Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Friday, January 26, 2018

Moscamania !

When Jack Tunney aligned with the WWF in 1984 it was the end of NWA at Maple Leaf Gardens.  Jack's uncle Frank had been aligned with the NWA since its very beginnings, hosting the NWA Title and champ at the time Lou Thesz in 1949.

Through the next 35 years or so Frank was an NWA member but also worked with the AWA for a time and frequently had the WWWF/WWF champs in dating back to Bruno in 1964.

By 1986 the WWF was firmly entrenched here as part of its massive national expansion, not just in Toronto but all around Southern Ontario.

Enter Angelo Mosca who had been working with the NWA.

He announced the return of the NWA for a show to be held at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. It was a risky venture but Mosca was the man to do it. With a long history in Hamilton as a Hall of Fame CFL great Mosca announced the show to be dubbed 'Moscamania.'

At the time Mosca 50 years old, now mostly retired from the ring, was busy doing TV ads, and had several different business ventures around town. A few days after the show in Hamilton he was in Toronto doing a TV commercial for Lite beer and said he made 25k in what was his 14th or 15th commercial since he had done the Schick 'Tell it to my face' campaign some years before.

A little bit after the card he was a guest star on the popular 'Night Heat' TV show, in June of that year was elected to the CFL Hall Of Fame, and in Nov 1986 was present when Whipper Watson received an award from the Canadian Children's Foundation, holding up the girl presenting the award, echoing Whipper each year at the Easter Seal 's Dinners. Mosca as usual, was  staying front and centre in the media of the day.

A month prior to the show he had met with CFL commissioner Doug Mitchell to discuss becoming a goodwill ambassador. The reporters later said  that the CFL missed the boat by not using him as he was a born promoter and 'mouthpiece' type in everything he did.

Mosca teamed with former teammate Len Chandler to promote the show with corporate sponsor Amstel Brewery on Feb 2 1986. It was a huge success with over 12,000 fans and a gate of $140,000. A dollar from each ticket went to the Spinal Cord Society and the fans were treated to a great show.

The main event brought Toronto favourite Ric Flair back for the first time since May 1984 to defend his NWA Title against Dusty Rhodes. At that time Flair was a hated heel while Rhodes was fan favourite in the NWA world but the fans here were having none of it. Flair even back in the early 1980's was a favourite here while a heel most other places. Even as a full out heel here in 78-79 the fans were behind him most of the time.

During the Flair-Rhodes bout the fans started cheering Flair so they reversed roles with Rhodes second Baby Doll helping Rhodes by interfering in the bout. Flair took the win to a huge ovation and the card which also featured the Road Warriors, Jimmy Valiant (always hugely popular here), Abdullah The Butcher, Sgt Slaughter and a host of local guys including Mosca's son Angelo Jr. was declared a huge success.

Longtime MLG ring announcer Norm Kimber, recently let go by the Toronto office did the introductions for the night.

At the time Mosca declared he was seeking to become the exclusive promoter at Copps, similar to how the Tunney's had exclusive use of MLG but it was not to happen.

He also owned the syndicated TV rights for the TV show Pro Wrestling Canada which was produced by Milt Avruskin. They showed NWA bouts which were sometimes up to a year old and did voice-overs on the bouts. PWC which ran from May 1986 to Oct 1986 was on the CTV Kitchener affiliate channel 13 locally but that channel wasn't available to most in Toronto.

Mosca later told a reporter that he couldn't get the show on in Toronto and that's what killed it.
Doug Bassett, head of the CTV told him 'it wasn't family oriented television.' At that time they had WWF Championship , International Wrestling from Montreal, and the Maple Leaf WWF show all on the other channels in Toronto. While the WWF was tame the International show was a harder style, a throwback to the 70's style - that Toronto was used to - see 'The Sheik.

The show later appeared for a time on TSN and I'm sure I saw it on CFTO channel 9 in Toronto but it may have been after the show ran it course.

