievich with the likes of Pierre Trudeau, Liza Minnelli, Lee Majors, Sophia Loren and Johnny Carson.
- "Great Antonio". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
- "The Great Antonio (Barichievich)". Cauliflower Alley Club. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
- "Wrestler Profiles: The Great Antonio". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
- "Sumo Hall 12/77". Pro Wrestling History. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
- McCoy, Heath (2005). Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. CanWest Books. p. 69. ISBN 0-9736719-8-X.