Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wrestling in Oshawa


Originally posted at 
See Also Pat Milosh: The Casino Kid

The Oshawa wrestling history closely mirrors the Toronto Wrestling scene. There is limited microfilm for the pre-1940 days but there is mention later of regular Wrestling at the Oshawa Armories in the late 1930's.

The first pro show was held Oct 17 1929 at the Armouries presumably under the auspices of Promoter Ivan Mickailoff who had recently started his weekly shows at Arena Gardens in Toronto. In the mid 1940's cards were promoted locally under the banner of the Oshawa Wrestling Club.

Local wrestlers Jimmy Szikszay and Ted McKinley were part of the group and possibly future promoter Pat Milosh. A Pat Farrell is also mentioned in late 1946. All three (Szikszay, McKinley, Milosh) were working as wrestlers on the cards in 1946-47, with the last card listing McKinley & a Pat Farrell as promoters taking place after a riot filled night June 12 1947.

The following card on Aug 11 1947 listed Pat Milosh as promoter and drew 1,000 people to the Oshawa Arena to see Ben Sharpe take on John Katan in the main event.

The Aug 11 card would mark the beginning of a long association with Oshawa Wrestling for hometown promoter Milosh. At this point he stopped wrestling on the cards himself to devote his time fully to the promotion side. Over the years when the local venues were not available, Milosh would branch out to Whitby and Bowmanville to promote cards. Each town abuts Oshawa to the West and East respectively

Generally the season would last from late April/early May to Sept interrupted by hockey season. The first show of the year would often have a special guest to open the card and start off the much anticipated Wrestling season. To kick off Milosh's first full year as promoter in 1948 several strong line-ups were presented. The second card of the year featured Lou Thesz soon to win the National Wrestling Association World Title from Bill Longson in July '48. Wild Bill himself was in Oshawa in July to defend against Earl McCready. Other regulars in the early years included Toronto favorite Whipper Watson, Polish giant Wladslaw Talun, and future area promoters Red Garner and John Katan.

In addition to locals Szikszay and Milosh, the scene was well represented by Bowmanville based Billy Stack. Stack would appear regularly on cards from 1947 to 1963 also appearing around the region, across the country, and into the Northeast US. In later years Stack would take to refereeing at MLG for Tunney shows and was also an area rep for Whipper's Beverages (Watson's soft drink company) in the 1950's.

The main names in Toronto would occupy the cards for the balance of the 40's and into the 1950's. Fred Atkins, Pat Flanagan, Tiger Tasker, Al 'Bunny Dunlop, Nanjo Singh, Ben and Mike Sharpe, 'Sliding' Billy Hanson, and Al 'Krusher' Korman were regular participants on the cards generally taking place on the Tuesday evening while MLG was running Thursday evenings at this time.

Attendance figures were only reported sporadically but seem fairly consistent at 1000-1500, not bad numbers for weekly cards. Wrestling looked to be on a high in the late 40's in the area, a quick glance at Gary Will's TWH listing for 1949 has MLG regularly hitting 5000+ and into the 10000's for the weekly draw in Toronto.

The times were also ripe with violence. There were frequent riots during or after the shows with the crowd attacking the referee or one of the heels after an un-popular bout. Longtime referee and former boxer Joe Gollob was a frequent target of the fans wrath being attacked several times not only in Oshawa, but across the province. After a 1952 riot there would be a heel ref run involving Gollob with a second referee being added to counter the heel loving ways of the fans most hated ref.

The attendance would spike in 1953, first with the appearance of Canadian Tag Title claimants Lou Plummer and Dick Raines in May and then with the appearance of Gorgeous George in June '53. The 'Gorgeous One' did not make an MLG appearance at this time so the bout in Oshawa would draw 2750 fans to see him draw with Pat Flanagan. Later that month British Empire champ Whipper Watson would begin a feud with the Great Togo that over a 3 bout period would draw in crowds of 2500 + for each card. The last match of the feud on July 14 drew 3527. the largest crowd in Oshawa to date. When they revisited the feud in Aug '53 , they would draw 3000 fans to the Arena to again see the popular Watson do away with his foe.

