Great Antonio

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Antonio Barichievich
Antonio Barichievich, young.jpg
Born Anton Baričević
1925
Zagreb, Croatia
Died 2003
Montreal, Quebec
Cause of death myocardial infarction
Occupation strongman, professional wrestler
Years active Late 1940s - 2003
Height 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)
Weight 465 lb (224.5 kg)

Antonio Barichievich, known professionally as The Great Antonio (October 10, 1925 - September 7, 2003), was a Croatian-Canadian strongman, professional wrestler, and eccentric. He was a popular local figure in Montreal until his death.

Early life[edit]

Barichievich was born Anton Baričević in Zagreb, Croatia.[1] Biographers have written that he went to work with a pick and shovel at the age of 6 and was able to uproot trees with a cable around his neck by age 12.[2] Antonio was at the Bagnoli displaced persons camp during World War II. In 1945, he arrived by refugee ship in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He never discussed his experiences during World War II, but writers speculate that he was psychologically affected by whatever he saw and experienced.[2]

He was from the Croatian island of Losinj on the adriatic sea, more precisely the town of Veli Losinj.

Career[edit]

Strongman competition[edit]

Great Antonio mural in Montreal

Beginning in the late 1940s, Barichievich began a career as a strongman in Montreal. He first made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1952 by pulling a 433-tonne train 19.8 metres.[1] He later made it into Guinness by pulling four city buses loaded with passengers.[1] He weighed 465 pounds (224.5 kg) and stood about 6 foot 4 inches (1.93 m).[1] His suits were size 90 and his shoes size 28.[1] He could eat 25 chickens or 10 steaks at one sitting.[2] During the 1970s he toured the world as a strongman and performer, appearing in world capitals and on popular TV variety shows.[2][3]

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.[2] 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.[2]

Professional wrestling[edit]

In addition to strongman exhibitions, he participated in professional wrestling matches. Barichievich purportedly almost won the Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship in wrestling in Calgary in 1971, but fans nearly rioted at the idea Antonio, wrestling as a heel at the time, could appear and beat their hometown favorite.[2] His wrestling career continued into New Japan Pro Wrestling through the 1970s and 1980s without much success. On December 8, 1977, he lost a notorious match against Antonio Inoki during which Barichievich inexplicably began no-selling Inoki's attacks and then stiffing Inoki; Inoki responded by shooting on Barichievich, knocking him down with palm strikes and kicks, and then stomping him into a bloody mess as he lay on the mat.[4]

Film and television[edit]

Barichievich appeared in several movies, including Quest For Fire and Abominable Snowman.[1] He also appeared in the feature film A 20th Century Chocolate Cake (1983), directed by Lois Siegel.[3] In addition, he made appearances on several television shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show and Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show.[5]

Later life[edit]

Plaque on bench, dedicated to The Great Antonio

As Barichievich grew older, he became a noted eccentric figure in his adopted town of Montreal. He changed the story of his background on at least two occasions. In one instance, he claimed that, rather than being of Croatian descent, he was Italian.[2] In his later years, he claimed that he was an extraterrestrial.[2] Poor 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.[2]

Barichievich died at age 77 of a heart attack while in a grocery store in Montreal.[2][3] He is believed to have been married at least twice, once in Europe and once in Canada, but he left no known descendants.[2] 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."[2] After his death, discovered among 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.[2]

In 2015, a plaque and bench were dedicated to him in the Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie borough of Montreal, where he had lived the last 20 years of his life in a small apartment.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Great Antonio". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "The Great Antonio (Barichievich)". Cauliflower Alley Club. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  3. ^ a b c "Wrestler Profiles: The Great Antonio". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  4. ^ "Sumo Hall 12/77". Pro Wrestling History. Retrieved 2016-08-03. 
  5. ^ McCoy, Heath (2005). Pain and Passion: The History of Stampede Wrestling. CanWest Books. p. 69. ISBN 0-9736719-8-X. 
  6. ^ "Great Antonio, beloved Montreal strongman, honoured in Rosemont". CBC News. September 9, 2015. Retrieved 7 July 2016. 

External links[edit]