Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Norm Kimber: Announcer Extraordinaire


For fans of the M-A era and into the last years of the NWA days here, memories of Norm Kimber would rate high when recalling wrestling in the city. He was the 'voice' at MLG, usually very serious and business-like but often looking to be holding back a smile while surrounded by the craziness of the ring.

Always well dressed in a suit, tux, or occasionally a sports coat with sweater underneath, he brought an air of sophistication to the proceedings. He introduced the wrestlers and promoted the next big show at MLG while also manning the ring bell at the little table beside the ring.

By the time we knew him as Norm Kimber the ring announcer, he had already put in many years in the office. First as a 'man-friday' type and then taking over the publicity chores before taking over the ringside duties, apparently 38 years in total.

He was in the office at the height of the 1950's revival of pro wrestling. Possibly as early as 1948 when Norm was just 17-18 years old. He had been working as a copy/messenger boy at the Toronto Star when writer Joe Perlove introduced him to Frank Tunney.

He later said 'It was wonderful for me, because I had been a sports fan all my life.' Of Frank he said he was the 'easiest going guy you ever wanted to meet, respected by everyone in sports. He always had a cigar in his mouth, and even when he quit smoking I think he kept a rubber one there.'

At that time the office was busy with boxing people, reporters, and the wrestlers that were part of the inner circle that worked with Tunney through those years. Along with publicity man Frank Ayerst and Kimber there were 'Deacon' Allen, Phil Lisner, Tommy Nelson, and the various scribes who frequented the office as well as Frank's nephew John (Jack) who came in soon after.

He took over the ring announcing duties in 1973 replacing long-time announcer Jerry Hiff. He would stay in that capacity through 1986 until he left for Angelo Mosca's short lived NWA promotion based out of Hamilton. Occasionally he would be replaced by Jack Tunney but for the most part he didn't miss many cards through that 13 year period

He looks to have been the office liaison in the later days with the papers as far as the ads and results for the shows went . From the 1930's through the 1950's the wrestling coverage in the papers was plentiful. That tailed off in the 1960's after Frank Ayerst moved on and Tunney's office was considerably smaller than in those early days.

By the time of our era you were hard pressed to find more than the ad and results placed around the by-then twice monthly shows. There were some features in the papers but written by their reporters. Some listings in the dying days of the promotion said 'by Norm Kimber' but otherwise there wasn't much in the publicity side by the early 1980's.

If you went to Tunney's office, by then across from the Gardens, it was down to Frank and Jack mostly. Kimber and others who worked for Tunney seemed to be somewhat 'game night' types only.

In 1986 he was fired by Jack Tunney. As per Norm 'There was no warning, no remuneration, no holiday pay, no nothing.' He assisted Mosca on the promotion side too though it's not clear how involved he was with 'Pro Wrestling Canada.'

Not as much known about Norm as should be, if you can add to the story of Norm Kimber please contact me.