Friday, February 26, 2016

Wild Bill Longson & Whipper

Bill Longson's son posted some clips and such from St Louis. Longson was a huge draw in St Louis as he was here in helping revitalize wrestling in Toronto in the early 40's. Whipper eventually took over and the rest is history but the two stars, in addition to creating some history together also had many parallels in their careers.

Both held the NWA (Association) Title, Whipper won his from Longson, both were the 'King' of their towns, both also tried their hand in promoting and had ties within their offices, both had their careers ended by accidents outside the ring (Longson horse riding) at around the same age 54-55, both passed away about 20 years after their careers were over.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Wrestling at MLG - 85 years

2016 would mark the 85th Anniversary of Maple Leaf Gardens. Here are 85 notables about Wrestling at MLG from the early days to the NWA years through to the final days before WWF came in - in 1984

I didnt attend after '84 and the site mostly cuts off at that date. If you want to suggest some from 1984-1995 I will add in a future blog

Random order 

1940 : John Tunney passes away - shortly after taking over for Jack Corcoran. Brother Frank takes over as Promoter
1940 : Whipper Watson makes his MLG debut - beats Lee Henning in the opening bout, Frank Taylor vs Dynamite Joe Cox is the main. Popular right from the start ‘The Pride of East York’ remains the #1 star for most of the next 30 years
1931 : First Card at MLG - one week after arena opening with main of Jim Londos vs Gino Garibaldi and over 15,000 pack the Gardens for Promoter Jack Corcoran's card
1941 : Whippers first main event - vs George 'K.O." Koverly - he wins !  He will go on to headline somewhere over 600 cards at MLG over the next 20 years (need to count that sometime) as well as hundreds more around Ontario                    
1941 : Pat Flanagan makes his MLG debut - as part of a tournament to decide the #1 contender for the World Title, he loses to Jack Claybourne in the first round. Whipper is the eventual winner of the night but Flanagan goes on to be an important part of the office over the next 30 years
1977 : Harley Race defeats Terry Funk to begin his 2nd NWA Title reign, Race would defend the belt 10 times in Toronto over his 2 reigns, 8 of those at MLG. This bout would turn out to be the 4th and final time the NWA (Alliance) World Title changed hands at MLG
1956 : Whipper beats Lou Thesz to begin his reign as NWA champ. Whip would defend 16 times at MLG in 1956 before losing the title back to Thesz in St Louis in November '56
1957 : Dick Hutton wins the NWA Title from Lou Thesz at MLG. It is said he had trained with Fred Atkins for 2 weeks prior. Fred claimed to have 'gotten rid of the fat'
1981 : Ric Flair makes his first appearance as NWA champ on the 50th Anniversary show. In front of 15,000 fans he defeats Harley Race and will defend as champ 9 times over the next few years
1984 : The 132nd and last appearance of the NWA (Alliance) title at MLG. Champ Flair defeats Dick Slater   
1956 : Nat Turofsky, famed sports photographer and official MLG photog -and taker of many wrestling shots – who took thousands of photos at MLG dies at age 60, brother and partner Lou dies 3 years later in 1959
1966 : Joe Perlove, sports writer, long time fixture in the MLG press box, and wrestling recap extraordinaire dies at age 60. His inimitable style helped put wrestling 'over' in the sports pages. His main beat? Horse Racing
1969 : Frank Tunney celebrates 30 years as Promoter with a show headlined by Whipper vs The Sheik as well as NWA Champ Dory Funk Jr vs Ivan Koloff
1979 : Dewey Robertson wins a tournament to name a new Canadian champ after Dino Bravo leaves the area. Dewey defeats Ken Patera, Gene Kiniski, and Greg Valentine to claim the belt
1939 : Jack Corcoran passes the promotion to the Tunney brothers. Corcoran stays involved on the boxing side for several years after. Frank later refers to Jack as ‘like a father’ to him
1976 : Frank Tunney Sports Ltd  presents the  Ali vs Inoki card on closed circuit at MLG. Tickets are expensive compared to the wrestling shows, 8-15$. The Chuck Wepner - Andre The Giant bout is also shown
1980 : Frank Tunney creates a new company Frank Tunney Sports Promotion with Jim Crockett and George Scott to continue the successful partnership with the M-A stars that had started in 1978
1983 : Frank Tunney dies while on a trip to Hong Kong at the age of 70. Frank's nephew and late promoter John's son Jack takes over.  Stars including Gene Kiniski, Fred Atkins, Whipper Watson, and Lord Layton congregate at the Hot Stove Lounge - former site of Tunney's office - after Frank's funeral
