Grappling With Tragedy: Chick Garibaldi

Brian Damage

Grappling with Tragedy is a series of articles that deal with unfortunate, tragic incidents that have occurred throughout the history of professional wrestling. It is unlike the ‘Wrestling with Sin’ series that deals more with the seedier side of wrestling like arrests, murders and suicides. Grappling looks more at particular tragic incidents that have in some instances altered pro wrestling in some way.

Chick Garibaldi

Charles Curcuru was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1914. Charles was one of five brothers who entered the world of professional wrestling. His nephew Leo also became a pro wrestler. Charles used the ring name Chick Garibaldi.

Garibaldi started his career in 1938 and wrestled often with his other brothers Gino, Joe, Tony and Ralph. Chick faced off against some of wrestling’s greats like Stu Hart, Rip Hawk, Freddie Blassie and Dick Steinborn. Garibaldi competed all throughout the country and in various countries like Canada and Australia. Chick had one of the longer careers in wrestling then most of his brothers. Despite that, Chick did not hold many championship titles.

He held the world light heavyweight title in 1948 and co held the Mid Atlantic tag team titles with his nephew Leo around 1956. The majority of Chick’s career was wrestling throughout the National Wrestling Alliance and their various territories…but it was Capitol Wrestling Corporation run by Vince McMahon Sr where Chick met his untimely end.

It was on February 18th, 1961…an afternoon matinee of wrestling at Sunnyside Garden arena in Queens, New York. Chick Garibaldi was squaring off against a young, rising star in Bruno Sammartino. During the course of the match, Sammartino scooped Garibaldi up and body slammed him to the mat. Chick lied motionless on the mat and as Bruno looked down on his fallen opponent….he recalled seeing Chick’s eyes roll into the back of his head.

Bruno instantly knew something was terribly wrong and alerted the referee who immediately stopped the match and declared Sammartino the winner. Doctors rushed to the ring to aide Garibaldi. Sadly, he was pronounced dead. It was an event that Bruno recalls haunted him for years after the fact. It was later determined that Chick Garibaldi had suffered a heart attack. He was just 46 years old at the time of his death.

4 thoughts on “Grappling With Tragedy: Chick Garibaldi

  1. I feel for both Chick and Bruno here. Obviously for Chick’s family but also for Bruno. Even though he didn’t do anything wrong, it’s still going to play with your head.


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