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Wrestler Baron Scicluna's evil persona belied gentle nature

| Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Baron Mikel Scicluna, a quiet, reserved man in real life, had a successful career as a villainous professional wrestler who fans loved to hate.

Michael J. Scicluna of Ross, who entered the ring wearing a long, burgundy cape during his heyday on television and at countless wrestling shows at high school gyms and fire halls throughout the region, died Sunday, March 21, 2010, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80.

"He was nothing like his wrestling character. To the fans, he was the mean, wicked Baron Scicluna. That was just his ring persona," said his son, Michael V. Scicluna of Millvale. "He was rather reserved and quiet. I remember as a kid going to the store and people would be standing in line saying, 'There's that dirty, no-good, so and so.' But he was just a laid back, gentle giant. Everybody loved him."

Mr. Scicluna, who would be introduced in the ring as being "from the Isle of Malta," actually was a native of Malta. He was in his early 20s when he immigrated and settled in Toronto, where he began his professional wrestling career as "Mike Valentino" in the early 1950s.

He wrestled throughout Canada and the United States before joining what was then known as The World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1965 to make life miserable for fan favorites Bruno Sammartino and Dominic DeNucci.

He was a staple on Channel 11's "Studio Wrestling," hosted by Bill Cardille.

"He loved it when they booed him, to him that was applause," Cardille said with a laugh. "He was a villain, but you knew when you talked to him that he was a gentleman. He treated everyone with respect. Anybody that crossed his path and got to know him even a little bit knows Baron Scicluna as an outstanding person and gentle man."

Mr. Scicluna, who retired from the ring in 1984 and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1996, spent some time as a delivery driver for the New York Times before coming back in Pittsburgh nearly 20 years ago to watch his two grandsons grow.

In addition to his son and grandsons, Scicluna is survived by his wife of 52 years, Gloria Clifton Scicluna, and a sister, Teresa Longstaff of England.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the T.B. Devlin Funeral Home, 806 Perry Highway, Ross, where a blessing service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday.

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