1984 : Jack Tunney aligns with the WWF with the first WWF card on July 22. The 2nd to last bout on the card features 2 former Canadian Champs – Slaughter and Valentine. Most of the others on the card had also been at MLG sometime during the NWA era                 
1964 : The Sheik makes his first appearance at MLG with a win over Eric Freolich in the 2nd bout of the card. He had wrestled in Ontario as early as 1952   
1969 : The Sheik begins his 5 year unbeaten streak with a win over Bill Palmer. While Sheik would remain in Toronto until 1977 this was Palmers only MLG appearance. Other than local TV don’t believe Palmer ever wrestled anywhere else
1971 : The Sheik faces Tiger Jeet Singh in front of what was be the largest crowd ever at MLG since 1931 - 18000+. The re-match 3 weeks later drew the same. 1971 would prove to be one of the best drawing years in Toronto
1973 : Norm Kimber who had been a part of the office staff since about 1953 takes over as Ring Announcer, a position he would hold until 1986
1955 : Jerry Hiff begins as Ring Announcer at MLG and continues for the next 18 years before being replaced by Norm Kimber
1959 : Whipper Watson defeats Gorgeous George and cuts his hair ! The bout remains one of the most famous and talked about in MLG history
1962 : Johnny Valentine arrives in Toronto with a U.S. Title. After the demise of the British Empire Title the US title becomes the main title in Toronto through the 1970's
1978 : Dino Bravo captures the new Canadian Title beating Gene Kiniski in the final of a fictitious tourny. Whipper is on hand to present the new champ with the belt and gets into it with long time arch rival Kiniski
1984 : Angelo Mosca Jr. becomes the final Canadian champion defeating Ivan Koloff. The tile disappears a month later as does the NWA
1967 : Some of the longest bouts of the modern era as U.S. champ Tiger Jeet Singh battles Johnny Valentine in a series of 60, 90, and 120 min bouts. The 2 longer bouts are held at Maple Leaf Stadium
1961 : Dick 'Bulldog Brower makes his MLG debut crushing the much larger Man Mountain Campbell. Brower becomes the main villain in Toronto for the next several years
1949 : Yukon Eric makes his MLG debut with a win over Faro Renaldi. Yukon becomes the #2 favorite in Toronto through the 1950's and appeared here to 1964
1962 : Bruno Sammartino makes his MLG debut defeating Frank Valois. Sammartino would return to Toronto as WWWF champ 24 times between 1964-1969
1982 : In a bout with WWF champ Bob Backlund Jimmy Snuka performs his Superfly off the top of the cage recreating his MSG spectacular. He misses and Backlund gets the pin. Backlund was making his 21st (of 23) appearances as WWWF/WWF champ in Toronto
1942 : First bout between Whipper Watson and Nanjo Singh. The two would carry on a bloody and heated feud that would span 3 decades and a murder rap and prison time (Nanjo not Whipper)
1961 : The NWA convention is held in Toronto. Tunney, then NWA President hosts 27 Promoters including Sam Muchnick, Jim Barnett, Johnny Doyle, Don Owen, Eddie Quinn, Pedro Martinez, Bobby Bruns, and Vince McMahon. Most stay to watch a card at MLG  headlined by Bulldog Brower vs Lord Layton
1939 : Lou Thesz makes his MLG debut defeating Dutch Heffner. Thesz would appear in some of MLG;s biggest bouts over the next 20+ years
1950 : According to Jim Proudfoot Whipper Watson was now working on 'his second million' fans to see him. Said to have drawn 189.514 in 1949 alone to MLG
1950 : First appearance of the NWA (Alliance) World Title as champ Lou Thesz defeats Whipper Watson.  Out of all the NWA champs at MLG Thesz would make the most title defenses  at MLG- 29 though 1965
1977 :  The AWA World Title and its champ Nick Bockwinkel make their MLG debut with a win over Dom Denucci.  Bockwinkel would appear at MLG 19 times through 1982 with 16 AWA Title defenses    
1982 : The last appearance of the WWF title at MLG during the NWA era. Champ Bob Backlund defeats Playboy Buddy Rose in the 54th and final appearance of the WWWF/WWF Title since 1964
1982 : The last appearance of the AWA title at MLG. Champ Nick Bockwinkel defeats Angelo Mosca in the 16th appearance of the title since 1977
1948 :  Fred Atkins makes his MLG debut with a win over Jack Moore. His career in Toronto would span over 30 years as a wrestler, trainer, manager, and referee
1956 : Billy Red Lyons makes his MLG debut defeating Shaq Thomas. He would start as a commentator in the 1970's and continue after his career was over
1939 : One of the first of many Tournaments at MLG. Jumping Joe Savoldi beats out Gus Zaharias, Tom Mahoney, and Chief Jules Strongbow on his way to winning the night 
1939 : 'Wild' Bill Longson makes his MLG debut with a double dq against Tommy Nilan, almost causing a riot with his tactics and sending Nilan to the hospital.  Longson would help bring Toronto wrestling back to prominence in the early days of the Tunneys taking over the promotion
