Friday, May 25, 2018

Whipper, Pat, Bunny 1943



Three of the longest serving of the MLW regulars pictured in 1943. Just counting their service under Corcoran and Tunney, over 100 years combined.

  • Al 'Bunny' Dunlop wrestled from about 1932 and then refereed through to 1971 - 39 years
  • Whipper Watson wrestled 1940-1971 and around occasionally to late 1970s - 31+ years
  • Pat Flanagan wrestled 1942 to 1968 and referred to about 1978 - 36 years

This show, just over 75 years ago this May,  was for the 'Fresh Air Fund' which helps kids get out of the city in the summer and enjoy some country life, still going strong today.



Pedro Martinez took on Ed 'Strangler' Lewis. He didn't 'murder the Strangler' but went down to a headlock then body press in losing the bout. Martinez was a regular here before he branched out and promoted Buffalo. The whole Toronto crew were frequent visitors to Buffalo.

May 13 1943 Maple Leaf Gardens 
The Red Shadow pinned Whipper Watson 39:09
Ed 'Strangler' Lewis pinned Pedro Martinez 8:27 
Fank Sexton defeated Jack Claybourne  15:02
Al 'Bunny' Dunlop beat Jack Wentworth 16:53
Pat Flanagan pinned Jan Gotch 16:16 
Referee: Ernie Powers

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Waldo Von Erich: Holland Marsh's gift to the wrestling fraternity

1965 Maple Leaf Gardens in front of 'the wall'

Over the course of his career Wally Sieber aka Waldo Von Erich used about 10 different names before making it big as 'Waldo Von Erich' wrestling brother of Fritz. His early career is mostly unknown or forgotten but he was a big 'star' on Red Garner's Toronto area circuit from 1950 through 1957. He learned the ropes alongside other Garner regulars who went on to bigger things including early training partner Jacques Dubois (Dave McKigney), Mike Scicluna (later Valentino/Baron Scicluna), Ron Doner, and Ron 'Bull' Johnson.

1951
He appeared on a Garner Weston Arena card in November 1950 described as a crowd pleaser from Stuttgart, Germany. He shows up on more Weston arena cards through 1951 including the ad at right vs Gori 'Ed' Mangotich. Gori was a Toronto native and big star overseas who worked on Garner cards for many years.

 In July 1951 they played up his 'debut as a pro wrestler' in his hometown. At 200lbs in the Arena in the town of Bradford (within the Holland Marsh) billed as Baron Von Sieber- hometown boy he would spend the next 6-7 years wrestling for the Richmond Hill, ON based Central Canadian Wrestling Association (CCWA).

Right from the start they would play to his family heritage with the Baron part but in write-ups often just 'Wally Sieber -Holland Marsh's gift to the wrestling fraternity.'

He would hold the CCWA's Canadian heavyweight  title for a time and hone his craft on the competitive and fast paced circuit before the big league came calling.

1954
In 1954 he was named as one of Canada's most promising wrestlers by Barry Lloyd Penhale in 'Wrestling As You Like It' magazine. He was named alongside Frank 'Scotty' Thompson, Ferenz (Jimmy) Sziksay, Bill Curry (Kasaboski star), Stan Holek (aka Stan Lisowski/Nielson), Tony Baillargeon, Sandy Scott, and Maurice 'Mad Dog' Vachon

In September 1957 he would appear on a Tunney associated card in Bradford (likely promoted by Tommy Nelson) in what was called his 'debut for the MLW troupe.' Now the 'German Oak' he would face tough Tiger Tasker and a month later he would walk the ramp at Maple Leaf Gardens to take on Dick Hutton. This was during Hutton's $1000 challenge and Seiber would fall, as many others had, to Hutton's abdominal stretch.

An added note to that 1957 Bradford card was that Fritz Von Erich was teamed with Dick Hutton vs The Fabulous Kangeroos. Fritz was a top heel here then and he and Wally would appear on many of the same cards over the next year.

