Monday, November 19, 2018

Memories of Toronto with Roger Baker

We are very fortunate to have Roger Baker contributing his vast knowledge and memories of Toronto wrestling to this site. This time, collecting photos and meeting Don Leo! 

Don Leo vs Whipper 1960 

Having been a wrestling fan since the age of 12, I always was thrilled to come into the possession of wrestling photos, be they action or posed.

While on this subject, for the past prior years I'd been buying wonderful wrestling action 8/10 photos from two wonderful sources, Michael Burns, and Nat Turofsky, the premier sports photographers of professional wrestling at MLG. As a result I had built a good selection of wrestling photos.

I remember this day so well, it was in the year 1961, I had been down town on King St. visiting Turofsky's establishment to pick up my latest batch of photos, they were very accommodating to me, and I felt privileged to be left alone with their negative files to pick and choose what I wanted them to print for me.

About an hour later i was parked in the St. Clair and Bathurst  area, i was driving a very compact Bedford van, my newly purchased photos right beside me, I happened to glance to my right and almost did a double take,who do I see, none other than one of the top wrestlers appearing at MLG at this time ''Don Leo Jonathon.''

I yelled and waved, and caught the big mans eye, I motioned for him to climb into the van, that I had something to show him, the big man had to hunch over in the van as the cab was so tight. I remember telling Don Leo I just picked up a number of wrestling photos that were taken at  MLG. and that he will get a surprise when he looks them over, he was downright pleased when he saw that several of the photos were of himself battling with the Whipper.

We had a great conversation, and he was very obliging in answering many of my questions, I asked him how he was able to balance himself on the top ropes of the ring and walk the length while dragging his opponent by the hand, his answer was that he was blessed with good strength and balance. And speaking of strength, I saw Don Leo body slam Eric Pomeroy, better remembered as Stanley Pulaski 15 consecutive times on a ring in Buffalo N.Y.

We both had places to go, and things to do, I let him know how pleased I was to have met him personally, and we shook hands,and he told me that he appreciated having the opportunity to see those great photos that I had with me.


Top drawing matches, year-by-year, 1929-1974: Gary Will's TWH

These are the main events of the cards reported to have been the largest draw each year from 1929 to 1977. There are two problems with this list 1) not all cards had an attendance figure reported and 2) the reported numbers weren't always accurate.

I think it's likely that the biggest crowd of the year would be mentioned, so if there was no attendance reported, it was likely not the biggest draw of the year. But there's no guarantee of that, and after 1974 the attendance reports become highly infrequent. The inaccuracy of the numbers could be a bigger issue. Usually the figures in the papers made sense, but sometimes there would be a huge number out of the blue, and occasionally different papers would report completely different crowd sizes, sometimes separated by thousands. But this is the best information available.

Whipper Billy Watson was in the top drawing match 21 times. The Sheik is next with 10.

1929Gus Sonnenberg vs Dan Koloff (9,000)
1930Gus Sonnenberg vs Stanley Stasiak (9,600)
1931Jim Londos vs Gino Garibaldi (15,800 - first Maple Leaf Gardens show)
1932Jim Londos vs George Zaharias (14,350)
1933Jim Browning vs Joe Savoldi (11,000)
1934Jim Londos vs Joe Savoldi (11,000)
1935Dan O'Mahony vs Jim Browning (16,000)
1936Dan O'Mahony vs Ray Steele (9,000)
1937Dan O'Mahony vs Dean Detton (7,000)
1938Masked Marvel (Ted Cox) vs Vic Christie (10,000)
1939Elimination Tournament, won by Vic Christie (6,000)
1940The Angel vs Jerry Monahan (11,000)
1941The Angel vs Masked Wolf (10,000-)
1942The Angel vs Strangler Lewis (10,000)
Whipper Billy Watson vs Wild Bill Longson (10,000)
1943Whipper Billy Watson vs Jack Claybourne (11,000)
1944Whipper Billy Watson vs Hard Boiled Hannigan (12,000)
1945Whipper Billy Watson vs Frank Sexton (10,000-)
1946Whipper Billy Watson vs Wladyslaw Talun (14,000)
1947Whipper Billy Watson vs Wild Bill Longson (15,000)
1948Whipper Billy Watson vs Nanjo Singh (13,000)
1949Whipper Billy Watson vs Masked Marvel (14,000)
1950Whipper Billy Watson vs Yukon Eric (13,000)
1951Whipper Billy Watson vs Lord Athol Layton (14,000)
1952Hans Hermann vs Yukon Eric (13,000)
1953Al Mills/Tiny Mills vs Whipper Billy Watson/Yvon Robert (16,000)
1954Al Mills/Tiny Mills vs Ernie Dusek/Emil Dusek (13,000)
1955Whipper Billy Watson vs Antonino Rocca (13,000)
1956Whipper Billy Watson vs Lou Thesz (15,000)
1957Whipper Billy Watson/Yukon Eric vs Gene Kiniski/Dick Hutton (15,000)
1958Whipper Billy Watson vs Al Bunny Dunlop (13,000)
1959Whipper Billy Watson vs Gorgeous George (14,000)
1960Whipper Billy Watson vs Gene Kiniski (10,000)
1961Bulldog Brower vs Yukon Eric (10,000)
1962Buddy Rogers vs Bruno Sammartino (14,000)
1963Buddy Rogers vs Lou Thesz (11,000)
1964Whipper Billy Watson vs The Beast/Martino Angelo (11,000)
1965Johnny Valentine vs The Sheik (7,000)
1966Masked Yankees vs Whipper Billy Watson/Lord Athol Layton (7,500)
1967Tiger Jeet Singh/Fred Atkins vs Whipper Billy Watson/Mighty Igor (7,500)
1968Ivan Koloff vs Edouard Carpentier (10,000)
1969The Sheik vs Gene Kiniski (15,000)
1970The Sheik vs Whipper Billy Watson (17,000)
1971The Sheik vs Tiger Jeet Singh (18,000)
1972The Sheik vs Carlos Rocha (18,000)
1973The Sheik vs Andre the Giant (18,000)
1974The Sheik vs Andre the Giant (16,000)
1975The Sheik vs Abdullah the Butcher (12,000)
1976The Sheik vs Mark Lewin (8,000)
1977The Sheik vs Tiger Jeet Singh (7,000)

