Monday, October 1, 2018

Whipper Billy Watson vs Gorgeous George, March 12, 1959: Gary Will's TWH


It may be the most famous match in Toronto that didn't involve a world title switch. On March 12, 1959 Whipper Billy Watson defeated Gorgeous George in a match where the stipulations were that Watson would retire if he lost and George would have his head shaved if he was defeated. It was a no-curfew, there-must-be-a-winner match, so promoter Frank Tunney had just about guaranteed the fans that one of the stipulations would be carried out. And it was.

George had just turned 44 the previous month, but he was an old 44 and his hall-of-fame career was clearly on the downswing. He had made his first appearance in Toronto in 1948 and wrestled Watson at Maple Leaf Gardens that year and again in 1956. Watson had won both of the previous matches and this would be their third meeting in Toronto.

The stipulations were only announced five days before the match. On February 26, George had made his first appearance in Toronto in three years, defeating a clean-cut youngster named Wally Sieber who was being groomed as the next Whipper Billy Watson (it didn't last long; he soon left town and went back to his earlier evil German gimmick and became known world-wide as Waldo Von Erich). Watson himself had been away for nearly three months, and came back on the same show to wrestle Gene Kiniski in the main event. The show drew 12,000 fans.

Neither Watson nor George appeared on the next Toronto show on March 5, but a couple of days after that card, it was announced that they would meet each other in a hair vs career match on the 12th.

It drew 14,000 fans, which was the largest attendance for any Toronto show that year. The end came with George in Watson's sleeper, the Canuck Commando Unconscious, and Kiniski running into the ring to attack Watson, earning Whipper a DQ win. A parade of babyfaces -- Sieber, Pat Flanagan, Ilio DiPaolo and Mike Valentino (the future Baron Mikel Scicluna) -- raced in from the dressing room to save Watson and after chasing off Kiniski, they helped referee Joe Gollob keep George still while Gardens barber George Hansen did the honours. George's valet (and real-life wife), Cherie, caught the hair in a towel as it was shaved off.

A shorn George was back two weeks later for a rematch against Watson, which Whipper again won. Watson had put up his hair in that match, which drew 12,000. George then wrestled in a couple of main event tag matches partnered with Kiniski.

George came back to Toronto two years later and drew 5,000 fans for a main event against Watson, which was a good number at that time. In May 1961, George lost again to Watson in a match where Cherie's hair was at stake. It drew 8,000. A few pieces of hair were cut off, but then the chivalrous Watson told the barber to stop. There was one rematch between the two the following week, and that was the last time George wrestled in Toronto.

In November 1962, George lost his hair again -- this time to The Destroyer in Los Angeles.