Tony Atlas was a professional wrestler for over five decades, epitomizing the American dream. His career spanned from the golden era of pro wrestling, where he faced some of the greatest champions and opponents in history, to the modern day, where he is still in great shape. Find out about the legendary professional wrestler and his life before and after wrestling.
Most people know Tony Atlas as a professional wrestler, but what many don’t know is that Tony’s story is one of overcoming adversity. From growing up in poverty to his struggles with addiction, Tony has faced many challenges in his life – but he’s also persevered and become a successful businessman and family man. In this biography, we’ll take a closer look at Tony’s life and how he rose above it all. Stay tuned for more!
Tony Atlas Biography
Birth Name: Anthony White
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 276 lbs (125 kg; 19 st 4 lb)
Born: May 16, 1954 (age 65), Canton, Ohio, United States of America
Spouse(s): Gae Diglio (m. 1991–present)Children: 3
Tony Atlas’s Beginning, Early Career and Development as a Wrestler
Tony Atlas, whose real name is Anthony White, was born in Canton, Ohio. He grew up in poverty and at a young age got involved with the wrong crowd. At only 12 years old he was arrested for armed robbery. He later spent time at a reform school as well as a juvenile detention center. During his time in these institutions Tony became involved with weightlifting and soon realized that he enjoyed bodybuilding.
Later, at age 18, he was introduced to wrestling when his family moved to Plain City, Ohio (outside of Columbus), where he met the legendary Walter “Killer” Kowalski. Under Kowalski’s mentorship Anthony White went on to have a successful amateur wrestling career, including being the All-American Heavyweight Champion in his senior year at Uniontown High School. Not much is known about Tony’s early career. The first documented record of him that I could find was an Ohio State Wrestling Association card from March 14, 1976, where he dropped two straight matches to Jim Lancaster (maximum exposure) and later teamed with Vinnie Valentino (subbing for the absent Johnny DeFazio) to defeat T.C. Reynolds & Lancaster in the main event.
Atlas made his debut at Madison Square Garden on October 19, 1977, against another newcomer, Terry Gibbs. The match ended when Tony hit a gorilla press slam and then pinned Gibbs with a splash. After the win he was interviewed in the ring by Vince McMahon Sr. During his short time in New York, Atlas also battled Killer Khan, WWE Champion Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund and Gorilla Monsoon. He made his TV debut on April 9, 1978 and would go on to wrestle for both the WWF and Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW).
Atlas went back to Florida in early 1979. Under long-time rival Dusty Rhodes’ tutelage, he became a very successful tag team wrestler winning multiple titles with such partners as TitusONeil, Rocky Johnson, S.D. Jones, Mr Ito and more. From late-1979 to early-1981 he went on a tear through the Florida territory winning just about every belt available at the time. Some of his more memorable matches included fighting “Superstar” Billy Graham for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship as well as facing Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in a steel cage match. Atlas also had memorable matches with Terry Gordy and Kevin Sullivan during this time. He also began working main events alongside Dusty Rhodes, Roddy Piper, Magnum TA & Ivan Koloff against Ric Flair & The Four Horsemen.
Tony Atlas’ Later Career and Life
In 1983 Atlas left Florida and returned to the WWF where he would work primarily as a jobber for the remainder of his career. He also spent some time working in Puerto Rico and Japan before retiring from active competition in 1989. He has since worked behind the scenes as a booker, trainer and road agent for WWE as well as spending time in prison on drug possession charges. He has also made a few one-off appearances at shows since then, including a match with the Honky Tonk Man at a Raw show in 2003 and a battle royal during WrestleMania 21 weekend in 2005 while plugging his new book entitled Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring, the Autobiography of a Superhero. He has also been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and is currently working as a road agent for the company.
Tony Atlas: Career Record
- 1979: Florida Tag Team Championship w/Titus ONeil; Florida Heavyweight Championship; 1979: Florida Tag Team Champions w/S.D. Jones; Florida Heavyweight Champion w/Mr Ito
- 1980: Florida Tag Team Champions w/Rocky Johnson; 1980-1981: NWA World Tag Team Champions w/Rocky Johnson
- 1981: Florida Tag Team Champions w/S.D. Jones; 1981-1982: NWA North American Heavyweight Champion
- 1983: NWA North American Heavyweight Champion; 1983: WCCW Texas Heavyweight Champion; 1982-1983: WWF Tag Team Champions w/S.D. Jones
- 2 – 3 Years as a Full Time Wrestler
- 5 Titles, 1 Reigonal Title and 2 Major Tag Team Titles
- 3 – 5 Years as a Mid Carder
- 1 Wrestler of the Year Awards, 2 Tag Team of the Year Awards and 1 Most Improved Wrestler Award
- 2 Feuds of the Year with Dusty Rhodes. He also had memorable feuds with Johnny Rodz, The Wild Samoans, Blackjack Mulligan and Ivan Koloff.
