Tuesday, July 30, 2019

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.

-by Gary Will

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Danny Hodge 1972: Classic Photo

Originally posted Sept 2018

Roger Baker took these photos in March 1972 as Danny Hodge made his only Maple Leaf Gardens appearance. His opponent a young Johnny Fargo who would later adopt the 'family' name and wrestle as Greg Valentine. Greg's father Johnny was also on this card facing Chris Colt.

Hodge was a former NWA Junior Heavyweight champ at the time but won it back the next night in Shreveport. LA. That prestigious title had been held by Verne Gagne, Dory Funk Jr, Hiro Matsuda, and others that were well known for their wrestling ability. He had been appearing on Sheik's shows in Detroit running against Bruiser and appeared here on a day after card.

Fargo went on to a successful career as Greg Valentine and had an impact here during the M-A era from 1979-1984 including holding our Canadian Heavyweight Title for a spell. Fred Atkins is the ref looking on.

Thanks to Roger for sending over these dramatic shots of Hodge and Fargo/Valentine at MLG!
Thanks to Gary Will

Thats's gotta hurt! 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Tommy Nelson: 1940 bout list

We looked at 'Tiger' Tommy Nelson previously. This is the 1940 bout list for his medical here in Ontario in Feb 1940. Familiar name Rod Fenton, could it be Billy Stack? Watson not sure if Whip in France. I think the Jan 12 bout at MLG was his only appearance. He was too light for the Gardens but shows up on circuit shows.  He later becomes a promoter for Tunney and ran several towns around the GTA and is sometimes called 'Matchmaker for the Queensbury Club'

Thanks to Brian L, great grandson of Mr Nelson

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Memories of Toronto with Roger Baker; Chuck Conley & the Scufflin Hillbillies

Conley and cousin Alfred with their jug and cow bell
We are very fortunate to have Roger Baker contributing his vast knowledge and memories of Toronto wrestling to this site.  This time, memories of the Scufflin Hillbillies!  

The first time that I met Chuck Conley was in one of the wrestlers locker rooms in MLG. 

He was dressed in bikers digs, leather jacket, boots, jeans and one could over hear him telling another wrestler in the room that he had driven his motorcycle five hundred miles almost non stop to be at the Gardens for a match that was to get underway in half an hour.

This hillbilly biker persona caught my interest, and after introducing myself to him, he agreed to work with me on a story and photo shoot on both himself and current wrestling side kick Cousin Alfred.

Both Conley and Cousin Alfred were staying at The Prince Carlton hotel which was on the south side of Carlton street just East of  MLG. 

We had agreed that I meet them at the hotel the following week 

Jack Tunney was beside me while I took these photos
and we would tape the interview before leaving for the drive to Hamilton where the Hillbillies would be appearing. 

I had brought an old turntable cassette player combo that was very heavy as well as awkward. So when we got ready to leave Conley saw that I was struggling somewhat with the turntable. He grabbed a hold of it and carried it down to their car,  that simple act of helping me out was certainly appreciated.

We did the photo shoot in the Hillbillies dressing room inside the Hamilton Forum. They were nice guy's to work with and it was obvious that they knew a number of goofy poses to strike when the camera was flashing away.

After Conley's match with a grizzled tough Japanese wrestler (Professor Hiro), which he won after launching a series of very high dropkicks, Jack Tunney came into the dressing room and told The Hillbillies that they had to head out from the Forum to their next date over the the border. 

The original plan was that the three of us would head back to the Prince Carlton in Toronto.

Both  wrestlers without hesitation assured me that they would drive me back to Toronto, for that I was much relieved. 

Getting ready for the drive
to the Hamilton Forum
From this point The Hillbilly's would then get back on the QEW and drive to their next booking. For their unselfish act I will always remember these two wrestlers.  

-Regards Roger

Chuck catches Hiro with
a high flying dropkick
Cousin Alfred dings Proffesor Hiro
in Hamilton On. match

The Hillbillies have a swig of butter milk in hotel room