Hildebrand, Michaels And Minelli Make Up KSWA Hall Of Fame, Class Of 2018
February 25, 2018
By Trapper Tom, Editor, KSWA Digest
A popular wrestler and innovator in the sport, a trail-blazing woman and one of the sports’ most beloved personalities—all who grew up in Pittsburgh—make up the Keystone State Wrestling Alliance (KSWA) Hall of Fame Class, 2018.
Wrestlers Cody Michaels, Angie Minelli and wrestler-turned-manager-turned referee “The Master of Disaster,” “Dr. Mark Curtis,” also known as the late Brian Hildebrand, are the are the latest inductees.
The KSWA has honored professional wrestling athletes and personalities with specific ties to the city of Pittsburgh, the region, and Commonwealth as a whole since 2008. Some 27 members of an eclectic community have already been honored in person and posthumously over the past decade. The event began in 2008 when the KSWA honored Studio Wrestling mainstay and Pittsburgh-area businessman Joe Abby with a Memorial Tournament and Hall of Fame ceremony. Abby and his tag team partner, fellow Studio Wrestling brawler Frank Durso were the first inductees. Over the years, others such as Brownsville PA’s Bill Eadie (Demolition Ax), Dominic DeNucci, Bruno Sammartino, as well as photographer Howard Kernats, journalist Bill Apter and “Chilly” Bill Cardille have been among the other honorees.
This year, Lawrenceville native Cody Michaels, the North Side’s Angie Minelli and Reserve Township’s Brian Hildebrand are in the spotlight.
Michaels graduated from Lawrenceville Catholic and went to Bethany College in West Virginia to play football. There he met fellow Pittsburgh-area wrestler-to-be Shane Douglas. Starting in 1986, Michaels trained with the legendary Dominic DeNucci and after DeNucci’s blessing, started to look for wrestling work. He wrested in the WWF, NWA and AWA, as well as the independent scene. Born Mark Keenan, the name “Cody Michaels” was given to him by Eddie Gilbert in Memphis. As a result of a freak accident in the ring, Michaels received a broken neck in 1991. Rehabilitation didn’t work right away and Michaels went to chiropractor school. He did get back into wrestling, alongside Shane Douglas during the run of ECW. He even appeared in an occasional match; however, Michaels is considered one of the most important personalities that helped that brand become a success. He retired from in-ring competition, but became a mover-and-shaker for a variety of promotions, including the Hardcore Homecoming Tour, Extreme Rising, and Revolucion X Lucha Libre – Televisa in Guadalajara, Mexico. He remains a chiropractor in downtown Pittsburgh.
Angie Minelli was born on the North Shore, the niece of KSWA Hall of Famer, Class of 2010, Donna Christiantello. As Minelli puts it, the Fabulous Moolah once asked her if she’d “like to make $100 for 15 minutes of work?” That’s when Minelli’s training in the world of professional wrestling began. Minelli trained with the likes to Leilani Kai, Judy Martin and Velvet McIntire. They would wrestle together, or against each other for years. Her first match was a Battle Royal in which her own aunt did the most damage. Minelli’s career lasted five years, but it included two late-1980’s matches in Madison Square Garden, and a six-week tour of Japan. On the August 15, 1987 episode of the syndicated WWF Superstars of Wrestling show, new WWF Women’s Champion Sherri Martell announced to the world that she was to be called “Sensational” from here on out. She then successfully defeated Minelli with Sammartino serving as one of the commentators. Minelli would quit wrestling and return home when her family relocated. She and Christiantello are featured on WWE rosters of women wrestlers (past and present) to this very day.
Brian Hildebrand lived with his family in Reserve Township. At 5’7” and 145 pounds, Hildebrand was considered “too small” to be a successful professional wrestler; however, that did not stop him from wrestling women, managers and other personalities. Another alumnus of the famed Dominic DeNucci school in Beaver County, Hildebrand adopted the name “The Master of Disaster” from being a college disc jockey. He also was a contemporary and long-time friend of Cody Michaels, Shane Douglas and Mick Foley. Hildebrand rode to his very first professional wrestling appearance along with KSWA Hall of Famer (Class of 2012) Lord Zoltan. Also known as “Dr. Mark Curtis,” Hildebrand managed many of the biggest names of his era. He later became a referee in Memphis’ Smokey Mountain Wrestling. Once Hildebrand locked in a job there, he never returned to live in Pittsburgh. He refereed on WCW television and in a reactive moment, wrestled down a fan who rushed the ring during a televised match. Hildebrand developed stomach cancer in the late 1990’s, and beat the disease. When it returned a short time later, Cody Michaels helped organize a fundraiser that brought together most of Hildebrand’s friends for a historic night of wrestling at the Rostraver Ice Gardens. The event raised $30,000 that night as 1,500 fans attended, and the wrestlers all waived their payment. Michaels, Douglas, Chris Jericho, Mick Foley, Bruno Sammartino, Preston Steele, Lord Zoltan, DeNucci and others were all part of the festivities. Hildebrand passed away a few weeks later, and only one week removed from refereeing his final match. He was 39.
The Joe Abby Memorial Tournament and KSWA Hall of Fame Night is scheduled for Saturday, March 24 at Spirit Hall, 242 51st Street in the Lawrenceville neighborhood within the city of Pittsburgh. Bell time is 7:00 p.m.