Even at MLG his name continued to change, sometimes Baron Von Sieber, other times Waldo Von Sieber then sometimes just Wally or even Walter. The 'Von Erich' brotherhood would happen away from Toronto and when Wally returned in November 1964 as Waldo Von Erich, Fritz was long gone from here. The Von Erich 'brothers' would never team in this area though Waldo would remain Fritz's 'brother' in the stories in the mags up to the late 1970's and beyond.

Close up at MLG 

Roger Baker, whose photos are featured here remembers meeting Waldo during his time both as a fan in the early days and later as a wrestling photog and writer.

'This wrestling reporter can go all the way back to around 1955 when I first met Wally Sieber, it was the summer time, and the place was ''Sunny Side Beach'' we were both in our late teens, I recognized Wally as soon as saw him, he was tall, very muscular, and he may have had blond hair. 

Wally was with a buddy, and they were both having a great time by the huge swimming pool that was the hallmark of the beach area, we chatted for a while, and he told me that he appreciated when he was recognized out side of a wrestling ring, he was looking forward to his future as a wrestler  

Over the ensuing years we met on several more occasions, we met at a summer dance hall in Jacksons point, at a wrestling event in Detroit's Cobo Hall, as well an event at Buffalo's War Memorial Auditorium. As well Wally and The Fabulous Kangaroos Al Costello and Roy Saint Clair, and myself had a great dinning experience in a Lebanese restaurant in Detroit.

And there was the time when Wally literally got his hands on me, this happened in a dressing room at M.L.G. it was if memory serves me correct around 1964. I had popped in to see who was there, in the hopes of getting some dressing room candids. This can be tricky, as with anyone if you don't ask first it can result in a nasty incident, however Wally was in the room at the time and we got to talking about injuries from wrestling, as well as other sports.

There was a large adjustment table in the room, some of the other wrestlers who were there used the bench for abdominal crunches to warm up ahead of their up coming match. I mentioned to Wally that I had been in discomfort from a very stiff neck at the time. He offered to adjust my neck on the bench, so with some trepidation I got on the bench on my back and without the benefit of any pre-adjustment  loosening up, he applied what was best described as a full nelson on me, followed by a quite forceful backwards pull. I motioned to him that 'I give up' and he released me and told me I should feel better after a while.

While all this had been going on, little did I know that the boss himself, Frank Tunney, had come into the room while I was on the bench. Being some what embarrassed at the time I said hello to Tunney, who gave me a quizzical look. I got to be man handled by a 245lb. brute of a wrestler, and live to talk about it. '

MLG 1965 vs Bruno 

Waldo would earn his first major title bout locally in 1964 against WWWF champ Bruno Sammartino. He would face Bruno twice in 1965 and again in 1976 at MLG. Those two would battle all over WWWF proper over the years, Waldo the perfect ethnic monster heel type they would match up against Bruno.

In 1965 Waldo would team with Gene Kiniski. Big Gene had previously teamed with Fritz here in 1957 creating a monster tag that caused havoc all over the area. The new tag of Waldo and Gene would feud with Whipper Watson and Johnny Valentine.

He would take an extended absence through the early 1970's as he traveled the world before returning here to appear both at MLG and the outer circuit alongside the WWA/McKigney stars. As well in those days the 'Lake circuit' that included Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit, had a busy schedule for our local guys.

He stayed a regular here though Mar 4 1979 when he wrestled his last bout at the Gardens against Johnny Yachetti (The Beast)

I also met Waldo some years back and he was a very nice and gracious guy, not at all like his wrestling persona. The pic below by Roger taken in the Buffalo dressing room reflects that.

Photos- and thanks! - to Roger Baker

For more on the CCWA do a search at right or click on tags including Red Garner, CCWA, etc

Pensive in Buffalo 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Ted McKinley



As an addition to the post on the vibrant amateur scene in Toronto in the 1930's we will take a look at one Ted McKinley, a major presence in the amateur and pro ranks in the 1930's and 1940's.