On the day of a scheduled Wrestling Card, Sept 15 1953, the Oshawa Arena would burn to the ground. Milosh would start the 1954 season at the Bowmanville arena

The cards would see a change in venue after four cards in Bowmanville to the Kingsmen Stadium in 1954. The Kinsmen is still there ans was used by the Oshawa Dodgers until they ceased operations in 2010. In June '54 Boxing great Joe Louis would guest referee a tag bout between Pat Flanagan and Tex McKenzie vs Al Mills and The Mighty Ursus drawing 2000 fans to the 'Return of Wrestling to Oshawa'. The season would be centered around the Canadian Tag Titles which figured prominently in five of the cards. Whipper and Togo would also be a hit in August drawing 1500 fans

The NWA World Title would make its first appearance in 1956 on 2 consecutive cards with local champ Whipper Watson battling British Empire champ Pat O'Connor. The attendance record would be broken on Aug 14 with a headline of Hardboiled Haggerty vs Yukon Eric drawing 4600 to the Stadium. Wilbur Snyder, billed as U.S. champ (Omaha version) would open the 1958 season with a bout vs Gene Kiniski. World champ Dick Hutton would come in for a bout with Yukon Eric in August with the season closing out with a brothers tag feud between Joe and Guy Brunetti and the Kalmikoffs.

Gorgeous George would return in 1961 to open the season on two consecutive cards taking on Tony Marino and Farmer Boy Townshend. In Aug Tuffy Truesdale would appear both with his Wrestling Bear and Wrestling Alligator. 1960's MLG regulars Billy Red Lyons, Cyclone and Hurricane Smith, Don Jardine (The Spoiler), Stan Stasiak, and a young Gino Marella (Gorilla Monsoon) would all occupy the Oshawa cards during the 1961 season. Bruno Sammartino, making a name for himself around Ontario would appear on several cards in the 1962 season in singles as well as tags teamed up with Tony Marino. The cards would see a change in venue in 1964 to the newly built Oshawa Civic Auditorium and continue until the '80's for all cards presented by Pat Milosh in Oshawa.

In 1965 Milosh would present the first of three Annual Tournament of Champions with an eventual winner of Andy Robin over Professor Hiro. Robin would be presented with a trophy after the bout and be the only winner of any of the three tourny's to actually receive the trophy in one piece at the conclusion of the nights bouts. The following years tourny would see winner Sweet Daddy Siki attacked by sore loser Hans Schmidt who would smash the trophy to bits, while the 1967 tournament ended in a draw between Bulldog Brower and The Assassin and had to be decided over 2 more cards before Brower won a 4/6 falls Texas Death Match. Johnny Powers would make his debut in Oshawa in June '66 in the main event vs Karl Gotch and return in 1966 to occupy the top of the cards for much of the season.

Gene Kiniski and his NWA Title would open the 1967 season with two consecutive main events vs Johnny Valentine. Kiniski would return in July to take on Tiger Jeet Singh who was working his way up the cards as a protege and tag partner of Fred Atkins. In Aug '67 Milosh presented the third Annual Tournament of Champions. In the final Bulldog Brower and The Assassin battled to a draw so another bout was announced for the next card to decide the winner. That bout also ended inconclusively so a third bout was announced under Texas Death Match rules with no DQ. Brower would emerge victorious to finally claim the trophy. In the last show of the '67 season Brower would team up Whipper to take on their respective arch-enemy's Tiger Jeet Singh and The Assassin.

The first two cards of the 1968 season featured handicap bouts with the Assassin taking on two men. The first vs Whipper and Brower, the second vs Whipper and Dewey Robertson. 1968 appears to be the last complete season of the 1960's, 1969 only shows two cards. The July 15 1969 show featured a Judo exhibition between lady wrestlers Lucille Dupre and Linda Klein. Ladies Wrestling was still not allowed in Ontario at this point so they had to bill it as an exhibition under Judo rules.

With the 1960's drawing to a close, the wrestling scene in Oshawa would see the seasons shorter and with less cards in the coming years. As 1969 ended the fans in Oshawa would have to wait until 1971 for wrestling to return.

