Retired pro wrestler reflects on his career

DOWNEY - Tony "Spike" Cantillo, a current Downey resident for more than 20 years, participated as a wrestler and referee in the mysterious world of pro wrestling in the 1990s and early 2000s."I was born in 1969 and grew up in the City of Paramount. I played three years of varsity football at Paramount High School from 1986-88 as a 5 foot 8, 185 pound noseguard on defense," Cantillo said. Cantillo did not just play football but excelled in the sport as he was All-League, All CIF, second team on the Los Angeles Times All-Star team and played in the 605 All-Star game. But he just wasn't big enough to continue playing football in college and began working with Continental Cable Company in Downey. "I began working for Continental, which later became Media I, AT&T, Comcast and now Time Warner. I am currently working as a production supervisor for Time Warner at the studio in Bellflower. I always kept my day job," smiled Cantillo. He became interested in pro wrestling as a youngster and attended matches at the Olympic Auditorium in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Like a lot of teenagers in the mid 80s, he watched the WWF matches on television starring Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Randy Savage and the Iron Sheik. "I really liked pro wrestling, especially the WWF promotion in the 1980s," Cantillo said. "The promotion had so many interesting characters that many of my friends and myself wanted to become pro wrestlers but we didn't know how to go about it. Continental Cable began covering pro wrestling in the city of Maywood in 1986 and Cantillo was part of the camera and production team that worked the events. "I met a lot of famous wrestlers in Maywood such as Jimmy 'Superly' Snuka, Rocky Johnson - the father of actor The Rock - and Dr. Jerry Graham, a former WWF world champion, while working at the matches," said Cantillo. Cantillo eventually approached wrestler Alex Knight in early 1991 and asked he could become involved with pro wrestling. "Knight explained that he trained aspiring pro referees and wrestlers in the Los Angeles area," said Cantillo. "I decided to attend the classes and get some training to first become a referee." Cantillo began refereeing pro matches in late 1991 and his first big assignment came in March of 1992 in Maywood, in a contest matching Bad Boy Bubba Storm, Desperado Mark Kissell, Torbellino Blanco and the Medic. During the match, Storm and Kissell attacked Cantillo, and a grudge was born. "I had begun training as a wrestler for a few months and once those two guys attacked me, I really wanted to wrestle Storm and Kissell and get even," recalled Cantillo. "I began wrestling professionally in late 1992 [under the name Spike] in various cities in Southern California such as Cudahy, Hollywood, Wilmington, Signal Hill and Maywood." Cantillo later wrestled in six-man contests against Storm, Kissell and the legendary Dr. Jerry Graham. Cantillo eventually won a tag team title in mid 1993 in Maywood, with the masked Medic as his teammate. "I was a AIWA tag team champion," he said. The AIWA was a regional promotion that held matches in Cudahy, Maywood, Montebello, Torrance, Hollywood, Signal Hill, Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, Indo, Bell, San Juan Capistrano, South Gate and cities in Arizona. Matches were held on a regular basis rotating the cities on a circuit. Cantillo worked against wrestlers including Stephan DeLeon, Thrashmaster, Armored Saint, Time Traveler, Can Man, Pulverizer and Fabulous Dan Fabiano. He also teamed with Storm, Tlolac, Torbellino Blanco, Country Boy Calhoun and the Medic, whom he considers his best teammate during his nine-year career. "I wrestled in arenas and outside facilities including street fairs," recalled Cantillo. "I also participated in exotic matches such as 'I Quit Bouts,' taped favorite was a Hollywood street fight." Cantillo also had his share of feuds that appeared in many wrestling magazines and newsletters. "The Time Traveler was just nuts and Storm was a huge 5 foot 10, 285-pound villain," remembered Cantillo. During his career, Cantillo met many different individuals, including Beautiful Jack Stud, Luscious Laura, Johnny Legend, Dr. Graham, the Universal Playboy and television announcer Ron Lindsey. "I met so many zany characters, I probably could write a book about the behind the scene situations and storylines," he smiled. Cantillo married his wife, Nellie, who works for the Paramount Unified School District, in 1999 and retired from active wrestling in 2001. He never suffered any major injuries during his career other than a stiff back and many bruises. "I viewed wrestling to be somewhat underground but the fans always knew where and when the matches were taking place," he said. "A lot of people don't know or believe that I wrestled in the 1990s despite the fact that I appeared a lot on Continental Cable that televised the matches to 13 cities." Cantillo feels his nine years in the sport helped him grow up. "It was a great experience and sometimes I don't feel I fully appreciated the time spent in the sport. Yes, I do have some regrets."

********** Published: October 13, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 26