Thursday, September 24, 2020

Angelo Mosca in Toronto


MEAN & NASTY

  Angelo Mosca was already a well known star by the time he first appeared at MLG in 1969. He was in the middle of his second go around with the Hamilton Tiger Cats and near the end of his Hall of Fame career in the Canadian Football League.

  He had started wrestling in Ottawa in 1960 on a part time basis while earning his reputation as 'Mean and Nasty' on -and off- the football field. He had been in some trouble while at University of Wyoming  in 1958. They cancelled his athletic scholarship for 'scholastic deficiency and disciplinary reasons.' He had also been sent away from Notre Dame for similar infractions. Just around the start of his wrestling career he was in Montreal playing for the Ottawa Shaffers in the Eastern Canada Senior Basketball playoffs (alongside some other CFL'ers earning extra money), Mosca slugged the referee and was promptly suspended. He had taken a 'kicking and kneeing' penalty earlier in the game and took it out on the ref with a right to the jaw. The coaches hauled Mosca off and convinced the ref not to call the game. Once he had visited the dressing room and returned he ordered Mosca to the showers. Mosca then hit him with a left to the jaw. His own teammates dragged him to the dressing room and he left the arena while the ref threatened to charge Mosca with assault. That was the end of the playoffs for Mosca who would stick to causing trouble on the field and in the ring.  

  When he finally made his Toronto wrestling debut years later it was the Sheik era in the city. Mosca would get his chance vs Sheik in June 1971, his first main event at the Gardens.

MOSCA GIVES SHEIK TROUBLE
Angelo Mosca, evidently so unnerved at hearing Torontonians actually cheering for him, erred on a flying tackle, wrapped himself around a ring-post and ultimately, lost his wrestling assignment against he Sheik last night. In the autumn, Mosca is a 270 pound lineman with Hamilton Tiger-Cats and seems to rate the most verbal abuse when the Toronto Argonauts are hosting other Canadian Football League teams at CNE Stadium. He forgot however that a Maple Leaf Garden's wrestling crowd would throw roses to Adolph Hitler had he ever faced The Sheik. 
Allan Ryan Globe and Mail June 21 1971

 Mosca gave The Sheik trouble but still notched another mark on Sheik's unbeaten streak, then at 49 wins 0 losses and 7 double dq/double countouts. That would be his last appearance at MLG for a time but he remained an regular around Ontario. He spent a few tours with Wildman Dave McKigney as well as the crossover WWA (Indianapolis/Michigan) cards held around the southwestern portion of the province. He would have a tough main event feud with Stomper Archie Gouldie over the Wildman's North American Heavyweight title in summer 1971. At the end of that summer Mosca got into an altercation with a man after leaving a restaurant in downtown Hamilton. The other guy filed charges for assault after he was left with a 'bump on the head and torn clothes after a scuffle' with big Ange. The following year he would retire from the field and turn to wrestling full-time. 

  In late 1975 he would return to MLG, this time as a full out heel playing up his football reputation. In Dec 1976 he faced Andre the Giant in the semi final bout under a rare Sheik title loss (to Thunderbolt Patterson). 

BIG ANGE RETURNS
Angelo Mosca weighed 285 pounds when he played defensive tackle for Ottawa and Hamilton. Now, as a pro wrestler, he goes 310. He's on the Boxing Day card at Maple Leaf Gardens Sunday evening up against Andre the Giant. 'I'd done a bit of wrestling when I was playing but I got very serious about it after we won the 1972 Grey Cup in Hamilton, and I retired from football.' says Mosca, who maintains a home in Mississauga, even while travelling all over the continent. 'It's certainly better financially. I'm getting up close to six figures a year.' Naturally Mosca in a villain, as he was in football. 'There's no dough in being a good guy.' he argues.
Jim Proudfoot Toronto Star 24 Dec 1976

  When Frank Tunney turned to use the AWA stars in Fall 1977 the stage was set for the now 'King Kong' Mosca to return and this time he would stay. In the AWA he was a heel with the fans chanting 'Ping Pong' in deference to his new nickname. For his first card back Mosca would arrive at MLG with AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel and Bobby Heenan and the night was memorable for another reason. There was no ramp. For the first time since 1948 the memorable ramp to the ring was absent. They ran rope where the ramp would be usually with a regular steps up to the ring. It was never revealed why the ramp was out but as far as we know it never happened again. 

