Monday, October 29, 2018

"The Sheik causes wrestling revival," 1970: Gary Will's TWH

Another Jim Proudfoot column from 1970 (see Hercules Mosca? for the other column). This one was published in the Toronto Star of February 21 and discussed the city's new wrestling boom -- driven by the return of The Sheik.

The Sheik had previously wrestled in Toronto in 1964-65, and had memorable matches against the top two babyfaces in town: Whipper Billy Watson and Johnny Valentine.

He came back four years later in February 1969 and the houses at Maple Leaf Gardens immediately and consistently shot up to 9,000 to 15,000. There had only been one show in 1968 with a reported attendance of 10,000, headlined by Ivan Koloff vs Edouard Carpentier, but with the Sheik on top, that was just an average gate.

The last show of 1969 drew a reported 16,500 to see a Texas death match between Sheik and his arch nemesis, Bobo Brazil. That was followed by three more shows with 15,000 or more in attendance, including the show that was run the day after this column appeared -- with Sheik vs Lord Athol Layton in the main event, with Gene Kiniski as special referee.

Proudfoot mentions that promoter Frank Tunney was hoping that the Sheik would fill the Gardens and set a new Toronto attendance record. That did happen, although not until exactly one year later. On February 21, 1971, more than 18,000 people turned up to see Sheik take on Tiger Jeet Singh.

-by Gary Will