Wednesday, December 28, 2016

'Toar' Morgan

Wilbur 'Toar' Morgan is an interesting name from the 40's. Writer and broadcaster Barry Penahle told me Toar was married to a member of Penhale's family and eventually settled in the Lindsay area. Early in Penhales career Morgan took the young wrestler under his wing and took him on his travels.

In Jul 8 1943 described as the 'best looking thing since (Whipper) Watson disappeared' he was 'practically killed by Lee Henning before being awarded the bout by a sympathetic referee. That didn't suit Morgan who arose from the dead and pummeled Henning. Finally he tied a towel around Henning's neck and left him to strangle himself. Which he didn't.'

They played up his decorated Marine background when he worked around the area here for several years and also spent time in the U.S. and across Canada up to about 1960. Mr Penhale told me Morgan promoted some shows around Lindsay/Peterborough in the 1950's, likely as a Tunney circuit type in booking the bouts.

He had become the manager for the Lindsay Arena and in 1951 he pled guilty to an assault charge that occurred during a argument about a hockey game in Lindsay. 'I hit him on the nose' he declared and was fined the sum of $17 and given a two year suspended sentence. That article called him Clarence 'Toar' Morgan.

The article below is from WAYLI 1954. Penahle's columns are a fascinating look at the inner workings of the Canadian Wrestling scene at the time. They often contained behind the scenes info and such that he got direct from the wrestlers, many of whom stayed in contact as they moved around the territories. ...thanks to Roger Baker

click on the pic to see full size

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Boxing Day and Holiday cards

Christmas, Holiday, and Boxing Day cards were something of a tradition in Toronto. The 25th was out but there were cards held on the 26th of December dating back to the early days of wrestling in the city and cards at Massey Hall.  A 1930 card at the venue saw fans turned away for a card headed by Stanley Stasiak vs Joe Malcewiez.

At Maple Leaf Gardens on Dec 26 1935 7,500 came out to see a World Title bout between Dan O'Mahony and Lou Plummer.

A 1970 show held on the 27th drew 16,000 for The Sheik vs Lord Layton. It could be said it was  largely because of The Sheik who was kick-starting the scene here, and in the middle of a long winning streak, but the holidays helped.  'Considering last night's turnout, it would seem that a pair of wrestling tickets has replaced the traditional oranges and walnuts as stocking stuffers this Christmas.' wrote Allen Ryan in the Star. 

The kids weren't forgotten either with many of the holiday cards featuring the fan favorite midget wrestlers in action. Dave McKigney and his Wrestling Bear made a few shows too.

The next year in 1971 Tunney saw the same success on the 26th with The Sheik and Layton again getting 15,000 fans out to the Gardens.

There were actual Boxing day cards held in every decade, some with success and some not so much.

The ones held in my era were not always great cards but as with others over the 50 years it often had more to do with the overall landscape of pro wrestling in the city at the time .

The Holiday show on Dec 27 1981 did draw about 14,000 fans to see Canadian champ John Studd take on Leroy Brown but the Andre The Giant-Killer Kahn bout was the real attraction.

Besides the ones listed above there were Boxing day cards held in 1935, 1947, 1952, 1963, 1965, and 1976.

The others held on the 27th and a few on the 28th were often billed as  'Christmas' or 'Holiday' shows.

The 27th of December also stands as the first time Tunney ran a Sunday show at MLG. In 1964 Joe Perlove of the Star cited Tunney's 'humanitarianism' for 'getting many fathers out of the house....for after three straight days of home and mother and kids with noisy Christmas presents father has to be tickled dizzy to flee into the night.'

He got 9,000 out for that first Sunday show, still good in the era of weekly shows. He ran another show the Thursday following on the 31st and another on Jan 3 for a total of 3 shows in 8 days. Over the 3 they drew 20,500 fans during the holidays.

The last one of the NWA era was Dec 26 1983 with a main of Roddy Piper and Dory Funk Jr  vs The Assassins. The card was fun but not great as the scene here was already on a downward curve.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Gorgeous George is Coming ! 1948

The Gorgeous one wrestled in Toronto quite a few times from his first appearance here in 1948 to his last in 1961, including the famous Retirement (Whipper Watson) vs Hair (George) bout in 1956 covered at Gary Will's TWH - Watson vs George

On his first appearance at MLG in 1948 there was quite a bit of anticipation for his bout against Larry Moquin.