THE MEANEST MAN SAYS HE IS -NOW
Now that he is the heavyweight wrestling champion of Georgia, Angelo would welcome the kind of disaffection which in football, was so completely undeserved. He worked Maple Leaf Gardens , on Frank Tunney's Sunday night show, and he confesses to having developed villainous impulses since he left the refining influences of the Tiger-Cats. 'Even in the Yamaha snowmobile commercials, you get the impression I'm a pretty tough character,' Mosca boasts. 'I am. Well let me tell you I haven't been uunder $65,000 a year since I left football. Best money I ever made in football was $23,000. That was in my last three seasons with the Ti-Cats.' The heavyweight champion is in heavy demand.
Milt Dunnell Toronto Star July 28 1978


  He would work his way up the cards facing the top stars of the AWA & WWWF including Chief Peter Maivia and AWA British Empire champion Billy Robinson. For a May 1978 card Mosca was acknowledged as the Empire champ having beat Robinson in an AWA proper bout. That title different from the Empire title Whipper had held here back in the boom days. In July 1978 he would make his first appearance as a fan favorite facing champ Bockwinkel in the co-main alongside a Backlund vs Superstar Graham  WWWF Title bout. Almost two months later he would get a re-match with Bockwinkel, this time they were the main event over a title bout between Backlund and Gorilla Monsoon.

THE CANADIAN TITLE YEARS

  On his next return the Mid Atlantic era here had begun. By early 1980 he was firmly seated to become the main local star on the scene. Previous local stars Dino Bravo and then Dewey Robertson had both finished their main event runs, Bravo had left in 1979 while Dewey was soon to go. With the launch of the new Canadian Heavyweight Title in Dec 1978 we now had a local title that Mosca would go on to hold through 5 reigns.

I'M NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE IN THE CROWD
Angelo Mosca said with mock solemnity at a lunchtime tete-a-tete yesterday. 'When I'm wrestling in the southern states, they bill me as King Kong Mosca. Up here in Canada, the promoters don't bill me as a villain. They are aware of the real me-gruff, rough, but lovable. What does the future hold? If you look after yourself, you can last for a long time in wrestling.' he says. 'But I'd like to become a wrestling promoter somewhere down the line. And I'd like to get back into doing television commercials.' 
Jim Coleman Toronto Sun July 23 1980

  Around the time Mosca first won the Canadian title he was also a vicious heel in the WWF, appearing there regularly while holding the strap (he would be photographed backstage with the belt but as far as we know never defended the title there). There would be no mention of Toronto while on WWF TV, but the magazines would have stories on him where they had observed the personality change depending on the location he wrestled. Mosca would reply with, 'I wrestle the same way everywhere. The fans can decide to cheer or boo.' He did and they would. He was back in the WWF gunning for Backlund’s crown and prone to some serious fits of violence. He would be managed there by Lou Albano and appear both on the WWF TV tapings and at the big shows around the Northeast.

  This was a bit of a conundrum for the Maple Leaf fans as we got the WWF TV show here at midnight Saturdays on WUTV Buffalo. When he almost killed Pat Patterson with the water pitcher it left many of us scratching our heads. 

  While Canadian champ Mosca would challenge NWA champ Harley Race and the NWA Title. This card was moved to a rare 1:30pm afternoon start as the Maple Leafs were in a playoff series with the New York Islanders (we lost!). Both Mosca and Race were counted out after a tough brawl with very few wrestling holds.

