Friday, November 1, 2019

Masked Men in Toronto

Masked wrestlers have been around since the beginning of pro wrestling and Toronto had it's fair share of them (plus a couple of masked managers) over the years.

Sometimes the fans knew or had a good idea who was under the mask. In Toronto more often than not the fans would find out after they had lost their masks in the ring at Maple Leaf Gardens.

We will take a general look at some of the masked wrestlers who were unmasked - and some that weren't - and the men who unmasked them over the 50 years.

Not a definitive listing as there were many different masked persona's around the region.

See also Gary Will's TWH: Unmasked! -- Wrestlers who lost their masks in Toronto

One of the first of note to be unmasked was 'The Unknown' in 1936. Billed as a 'masked mystery man of the sport' he would lose his mask to reveal Jim McMillen. Hal Rumberg unmasked McMillen who was a noted ex footballer who had played for the Bears before a successful wrestling career.

The 'Masked Marvel' is probably one of the earliest and plentiful masked gimmicks. We had a few at different times both at Maple Leaf Gardens and the many towns on the circuits around Ontario.

Whipper trying to unmask Marvel 1949
Jack Dempsey looks on 
First on the scene in 1932 a Masked Marvel was said to be a different person than the one who had been unmasked in New York as Mike Romano. Promoter Jack Corcoran claimed ours was a 24 year old youngster who did not want to reveal his identity until 'he makes good.'

He never did (reveal his identity) but it was said to be Al Getzewich/Al Getz who was unmasked later that year in Ottawa by Ed 'Strangler' Lewis. Getzewich was born in 1907 making him around 24 years old in 1932 and wrestled around the area under his own name in the early 1940's.

A later article claims Jerry Monahan was the Marvel at that time. Monahan was part of the group when Frank and John Tunney took over in 1939.
Another Marvel in 1938 was our World Champion (Toronto version) for a time. He lost the title and was unmasked to uncover Ted Cox. Also known as 'King Kong' Cox he would wrestle as the Masked Marvel in other areas and lose the mask several times in other cities.

Cox was unmasked here by Mayes McClain. Mayes was another ex footballer who turned to wrestling and had a long and successful career across North America. He had held our World title for a couple of months before losing it back to Cox, who may be the only man to hold a World Title both masked and unmasked.

At the time of Marvel/Cox in 1938 promoter Jack Corcoran entered a dog in the Toronto Star's 'Dog Derby. 'The Masked Marvel II' with a photo in the paper of a masked dog and his 'Masked Manager' presumed to be Corcoran with his ever present pipe in his mouth. The dog had his own pipe.

Cox had his own 'Masked Manager' as well. In a rematch with McClain after losing the title the manager was to unmask if Cox had lost to McClain. The Masked Manager routine would resurface later.

In 1949 our British Empire champion Whipper Watson would meet another Marvel in a series and eventually unmask him to reveal Lew Reynheer. The bout had a clause that Whipper would retire if he lost. Former World champ Strangler Lewis was the special referee for the unmasking bout. Jack Dempsey had refereed an earlier bout which is pictured here.

When Whipper unmasked Lew, he was said to be the 'original' Masked Marvel, obviously not the first Marvel to appear here and he would not be the last.

By 1951 another Marvel was on the scene (sometimes billed as 'The Mask/Mask') and he also had a 'Masked Manager.'

They would have an all masked series with 'The Zebra.'

The Masked Manager would lose his mask to Watson who beat him in Feb 1951 to reveal non other than -Mayes McClain. It went full circle since the 1930's with McClain now being the unmasked. McClain would hang around for a bit as the 'Unmasked Manager.'

Thesz stares down Hefner after unmasking him
Ref 'Bunny' Dunlop looks on  
Soon it was Marvel's turn and it would be the masked Zebra that would claim the mask revealing 'Shoulders' Lou Newman. 'Shoulders' also worked as a masked Mr X elsewhere in his career.

The Zebra, sometimes billed as 'Zebra Kid'  would get his due when he faced Whipper in a feud that would see Whipper collect another mask. Boxing champ Jack Dempsey served as a special referee and would help Watson forcibly remove the mask after a double count-out at MLG.

Under that one was George Bollas who would hang around a bit as 'George Bollas' or sometimes 'the unmasked Zebra.'

Bollas was famous all over the wrestling world both here and overseas as the Zebra/Zebra Kid. In late 1951 after being unmasked he attempted to re-don the mask for a bout in Niagara Falls but was ordered by promoter Sam Sobel to remove it before wrestling.

