All In The Family: Minelli Joins Christantello As The Only Revolutionaries In Pittsburgh's Women Wrestling
The groundwork of any revolution in Women’s Wrestling has some of its foundation in Pittsburgh. There is only one living female wrestler who has taken on Women’s World Champions, Tag Team Champions and fellow Hall of Famers. That woman is Pittsburgh native Angie Minelli and she joins Cody Michaels and the late Brian Hildebrand as the latest inductees into the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) Hall of Fame.
Born Marie Antionette McComb, Minelli began her career not long after graduating high school from St. Benedict’s Academy on Perrysville Avenue. She worked as a computer programmer but wanted something more. She was particularly close with Aunt Mary Alfonsi who had long ago transformed into professional wrestler, legend and KSWA Hall of Famer (Class of 2010) Donna Christantello.
In addition to a long career in her own right, Donna trained other women wrestlers at The Fabulous Moolah’s 42-acre camp in South Carolina. Moolah—born Mary Lillian Ellison—once said to Marie, “Hun, how would you like to make $100 for 15 minutes in the ring?” Marie said, “I would love it.”
Soon, McComb found herself relocated to South Carolina and training with other up-and-comers of the day, like Candice Pardue, Teressa Dubose Lisa Sliwa (who was married to New York City’s Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa), and others. “Aunt Donna and Moolah would come by occasionally,” she said. It was Lillian Ellison who gave her the name “Angie Minelli.” She doesn’t know if or any influence was arrived because of performer Liza Minelli’s popularity.
According to a 1987 magazine story, Minelli said she was initially discouraged by her family from pursing this dream. The family noted that she moved “like a dancer” and has “grace that could enhance a stage.” Minelli said she was going to wrestle and that she could always go back to computer programming if need be.
For the next five years, Minelli lived and wrestled from that base in South Carolina.
Minelli’s first real in-ring competition took place in a Battle Royal. That’s where Christiantello pulled no punches with her forearms. Minelli knew then that wrestling was not going to be easy.
According to wrestlingdata.com, on May 1, 1981 at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, The Fabulous Moolah and Terry Shane defeated Jill Fontaine and Minelli. The next day at the Civic Center in Roanoke, Virginia, Moolah teamed with Brenda Van Hoffman to defeat Fontaine and Minelli.
One of Minelli’s first one-on-matches was with GCW in Augusta, Georgia at the Bell Auditorium. On June 29, 1981, Christantello defeated Minelli.
It wasn’t all loses for Minelli during that time. There was a stretch in which she was victorious over opponents such as Suzette Ferrera and others.
Throughout the next few years, Minelli traveled and wrestled around the country. Action really picked up for the Pittsburgh export in the WWF in the mid 1980’s. On September 12, 1986 at the Packard Music Hall in Warren, Ohio, Minelli teamed with Susan Starr to defeat Penny Mitchell and Tracy Richards. Mitchell defeated Minelli on October 4, 1986 in Ashland, Ohio and then again on November 15, in Matamoras, Ohio.
In one of her most unique matches occurred in November, 1986 when she and Farmer Pete lost to Martin and Little John in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
At a WWF-TV taping in Columbus, Ohio on March 11, 1987 at the Ohio Expo Center, WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions Judy Martin and Leilani Kai defeated Velvet McIntyre and Minelli.
“I remember fun times when Angie first went to Moolah’s to train,” said Velvet McIntyre in an email. Tough times for her, but fun times.”
One of Minelli’s biggest matches to date occurred at the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston, Texas on March 5, 1987. That’s where she challenged The Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women’s Title. Minelli was not successful that night, but she held her own. Also, on the card was Ax and Smash (Demolition) who defeated the Killer B’s. Butch Reed took on Tito Santana (result unknown), Nikolai Volkoff defeated “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, and in the Main Event, Intercontinental Champion Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat held off a challenge by “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Demolition (with Bill Eadie, KSWA Hall of Fame Class 2009), Santana, Volkoff, Duggan and Steamboat have all been in the KSWA ring. Minelli has wrestled alongside some serious legends.
In another WWF Ladies tag team outing, on June 6, 1987, at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, champions Leilani Kai and Judy Martin defeated Angie Minelli Theresa DuBois. On August 8, 1987 at the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Illinois, Kai and Martin once again bested Minelli and Theresa DuBois in a match for the WWF Women’s tag team championship. The very next day at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada the same thing occurred.
For six weeks in 1987, Minelli wrestled all over Japan. On Monday, September 14, 1987, she took part in a AJW Friendship card at the Omiya Skate Center in Saitama, Saitama Japan. There she, Erika Shishido and Nobuko Kimura faced Sayuri Nakajima, Mitsuko Nishiwaki and Mika Komatsu. According to wrestlingdatabase, the winner of that contest is unknown. Other matches that night included Bull Nakano and the Jumping Bomb Angels.
Sometime friend, often time tag team foe Leilani Kai on Minelli: “She was a pretty good worker,” said Kai in an email. “They liked her in Japan.”
While Minelli never boasted a historic win/loss record, some of her in-ring contributions held significance. During the August 15, 1987 (taped August 4) edition of WWF Superstars, Sherri Martel, who had won the WWF Lady’s Championship just weeks before, grabbed the microphone and announced to the world that she would now be known as “Sensational” Sherri. She then went on to wrestle in a “non-title” matchup with Minelli. While Angie would get some offense in—including a nice monkey flip from the corner—she was beaten by the “Sensational One” in less than 2:30 minutes. However, as a like-sized combatant, Minelli succeed in the spot given.
Some observers believed that this was an opportunity for the WWF to showcase the Women’s Division again on television. The division had started to wane, and Martel was a popular addition to the roster.
It’s interesting to note that in addition to Martel changing her name, the episode had more Pittsburgh connections. One of the commentators was the Living Legend, and KSWA Hall of Famer (Class of 2012) Bruno Sammartino. In addition to that, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase made his in-ring WWF debut. A limo pulled up outside of the Dane County Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin, and its door was opened by Virgil.
Minelli’s in-ring career was about to come to an end. One of the few women’s wrestlers at the time that had a husband and children, she saw the writing on the way. Her husband got a job back in Pittsburgh and the family came home from South Carolina.
Today, Marie’s life revolves around her family, which includes sons Kenny, Mark and daughter Tina, and stepchildren Angie, David and Katie. Marie has an extended family that reaches to a grandson, two step grand daughters and two step grandsons.
“She was raising a family and kids while we were on the road. She’s also a heck of a good mother. She was fun to be with.” - Leilani Kai
“Marie is a good soul. She didn’t stay around for long. She really tried hard and I liked her.” - Velvet McIntyre
McIntyre also spoke very highly of Donna Christantello. “Donna was a favorite of mine. She worked her ass off and is totally underrated. She was a big part of Women’s Wrestling. I will always admire her for that and being a great person.”
Angie Minelli joins Donna Christiantello as the only two female inductees into the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) Hall of Fame, and only Aunt/Niece honorees in the history of the sport.