Gambino 20:The Formation Of A Family

Mickey and Marshall, The Gambino Brothers are celebrating their twentieth anniversary in the pro wrestling business, a journey they started as aspiring hopefuls, but reflect on today as accomplished professionals. When they landed repeatedly on the stiff, tattered canvas of a practice ring inside a converted storage facility in 2003, they didn’t know it at the time, but their passion for the sport would eventually link their careers together as one of the most well-known and storied tag teams in Pittsburgh wrestling history.

Mickey, who made his debut in the pro ranks in January of 2004, as the opening match on an event that featured Raven, Jerry “The King” Lawler, and Shane Douglas, didn’t originally see himself as a tag team guy, but his wheels were spinning after he studied Bret Hart matches in the early months of his in-ring career.

“I wanted to chart my own course without being hamstrung by others’ considerations. After only three matches, I knew I had a lot to work on. I admired Bret Hart, and I was poring through matches of his from all parts of his career, not just his WWF tenure. The more I watched, I started to get drawn into the Hart Foundation then one night at our training school just outside of Pittsburgh, Marshall and I were hanging out post-practice, it hit me. My size and his size, the Hitman and Anvil. I knew we could make something unique. Here’s a big guy who can move fast. I had that ping, that gut intuition that he would be really good,” Mickey explained.

Since the two had gelled during their interactions in training class, Marshall, originally nicknamed “The Bull,” saw himself as a tag wrestler that could compliment a partner’s style so he jumped in with both feet when presented with the idea.

“I met Mick towards the end of my training, he had a couple singles matches, but was looking for something different. I never did want to be a singles wrestler and it was tag all the way for me. Shirley Doe gets the credit for putting us together. I never looked back, I love tagging with Mick. I knew from the beginning that he had something,” Marshall added.

Under the guidance of Shirley Doe, a more than 25-year pro that cut his teeth under Dory Funk Jr., Mick and Marshall earned their pro wrestling education at the Coalition of Competition, a training school that produced many stars that went on to achieve fame both inside and outside of the Pittsburgh area.

After getting the stamp of approval from Doe, who is regarded as one of the most accomplished trainers in the region, with the completion of their grappling courses, Mickey and Marshall pursued opportunities as a tag team throughout the majority of 2004.

Eventually, they found a home in the International Wrestling Cartel, one of the longest-running and most well-known groups in the western Pennsylvania area. At the time, the organization was promoted by Norm Connors, known as the godfather of the Pittsburgh independent scene, and that era in particular became known as a hotbed for tag team wrestling. Jason Gory, Shiima Xion, Justin Idol, Eric Xtasy, Ray Rowe, and J-Rocc were just a few of the teams that were mixed and matched throughout events for an IWC tag division that had several show-stealing matches during the mid-2000s.

It wasn’t long before The Gambino Brothers Moving Company, a slight wink and a nod to when certain individuals may or may not have been rolled up in a carpet, became one of the most in-demand teams in the tri-state area. The Gambinos spent quite a few years zigzagging around a few states as regulars for a variety of organizations.

However, when an outside of the ring opportunity led to Mickey relocating to North Carolina, it brought the established team to a crossroad. By 2010, Mickey pursued more singles bouts outside of the Pittsburgh area, and Marshall explored other avenues in the industry, as being a tag team wrestler was still most natural for him.

“It was intimidating. For a long time, I continued to drive up to Pittsburgh once per month to wrestle with him. But, as time went on, I started to do my own thing and iterated many versions of Mickey Gambino. I think that time allowed me to really find what my potential because it pushed me out of my comfort zone; I had to sort of re-learn how to wrestle as a singles wrestler because the psychology and movements and format and cadence and everything is different,” Mickey said.

“When Mick moved to, I honestly didn’t know what the next move was. I felt a little lost. It made me get more interested in booking, behind the scenes. This ultimately led to the creation of 2PW. I’ve tagged with a few different partners over the years but I don’t have the chemistry like I have with Mick,” Marshall added.

In 2018, Marshall founded Prospect Pro Wrestling, a project that was designed to give the next generation of talent a place to hone their craft. He was fully invested in the new venture, putting his time, energy, and money into the launch. The ring, stage, and lights gave 2PW a polished and professional look for the new audience. This wasn’t a substitute for performing in the ring, Marshall had a vision and a belief in the concept, and full-throttle with the Prospect project.