Ted first shows up in 1931 wrestling as a Senior in the University of Toronto Inter-Faculty championships. He is listed as 'former intercollegiate wrestler, careful but quick to seize an advantage, good style at 125lbs.'

Over the next couple of years he is busy on the various cards held around Toronto, many that are run by Phil Lawson, noted amateur who later trained and managed Whipper Watson. Some of these touneys were held at the Mutual St Arena, where Ivan Mickailoff ran his pro cards. On many of those cards was Cliff Worthy in the heavyweight division, he would go on to a long tenure as a pro ref for Jack Corcroan and later Frank Tunney.

In July 1934 trials were held in Montreal for the upcoming British Empire Games to be held in England. Along with McKinley and Lawson as trainer for the wrestlers, they were accompanied by Ben Engbloom and Terry Evans

On July 20 they would all leave for England along with fellow wrestlers Pat Meehan, Joe Scleimer, Howard Thomas, Alex Watt, and Robert McNabb. A note in the Star mentions that as the families saw their loved ones off a '5 year old Arthur McKinley wept at the prospect of not seeing his uncle Ted, wrestling champion at 123 lbs.'

As of Aug 9 it was reported that the Canadians had won all 5 of their preliminary bouts at the Games.

All were said to be defending title won in Hamilton in 1930 though Ted would likely not have competed in those. Earl McCready had won Gold in the Heavyweight division in Hamilton, his last before turning pro.

It would prove to be a very successful games for the Canadians. Ted would win Silver in the Bantamweight division and the other 5 would all win medals as well. Final take was 3 Gold, 2 Silver, and 2 Bronze.

Upon return a card was held at the Central YMCA on Nov 7 featuring McKinley, Terry Evans, Joe Schleimer all receiving honor medals as Dominion champs. Another noted star Jimmy Allen would also appear though he doesn't show on the 1934 Games.

On May 3 1935 the Central Ontario Amateur Championships were held in Toronto, said to have a bearing on the 1936 Summer Olympics. McKinley at 123lbs won his first round bout.

At 174lbs Winnett Watson (later aka Pat Flanagan) won his bout as did Engbloom and Evans.Terry Evans actually won 3 championships, the Middle, Light, and Heavy (weight) divisions working above his weight. A week later Evans would win the 175lb YMCA International title in Pittsburgh against contestants from YMCA's around North America.

In Oct 1935 McKinley appeared on a card in Bowmanville vs The Red Devil. Lawson took on Dick Bishop while a young Bill Potts took on Soldier Crisp. Potts, of course would become Whipper Watson. These cards appear to be in the pro style but technically 'amateur cards' perhaps to get around the licenses and such and also to present it as 'real' and with the lighter talent that were not able to go up against the heavyweight pros.

In March 1936 McKinley won at 123lbs in a 2 day City Championships. In the final at 174lbs Terry Evans won over Watson (Flanagan) and the heavyweight final was Cliff Worthy over Ken Tasker (pre 'Tiger' days and both future MLG refs)

In June 1936 they began an elimination process with 44 top grapplers to determine who will represent central Ontario at the final Olympic trials in Montreal. They opened it up to allow anyone from any corner of the province and irrelevant of experience to enter to make sure they had the top tier. McKinley would make it and go to Montreal where he placed in the final four.

At the Olympics held in Berlin only Joe Schleimer won a medal, a bronze in Welterweight. Terry Evans was defeated and unsure at this point if McKinley made the trip and lost in his division.

In the months after the Olympics he would be called the 'Canadian Lightweight Champ' though it's hard to decipher as there were many different regional 'Canadian Titles' and many tourneys held across the country through these years.

In October 1937 Ted wrestled on a benefit card held at Mutual St Arena in support of Red Garner who had suffered a dislocation of a neck vertebrae in a previous bout. The main event that night was McKinley vs Ernie Hughson with others appearing included Sam Gotter, Eric Lake, Tim Timoskym and Earl Grant.

