Friday, January 24, 2020

Brief History of Wrestling in Oshawa



The Oshawa wrestling scene closely mirrors that of  Toronto and goes back to the start of regular cards in Ontario.

The first pro show in Oshawa was held Oct 17 1929 at the Armories under the auspices of Promoter Ivan Mickailoff. It was  Mickailoff who had recently started his weekly shows at Arena Gardens in Toronto.

The Armories would see shows through the 1930's and by 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 had some fringe help from boxer/wrestler Pat Milosh and Pat Farrell

They were all wrestling on the cards through the1947 season, with the last card listing Szikszay and McKinley as promoters taking place after a riot filled night on June 12.

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.

Milosh had convinced the local authorities that he could run a safe riot-free event and he did. Szikszay in particular would remain involved and occasionally appear on Pat's shows or backstage over the years.

Originally at oshawawrestlinghistory.com
Some links here to Gary's stuff and at Slam!
See Also Pat Milosh: The Casino Kid 

It would mark the beginning of a long association for the hometown promoter. He stopped wrestling on the cards to devote fully to the promotion and would forge a close bond with Frank Tunney that would last more than 35 years. .

Milosh branched out too, when the local venues were not available he would run cards in Whitby and Bowmanville primarily as well as Port Perry, Cobourg, and occasional others. He even ran one winter season in Peterborough in 1952-53.

Generally wrestling was a summer affair that would last from late April/May to Sept to be interrupted by hockey season. The first show of the year would often have a special guest (Mayors, Aldermen, Radio guys) to open the  much anticipated seasons.

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 the first appearance of Lou Thesz, soon to win the National Wrestling Association World Title from Bill Longson. Wild Bill himself was in Oshawa in July of '48 to defend against the now local Earl McCready.

1946
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 for a time Sandor Kovacs, the area was well represented by Bowmanville/Oshawa based Billy Stack. Stack would appear regularly on cards from 1947 to 1963. In later years Stack was one of the main referees at MLG often alongside Joe Gollub for tag bouts. He was also an area rep for Whipper's Beverages (Watson's soft drink company) in the early 1950's.

The main names in Toronto would occupy the cards for the balance of the 1940's into the 1950's with cards generally taking place on the Tuesday evening before the Thursday MLG cards.

Attendance figures were only reported sporadically but seem fairly consistent at 1000-1500, not bad numbers for weekly cards.

Though Milosh had got off to a clean and safe star, there were frequent riots during or after the shows. Often the crowd would attack one of the heels or a referee after an unpopular decision.  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.

1948
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.

George did not make an MLG appearance on this visit 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 would draw in crowds of 2500 + over a 3 bout series.

The third bout of the feud on July 14 1953 drew 3527. the largest crowd in Oshawa to date. When they revisited the feud a month later  they would pack 3000 fans in the Arena to again see the popular Watson do away with Togo.

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

After four cards at Bowmanville Arena Milosh moved to the outdoors Kingsmen Stadium in 1954.

Billed as the 'Return of Wrestling to Oshawa'. 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 in June 1954.

Milosh would also run cards indoors at Childrens Arena which sits directly North of the Stadium, between 1960-1964. Both are within the same block that once held the Oshawa Arena.

The Kinsmen is still there, a really nice old time baseball field, and would have been a great place to take in the matches. It did rain though -a lot!

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 return hit in August 1954 drawing 1500 fans.

1950
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 from 1953 would be broken on Aug 14 1956 with a main of Hardboiled Haggerty vs Yukon Eric drawing 4,600 to the Stadium.

Wilbur Snyder, billed as U.S. champ (Omaha version) would open the 1958 season with a bout vs Toronto star Gene Kiniski. The new World champ Dick Hutton would also  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 then Farmer Boy Frank Townsend. In Aug Tuffy Truesdale would appear both with his Wrestling Bear and Wrestling Alligator. 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 teaming 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 Milosh.
1959

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 winning but was the only winner of the three tourny's to actually receive the trophy in one piece.

Johnny Powers would make his debut in Oshawa in June 1966 in the main event vs Karl Gotch and return to occupy the top of the cards for much of the season.

That years Tournament of Champions would see winner Sweet Daddy Siki attacked by sore loser Hans Schmidt who would then smash the trophy to bits,.