Wrestling would return to Oshawa in June 1971 for the first time in nearly 2 years with a main event of Whipper and Haystack Calhoun vs The Love Brothers drawing 3,000 fans.

Only four shows were reported in 1971 and five in 1972. In May 1972 a card was held at the Whitby arena featuring Angelo Mosca and Eric The Red in what appears to be a WWA or Wildman promotion. They would return to Whitby in June 1972 with Vic Rossitanni billed as Canadian champion.

Regular cards would start again in Oshawa in 1973 with an appearance by somewhat local (Ajax) Shillelagh O’Sullivan, hot off a run at MLG. Tiger Jeet Singh would appear as US champ which is a bit of a difference in the title lineage, as The Sheik was billed as US champ in Toronto. In July 1973 Whipper Watson Jr would promote a show at the Ajax Arena featuring himself as Canadian Champ, The Love Brothers, Chief War Eagle, and lady wrestlers Jean Baxter and Sandra Birchnall.

Dave 'Wildman McKigney would return to Whitby at the Iroquois Arena in June 1974 with a main of N.A champ Archie 'The Stomper' Gouldie vs Angelo Mosca. In a short Oshawa season a June card saw a handicap bout of Andre The Giant vs The Love Brothers.

The 1975 season opened with a tag bout between two sets of twins. The McGuires (Billy/Benny) vs The Kellys (Pat/Mike). The Wildman would continue to promote in Whitby with that summers N.A Title showdown between Tony Parisi and Stan Stasiak.

1976 only reports three card, and 1977 with three. In August 1977 a McKigney type ad was in the paper for the upcoming show but on the day of the card there was also a pic of Milosh with Frank Tunney promoting the card. The event featuring Edouard Carpentier vs The Sheik in the main looks to be a partnership of sorts.

Toronto was seeing its wrestling landscape change dramatically at the end of summer 1977 with the departure of The Sheik into the association with Verne Gagne and the AWA supporting the cards at MLG. This may explain the absence of wrestling in Oshawa during 1978 as only the upper card performers of the AWA (Verne, Greg Gagne, Nick Bockwinkel, Jim Brunzell, Ray Stevens, Pat Patterson, etc.) were appearing in Toronto and returning to the AWA cities after the by now once or twice a month cards at MLG.

After almost a two year absence in Oshawa, wrestling would return in July 1979 with the stars of the now aligned Mid-Atlantic region appearing. A strong card on July 16 1979 with WWF champ Bob Backlund and then Canadian champ Dino Bravo teaming up against Greg Valentine and Ken Patera would bring the fans back in droves. Still there would only be one more card that summer and nothing reported in 1980.

In a newspaper interview in 1982 Pat Milosh complained that it was getting harder to get the talent in to Oshawa. As with the AWA most of the M-A stars would only appear on the Sunday MLG card and then depart back to the Carolina's. At this point Kitchener became a popular Monday night stop and would often have some of the M-A stars hanging back but Oshawa would be left out.

The 1981 season would see four cards presented, all strong lineups with the M-A stars including a popular tag of Ric Flair and new Canadian champ Angelo Mosca (had defeated Mr Fuji at MLG two days prior) vs Fuji and Ivan Koloff. McKigney would also return to Whitby with that summers feud of Luis Martinez vs The Sheik.

Again through 1982-83 the cards were few and far between with only three reported over the two year period. An interesting appearance by Tarzan Tyler in 1982 after a short run appearing at MLG introduced as John Studd's mystery opponent for Angelo Mosca. Tyler would also appear on TV before exiting the area. August 9th would see the 35th Anniversary show for Pat Milosh amid a local media celebration but the days of packed houses and stacked cards in Oshawa were coming to an end.

The last NWA show would occur on Aug 8 1983 with a main of Johnny Weaver & Mike Rotundo vs One Man Gang & Don Kernodle. By the time the next regular wrestling season would normally start up - May 1984 - the Toronto office was already on it's way to aligning with the ever expanding World Wrestling Federation. The Toronto office would switch officially in July 1984 with the first WWF card taking place at MLG on July 22. With all the changes locally Oshawa would be left out completely that first summer and the next, with wrestling remaining absent until Nov 5 1985.