In a Milt Dunnell column he reported "He (Mosca) is president and promoter of Pro Wrestling Canada, with shows on 10 TV stations in the east and two in the west. He stages live shows in Kitchener, Ottawa and Toronto (Varsity Arena), when he is not busy lifting trucks in Chevy commercials.'

He never promoted any show at Varsity Arena nor Ottawa as far as I know. Outside of the Hamilton shows and the one in Kitchener (more on those below) the only other one of record was in Peterborough on Feb 17 with Tully Blanchard vs Barry Windham as the main.

Mosca would present another show in Kitchener on Nov 23rd to feature a main of Nikita Koloff vs Wahoo McDaniel as Moscamania II. This one was a reverse of the first one, several no shows and most of the cast filled out with locals. Only 1.500 showed up but it was not to deter Mosca from staging another Hamilton show in Feb 1987.

Unfortunately he ran it on the same night as big WWF show at MLG featuring Roddy Piper vs Adrian Adonis in a 'retirement bout.' Mosca had Flair vs Nikita Koloff but only drew 3,000 compared to the 17,000 at a packed MLG. On Mosca's show Blanchard battled Rhodes and they reversed roles as well as the fans were booing Dusty again.

There were rumours of bad payouts (heard years later) and that was the end of Mosca's promotional tenure.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Some Ontario Posters

I used to have a bunch of these but gave most away to other fans. These are all Wildman shows except the pink one for MLW in St Catherines 1981.

The one above for Port Elgin is from summer 1977. That one is hanging in our office. It's a good conversation starter. That summer Andre toured Ontario working on both McKigney (Wildman) and Tunney shows.

On the old MLWP site we had about a hundred posters from all through the 1970's. There are a few others on this blog including some MLG just do a search on the right

These are all mostly early '80's (couple mid) except the Napanee which is '76 and the Picton is '77

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Angelo Mosca Jr

Angelo Mosca Jr. gets a lot of heat online, a lot of it based on the few youtube bouts out there, not exactly reflective of his entire ring tenure. Granted he was no Lou Thesz but he wasn't anywhere near the worst wrestler either. The bout vs Ivan Koloff in which Jr. won the Mid-Atlantic Title is particularly hard to watch (a nice dropkick one of the few highlights) but is hardly indicative of his entire wrestling career.

He grew up the son of one of the most famous CFL players in Canadian history who earned his nicknames the hard way. 'Mean & Nasty' was a carry over from his Football days when he was known as the 'meanest man in Football', on and off the field Sr. was a true life 'heel.'

Jr. followed in his fathers footsteps playing football through his teen years. In June 1981 Jr, as a defensive guard was cut at the BC Lions training camp, effectively ending his pro ball dreams. He went on to earn a degree from Concordia University and went into working in the sport and fitness field.

He and his father were close though his parents separated when he was 4 years old but he had seen a lot of his father while growing up. By the time he was old enough to be aware of Sr's name his father's playing days were over. Sr's 'Tell it to my face' campaign for Schick razors earned Jr. some razzing from his fellow schoolmates.
Saving Pop from a beatdown at MLG 1984 

Years later while planning a charity fundraiser (Still Mosca) paying tribute to Sr. and raising funds for Alzheimer research Jr. would admit that he was learning more about his father talking to old friends and teammates in preparation for the event. Jr was helping Sr. film some of his memories including reflecting on friends passed on. 'I'm learning more about him from some of the other people I've been contacting, even when we travelled together and I was wrestling with him you didn't talk about stuff like that. It's just you're on the road. I'm a very quiet introspective guy. We just travelled.'
*credit Greg Oliver  

He would begin training in 1983 alongside Sr. and others for 6 months. Sr, was especially happy about Jr. coming into the profession and was immensely proud of his namesake.

He debuted in wrestling in 1984 at the age of 24 against veteran Ox Baker. Sr. was 47 at the time and winding down his wrestling career.

They would travel together, Jr. admitting that the constant travel was the hardest part. They would work out in the gym together, travel to their bouts then fly back to Charlotte, NC where they were both living at the time, Jr. on his own and Sr. with his then 'very understanding wife' Gwen.

