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 it's history

The occasion was Frank Tunney's 30th aniversary 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 the men pictured (aside from Diamond) would be somewhere around 340 years of MLW history in this photo.

Frank Tunney was covered on the main site 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 in a previous blog post MLW Blog: 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 all 3 MLW sites.

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.
He was featured on the main site at 'Tiger' Tom 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, referreed 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 on the main site at Lord Athol Layton

Pat Flanagan (the original Watson - Winnet) wrestled and refereed for Frank from 1941 to 1976. He also worked as a liason between the Toronto office and the outlying towns, helping to book the wrestlers and other duties.
We looked at him on the main site 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 on the main site 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 in a previous blog post MLW Blog: 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.'

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

Below is after Whipper had some fun with 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

Will be working on a longer length piece on Athol Layton for the main site. Unless you were a fan in the 1950's you would likely know 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 !

Watch the main site for the Layton feature, we looked at Fred Atkins previously at
 Fred Atkins : Ferocious Fred

click on photo to enlarge


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Apr 25 1982 NWA & AWA Titles

One of the big cards of the M-A era featuring both the NWA and AWA Titles on the line.

This was the the only time both titles were defended on the same card. Back in 1979 it was scheduled (NWA Harley Race vs Ricky Steamboat, AWA Bockwinkel vs Dino Bravo) but Race didn't make it in.

The AWA and WWWF title had shared the card several times in the late '70s and it was always a big night when any of the major feds Champs came in.

It made for a must see card with over 11,000 in attendance and it wouldn't disappoint.

Ric Flair would return to defend his NWA title against former
Champ goes alone
champ Race in the third of their six bouts here. As always with these two it was a tough battle with action in and around the ring and on the ramp.

Flair was still a huge fan favourite here with the crowd solidly behind every strut and whoooo!

The champ would be covered in blood as usual and both grapplers would be disqualified after about 20 minutes for ignoring the ref (a young Bill Alphonso).

The fight went on until Johnny Weaver and Ron Ritchie came out to hold Flair back from chasing Race down the ramp.

There are photos from that bout on the main site at MLWP : Ric Flair vs Harley Race 1982
Beatdown


AWA champ Bockwinkel (sans Heenan) would keep Mosca down on the canvas at the start with his vast array of holds. Once Mosca got mobile he would gain the advantage using his usual brawling style and batter the AWA Title holder from turnbuckle to turnbuckle.


Just when it looked like Mosca may be adding to his title belt collection Mosca's arch enemy John Studd charged the ring and interfered on behalf of Bockwinkel and the two battered Mosca before Mosca turned the tables and chased them from the ring..

The ref would award the match to Mosca but no title.
Thats 2!
They would book a return the following card
with Bockwinkel and Studd facing Mosca and Jake Roberts.

In another good bout Jay Youngblood beat The Ninja in an Indian Strap match, Youngblood dragging Ninja to all 4 corners and earning a spot of revenge for a 'green misting' in a previous bout.

The fans called out 1, 2, 3, ........took a while to get the 4th but Youngblood finally hit that 4th turnbuckle and the Gardens erupted/
Norm hated that boom-box!

Don Kernodle and Ivan Koloff beat Jimmy Valiant and Porkchop Cash while Studd beat Ron Richie, Johnny Weaver pinned Pvt Nelson, and ....

Tony Parisi and Ray Stevens went to an excellent scientific draw in one of the best openers ever. Stevens had recently turned good guy and he and Parisi showed all of their years of experience with holds after counter holds. The bout ended in a draw and the fans loudly cheered the two veterans. Great way to open a big card!

Click on photos to enlarge

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.

Through the '40'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. In the early to mid 1960's programs 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