In those years there were a bunch of other masked wrestlers, some who got unmasked, among them Red Shadow (Leo Numa), Masked Wolf (John Grandovich), The Czar (Dick Lever), The Mummy (Pedro Martinez), and the simple Mr X (none other than Earl McCready). Both the Mummy and Mr X were actually unmasked by the masked Marvel/Lew Reynheer.

Yet another Masked Marvel came along in 1952 and was unmasked to reveal Frank Valois. The man who unmasked him? Another masked wrestler named Red Mask.                 

By 1953 there were several Red Mask's active both on the major MLG circuit and on the smaller independent shows in and around Toronto.

The MLG one got a shot at NWA champ Lou Thesz who unmasked him to reveal Dutch Hefner. There was even a Red Mask on the small auto racing circuit here taking advantage of the Red Mask angles on the various shows at the time.

Others active on the circuit from the 1930's to the 1950's included Purple Mask (said to be 'Wild' Bill Longson), The Red Demon (unmasked in Oshawa in 1947 as 'Red' O'Malley), another Unknown (unmasked in Oshawa in 1950 as Hamiltonian Abe Zvonkin), Red Devil, The Hooded Mask, more Masked Marvels, and several Mr X's .

In 1955 a Mr X was wrestling in Red Garner's Richmond Hill/Thornhill (just North of Toronto) based CCWA.

One bout offered the fans a chance to predict who was under the mask (if he lost) to win $10 and a season pass to the wrestling events held at the Thornhill Market that year. He kept it but lost it in a later bout to reveal Harry Szaley.

The Great Bolo was another that saw action in many areas. We had one in 1959 unmasked by Whipper Watson to reveal Al Lovelock.

The most well known of the 'Bolo's' Lovelock would work the  gimmick all over the territories during his career. There were other Bolo's around the region too in that era.

Pat Flanagan vs The Zebra
in Oshawa 1951
Whipper Watson closed out the 1950's by unmasking the Great Bolo in 1959 to reveal Al Lovelock under the mask. In 1961 he would add to his collection unmasking the Black Terror with Laverne Baxter underneath.

Baxter had wrestled here briefly in the early 1950's as Vern Baxter and had arrived on the scene as Black Terror in March 1961.

In 1962 there was The Great Kudo with veteran Red Garner under the mask. He ran his own promotion (CCWA) for many years in the smaller towns mostly North of Toronto.

As Kudo he had a feud with Bruno Sammartino. When Bruno returned with the WWWF Title Kudo was his first title defense here in 1964. Kudo was handled by Sam Sullivan and Garner would run the gimmick on his circuit shows around the area.

In June 1966 a new masked man appeared on the scene, the first of the Destroyers. In Jan 1964 he was finally unmasked by Johnny Valentine to reveal Joe Christie. Christie had worked around the territories both as the Destroyer and as a Masked Marvel. He appeared in Toronto prior as Christie and again after he was unmasked.

Valentine would collect another mask in May 1964 from the Mighty Hercules. The bout with special ref Bobby Bruns ended when Valentine had Hercules caught up in the ropes and ripped his mask off before a brainbuster and pin.

Hercules said that because he wasn't pinned first as per the terms of the contract he was under no obligation to identify himself. Fans were calling him Bobby Graham while Bruns said he would have guessed it was Hans Schnabel but then remarked 'But no, Schnabel would be about my (Bruns) age,'

Of the many unmaskings at MLG this was the only one not officially named but was likely Graham who plied his trade all over the wrestling world under several different names including Mighty Hercules.

Kudo 1962
Whipper was back at it in 1966, this time with his former rival, now tag partner Bulldog Brower. They were feuding with a masked team the Masked Yankees and the bout was a Survivor match with no countouts or dq's and falls count anywhere. Added stipulation was that if Whip and Brower lost Whipper would retire. If the Yankees lost they would unmask.

The good guys prevailed and unmasked after Whip had pinned one of the Yankees and he didn't get back up after the one minute count afforded between falls. The card was held at the outdoor Maple Leaf Stadium with the ring over home plate where they said 'the baseball catchers regularly unmask.'

Bob Stanlee and Moose Evans were under the masks. Stanlee had been here as Big Bob Stanlee and was a wrestling brother to Mr America Steve Stanlee who was a popular star here in the 1950's and early 1960's.

Moose Evans had never wrestled here before coming in as a Yankee. The two teams would have a re-match and the team now dubbed 'Unmasked Yankees' was to leave the area if they lost. They did and disappeared from the scene.