1943 : Whipper Watson and Yvon Robert, the 2 biggest Canadian stars of the era clash over the British Empire Title. They would face each other - as well as team together - into the 1950's
1939 : Ontario Athletic Commissioner (and one time wrestler) and famed sportsman Lionel Conacher produces a new Wrestling rulebook. Clause A is deemed to be the 'most mirth provoking' - No Wrestler shall refuse to obey any direction of the referee
1935 : In what was then called the largest crowd since the first card in 1931, Jim Londos defeats Vic Christie in front of 12,000 fans
1932 : Then Maple Leafs players (and defending Stanley Cup champs) Hap Day and Red Horner step into the ring on the undercard of a Ray Steele vs Joe Cox main. Horner had been the team leader in penalty minutes and the two put on a good bout, said to be one of the best of the night.
1939 : With Jack Corcoran on an extended vacation, Toots Mondts refs a card at MLG with a main of Jim Londos vs Vic Christie. Mondts becomes one of the investors when the Tunneys buy out Corcoran later in the year
1942 : Advertised as the first time all 4 members of a tag match would be in the ring at the same time, John Katan and Bunny Dunlop vs Whipper Watson and Earl McCready would participate in what would be later called a Tornado Match. Years later when the WWF held a Frank Tunney Memorial Tag Tourny they claimed Frank had brought Tag Wrestling to North America !
1971 : Dave McKigney attempts to take on Frank Tunney with a Sunday night card at Varsity Arena. Tunney's card with The Sheik, Whipper Watson, Tiger Jeet, The Vachons, and the Loves wins the battle 15,500 to 700. McKigney says later 'maybe next time not on a Sunday'
1971 : Whipper Watson wrestles his last bout at MLG in a tag with Bulldog Brower.  Whipper at 55 years of age gets hit by a car 2 days after the bout, ending his career as MLG's biggest star. He would continue to show up at MLG occasionally for special cards
1976 : Frank Tunney moves up a scheduled card to compete against George Cannon's show at the CNE Coliseum featuring Lou Thesz. Tunney packs his MLG card with Gene Kiniski, Andre, The Sheik, and Harley Race  and draws over 5,000 to Cannons 'less than 1,000'
1982 : First and only time at MLG that both the AWA and NWA World Titles are defended on the same card (Bockwinkel vs Mosca, Flair vs Race). There had been many AWA / WWWF on the same card previously while the AWA and NWA titles  had been scheduled for a card in 1979 but Harley Race never made it for his bout.
1948 : The 'Ramp' is introduced at MLG during the Whipper Watson and Nanjo Singh feud to protect Singh from the fans. Originally described as an 'escape hatch' Singh would use it on the first try to escape the fans wrath after attacking Whip's manager Phil Lawson after the bout. Singh had previously hid under the ring until he could be escorted safely back to the dressing room
1983 : In the culmination of a long feud Ricky Steamboat and Jay Youngblood win the NWA World Tag Titles from Sgt Slaughter and Private Don Kernodle in a cage match that copied their M-A bout 2 weeks prior
1978 : Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat steal the show for the debut of the Mid Atlantic stars in Toronto era. The two would go on to revitalize Toronto over the next few years and remain 2 of the most popular wrestlers ever to appear at MLG
1949 : There had been special refs before but the 'Former Boxing Champ as Special ref' era hit high stride with Jack Dempsey working a Whipper Watson vs Fred Atkins bout at MLG. Dempsey would return regularly and others including Jersey Joe Walcott, Rocky Marciano, Jack Sharkey, Joe Louis, Max Baer would also work bouts at MLG before and after 1949
1961 : First appearance at MLG for Nikita Kalmikoff aka Nikita Mulkovich. The real Nikita - Alex Mulko - would later make many wrestling title belts including our own Canadian Title belt, TV Title, and International Tag Title belts and The Sheik’s US Titles
1953 : CBC starts featuring bouts from MLG and Wrestling becomes one of the most popular TV pastimes of the 1950's. For many years prior they had broadcast the last 2 bouts live on the radio
1931 : Frank Tunney celebrates his 19th birthday on the day that MLG opens. It is still unclear if he was working for Corcoran at the time, in a later interview he claimed he was there               
1940 : The French Angel comes to MLG and defeats Jerry Monahan. The Angel would prove to be a huge draw over the next couple of years. A short clip of this bout is online
1942 : The fans get to vote by way of a fill-in card to decide the lineup of an upcoming card. Only stipulation is not to list Longson vs Watson as Longson refuses to meet Whip. Fans decide on McCready vs Katan and Whipper vs Dunlop