Gotter would also go on to be a long time MLG ref while Red Garner would promote his own shows North of the city for many years. Red was a lighter guy himself and would feature many of the former amateur stars on his pro cards in the '40's and '50's under the 'middleweight' banner.

Meanwhile Ted would continue to wrestle on the Coronation Club cards at Mutual St which featured a mix of talent and were promoted under the auspices of amateur style.

1947 Oshawa 
In the summer of 1939 Ted would travel to Montreal earning a win and a draw in a big amateur tournament. He would leave the scene for some years at this point when he joined the Army as part of the war effort, as several of the other wrestlers did.

He re-appeared on the scene in May 1947 in Oshawa, ON where he appears to have been promoting alongside Pat Farrell and Jimmy 'Ziggy' Szizksay. Jim Allen, Ernie Hughson, Red Garner, Harvey Stanfield were all there helping out. This is just prior to Pat Milosh taking over in August '47.

Ted would also show up on Al 'Bunny' Dunlop's pro cards held at Oakwood Stadium in the summer of '47. Dunlop, who had Tunney's blessings (Dunlop ran Tuesday while Tunney's cards were on Thursdays) would try his hand at promoting but it wouldn't pan out and he was soon back working on the Tunney shows. Alongside McKinley on these cards were pros Billy Stack, Sandor Kovacs, and Szikszay, as well as several other lightweight types that Ted would wrestle or team with.

He would wrestle less in the next few years, the last I note is 1954 on a Red Garner show at Lakeshore Arena taking on 'Tall' Tom Sullivan, one of Red's trainees

Lots of gaps in Ted's story , if you can add please contact me


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

'Wild Bill' Potts ! 1936 and the Amateur scene



So last entry was on Wild Bill Zim the colorful wrestler who worked around Ontario in the 1940's and '50s, this time we find none other than Wild Bill Potts. This is the only time I have seen that nickname for our future 'Whipper Watson.'

Young Bill had been wrestling around the area, starting on trainer Phil Lawson's frequent amateur meets and tournaments in Toronto and across Southern Ontario.  By 1935 Bill would start to move into the pro side of the sport. At that time there appears to be some grey area between the amateur and pro ranks. In addition to the strictly amateur contests some of the pro cards had the amateurs who would 'wrestle' but add some of the 'entertainment' aspects to the show.

We have featured Edwin 'Red' Garner on the site and here on the blog and his long running promotion around the north of Toronto. He was a standout amateur and would feature many of the amateur stars of that era on his shows, usually promoted as lightweights.

Many of the amateurs of the 1920's and 30s would go on to long careers both as wrestlers and referees. Jack Forbes, Cliff Worthy, Bert 'The Little Flower of Uxbridge' Maxwell, Al 'Krusher' Korman, Sam Gotter, Winnett (Pat Flanagan) Watson,  and Ken 'Tiger' Tasker were all notable amateurs on the Toronto scene first.

Some others that would go pro but were too light for the most part to work on the MLG cards would work on the many cards in around Toronto that featured the lightweights or pegged as middleweights. Jim Allen, Ernie Hughson, Harvey Stanfield, and Ted McKinley were some of those that were very successful in the amateur circles. McKinley is the reason I dug up this ad as I am working on a look at his career.

Which takes us back to "Wild Bill' Potts. The Wild Bill moniker went back many years and quite a few pro wrestlers used it, most notably Bill Longson, whom in 1947 (the then) Whipper Watson would beat for the NWA (Association) World Title. The fellow pictured could be any of the participants, it does look a bit like young Whipper. The others I don't have early photos of them to compare. Ted McKinley's grandson contacted me and we are awaiting to see if a photo of Ted can be found. Bert Maxwell, pre horticulturist days, is at that time 'Mighty' Maxwell and 'Krusher' Al is still just 'Al.'

The clip from Richmond Hill is May 25 1936 and below that just a regular 'Bill Potts' in Bowmanville Oct 18 1935. The Bowmanville is a strictly amateur show.