  His new-found popularity as the star of Toronto wrestling would attract some mainstream coverage which had been minimal in the recent past. All three Toronto dailies, the Globe, the Star, and the Sun would feature full page articles on the wrestling revival, with more coverage than had been seen in many years. Big Ange was the star of several features both in and around Toronto and in other towns on the circuit. On the May 20 1981 episode of the Global Network’s That’s Life, one of the stories was a 'visit with Angelo Mosca.’ On one afternoon in London for a card, he appeared on CFPL radio’s Sports Call and people were calling in for 2 1/2 hours to talk to him. The Toronto Star also ran a full page feature looking at his wrestling and football careers with a photo from a recent MLG bout vs Ivan Koloff.

ANGIE STILL HEARS THE CHEERS
'I built this image,' says Mosca, his face a bloody mask after his bout with arch-rival Ivan Koloff, 'of a guywho loved to be hated and now it's different. All of a sudden, it changes. People Like me, really like me. That's the way it goes in this game. One night you're the good guy, the next you're the villain. It gets confusing. 
Kevin Boland Toronto Star June 18 1981

 The big 50th Anniversary card in Nov 1981 was packed with over 16,000 for a double world title night Flair vs Race and Mosca vs Bockwinkel. The AWA champ was making his first appearance since 1979 and had a good tough bout with Mosca. Big Ange would batter the champ and looked to be on the verge of winning when John Studd charged the ring and attacked Mosca. He and Bockwinkel laid a beating on Mosca until he was able to fight back and chase them from the ring. Official decision was a dq win for Mosca.



   A memorable title win came in Jan 1982. After a bloody Johnny Weaver-Alfred Hayes cage bout they left the cage up for a Canadian Title bout Studd vs Mosca. The two would face down on the ramp as Mosca waited for Studd to climb the stairs. Mosca would attack and the bout was on. It ended with Studd pinning Mosca. It appeared that ways anyways. Ref Terry Yorkston, inside the cage as was the case here, would get hit and in a daze (Yorkston played the semi-buffoon type well) awarded the victory to Mosca. The fans went wild when Mosca grabbed the belt to celebrate but the celebration didn't last long with Studd viciously attacking the new champ. Weaver (bandaged up from his bloody cage bout) along with John Bonello would return to the cage to help Mosca but both would take a beating from Studd before helping Mosca get the upper hand. A bloodied Studd emerged from the cage and took a lot of abuse from the fans on his way down the ramp. Mosca, bloody and beaten emerged from the cage as the new champ to begin his fourth reign with the title. . 

  In April 1982 the feud between Canadian champ Mosca and Studd continues with Studd announcing he was bringing a mystery opponent to 'permanently maim the champ.' Studd had hyped it for the two weeks previous to the show. Fans were talking and many names were being brought up as to who could be the mystery opponent set to meet Mosca on the Apr 4 1982 card. One of those names was Andre the Giant. Andre was still a few years away from his first heel turn in North America but at the time it seemed like a good idea. When the time came it wasn't such a big name. When Norm Kimber announced Tarzan Tyler, the crowd was disappointed to say the least. Tyler was a ways past his prime by this point and mostly unknown to the younger fans. He had appeared here sporadically from 1964-1978 and was a fine wrestler in his prime but... Special ref Sonny Fargo had been assigned to officiate and the bout was generally a letdown since it had been so highly touted. Mosca didn't have much trouble defending his title.

A feud with Gene Kiniski in June 1982 was better than expected. Kiniski, who went way back here (debut 1956) was still as ornery as he was back in 1966. Stomping and snarling he was a good opponent for Mosca in a short run. Kiniski had held versions of the Canadian title across Canada in his earlier days and they played up the mutual football backgrounds a bit. 

At the big Night of Champions card in July 1983 Mosca faced One Man Gang in front of anywhere from 16-22,000 fans at the old Exhibition Stadium. At the follow up two weeks later in front of 10-14,000 Mosca lost the title to Sgt. Saughter.

  In early 1984 Mosca beat Sgt. Slaughter to regain the Canadian title and would promptly disappear. He was said to be upset with the low drawing cards in Toronto as the NWA days came to a close. He took the belt and went to Florida for an extended trip often managed by JJ Dillon. As per usual he would be a vicious heel -and defend the title a few times- while the fans up here were left scratching their heads, again. 

BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER
'We (Sr&Jr) spend 1 1/2 or 2 hours in the gym together working out and in some mat training. Then we drive or fly to the town where we have our matches, then back home to Charlotte. We don't live together. Junior's not married yet, but I have a very understanding wife,' explains Sr. 'The best thing about wrestling is working with this guy right here,' says Junior, thumping his father on his hammy thigh.' 
Alison Gordon Toronto Star May 20 1984

  His son Angelo Jr. would debut here in 1984 after Sr. had been stripped of the title for not appearing. 'Injury' was the wrestling reason and they would hold a tournament for the vacant title in which Jr. would compete. Junior was a good athlete cut from the same cloth. He had attended a Ti-Cat camp for high school players in 1977 (at 17) but in June 1981 he had been cut trying out as a defensive guard at the BC Lions camp, effectively ending his pro football aspirations. He went on to earn a degree from Concordia University before trying out pro wrestling. After Jack Tunney had switched exclusively to WWF in July 1984 Sr. stayed on for a bit and also announced while Jr. got his brief run with the WWF here. When done both father and son would appear on the Wildman's Big Bear circuit in and around Toronto. 

MOSCA MANIA

  By 1985 Sr. was planning to bring the NWA back to Ontario. In Feb 1986 he would run a show at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. While Hulkamania  may had taken over Toronto, there was still a lot of fans from the NWA days. Sr., with a long history in Hamilton, announced the show to be dubbed 'Mosca Mania.' Jr. would also appear in an opener. The card did well drawing 12,000 fans with a gate of $140,000 to see a main of NWA champ Ric Flair vs Dusty Rhodes. Mosca Jr. teamed with Vic Rossitani against the Kelly Twins. 

  At the time Mosca was 50 years old, mostly retired from the ring, and doing TV ads and running several different business ventures around town. A few days after the show in Hamilton he was in Toronto doing a TV commercial for Lite beer and said he made 25k in what was his 14th or 15th commercial since he had done the Schick Razor 'Tell it to my face' campaign some years before.

MEAN ANGELO MOSCA MEANS TO KEEP RAKING IN BIG BUCKS ON TV
It's not only amazing that Angelo Mosca is making a fortune doing TV commercials, but he's making them, period. Don't get me wrong: Mosca's good at them -he has charisma and style- but as the former villainous Mr. Mean of the Hamilton Tiger Cats and, more recently, the villainous King Kong of pro wrestling, Mosca's always held that butts were made for kicking, not kissing.'
Earl McRae Starweek June 15 1985

 Angelo Sr. was a guest star on the popular Night Heat TV show, and in June of that year was elected to the CFL Hall Of Fame. In Nov 1986 he was alongside Whipper Watson when Whipper received an award from the Canadian Children's Foundation. Mosca accompanied Whip as he carried a child on his shoulders, as he had done at the many Easter Seals dinners.  

Did you know.....The CFL Hall of Fame induction class of 1987 included another wrestler. 
Dick Huffman, a star with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Calgary Stampeders, had wrestled at MLG and around the area in 1956. Maple Leafs - Ti-Cats owner Harold Ballard also in that class.

  A month prior to the first Mosca Mania card, he had met with CFL commissioner Doug Mitchell to discuss becoming a goodwill ambassador. The reports later said  that the CFL missed the boat by not using him as he was a born promoter and 'mouthpiece.' Sr. teamed with former teammate Len Chandler to promote the show with corporate sponsor Amstel Brewery on Feb 2 1986. It was a huge success with over 12,000 fans and a gate of $140,000. A dollar from each ticket went to the Spinal Cord Society and the fans were treated to a great show.



  The main event brought Toronto favorite Ric Flair back for the first time since May 1984 to defend his NWA Title against Dusty Rhodes. At that time Flair was a heel while Rhodes was a fan favorite but the fans would have none of it. Flair had long been beloved here and during the Flair-Rhodes bout the fans started cheering Flair. They reversed roles with Rhodes 'second' Baby Doll Roberts interfering. Flair took the win to a huge ovation and the card which also featured the Road Warriors, Jimmy Valiant (always hugely popular here), Abdullah The Butcher, Sgt. Slaughter and a host of local guys was declared a huge success. Longtime MLG ring announcer Norm Kimber, recently let go by the Toronto office, did the introductions for the night.