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 1967 Milosh presented the third annual Tournament of Champions. In the final Bulldog Brower and The Assassin (Guy Mitchell presumably) 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 set under Texas Death Match rules with no disqualifications. Brower would emerge victorious to finally claim the trophy. In the last show of the season Brower would team up with 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 would be the last complete season of the 1960's. 1969 saw only 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 billed as an exhibition under Judo rules.

With the 1960's drawing to a close, the wrestling scene in Oshawa would see the seasons get shorter with less cards in the coming years. As 1969 ended the fans in Oshawa would have to wait until 1971 for wrestling to return.
1961

Wrestling would return 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 Dave McKigney ran a card at the Whitby arena featuring Angelo Mosca and Eric The Red. They would return to Whitby in June  with Vic Rossitanni as Canadian champion.

Milosh was wary of McKigney at first but attended one of the shows and felt that it wasn't a big threat to his cards. The Toronto office had changed however and a litany of issues (Tunney not running as big of a circuit a big one) would turn the city into a occasional spot with Milosh later going to work in Auto sales.

Regular cards would start up again in Oshawa in 1973 with an appearance by local (Ajax) Shillelagh O’Sullivan, hot off a run at MLG. Tiger Jeet Singh would also appear as US champ as recognized in Toronto alongside the other Tunney regulars.. 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. Jr. and The Loves would run some smaller spots including the Brooklin and Port Perry Arenas here as well as around the Golden Horseshoe. Whipper Sr was helping his son and they would keep the ring in a barn up at Whipper's farm in Keswick to train.

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 while in a short Oshawa season a June card saw a handicap bout of Andre The Giant vs The Love Brothers.
1974

The 1975 season opened with a tag bout between two sets of twins. The McGuires (Billy/Benny) and The Kellys (Pat/Mike). McKigney would continue to promote in Whitby with that summer' s North American Title showdown between Tony Parisi and Stan Stasiak.

Both 1976 and 1977 saw only three cards in Oshawa. In August 1977 a McKigney style ad (same as his posters) appeared in the paper for an upcoming show at the Civic with Edouard Carpentier vs The Sheik. It appeared that McKigney had booked the Civic out from under Milosh but on the day of the card there was a pic of Milosh and Frank Tunney above a note reminding fans to attend.

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. This would result in the absence of wrestling in Oshawa during 1978 as only the upper card stars of the AWA (Verne and Greg Gagne, Nick Bockwinkel, Jim Brunzell, Stevens and Patterson, etc.) would appear in Toronto then immediately return to the AWA cities.

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

In an interview later Milosh complained that it was getting harder to get the talent in to Oshawa. As with the AWA stars, 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, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, and others were all back on the circuit and while some of the M-A stars would hang back, Oshawa would be mostly left out.
1977

The 1981 season had only four cards presented, but all strong lineups with the M-A stars including a popular tag of Ric Flair and new Canadian champ Angelo Mosca  vs Fuji and Ivan Koloff.

McKigney would come through again too, in Whitby, on his now regular summer tour. He would barnstorm the smaller towns a couple or so times a summer and see 500-1500 fans at times.

The Civic was seeing 1,000-2,500 with the NWA stars. The May 7 1981 card with a main of Mosca/George Wells vs Snuka and Stevens drew 1,400. Milosh said he was encouraged to try again after first checking with Maple Leaf Wrestling to see what wrestlers were available. The following card that had been tentatively set did go on in June with Flair/Mosca etc and topped out at the high end for the year.

Again through 1982-83 the cards were few and far between with only three over the two year period. August 9th 1983 would see the 35th Anniversary show for Milosh amid a somewhat 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 and Mike Rotundo vs One Man Gang and Don Kernodle. Milosh was disappointed with the attendance (not reported) and offered that fans don't get too excited when the last show was 6 months ago.

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.
1981

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. Milosh would handle the local end on Jack Tunney's behalf after Frank had died in May 1983. They would pack 5,000 into the Civic but Milosh, along with other area promoters, wouldn't enjoy the same relationships they had held with Frank.

The papers noted that the Civic had not seen so many customers in more than three years since the Oshawa Generals had 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 with an exciting win over Mike Sharpe and Tiger Chung Lee - the two had subbed for the British Bulldogs to the fans dismay.

The next several years would see just a handful of shows with the last involving Milosh in Jan 1992. That one featured a reprise of Flair vs Piper, The Legion of Doom, and Bret Hart vs Jacques Rougeau Jr.

In recent years several promotions have put on shows around Oshawa. The Polish Hall a popular spot and a fun show, but a long way from the heyday of wrestling in the city.

-AC