The 2PW organization was in full-swing, drawing consistent crowds and building momentum over the first few years of its existence. Marshall had the stress of being a promoter, but his hard work paid off, as Prospect Pro Wrestling was a success. But, just when Marshall thought he was out of the ring, the aura of the sport pulled him back in. Mickey was on his way back to his hometown of Pittsburgh, and the circumstances of a full-fled Gambino reunion were too good for either of them to pass up.

“When he told me, I fell off my chair. At that point, I wasn’t really wrestling anymore, here and there, but not monthly. I was focused on 2PW, but the opportunity came with RWA and having Mick and I back together, I was all in,” said Marshall.

Within the past few years, The Gambino Brothers have not only returned to Pittsburgh rings as a team, but have added a few more members of “the family” to create a completely fresh chapter in their careers. One such member was Emmy D., who began her tenure in the business as a ringside videographer for Sorgatron Media, the premiere video production group in Pittsburgh, before she was recruited to be a part of the events because of her natural poise for the industry.

“I told them both I was honored beyond belief and that I would never pass up on such an incredible opportunity as this, as long as we could spin the story and have it make sense with me jumping from being ringside videographer to valet,” said Emily when asked about her first reaction to the possibility of joining The Gambinos.

As they reached their twentieth anniversary of their debut as a tag team, The Gambinos have found new territory in the Renegade Wrestling Alliance in recent years. The blue collar organization and its loyal fan base fit the Gambino brand of high impact tag work very well. To add another layer to the presentation, the nearly 35-year veteran, Paul Atlas, who won numerous regional and national titles before a series of serious knee injuries forced him into retirement from the ring, joined the family as an advisor at ringside.

“You’re talking about four people who simply love the sport of professional wrestling. It’s the passion that makes the difference. It’s about being pure to who we are, and Marshall and I have been pure to who we are for 20 years. Emmy D. and Paul fit in perfectly,” Mickey commented.

“The addition of Emily, Paul, and now LeBell has been great for the group. It is so much bigger than just the Gambinos, it’s now the Family. Lebell is a tough, but young and can move a lot better and faster than we can. Paul has the knowledge that sometimes we are missing, and we can always go to him for advice, it’s nice to have someone with that many years of experience and give us his perspective,” Marshall remarked.

Even the grizzled Paul Atlas, who learned his craft under the legendary Dominic DeNucci when MC Hammer’s “You can’t touch this” was a new hit on the radio, views The Gambino Family has new ground to cover in his extensive career. Aside from a few decades of in-ring experience, Atlas is a former NWA National champion and one half of the former NWA North American Tag Team champions as a part of The Wrong Crowd.

“The Gambino Brothers are exactly what they say they are. The best tag team ever, generational talents with the accomplishments to match. But, it is more than that. Marshall and Mick are true brothers and family. For me, getting together with them along with Emmy D over the past year and a half as The Family has truly been an honor and a privilege. I am grateful to be a small part of their legacy,” said Atlas.

With Stevie LeBell, one of the standouts of the 2PW organization, as the youngster of the family, The Gambinos have all the bases covered to make this current stint the most memorable of this extensive career.

“The Gambinos have always strived to tell a great story, telling stories in wrestling has died over the years. As a group, we are always on the same page: Tell a great story, execute to the best of our abilities, and have fun doing it,” Marshall said.

“It’s been just a little over a year now since I made my debut with them and I feel like the more I learn from Marshall, Mickey, and Paul – the more I grow and evolve Emmy D, the more hungry I get to succeed in this business. I just want to give Marshall and Mickey my best and I’m looking forward to what the rest of this year has in store for all of us,” Emily explained.

The Gambinos have undoubtedly left their mark on the storied history of Pittsburgh’s tag team division, competing for a variety of organizations and across several states. Throughout each version of The Gambinos, another chapter has been written, including their current platform with The Gambino family. Careers were shaped, opportunities were given, and resurgences were made. However, it all started and began possible when Mickey and Marshall had the post-training conversation to become a tag team twenty years ago.

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Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

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