Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Oshawa Wrestling History: Whip and Togo set Oshawa on fire

 June 23 1953

 'Used to be a time when people were happy to see three good fights. I remember three shows 
at the old Oshawa Arena where Whipper Billy Watson and The Great Togo brought 
in 10,000 people and boy was it hot in there...you couldn't breathe'
Pat Milosh 1985 reflecting on Oshawa wrestling history 

 In the summer of 1953 Whipper Watson & Great Togo start a feud that revitalizes the Oshawa wrestling scene. The two would set attendance records helping to make it the most successful season in the towns rich wrestling history. The first bout set it on fire. The feud - not the arena. In fact the Oshawa Arena did burn down that season, right before the last card of the year a few months later. The feud may have had something to do with it.


 Whipper was well into his long tenure as the British Empire champion while Togo had previously starred at MLG and would often perform pre-bout exhibitions of strength, breaking bricks and planks with his bare hands.

 The first bout would set the tone with the usually (though not always) rule-abiding Whipper going berserk and attacking Togo with a chair. This was after the two had upset the announcers table and brawled into the first rows of the crowd. The chair shot would open a huge cut on Togo's head that would later require stitches and it sets off a mini-riot. Amid the chaos the police, ushers, and even young promoter Pat Milosh battle to separate the two and to keep the fans away from Togo.

 The following week saw Togo matched with Timothy Geohagen whom he dispatched quite easily and sent Geohagen in for medical attention. That card drew 2,500. A week later the re-match for Whipper-Togo II would have the eager fans lined up outside. 3,000 of them, a new record. The previous reported high had just been set earlier that month when Gorgeous George's visit drew 2,750 fans to see him take on local favorite Pat Flanagan.

 Average attendance in those years was 500-1,300 a week with occasional spikes. It started picking up in 1952 and by the 1953 season 21 cards drew 40-50,000 fans. Don Leo Jonathon, Bobo Brazil, and a hot tag scene including Canadian champs Plummer & Raines and the Lords, Layton & Blears would help fill up the seats.

 Whipper and Togo would end their second bout much like the first one, with the fans on the verge of rioting. Whipper is disqualified after slugging ref Bert 'The Little Flower of Uxbridge' Maxwell and doesn't take the loss well. Either do the fans. This time Milosh had extra police in place and they, along with the ushers, Milosh, Bobo, and Geohagen, would get it under control.

A lighter moment Milosh (l) with Togo and Milosh friend
 For the third bout 'This Time It'll Be Murder: The Whipper Seeks Revenge' a week later they would again break the attendance record, somehow cramming 3,300 fans into the Arena. That would hold until 1956 when 4,600 packed the outdoor Kinsmen for Hardboiled Haggerty vs Yukon Eric. And that one wouldn't be broken until the WWF years in 1985 with 5,000 at the Civic to see Andre, Bravo, Hart/Neidhart, and Randy Savage.
Milosh gets into the action

 Special referee Geohagen was assigned and the OAC (Ontario Athletic Commission) Commissioner Merv McKenzie was in attendance surely to monitor the proceedings. After a rough bout with each taking a fall they took the fight outside the ring where it ended, the winner unclear but the fans happy.

 The red hot Togo would tear it up all over the circuit with mains in many of the towns. A battle in Niagara Falls vs Ilio DiPaolo ended with the fans tossing chairs and the police again having to separate the wrestlers and keep the peace. In Oshawa in the coming weeks he would face Geohagen again and then Don Leo Jonathon in a wild battle that had both on the arena floor fighting up the aisle as they were counted out. Togo pictured in the paper the next day with another huge cut in his head. Milosh would run another Watson-Togo series at the end of the summer with a high of 3,000 in attendance.

 The season had been one of the hottest since the first pro card in Oshawa in 1929. So it was somehow fitting that on the morning of the last card of the season, the Oshawa Arena burned to the ground. Promoter Milosh would be relegated to start the 1954 season at the Bowmanville Arena just east of Oshawa, before moving the cards to the Kinsmen baseball stadium directly adjacent to the old Arena.


 Togo would return again that year too, soon with brother Tosh in tow. They would team up vs Whipper & Flanagan and despite the rain on many of the outdoor nights draw well again (1500+). The Togos would go on to have a good run on the main circuit in Ontario holding the tag titles and facing all sorts of teams including the rough Lisowski's and the strength of Claybourne & Lindsay.

-AC

Below recap from the Oshawa Daily Times using the main photo above.