1960 : New Toronto Argo Wayne Bock, upon arrival from the Chicago Cardinals wrestles against Babyface Don Jardine (future Spoiler) at MLG and gets the win. Also a former Ti-Cat, he only wrestles once more vs Tony Marino. He supposedly had mob ties in Chicago and during training camp got into a few fights with teammates. Another Argo of the era Gil Mains also tried wrestling
1971 : Jean Ferre aka Andre The Giant makes his MLG debut billed at 7'4 390lbs  defeating the always youthful Lee Henning. Andre would appear at MLG a few times a year right into the early 1980s
1938 : Toronto gets its own World Title when Promoter Jack Corcoran presents Yvon Robert with a belt after a win over Vic Christie, The title lasts until early 1939 with other holders including Vic Christie, Masked Marvel, and King Kong Cox
1978 : Mil Mascaras joins the short list of one-offs at MLG taking on Terry Yorkston in his only appearance here. Bruiser Brody and Jumbo Tsuruta were 2 other notable one-timers  (1980)   
1978 : Superstar Billy Graham defeats Edouard Carpentier at MLG in what was to be his last bout as WWWF champ. He loses the title to Bob Backlund the next night in NYC
1956 : Gene Kiniski makes his MLG debut defeating Ken Kenneth. Within a few months Big Gene rises to become one of the biggest stars at MLG and would appear regularly through 1982
1963 : Lou Thesz defeats Buddy Rogers at MLG to win the NWA World Title and begin his final reign as champ. Including the rematch against Rogers 2 weeks later Thesz defends at MLG 11 more times on this reign
1977 : WWWF rivals Stan Stasiak and Chief Jay Strongbow form an 'only in Toronto' tag partnership. They do well winning all 4 of their bouts together
1976 : Thunderbolt Patterson becomes the first to beat The Sheik for his U.S. Title at MLG over the course of the Sheik's run. Bobo Brazil was the only other one to take the belt
1963 : Lou Thesz fresh off his win at MLG over Rogers returns to make his first defense at MLG vs Bruno Sammartino. The bout was said to have been made to solidify Thesz' standing as 'real world champ' as Bruno had already been pegged to win the WWWF title from Rogers
1984 : The last Tournament held at MLG -to decide the vacant Canadian Title after Angelo Mosca gives it up due to ‘injury’. Ivan Koloff is the eventual winner and 2nd last champ
1977 : The Sheik makes his last appearance at MLG in a tag with Crazy Luke Graham vs Stan Stasiak and Chief Jay Strongbow. Sheik would subsequently make his last 2 appearances for Tunney at Exhibition Stadium shows later in the summer
1956 : In what marked the 25 Anniversary of wrestling at MLG Tunney presents Lou Thesz vs Whipper Watson in front of 11,000 fans with Jack Sharkey as ref. Also on the card Buddy Rogers and Gene Kiniski (but not vs each other!)
1976 : The 45th Anniversary show features NWA champ Terry Funk vs Dom Denucci and the above mentioned T-Bolt Patterson U.S. Title win over The Sheik. Other bouts include Ladies Title Moolah vs Grable, and the International Titles The Crusaders vs The Kangaroos. The card is held 45 years to the day of the first card at MLG
1966 : Still promoting boxing at that time, Tunney gets a highly touted Ali-Terrell bout at MLG, After Terrell backs out Tunney sets up George Chuvalo to fight for the crown. The hometown Chuvalo, a frequent combatant at MLG pushed Ali to a 15 round decision and the bout attains legendary status for Chuvalo
1984 : The first WWF card is held to the surprise (and dismay for some) - of the fans at MLG. After sub-standard NWA shows for the previous months the cards do well and once champ Hulk Hogan shows up a few months later the tide had turned
1981 : Hulk Hogan makes his only appearance in the NWA era. Facing Andre the Giant in a bout that went around the horn, he would not return again until the WWF came in -in 1984
1984 : Buzz 'Mad Dog' Sawyer doesn’t show for a Dog Collar bout with Roddy Piper at MLG. Fans are highly disappointed even though both Piper and sub Kurt Von Hess get bloodied up in the very short bout
1942 : Whipper Watson wins the British Empire Title for the first time defeating Nanjo Singh. He holds the title on and off for the next 25 years
1995 : Last wrestling at card is held at MLG. WWF Champion Diesel pinned Waylon Mercy in the main event which drew 5,500

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bill Longson with Tunney kids 1947

Wild Bill plays with 2 of Frank's kids and Jerry Monaghan Jr. Jerry Sr wrestled and was a part of Tunneys office and matchmaker in Buffalo also. Jerry Sr passed away suddenly just a few months before this photo was taken. Eddie later joined the office in the early 1970's taking care of the books. Frank Jr was a police officer who passed away in 1978.