Mick Foley reflects on his time with Dominic DeNucci.
The wrestling world lost one of the classic stars of the territory era when Dominic DeNucci passed away on Thursday, August 12. Although he was a former Tag Team Champion in the territory that preceded today's WWE, Dominic DeNucci is perhaps best known as the man that trained former ECW World Champion Shane Douglas and WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley.
Taking to his Facebook to articulate his thoughts on his trainer’s passing, Mick Foley reflected on the early days of his training and the nice tribute he paid to Dominic at the end of his life.
THINKING ABOUT DENUCCI
It has been a couple days since I attended the service for Dominic DeNucci at a small funeral home in Rochester, Pennsylvania, just a couple miles away from Freedom, where I learned to wrestle. I keep thinking about the man in the casket - having left us at 89 years old - who was so instrumental to my life and my career. I have been lucky to have been helped by so many over the course of my career and my life, but without Dominic, none of the good things that transpired during my career would have been possible.
I must have seemed like a hopeless case that first time we worked out in the fall of 1985. I had set up the ring for promoter Tommy Dee in enough time to do a work out with Dominic: that was the deal I had worked out with Tommy; if I assembled the ring before the fans came in, I had a chance to work out with DeNucci. In that first work out, Dominic completely turned everything I thought I knew about professional wrestling on its head. I was about 235 pounds at the time, working out hard, but hardly a physical specimen. I had been a decent amateur wrestler, but had Dominic, an extraordinary amateur chosen to impose his will on me, he could have broken me in a half. He tested my will, but never took advantage of me. He made me respect wrestling, but never made me fear him.
Over the course of our initial workouts - when I would head down from my college in Cortland New York and hope that I had the ring set up in time for these few shows a month in the New York metropolitan area - I gradually earned his respect. Dominec told me about some guys he was training near Pittsburgh, and had I possessed a GPS at that time (or even a Rand McNally atlas) my career would have ended right there. I had no idea that Pittsburgh was 350 miles from my college in upstate New York and over 400 miles from my home on Long Island. But I made that trip about three out of every four weekends and slowly but surely improved – and knew as I was traveling that the dues I was paying on the road were part of my wrestling education.
I remember those early days so well. We did shows all over western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio – towns like Hundred and Poca, West Virginia that I have never traveled through again, but will remember for the rest of my life. Some of the guys I trained with are no longer with us – Ray Miller, Tony Nardo, my dear friend Brian Hildebrand. But many others turned up from all around to pay their final respects to a man who was so much more than a trainer to us. He was a valued friend, a father figure. In a business where so many get taken advantage of, I placed my faith in Dominic and had that faith rewarded so many times over.
In Dominic’s casket was a pair of wrestling boots – the exact same kind that he sold to me for only $25. I was just a college kid in early 1996, with about $100 to my name - and my first match was quickly approaching. Those boots were worth so much more than $25, and yet he let them go for a fraction of their cost, just so I could have something to wear for my first match. After my first weekend of training in an old Elementary school in Freedom, Pennsylvania, Dominic asked me what I thought I should pay for the weekend. I shot low, knowing I did not have much money to exist on and suggested $50. He shook his head and I felt my heart drop a little bit. “That’s too much”, he said, and then set the price at $25. A year later he told me that I had been driving through snowstorms, sleeping in my car and that I didn’t need to pay any more.
I wonder how my career would have turned out had I been trained by someone else. I probably would not have fared well with one of those trainers who made trainees do squats and push-ups until they puke, and then bring in a shooter to stretch them every which way. Dominic understood there were other ways to measure the toughness of an individual, and knew the business itself would test us in so many ways. He saw something in me that very few others would have seen - and through his example of kindness, respect and belief created an atmosphere in which I could flourish. In that atmosphere, I had some of the best times of my life, met some of the best friends I have ever known, and had the absolute honor of learning from a truly great man.
God bless you, Dominic. May you rest in peace, my friend. I love you.
You can see other tributes from those in the world of wrestling to Dominic at this link.