Sunday, April 29, 2018

Masked Men in Toronto - Part 1

1938
Masked wrestlers have been around since the beginning of pro wrestling and Toronto had it's fair share of them (plus a couple of masked managers) over the years.

Sometimes the fans knew or had a good idea who was under the mask. In Toronto more often than not the fans would find out after they had lost their masks in the ring at Maple Leaf Gardens.

We will take a general look at some of the masked wrestlers who were unmasked - and some that weren't - and the men who unmasked them over the 50 years. Not a definitive listing as there were likely 100's of different masked persona's around the region.
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One of the first of note to be unmasked was 'The Unknown' in 1936. Billed as a 'masked mystery man of the sport' he would lose his mask to reveal Jim McMillen. Hal Rumberg unmasked McMillen who was a noted ex footballer that played for the Bears before a successful wrestling career

The 'Masked Marvel' is probably one of the earliest and plentiful masked gimmicks. We had a few at different times both at Maple Leaf Gardens and the many towns on the circuits around Ontario.

Whipper trying to unmask Marvel 1949
Jack Dempsey looks on 
First on the scene in 1932 a Masked Marvel was said to be a different person than the one who had been unmasked in New York as Mike Romano. Promoter Jack Corcoran claimed ours was a 24 year old youngster who did not want to reveal his identity until 'he makes good.'

He never did (reveal his identity) but it was said to be Al Getzewich/Al Getz who was unmasked later that year in Ottawa by Ed 'Strangler' Lewis. Getzewich was born in 1907 making him around 24 years old in 1932 and wrestled around the area under his own name in the early 1940's.
            
Another Marvel in 1938 was our World Champion (Toronto version) for a time. He lost the title and was unmasked to uncover Ted Cox. Also known as 'King Kong' Cox he would wrestle as the Masked Marvel in other areas and lose the mask several times in other cities.

Cox was unmasked here by Mayes McClain. Mayes was another ex footballer who turned to wrestling and had a long and successful career across North America. Mayes held the World title for a couple of months before losing it back to Cox, who may be the only man to hold a World Title both masked and unmasked.

At the time of Marvel/Cox in 1938 promoter Jack Corcoran entered a dog in the Toronto Star's 'Dog Derby. 'The Masked Marvel II' with a photo in the paper of a masked dog and his 'Masked Manager' presumed to be Corcoran with his ever present pipe in his mouth. The dog had his own pipe.

Cox had his own 'Masked Manager' as well. In a rematch with McClain after losing the title the manager was to unmask if Cox had lost to McClain. The Masked Manager routine would resurface later.

In 1949 our British Empire champion Whipper Watson would meet another Marvel in a series and eventually unmask him to reveal Lew Reynheer. The bout had been advertised as a with a clause that Whipper would retire if he lost. Former World champ Strangler Lewis was the special referee for the unmasking bout. Jack Dempsey had refereed an earlier bout which is pictured here.

When Whipper unmasked Lew, he was said to be the 'original' Masked Marvel, obviously not the first Marvel to appear here and he would not be the last.

By 1951 another Marvel was on the scene (sometimes billed as 'The Mask/Mask') and he also had a 'Masked Manager.' They would have an all masked series with another masked man 'The Zebra.'

The Masked Manager would lose his mask to Watson who beat him in Feb 1951 to reveal non other than -Mayes McClain. It went full circle since the 1930's with McClain now being the unmasked. McClain would hang around for a bit as the 'Unmasked Manager.'

Thesz stares down Hefner after unmasking him
Ref 'Bunny' Dunlop looks on  
Soon it was Marvel's turn and it would be the masked Zebra that would claim the mask revealing 'Shoulders' Lou Newman. 'Shoulders' also worked as a masked Mr X elsewhere in his career.

The Zebra, sometimes billed as 'Zebra Kid'  would get his due when he faced Whipper in a feud that would see Whipper collect another mask. Boxing champ Jack Dempsey served as a special referee and would help Watson forcibly remove the mask after a double count-out at MLG. Under that one was George Bollas who would hang around a bit as 'George Bollas' or sometimes 'the unmasked Zebra.'

Bollas was famous all over the wrestling world both here and overseas as the Zebra/Zebra Kid. In late 1951 after being unmasked he attempted to re-don the mask for a bout in Niagara Falls but was ordered by promoter Sam Sobel to remove it before wrestling.

In those years there were a bunch of other masked wrestlers, some who got unmasked, among them Red Shadow (Leo Numa), Masked Wolf (John Grandovich), The Czar (Dick Lever), The Mummy (Pedro Martinez), and the simple Mr X (none other than Earl McCready). Both the Mummy and Mr X were actually unmasked by the masked Marvel/Lew Reynheer.

Yet another Masked Marvel came along in 1952 and was unmasked to reveal Frank Valois. The man who unmasked him? Another masked wrestler named Red Mask.                 

By 1953 there were several Red Mask's active both on the major MLG circuit and on the smaller independent shows in and around Toronto. The MLG one got a shot at NWA champ Lou Thesz who unmasked him to reveal Dutch Hefner. There was even a Red Mask on the small auto racing circuit here taking advantage of the Red Mask angles on the various shows at the time.

Others active on the circuit from the 1930's to the 1950's included Purple Mask (said to be 'Wild' Bill Longson) , The Red Demon (unmasked in Oshawa in 1947 as 'Red' O'Malley), another Unknown (unmasked in Oshawa in 1950 as Hamiltonian Abe Zvonkin), Red Devil, The Hooded Mask, more Masked Marvels, and several Mr X's .

In 1955 a Mr X was wrestling in Red Garner's Richmond Hill/Thornhill (just North of Toronto) based CCWA. One bout offered the fans a chance to predict who was under the mask (if he lost) to win $10 and a season pass to the wrestling events held at the Thornhill Market that year. He kept it but lost it in a later bout to reveal Harry Szaley.

Pat Flanagan vs The Zebra
in Oshawa 1951
The Great Bolo was another that saw action in many areas. We had one in 1959 unmasked by Whipper Watson to reveal Al Lovelock. The most well known of the 'Bolo's' Lovelock would work the  gimmick all over the territories during his career. There were other Bolo's around the region too in that era.

Whipper made a career out of collecting masks. In addition to the ones already mentioned he would continue to add to the collection right into the 1960's. We will look at those and others up to the 1980's in Part 2 of our look at masked men in Toronto.
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Thanks to Roger Baker and Gary Will