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.