Sr., reflecting on his son's career in 2008 said 'My son's a good guy but he was never cut out for the business. He liked the money. I used to get him up early in the morning to go to the gym and stuff. He'd say, 'Dad, do we have to do this?' I'd say 'The good looking hooker makes the money.'  That's the way I took the business. We were whores. I was a big guy. I had a fair physique on me, and I took care of myself. My son, I don't know if he really wanted to pay that price."
* credit Greg Oliver

Despite the lack of interest Jr. received a big push from the start. He debuted at MLG as a late addition in Apr 1984 in the Canadian Title Tournament to decide a new champion after Angelo Sr. was forced to vacate the title due to injury. He beat Terry Kay and then faced Kabuki in the quarter final. He would win the bout in just 38 seconds (always a couple really short bouts in those tourneys to fit all the matches)  but Kabuki would spray his green mist and Jr. would be out for the remainder, which Koloff eventually won.

Two weeks later he would get the main event teamed with Sr. against Koloff and Kabuki. They would appear together on the cover of the Stranglehold program and get the win. Prior to the bout Jr. told a reporter ' the best thing about wrestling is working with this guy right here,' thumping his father on the thigh. 'I just hope I can pass on a few things to him' replied Sr. The bout ends when Jr' finally tags into to save his Dad from a beat down and pins Kabuki. The villains throw him out of the ring and go to work on Sr with Koloff's chain. Jr. regains the ring and grabs the chain and chases the bad guys away to a huge roar from the crowd. The success would continue through the Carolina's with Jr. seeing success on the Southern circuit as well.

The two would appear on the same cards leading into a June card at MLG which saw Jr. get the win over Koloff and collect the belt his father had previously worn. Only Sr. was present at the next card and Jr's championship glory was to be short lived as it was announced a few days later that Jack Tunney had gone with the WWF and the title was retired (forgotten) with nary a defense.

Jr would show up in Dec 1984 with Toronto now under the WWF banner and appear on TV briefly with Sr. as a short lived announcer for the Hamilton/Brantford TV tapings. One more appearance in Feb 1985 and that was it for Jr.

In 1986 Mosca Sr would attempt to jump start the return of the NWA in Ontario with a big show in Hamilton dubbed 'Moscamania.' Jr. figured prominently on the Poster for the event, depicted just below Jimmy Valiant and Dusty Rhodes. The card did well drawing 12,000 fans with a gate of $140,000 to see a main of NWA champ Ric Flair vs Dusty Rhodes. Jr. teamed with Vic Rossitani against the Kelly Twins. Sr. attempted to create a schedule across the smaller towns and despite a syndicated TV deal but it failed to materialise as promised.

Both father and son would be featured on the popular CTV show Lifetime which ran the same night as a big WWF show at MLG. Sr,  in contrast to Jr was still enjoying the spotlight and would show up in many TV commercials, appear on shows like Night Heat, and was part of several business ventures capitalising on his name.
Finally posing with the Cdn Title
photo courtesy Barry Hatchet

The two would see some action on Dave McKigney's Big Time circuit teaming up to take on Sweet Daddy Siki and Killer Karl Krupp in a small show at the St Lawrence Market in Toronto in March 1986. A short distance but a long way from the bright lights at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Junior would stay on for some of the summer shows and return for MoscaMania II in Kitchener in November. That show was a disappointment drawing just 1,500, most of whom went to see the Road Warriors though Hawk never showed and was replaced by manager Paul Ellering. Jr took on Siki and it was back to the circuit.

The general consensus for those who saw him on the smaller circuit was that he was much improved, smoother in the ring and better adjusted to the pro style.

In Feb 1987 Sr. again ran Hamilton with an NWA show. Jr took on Shaska (aka Pistol Pez) Whatley in the opener and shortly thereafter wrapped up his ring career.

Jr would later work in the Hamilton penal system, mostly with young offenders. and in the recent years would appear with his Dad at a couple of wrestling meet and greets.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Frank Tunney & the Inner Circle 1969

A fascinating photo by Roger Baker featuring the main cogs in the MLW wheel for most of its history.