In a sidebar in the Sports pages it mentioned Frank Tunney sidekick and Promoter Sammy Sobel saying about George 'He's completely marvelous, in 40 years around wrestling mats I ain't seen anything like him' to which Tunney replied 'Wait until he taps you for 30% of the gross and see if you still consider him marvelous' to which the author adds 'Sammy fainted and was borne away by grinning servitors'

9,000 fans came out to see him beat Moquin and Frank Tunney announced he would 'take a chance' by matching George against his top man Whipper.

A week later he would meet Whipper for the first time. Attendance wasn't listed but this time George was on the losing end to the 'top man' in Toronto.  Whipper wins the bout with a backslam off the ropes at just over 11 minutes into the bout.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Gene Kiniski 4 decades on top

Other than Whipper Watson I can't think of another wrestler besides Gene Kiniski who appeared in main events in Toronto in 4 different decades.

Thesz came close with 40's 50s 60s  but the last main he appeared in was Sept 1969 just missing the cut for the 70s

Whipper managed 40s 50s 60s 70s , and Kiniski managed 50s 60s 70s and 80s. In addition to the main events in 4 decades Kiniski would make the top 20 for most Toronto appearances of all-time.

Amazingly even when we saw him in the late 70's and into the early 80s he could still go with the best of them. By that time his son Kelly was wrestling alongside. Gene was even a big part of the scene late in his career.

He lost to Dino Bravo to kick off the new Canadian Heavyweight Title in 1978. That night was billed as Whipper Watson Appreciation and they brought out Whipper to present the new belt to Bravo. He and Kiniski would get into a scuffle reliving their long feud that had begun back in  1957.

His 1982 run against Angelo Mosca was one of the better matchups of the era and Kiniski would earn mains around the circuit as well.

Below is '59, '67, '70. '82

Thursday, November 17, 2016

85th Anniversary of first card at MLG: Classic Clippings

Nov 19 2016 marks the 85th Anniversary of the first wrestling card held at MLG. Here are some clippings from the paper. There had been lots of wrestling in Toronto prior but this was the start of  the history into the NWA days.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cornwall Photos 1950s

The Water St Arena in Cornwall, ON was one of those great old spots that was perfect for Pro Wrestling. Chris Rohde of Cogeco produced a cool video a few years back on the history of the arena and featured a look at wrestling.
Video is on Youtube at

He is currently working on a series that will include Wrestling memories at the Arena and sent me over a few great photos that were passed to him by David Murphy.

These are circa mid to late 1950's.
Cornwall has seen several different promotions over the years, Tunney, Eddie Quinn, and of course Dave McKigney all put on shows at the Arena. There is some Cornwall info on the main site and lots of photos and such from this era

Below is Yvon Robert and Ed Carpentier
Whipper Watson receiving attention
Ed Carpentier
Billy Red Lyons
Little Beaver posing with group
Little Panther
The Beast Johnny Yachetti enjoying a pose with the ladies, amazing that the ladies are also enjoying it !

thanks to Chris and David for sharing these great old photos !

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A week in the life 1981

Tunney went back to a small circuit in 1980 running the towns around Toronto before or after the big Sunday MLG show. It had been some years since Tunney had actively put on shows around the region.

The 1950's and 1960's were busy times for the Toronto office. Barrie, Stoufville, Oshawa, Hamilton, St Catherines, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Galt (Cambridge), Kitchener, Milton, Ottawa, and others saw regular weekly-or-so cards. Most of the towns had 'Promoters' who used Tunney stars but ran their own shows. That ended in the late 1960's for the most part with Dave McKigney, Whipper Jr, The Loves etc putting their own shows out, often with Tunney's guys and/or blessing to do it.

In 1980 with the success of the Mid-Atlantic partnership they went back to running the circuit. And stopped co-operating so much with others, especially with McKigney.

Some of the M-A stars would stay on for these shows, some of the bigger stars would head back to the South. It gave popular guys like Jay Youngblood a chance to star around the circuit while often at mid-card on the MLG shows. They would fit a TV taping in also either in Kitchener, Brantford, or Guelph for the most part.

As the MLG shows reduced to about 2 per month in this era the circuit towns may see 2 shows per month also in the week around the big card.