The first card presented in Oshawa in more than 2 years would see the fans return in a big way. The WWF machine was now in full swing, hot off the success of Wrestlemania and with a new generation of fans on board would pack 5,000 into the Civic.

The papers noted that the Civic had not seen so many customers in more than 3 years since the Oshawa Generals ousted the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for a berth in the Memorial Cup.

While Pat Milosh was quoted as saying "We couldn't have asked for a better ending, If the fans left with smiles on their faces we were pleased." - in reference to the final of the Killer Bees over Mike Sharpe & Tiger Chung Lee (sub for the British Bulldogs) - Milosh was relegated to a sideman status with Jack Tunney controlling the promotion end.

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! 

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Bob Gregory and The Princess come to Toronto 1938

Originally posted June 2017

In Jan 1938 wrestler Bob Gregory arrived at New York with his new bride Valerie Brooke the former Princess Baba, said to be heading for their 'Hollywood honeymoon' with a plan to launch a film career for Gregory.

The whole story has similarities to the 'wrestling world' even if Gregory had not been a wrestler.

Gregory, an English light-heavyweight had married the daughter of Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, the white Rajah of Sarawak- of Borneo. The trip also marked the introduction of Gregory to his brides mother the Rani of Sarawak who claimed to be pleased of the nuptials although Gregory's manager said that it took 2 hours to persuade her to meet her new son-in-law.

Although her mother had previously expressed displeasure she now denied any problem on her part by proclaiming 'There was no opposition on my part, or my husbands to this marriage. Bob is so good looking he looks more like a boxer than one of these gorilla wrestlers. He should have taken up boxing.' 

The year previous when they had been married the Star covered it and quoted the princess's father as saying they wouldn't like him 'even if he was a good wrestler.'

Upon departure in New York, when the bride was asked about the then 26 year old Gregorys' wrestling career continuing, she replied with a quick 'No.'

On Feb 14 they arrived in Montreal via Boston and Gregory would wrestle Les Ryan in the semi-final of a card which had a main of Danno O'Mahoney vs Yvon Robert. Mrs Gregory was to present the championship belt to the winner (Robert) of the big bout.

Their next stop was Toronto for the Feb 17 MLG card with the main to be champ Robert vs Vic Christie with Gregory as special referee for the bout. Robert, who was the World Champ (Montreal) would win the bout and be awarded (again) a new championship belt by the young Mrs Gregory. This title became a Toronto World Title for a short time.

The day after the Toronto bout in the Star, Gregory wrote up his own take of the bout calling it the 'fastest bout I've ever seen.' The bout which had no time limit actually went 1 hr 15 min before Robert used a rolling short-arm scissor to force Christie to submit. 

Joe Perlove wrote the long form results recap and said Robert was presented with a $7,500 belt by the beautiful Princess. Perlove, in his usual manner said he was rather disappointed with Gregory. Not for his refereeing, but with all the stories of his athletic prowess he fully expected Gregory to separate the wrestlers by 'flinging them into the blue seats using only the thumb and index finger of each hand.'

Apart from all of this Gregory had another tie to the Toronto mat scene. He had appeared in a few movies in the UK and one of those the 1937 film 'The Rat' also had one of Gregory's wrestling traveling partners. Our own Whipper Watson, who was doubling for star Anton Walbrook. Watson, of course was wrestling in the UK at the time where he would meet and marry his wife Eileen and bring her back to Canada with him. Our own 'Prince and Princess.'

Gregory would continue to wrestle a bit around the U.S at least up to about 1946 but would never set foot again in a Canadian ring as far as I can see. His pal Whipper would continue to ply his trade in the UK set to return to Toronto rings in 1940.Gregory had also teamed in England with Northland Wrestling stalwart Herb Parks.

They would continue to appear in the local press with one photo of the two lounging at at a California pool said to be planning to buy an island for Gregory to become Rajah. 'What with?' asked the mother of the princess. 

In July 1938 an item had the brides father formally declaring his three daughters were no longer Princesses. Another daughter married a Jazz musician. No wrestler but still...

If you google Gregory and his princess there are some very informative (and entertaining) articles on the two and her family.

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