- 4 Wrestlemania Matches
Tony Atlas’ WWE Highlights
• Debuted at MSG in the main event vs T.C. Reynolds & Lancaster in a 2/3 falls match which he won 2 falls to 1.
• Defeated T.C. Reynolds, Tony Garea & Jay Strongbow in a 6-man tag team match at MSG with Rocky Johnson and Sika to defend the WWF World Tag Team Titles.
• Won a battle royal by last eliminating Don Muraco at MSG when he saved Bob Backlund from being eliminated. Tony Atlas’ first and only shot at the WWF Championship.
• Lost two consecutive steel cage matches to Fabulous Moolah on October 19th, 1980; one of which he had to be stretchered out of MSG. Both falls were against the ropes and counted towards Moolah’s winning streak of capturing 29 world titles (the world title Moolah won was the NWA Women’s World Title which was not under WWF control).
• Lost to Bob Backlund via submission in a WWF Heavyweight Championship match at MSG. Atlas missed hitting the bookend due to injuring his arm on the way down just before impact. The match went 17:48 with Tony selling for much of the match. Backlund, however won via submission with a small package just moments after Atlas’ shoulder was hurting from hitting it on the mat going for a backdrop.
• Lost to The Iron Sheik in a WWF Tag Team Championship match at MSG when Nikolai Volkoff interfered and hit Atlas with a chair as he had Sheik locked in the Atlas Spike. Sheik then covered Atlas to win the titles for himself & Volkoff at 11:16.
• Lost to Bob Backlund via submission in a WWF Heavyweight Championship match at MSG. The length of this match was just over two minutes with Tony, once again selling most of the match, being quickly beaten down by his former partner.
• Lost to Sgt Slaughter at the Philadelphia Spectrum when Atlas was pinned after a hard-hitting match that saw Tony get tossed into the ring post and then later, an interfering Leilani Kai came in and kicked him while he was down; allowing Slaughter to catch his huge flying elbow for the pin fall victory over Atlas. This would turn out to be the only time both Atlas and Kai would work together in a wrestling ring.
• Took part in the very first Royal Rumble at MSG on January 24th, 1988, where he lasted just over 14 minutes until he was eliminated by eventual winner Jim Duggan. He entered #7 and lasted for nearly 7 minutes before him and Don Muraco brawled their way all the way into the ring to eliminate Tony.
• Lost to Randy Savage by disqualification at MSG in front of 12,000 fans when Savage was disqualified after he hit Atlas with Slick’s cane who came down earlier in the match and distracted referee Mike Chioda. Atlas rammed Savage head-first into the ring post and later hit a backdrop. Savage was able to fight out of the Atlas Spike, however, and make his way back in the match only to get disqualified for using Slick’s cane as a weapon.
• Lost to Randy Savage by disqualification at MSG in front of 12,000 fans when Savage grabbed Jimmy Hart’s megaphone, who came down earlier in the match, and hit Atlas with it after Hart distracted referee Mike Chioda. Savage then rammed Atlas head-first into the ring post before walking away to his theme music as Atlas was being attended to by other wrestlers on the floor.
• Was managed by Jimmy Hart at MSG when he teamed up with The Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine to take on the trio of Tito Santana, Brutus Beefcake and Dino Bravo. At one point in the match, Hart was up on the ring apron trying to distract referee Joey Marella when Atlas tripped him from outside the ring. This led to Tito Santana catching Greg Valentine by surprise and pinning him for the win.
• Lost to Ted DiBiase at MSG in front of 15,000 fans when he was pinned with a schoolboy roll up after hitting Atlas with his loaded fist as Tony went for a backdrop. The referee counted the three even though Atlas’ shoulder was up just as the ref’s hand hit the mat for the third time.
• After being eliminated by Don Muraco at the first Royal Rumble in 1988, Atlas returned later on during the match and clotheslined out every one of his fellow wrestlers until he was eventually stopped by WWF President Jack Tunney who announced that Atlas would not be suspended for this however it would be Tony’s last chance to get back into the ring at MSG.