MOSCA MANIA A HIT
Every now and then the wrestling world has a brainstorm which produces a card that leaves audiences shouting for more. A classic example was yesterday's Mosca Mania, which attracted some 12,000 fans to the Copps Coliseum here. No One left the building disappointed. 
Sam Scrivo Toronto Sun Feb 3 1986



  At the time Mosca had declared that he was seeking to become the exclusive promoter at Copps, similar to how the Tunney's had exclusive use of MLG. He also owned the syndicated TV rights for the TV show Pro Wrestling Canada which was produced by Milt Avruskin. They showed NWA bouts which were sometimes up to a year old and did voice-overs on the bouts. PWC ran from May 1986 to Oct 1986 on the CTV Kitchener affiliate channel 13 locally but that channel wasn't available to all in the Toronto area.

  Mosca later told a reporter that he couldn't get the show on in Toronto and that's what killed it. Doug Bassett, head of the CTV had told him 'it wasn't family oriented television.' At that time they had WWF, International Wrestling from Montreal, and the Maple Leaf WWF shows on TV in Toronto. While the WWF was tame, the International show was a harder style, a throwback to the 70's with bloody bouts and great brawls. If Mosca had been able to last, the Montreal based stars would likely have appeared here. Bravo, Abdullah, etc.but he would have had to run Toronto. MLG was still exclusive so it was limited venues outside of summer months.

EX VILLIAN CHARMS 
'He (Mosca) is president and promoter of Pro Wrestling Canada, with shows on 10 TV stations in the east and two in the west. He stages live shows in Kitchener, Ottawa and Toronto (Varsity Arena), when he is not busy lifting trucks in Chevy commercials.' 
Milt Dunnell Toronto Star Nov 30 1986

He never promoted any shows at Varsity Arena or Ottawa as far as I know. Outside of the Hamilton shows and one in Kitchener the only other one of record was in Peterborough on Feb 17 with Tully Blanchard vs Barry Windham as the main.

  The TV show later appeared on TSN and as well as CTV and is a good show to seek out. Mosca not the greatest announcer (whole other article) but Avruskin one of the best. Sr. would present another card in Kitchener on Nov 23rd 1986 with a main of Nikita Koloff vs Wahoo McDaniel as Mosca Mania II. This one was a reverse of the first one, several no shows and most of the cast filled out with locals. Only 1.500 showed up, most of whom went to see the Road Warriors. Hawk never showed and was replaced by manager Paul Ellering. Jr. took on Siki and it was back to the circuit for both Jr. and Siki. Despite the setback it was not to deter Mosca from staging another Hamilton show in Feb 1987.

  Unfortunately he ran it on the same night as big WWF show at MLG featuring Roddy Piper vs Adrian Adonis in a 'retirement bout and Savage/Steamboat. Mosca in turn had  Flair vs Nikita Koloff but only drew 3,000 compared to the 17,000 at a packed MLG. On Mosca's show Blanchard battled Rhodes and they reversed roles too with the fans booing Dusty. A fan told me he had 'stickered' the MLG bathrooms prior with notice of the upcoming Hamilton card but it didn't seem to help much.There were rumors of bad payouts on shows (heard years later), and then he sold his interest in it and that was the end of Mosca's promotional tenure.

  Both Moscas would be featured on the popular CTV show Lifetime which ran the same night as a big WWF show at MLG. Sr. would continue to show up in  TV commercials, and various ventures capitalizing on his name. Remember the Peach pages?; a business directory he started with a partner in 1989. In recent years he has revisited his old Canadian title belt at tribute and fan events in the area, sometimes accompanied by Junior. 

AC

Photos, etc mapleleafwrestling.com collection
Mosca Mania items from Eric Peddle collection
Pics from 1978 out of 'Alias King Kong Mosca' Canadian magazine
The Sheik Streak by Gary Will is at The Sheik's unbeaten streak: 1969-1974: Gary Will's TWH