-by Gary Will 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Fabulous Kangaroos at CHCH TV Taping: Classic Photo

Another fabulous Roger Baker photo of Lord Layton interviewing the Fabulous Kangaroos in Hamilton early 1970's.  Al Costello is talking while new partner Don Kent looks on. Layton as usual impeccably dressed likely by George Richards Big and Tall.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Riots, Fights, Fires, & Mayhem: Moosonee 1957 Riot

Next up in Riots, Fights, Fires, & Mayhem we go to Moosonee ON. Far North on the shores of James Bay you could imagine a wrestling card back then invoking the emotions of the locals. Unsure if there were other cards there over the years, imagine Kasaboski went in every now and then. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Wrestlers who made their Toronto debuts in main events, 1930-1989: Gary Will's TWH

Starting From The Top: Wrestlers who made their Toronto debuts in main events, 1930-1989

Whipper Billy Watson didn't do it. Neither did Hulk Hogan, The Sheik, Buddy Rogers, Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino, Ric Flair, or even Andre the Giant. In fact, very few wrestlers did it after the 1930s -- made their big-venue Toronto wrestling debuts in a main event.

It was easier to do in the 1930s because the weekly shows only began in 1929, so more wrestlers were making their debuts. And the undercards were much shorter, so a greater percentage of wrestlers on a card were in the main event.

These lists are in chronological order.

1930s: (31)
Cyclone Ress
Bill Demetral
Jack Winters
Jim Browning
Jack McCarthy
John Pesek
Glenn Wade
Jack Sherry
Joe Wagner
Ed Don George
Pinky Gardner
Lee Wykoff
Jim McMillen
Jim Clinstock
Dick Shikat
Casey Berger
Vanka Zelesniak
Abe Kashey
George Godfrey
Lionel Conacher
Sammy Stein
Jack Brown
Young Angelo
Dan O'Mahony
Ali Baba
Frank Sexton
Dave Levin
Vincent Lopez
George "Dazzler" Clarke
Cliff Thiede
Bronko Nagurski
1940s: (2)
Golden Terror
Gorgeous George

1950s: (5)
Lord Athol Layton
Lord James Blears
Antonino "Argentina" Rocca
Reggie Lisowski
Art Neilson
Nikita Kalmikoff

1960s: (1)
Mighty Igor

1970s: (5)
Harley Race
Jack Brisco
Abdullah Farouk
Terry Funk
Nick Bockwinkel

1980s: (3)
Buzz Sawyer
Tonga Kid

- by Gary Will

Toronto's Longest Runs -- The 25-Year Club: Gary Will's TWH

These are the wrestlers with the longest gap between their first Toronto appearance for a major promotion and their last:

Lou Thesz36.6
Lee Henning35.3
Ivan Kalmikoff33.2
Sky Low Low32.4
Whipper Billy Watson31.1
Little Beaver30.7
Joe "Killer" Christie30.0
Ric Flair28.6
Dick Beyer / The Destroyer28.0
Billy Red Lyons27.4
Pat Flanagan27.2
Wee Willie Davis27.0
Killer Kowalski26.7
Gene Kiniski26.5
Al Costello26.3
Nanjo Singh26.2
Lord Athol Layton26.0
Don Jardine / The Spoiler25.8
Mike Mazurki25.8
Bobo Brazil25.3
Bruno Sammartino25.2
Paul "Butcher" Vachon25.2

This is different from a list of wrestlers with the most matches in Toronto, since several of these guys had lengthy gaps where they made no appearances here. For example, Dick Beyer didn't wrestle in Toronto after 1961, until returning 18 years later as The Destroyer. Don Jardine didn't wrestle in Toronto for over 20 years after starting in the area in the late 1950s, but he came back for a few matches as The Spoiler in the mid-1980s. Nanjo Singh served a prison sentence for killing his wife before his final run in Toronto. 

-by Gary Will

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Riots, Fights, Fires, & Mayhem: Welland 1953 Cops Walk

Next up in Riots, Fights, Fires, & Mayhem we go to Welland Ontario in 1953 where the local cops have decided Pro Wrestling is too real! Granted the fans could get really out of hand in those days, Welland, Oshawa, London, Kingston, didn't matter where you were really, lot of hard working folks looking to let off a little or a lot of steam.