1966 saw the Caped Crusader hit the area sometimes accompanied by Wonder Boy. This was the Batman gimmick taking advantage of the success of the TV show. They dressed as Batman and Robin but were billed as Caped Crusader and Wonder Boy to get around the legalities.

Tony Marino was the Crusader and used the same gimmick in the US as Battman, two t's. Assume he was also the 'Masked Crusader' just after the pair departed. John Foti was the Wonder Boy. He had wrestled here as far back as 1956 while Marino debuted here in 1960.

The Assassin appeared on the scene in 1967. He was later joined by another for a short time, billed as  'Assassins' I and II or the Masked Assassins.

Masked Yankees
The Assassin was a mainstay on the scene for the next several years. In 1971 he met The Sheik in the middle of Sheik's five year unbeaten streak and was unmasked.

Under the mask was Guy Mitchell, a graduate of the Hamilton scene and Spittles and Wentworth's gyms. Mitchell was an 'Assassin' prior in the WWA and would later be known as 'Gentleman' Jerry Valiant.

The feud he had with Sheik was a heel-heel and after the unmasking Mitchell would stay on as 'The Stomper' or Guy 'The Stomper' Mitchell. After a prolonged absence he came back as Valiant in the WWF days.

The Assassin gimmick returned in the early 1980's on Dave McKigney's circuit with various wrestlers under the mask. Tunney regulars Brian 'Silent' Macnee and Tim Gerrard were two of them.

The Executioner was a regular in the early 1970's. He was never unmasked but was likely mostly Ernie Moore under the mask. Another Hamilton area star, he saw success in the Buffalo/Cleveland based NWF in the early 1970's. As 'Ernie Moore' he wrestled mostly on the smaller circuit cards around Southern Ontario.

Later on during the Sheik streak 'The Crusader' showed up for his try and after losing was unmasked as Dewey Robertson.

Dewey was another homegrown star who at one time was primed by Whipper to be the next big star. He had wrestled here regularly since 1967 before becoming The Crusader in 1974. Once unmasked he would sometimes go by 'Crusader' Robertson and soon teamed with Billy Red Lyons as 'The Crusaders.'

The Crusaders would dominate the tag scene for a time with a long feud with the Love Brothers. The fans knew who they were and they were often billed with their regular names and wrestled unmasked as well.

Another frequent tag rival the Kelly Twins, Pat and Mike would later don masks on McKigney's circuit in 82-83 as 'The Destroyers.'

Around the same time we saw the masked El Santos I and El Santos II on Geroge Cannon's Superstars as well as at MLG.. They wore checkerboard white and black masks and outfits and were mostly played by Terry Yorkston and Duncan McTavish.

They occasionally used the El Santos gimmick on McKigney's circuit in the early 80's as well.

When Tunney was using the AWA stars in 1977-78 we had the Super Destroyers I and II both as a team and solo.

Under the masks were Don Jardine and a pre-Sgt Bob Slaughter. Jardine had wrestled here early in his career as Don 'Babyface' Jardine, another of Whipper Watson's prospects. He had later become The Spoiler but never used that masked persona here.

Slaughter was Super Destroyer II and they were accompanied by manager Lord Alfred Hayes. They had a good creepy look going, kind of like the villain in the Scream movies.
Assassin vs Brower 1968

One of the best wrestlers of the Mid Atlantic era was the Masked Superstar. He was a regular here from 1980 - 1983 as Superstar and had appeared here previously as part of the Mongol's team (not masked). He returned in the WWF days as part of Demolition (makeup no masks) and appeared in the Frank Tunney Tag Tournament they held in 1987.

For a time in 1980 he was joined by Masked Superstar II. He would lose his mask to Blackjack Mulligan revealing John Studd. Studd had wrestled as the masked Executioner in the WWWF but not here. He would stay on to feud with Blackjack over the next several years and would hold our Canadian Title in 1981

When Dick Beyer returned in 1979 after a long absence (last wrestled here in 1961) as The Destroyer, he added 'Original, Sensational, Intelligent..' to the name. Not to be confused with the previous versions. He was here regularly through the M-A era.

Crusader Robertson
Near the end of the NWA days we had the Assassins. They had been huge stars in the U.S. with original members Jody Hamilton and Tom Renesto. By this time Hamilton had been teaming with various others after Renesto had retired.

In a hair vs mask bout Jimmy Valiant won over an Assassin and he was unmasked as Ray 'Hercules' Hernandez. Around the same time there was the 'Grapplers' Len Denton and Tony Anthony. They would be the last in the NWA days

Thanks to Roger Baker and Gary Will
See also Gary Will's TWH: Unmasked! -- Wrestlers who lost their masks in Toronto