Here's a snapshot in Feb 1981 , if you have the Ad for the Buffalo show please send me and I'll add it

81/02/22 MLG
CANADIAN TITLE: Angelo Mosca WP Great Hossein
Masked Superstar WDQ Ray Stevens
Jimmy Snuka WP Mad Dog Vachon
Bob Duncum/Swede Hanson W Sweet Ebony Diamond/Dewey Robertson
Tony Parisi D Kurt Von Hess (subs for Jim Dillon)
Frankie Laine WP Ron Ritchie

81/02/23 Buffalo, NY
Masked Superstar/Paul Jones W Jimmy Snuka/Ray Stevens
Blackjack Mulligan W Bobby Duncum
Iron Sheik W Mad Dog Vachon
Sweet Ebony Diamond W Frankie Laine
Dewey Robertson W/DQ Swede Hansen
Tony Parisi W Ron Ritchie

81/02/24 Kitchener, ON TV Tapings
Iron Sheik/Bobby Duncum W Earl Pinnock/Ricky Johnson
Angelo Mosca W John Orlick
Mad Dog Vachon/Dewey Robertson W/DQ Iron Sheik/Bobby Duncum
Angelo Mosca W Chris Jones/Tim Gerrard in a handicap match
Swede Hanson W John Bonello
Frankie Laine D Ron Ritchie
Sweet Ebony Diamond/Tony Parisi W Kurt Von Hess/Brian Mackney
Swede Hanson W Ron Ritchie
Iron Sheik W Dewey Robertson
Angelo Mosca W Bobby Duncum

81/02/25 London, ON
Angelo Mosca W Hossein Arab
Mad Dog Vachon/Dewey Robertson W Bobby Duncum/Swede Hanson
Sweet Ebony Diamond W Kurt Von Hess
Frankie Laine WP Ron Ritchie
Tony Paris D Billy Red Lyons

81/02/26 - Kingston, ON
Angelo Mosca W Great Hossein
Mad Dog Vachon/Dewey Robertson W Bobby Duncum/Kurt Von Hess
Sweet Ebony Diamond W/COR Swede Hanson
Frankie Laine D Billy Red Lyons
Tony Parisi W Ron Ritchie

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

1952 Camp Borden

Camp Borden, a Canadian Armed Forces base just outside Barrie, ON has seen occasional wrestling shows dating back to the 1930's. In 1952 Tunney's office presumably with Tommy Nelson at the forefront added Barrie to its circuit after observing success in the area from both Larry Kasaboski and Red Garner's promotions.

Former Boxing champ Jack Dempsey would appear on the first Barrie show in May as special ref for a card  featuring a main of Whipper Watson vs Tarzan Zorro.  'Featuring the stars of Maple Leaf Gardens' would figure prominently on the ads to help bring in the fans.

Prior to the start of the season in Barrie, the 'stars of MLG' would appear on some shows held at Camp Borden. Under the auspices of the RCAC Athletic Club, the wrestlers would appear alongside amateurs. They would also run shows later in nearby Collingwood.

Tunney's stars though did not get the welcome they expected. The small time fans seemed to enjoy the Northland stars and Garner's faster action and before long both groups were back around the area promoting cards. Garner appeared to have an 'understanding' with Tunney but Kasaboski ran direct opposition throughout the decade earning a spot on Tunney's seldom seen 'bad side'.

I'll have more on the Barrie battle and other spots where Kasaboski and Tunney faced off - in a future post
Enjoy the Camp Borden clips and Barrie below.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Anniversary's of Wrestling in Toronto

As Gary Will told me some years back , there were a few different 'anniversary shows' over the years and it could get confusing on how they determined them.

With an important one coming up - Nov 19 2016 will mark 85 years since the first Wrestling card held at Maple Leaf Gardens - we will have a look at the ones they did celebrate - and the ones they didn't (but could have!).

As Gary explains in his own look at the 1969 card - TWH - Frank Tunney's 30th  - that marked Tunney's 30th year as a Promoter, there were a few dates that could be considered as starting points for certain celebrations.

With Nov 19 1931 the day the first card was held at MLG then 1941 would have marked 10 years of shows at the Gardens.

The Ice Follies was in town so a card that would have been held on Nov 20 (reg Thursday show) or perhaps the Wednesday (19th) as they sometimes did was skipped over.