The occasion was Frank Tunney's 30th anniversary as a promoter (1939-1969) and a gathering in the Hot Stove Lounge at MLG.

Frank is surrounded by his 'inner circle' his trusted group of wrestlers, writers, announcers, promoters, and friends. The total tenure for those in the picture would be somewhere around 340 years of MLW history.

Frank Tunney is covered at -Frank Tunney: The Early Days

There are 3 generations of Ring Announcers, Frank Ayerst (past), Jerry Hiff (present), Norm Kimber (future) spanning from 1950 to 1986.

Frank Ayerst was also Frank's publicist for many years
He was featured at Frank Ayerst

Jerr Hiff was ring announcer from 1955 -1973.

Norm Kimber joined the office as an assistant around 1953  and was ring announcer from 1973 - 1986 in addition to doing publicity chores.

Whipper Watson worked for Frank from 1940 to 1971 but continued to be associated right into the 1980's. He worked as a promoter also for Frank running the outside towns during his career. There is a ton of Whipper around the site.

Behind Frank Tunney is 'Tiger' Tommy Nelson, former wrestler turned promoter who ran some of the outlying towns for Frank. He had accompanied Whipper (and Tiger Tasker below) to England in 1936 and wrestled all over Europe before returning to Toronto.
He was featured at Tiger Tommy Nelson

Behind Nelson is wrestler Paul Diamond who was starring at MLG at the time.

"Lord' Athol Layton wrestled for Frank from 1950 to 1977, refereed for many of those years, and hosted the Toronto ( and others) TV Wrestling show for most of the 1960's and '70's.
We looked at him at Lord Athol Layton

Pat Flanagan wrestled and refereed for Frank from 1941 to 1976. He also worked as a liaison between the Toronto office and the outlying towns, helping to book the wrestlers and other duties.
We looked at him at Pat Flanagan; The Irish Tornado

Fred Atkins, like Flanagan and Layton wrestled, then referred, from 1948 to 1983. He also trained many wrestlers and worked as a manager in the 1960's while still wrestling, his charges including Tiger Jeet Singh, Giant Baba, and Professor Hiro.
He was featured at Fred Atkins: Ferocious Fred

'Tiger' Ken Tasker again a former wrestler turned ref who worked for Frank from the early 1940's to the late 1970's. He was famously along for the ride to England in 1936 with Whipper and Nelson and was one of the main refs for most of his tenure in that capacity.
We looked at Tiger at Tiger Tasker

The gentleman at the far right bottom is ref Cliff Worthy. He was a long time wrestling and boxing referee from the 1930's to the '60's and had been a regular on the amateur scene here, at one time a 'Canadian Champ.'

The portrait above them overlooking the party is ...Frank Tunney
A portrait of Whipper is on the other side of the wall just out of view
The Hot Stove was paying tribute to them as Tunney once had his office where they built the Lounge.

Below is Whipper having some fun with Frank in what was a traditional cake sharing.. There a few photos from different years with Whipper clowning a bit in presenting the cake. You can tell they all loved Frank.
Thanks to Roger Baker for the use of these incredible photos, click to enlarge

Monday, January 15, 2018

Bull Curry 1968

One of the more memorable characters of pro wrestling the incomparable Bull Curry at MLG in 1968. Roger Baker sent me these photos while Bull was appearing here regularly that year mostly teaming with Tiger Jeet Singh.

By the time I started watching Bull was retired but his image persevered and he continued to show up in the mags and in popular culture. His Toronto tenure was short 1968-1973 and when his high flying son Fred came along around 1970 Bull wrestled on the good side of the fence for a while. He even took on The Sheik at the Gardens with Fred making the save after Sheik carved him up during a short bout.

He did wrestle around Ontario a bit dating back to the late 1930's but I don't see him in Toronto though he may have come in in those early days. He did frequent Windsor (I have a OAC licence issued to him in 1937) as the Detroit promotions were active on our side of the border dating back to the beginnings of pro wrestling.