• Lost to Dino Bravo when he submitted to the Boston Crab in a dark match on April 7th, 1988. However, Atlas had been roughed up for most of the match until he was finally able to mount a comeback with some shots and a backdrop before Bravo rolled him up from behind for the pin fall victory.
• Lost to Brutus Beefcake when he submitted to the Figure Four Leg Lock in a dark match on April 28th, 1988. Atlas had just managed to roll out of the ring and into Jimmy Hart’s arms when Beefcake yanked him back in and caught him with the hold.
• Lost to Randy Savage at MSG in front of 15,000 fans when he was pinned with a small package after Savage caught Atlas with his flying elbow off the top rope. The referee saw Savage’s feet on the ropes however and reversed his decision only to have Savage protest and knock him out so that Atlas could be declared the winner. However, this led to Tito Santana coming down and attacking Savage and getting disqualified.
• Tied for last place along with Jake Roberts, The Honky Tonk Man and The One-Man Gang in the “Parade of Champions” battle royal at Wrestlemania IV after all four men were eliminated at the same time by Andre the Giant who came in from behind to knock them out of the ring.
• Involved in a 6-man tag team match at MSG against Demolition (Ax and Smash) along with the Rockers (Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty) in a match that also involved Mr. Fuji, Jimmy Hart, The Fabulous Rougeaus (Jacques and Raymond), Dino Bravo, Bret Hart, Bad News Brown. Atlas was able to pin Jacques after Sweet Chin Music from Shawn Michaels, but it wasn’t enough to win the match that was ruled a “No Contest” after Fuji attacked Michaels’ knee with Hart’s crutch.
• Lost to The Honky Tonk Man at MSG in front of 12,000 fans when he submitted to the figure four leg lock. Atlas had just managed to fight back and went on the offense for short time before Jimmy Hart got involved and dropped Atlas with a punch to the back of the head.
• Wrestled Randy Savage to a time limit draw at MSG in front of 12,000 fans when their match ended with neither man able to continue after they both went for each other’s throats without any regard for their own safety.
• Lost to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson at In Your House: The Lumberjacks when he was pinned after a Rock Bottom.
• Lost to Jim Neidhart in a dark match on the December 13th, 1997, edition of Monday Night RAW.
• At one point during his WWE career, Atlas tried to have fellow wrestler Paul Roma fired for “no-selling” his moves. This led to Roma enziguri kicking Atlas in the face and knocking him out during a match against The Young Stallions inside an airplane hangar at JFK airport.
• Lost to Sid Justice via disqualification at Survivor Series ’92 in a match where each wrestler was handcuffed to their opponent but still able to compete during the early stages of the match until both men freed themselves and it turned into your standard wrestling match up. However, under the rules of the match, whenever either man used their respective sets of keys hanging from chains around their necks, they would gain an automatic 5- advantage over their opponent for every time they would successfully use them to open the cuffs. In the end, Sid was able to catch Atlas off guard and easily knock him out with a big boot before trying to do it again, but this time was caught by surprise when Atlas ducked his head and Sid kicked his own partner instead.
• Lost to Randy Savage via submission with a Boston Crab at the United Kingdom Rampage ’92 after he accidentally knocked Virgil into referee Mike Chioda who was knocked out cold as a result of being tripped over by Paul Wright who was going for a dropkick on Savage from behind during his entrance.
• Defeated Mr Perfect in a “Loser Leaves Town” match at SummerSlam ’93 where both wrestlers put their jobs on the line. Atlas scored a pinfall victory after a spinebuster that was good for his 5th and final needed victory to keep his job with Perfect being banished from the World Wrestling Federation.
• With Goldust & Crush lost to The Undertaker, Sid & Mankind in an elimination match at In Your House: Final Four when Taker pinned Crush following a powerbomb as Undertaker’s team were one man short but still managed to win since Goldust walked out of the match halfway through it.
• Along with Bret Hart & Jerry Lawler, defeated Shawn Michaels (w/ Diesel), Yokozuna (w/ Mr Fuji) and Owen Hart (w/ Jim Cornette) in a four-on-two handicap match at Canadian Stampede when Lawler pinned Michaels following a piledriver.
• Defeated Taka Michinoku by submission with the Boston Crab at King of the Ring ’97 after delivering two straight spinebusters to pick up his 11th and final victory needed before leaving the WWF for WCW.
