Thursday, October 24, 2019

The East-West Connection

  It was Jan 1982 and Maple Leaf Gardens was abuzz with anticipation for the first area appearance of the East-West Connection. Adrian Adonis had previously appeared here as' Keith Franks' back in 1975-76 while tag partner Jesse Ventura would be making his first appearance.

  Though it was to be my first time seeing them in person they were already one of my favorite tag teams. Their bouts with Gagne & Brunzell in the AWA over the tag titles was a constant on the Winnipeg TV we got here.

  They would take on the 'Italian Connection',  local favorites Dom Denucci and Tony Parisi. A very entertaining bout with the good guys frustrating the heels with a barrage of ring tricks. Adonis would eventually pull the tights for the pin and ref Terry Yorkston would award the victory to the former tag champs.

 We didn't know it yet but both Adonis & Ventura had just moved to the WWF  under the managerial tutelage of Freddie Blassie. They were mostly wrestling solo and Adonis in particular would give Backlund some tough matches. The following night after their MLG debut Adonis was in Madison Square Garden beating the stuffing out of Backlund when the ref stopped the bout due to excessive blood loss of the champ.

  Toronto promoter Frank Tunney would also make the trip to MSG the next day appearing in the ring alongside Vince Sr., WWF President Hisashi Shima, and then NWA President Jim Crockett Jr. as they made an announcement about an upcoming  tournament to take place in Japan.

  Adonis & Ventura were both scheduled for the Cadillac Tournament to be held two weeks later but it was snowed out. They eventually had it in March and both would return for the tourny. Adonis lost his first round matchup to Ricky Steamboat while Ventura fared better beating Mike Rotundo, then Johnny Weaver, before losing to Jimmy Valiant in the finals.

  It was unfortunate for the fans that we didn't get to see more of them at the time especially as a team. Both would return post 1984 in the WWF days and appear fairly regularly. Still, Adonis will be forever connected locally as the tragic crash that took his life also claimed our own Dave McKigney and Pat Kelly.