In his first bout in '68 teamed with Dutch Momberg against Whipper Watson and Bulldog Brower he was described as a 'newcomer to the local scene'. Indeed he was (apparently) but at 10 days past his 55th birthday.

In that bout he left no doubt to his legend when he hit Whipper with he chair announcer Jerry Hiff normally sat in and then attempted to strangle Whip with the cord the ring hammer (for the bell) was attached to. He was finally disqualified when he attacked ref Joe Gollob. OAC commissioner Merv McKenzie, present at the festivities fined Curry 200$ for his actions (not for trying to kill Whipper, that's allowed, but for hitting the ref, that's not allowed).

His last bout in Toronto was in July 1973 against another long timer Ivan Kalmikoff.
Thanks to Roger Baker for the great photos , click to enlarge, that's Al'Bunny' Dunlop in the 2nd photo

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Lord Layton, Tiger Jeet & Fred Atkins 1967-68

Unless you were a fan in the 1950's you would likely know Athol Layton as a TV commentator, both here and in Detroit and Cleveland.  He was still wrestling into the mid 1970's but not as a full time star and past his prime as a star here decades prior.

When he fist hit Toronto he was quite a presence, tall and strong - and hated! - and he would go on to become one of the biggest stars of the '50's and later one of Tunney's inner circle alongside former stars Whipper, Flanagan, and Fred Atkins.

Here is a great Roger Baker shot of Layton interviewing Atkins and his young charge Tiger Jeet Singh circa 1967-68 for our TV show out of Hamilton.

Fred trained Tiger Jeet and teamed with him quite a bit before he went on to become the long time ref at MLG. Layton left in the mid 70's and went on to work for Bacardi here but still maintained ties with Tunney and wrestling.

Roger told me he gave a copy of this photo to Tiger Jeet some years ago and that he was very moved by the photo in remembering his mentor Atkins. Roger was seated above the ring for this shot as the interviews were taking place out of view of the studio audience. Thank you Roger !

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Frank Ayerst

Frank Ayerst is an interesting name from Toronto's wrestling history. He was the epitome of the writer types that Tunney kept close to the office and eventually went to work for Tunney as his publicist.

Ayerst had been the secretary for MLG's Marlboro's Athletic Organization when it was formed in 1937 and worked closely with Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe. For a couple of years at the onset of the 1940's he had also worked at MLG tracking goals and assists during Leafs games.

He had written writeups in the programs of the wrestlers of the day as early as 1935. In the 1940's in his role as a sports writer for the Star, he would report the occasional wrestling results before joining the office in 1947. At the turn of the 1950's he would variously be referred to as Tunneys 'poll-taker', and the 'voice of Wrestling HQ' and would stay with Frank for 17 years.

After long time ring announcer Bill Smith passed on in 1950 Ayerst would take over from 1950-1955. Later in the decade his weekly columns with bits about the  upcoming cards (mostly for the purpose of advertising the card) including snippets from the wrestlers and other info were a regular entry on the sports pages.

He would also contribute to the wrestling programs during the early to mid 1960's. One of the pages was 'Grappling Gossip' written by Frank but sometimes credited to 'Matt Wise'. Would include 'real' info about the wrestlers and tidbits such as their hobbies or interests, family life, or recent trips and bouts elsewhere.

I asked MLG Photog and writer Roger Baker for his recollections of Frank

"Yes I do remember Frank Ayerst from a period if correct in the early 1960's, saw him in the back of Tunney's office occasionally when I would be picking up my own working pass."

"About all that I can remember of him was his immaculate personal grooming, all ways wore a dark well made suit of clothes, he looked very sharp in the ring when he was announcing the matches, and the columns that he wrote for the Toronto news papers were well done, and often left readers with interesting pieces of information on the wrestler's that he did his column on."

He looks to have left the office around 1964 and later worked for the Provincial Department of Tourism.

He passed away in Dec 1984. If you can add info on Frank please comment or contact me

Couple of original columns from the scrapbooks 1956, and below 1959. click to enlarge
Thanks to Roger Baker