The card held on Nov 12 wasn't celebrated as a 10 year show but certainly could have. A triple main event had Whipper Watson vs Roland Kirchmeyer, Earl McCready vs Crusher Casey, and
The Masked Wolf vs 'Dynamite' Joe Cox as the 3 big bouts along with 2 openers

Fast forward 10 years to 1951 which would have marked 20 years of shows at MLG. Again there was no outward mention for a card held on Nov 22 featuring Whipper against the Masked Zebra. Over 8,000 turned out to see the two rivals go at it and also got to see Bobo Brazil make his Toronto debut against Lou Sjoberg

Five years later in 1956 , the Gardens DID make a big deal out of the upcoming anniversary of 25 years since the Arena had opened and had some celebrations throughout the year.

As you can see from the calendar page below Wrestling did make it, albeit in a small head-shot of Whipper alongside Foster Hewitt, Conn Smythe, Harold Ballard, a young  Queen Elizabeth and the various Leafs players of the days.

Again there was no outwardly mention of any significant dates. There was a card held on Nov 15 but the one held on Nov 22 could have qualified as a big 25th Anniversary show with
NWA champ Lou Thesz in to battle Whipper Watson. Buddy Rogers and Bobby Manganoff were also on the card along with Gene Kiniski and special ref Jack Sharkey. That one drew 11,000, a worthy turnout if it had been an actual Anniversary card.

 At the 30 year mark in 1961 there was another big show held on Nov 16 that could have been a big 30th celebration - but wasn't.

NWA champ Buddy Rogers was in to face - you guessed it - Whipper Watson and 7,500 showed up to see their hero lose when Bulldog Brower came out and assaulted him leaving him on the floor to be counted out (official verdict was Dq win for Rogers(?)).

The Star did mention that 'Tunney hasn't left a stone unturned in an effort to make tonight's program at the Gardens the standout of the last 10 years' which may or not refer to the landmark date.

In 1969 they DID have a show celebrating Tunney's 30th year as a promoter. Technically Frank took over in 1940 after brother John passed away but maybe they looked at the date as when 'the Tunney's took over' from Corcoran. Again see Gary Will's article as linked above.

Sticking with the MLG dates the next one would have been 1971. On Nov 14 there was a card held with The Sheik vs Luis Martinez and 10 other bouts. A huge extravaganza you may say but really just a usual card of that era. Again no mention of 40 years since the first MLG card at least as far as the wrestling went. The Gardens did as you can see in the Leafs ad for the Saturday night game Nov 13 against the Canucks.

Now in 1976 Tunney DID acknowledge a 45th Anniversary show on Nov 19 with a main of NWA champ Terry Funk meeting Dominic Denucci for the title. Jim Proudfoot devoted another full column to the milestone.

Curiously there was another 'Anniversary' show held previously that year on June 6. It was called the '40th Anniversary' and it was the card Tunney put on to combat George Cannon's CNE Coliseum show being held on that day. Tunney won that war but it still isn't clear what anniversary they were going by. 1936 is not notable as far as I can see for anything anniversary related. Hmmmm.

Anyways the 45th ad is below

The next big one celebrated was 1981 Nov 15 as the '50th Anniversary of Wrestling at the Gardens', that would be the last of the Tunney celebrations as Frank would pass away in 1983 and the WWF came in a year later.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Carlos Rocha Info

Wouter van Alst of sends some info on Carlos Rocha
his boxing record can be found at

"I came across your request for more information on Carlos Rocha. I'm a boxing historian and because Rocha also was a boxer in his younger years, I have some biographical information that might interest you. . He was originally from the Portuguese town of Tavira, born Jan. 4 1928. Before moving to North America, he wrestled in Europe, Africa and South America. After his wrestling days he moved to Newark where he is reported to have owned a tobacco store. As of November 2014 he was reportedly living in Florida."

Over the years I have received quite a bit of correspondence on Rocha especially after I posted a bit including Roger Baker's awesome photos on the old site

He was here before I started going and to the younger fans he remained a mystery as he saw limited success elsewhere. In Roger's photos you can see how popular he was among the large Portuguese community in Toronto and why he worked on top vs The Sheik a couple of different times.

Thanks to Wouter for sharing this info with us

clips at bottom are 1972 * note they say he is 35 , at that time he would have just turned 44