The Teenage Idol from California

Leo Garibaldi vs Billy McDaniel, 23 May 1951, Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles

Six-foot-one Leo Garibaldi (1929-2008) had professional wrestling in his DNA. His father (Gino) and four of his uncles (Chick, Tony, Joe, and Ralph) were also pro wrestlers. Leo debuted at age eighteen and soon after was dubbed "The Teenage Idol from California." Some credit his 1950 tag team battle, alongside his father, against Brother Jonathan (who played up his Mormon heritage as a gimmick) and his son, Don Leo Jonathan ("The Mormon Giant"), as the first professional father-son-versus-father-son match. Soon after, Leo enlisted and fought in Korea. At the end of that conflict, he returned to wrestling, and even after leaving the ring, he worked as a highly regarded booker.

In this 1951 match he battles Billy McDaniel in a fair and square technical match. The three-fall contest lasts for eighteen minutes. The incorporation of genuine grappling gives the match a slower pace than what 21st-century fans are used to. (On this point, I'm a proud "20th-century boy" myself.) McDaniel wins the first fall in the third GIF above. The second and third falls occur in the eighth and tenth GIFs. It's a fine match. See more classics like this one at the channel on YouTube.

My principal sources are and  Greg Oliver's 2008 SLAM! Sports article.

Leo Garibaldi

Gino and Leo Garibaldi


  1. I remember seeing Alex Wright's debut match and boy did they make a big deal of him being the son of a famous European wrestler (Steve Wright, who was actually British not German) and more importantly that he was 18 or 19.

    1. It might be a false memory but I think I remember Alex Wright's Das Wunderkind debut. Unlike his father, he is German, trained by his father. According to a Wikipedia entry, he debuted in Germany at age 16, several years before his USA debut.

  2. Great post! Both Garibaldi men are real lookers in that last photo... I've always loved the fathers and sons angle, that's another aspect that you never see nowadays... Joe, thanks for sharing ... love your writing as always... RayAtL

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