• With Brian Adams & Scott Norton, lost to The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) in an elimination match at Fall Brawl ’97 after Rick pinned Norton following The Frankensteiner.
• With Lex Luger, defeated Buff Bagwell & Konnan via disqualification on Thunder thanks to Stevie Ray standing on the ring apron refusing to allow Luger to enter so he himself could be tagged in until he was eventually forced to by the referee who was standing right next to him.
• With Scott Hall, lost to The Giant & Lex Luger at Halloween Havoc ’97 when Heenan accidentally distracted his team during their double team attempt on The Giant who brought down Hall with The chokeslam before moving out of the way as Luger ran in for the save helping him pick up the scraps instead after hitting a bodyslam and then the T-Boz/Jackknife Powerbomb that knocked Shultz out cold allowing The Giant to pick up the pinfall victory.
• Along with Randy Savage, defeated Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray) at World War 3 ’97 when Savage pinned Stevie Ray after hitting him with the WCW United States Title that he won earlier in the night after Booker accidentally nailed his brother with a spin kick when making the save for Harlem Heat.
• With Lex Luger & Konnan, defeated Randy Savage, Kevin Nash & Sting at Souled Out ’98 when Luger pinned Savage following a T-Boz/Jackknife Powerbomb on him after catching Randy coming off the ropes while he was applying The Figure Four Leglock on Konnan who had just missed getting slammed by Nash moments before.
As of 2007, Atlas is the resident trainer at Rob Feinstein’s “Feinstein Wrestling Academy”, which is located in Brick Township, New Jersey. He teaches wrestling and trains those who want to become pro wrestlers.
On September 15th, 2009, Tony Atlas appeared on The Dr. Keith Show and has since been a regular guest on the show appearing every other week or so to give his insight into all things wrestling. Some people have expressed skepticism about whether this is an angle considering Dr. Keith’s affiliation with TNA but to date no evidence has presented itself suggesting anything more than Tony being a big fan of the old school style of heel promos that Dr. Keith uses in his shows.
On August 6th, 2011, it was announced that Tony Atlas would be appearing on the debut episode of The Steiner Brothers Podcast.
On September 6th, 2017, Tony returned to PWF Northeast for the first time in 20 years. He defeated Chris Battle by Submission with his Boston Crab finisher after a brief but intense battle between the two veterans of the ring.
On November 16th 2017, Tony joined Sam Holiday & Curt Matthews on “The World’s Worst Wrestling Podcast” where they discussed many topics including Blackjack Mulligan’s health and how he gave him one of his kidneys years ago which resulted in Atlas nearly dying during surgery before waking up once again when Blackjack was at his bedside giving him a message of hope that got him back on track following several weeks in ICU.
On February 16th, 2018, Atlas was at the Feinstein Wrestling Academy when a student by the name of Dylan Hales came in with his father who had set up this meeting between Tony and his son whom he stated that he is a big fan. After speaking to them for over an hour about their goal of entering the business Tony accepted Dylan’s Twitter request for him to be his mentor on social media before also giving him some advice regarding how to conduct himself while training which mostly revolved around knowing his own physical limitations more than anything else.
Tony Atlas will forever be remembered as one of the greats both inside & outside of the ring but most of all, as someone whose legacy has impacted many lives throughout three generations are still having their lives changed to this day by the person who broke racial barriers inside and outside of the squared circle all around the world.
While there are many other names that are arguably more important in the history of our sport, I believe Tony Atlas should be recognized at least in some way by WWE when they finally decide to induct wrestlers into its Hall of Fame who were either never honored while alive or outside of the main event picture. Whether it was due to his character being portrayed as somewhat of a “joke” during his first run with the company along with several others not wanting to work with him, Atlas was once considered by many wrestling historians as one of the four top African American wrestlers during his prime (along with Bobo Brazil, Sweet Ebony Diamond & Ron Simmons). Tony’s amazing strength, agility, and ability to play either a dominant or hated heel in the ring made him unique in the fact that it wasn’t easy to compare anyone else on an even plain with him back when he was at his very best. When you consider how many African American wrestlers were employed by WWE during his heyday, Tony Atlas could’ve been considered among the most important of them all from a historical standpoint from someone who helped pave the way for many of those men!
Do you know Tony Atlas personally? Did you watch him compete during his prime while employed by WWE? Do you feel he should be inducted into their Hall of Fame in the future? Please feel free to share your thoughts on this article in the comments section below!