Memories of Toronto with Roger Baker: Keswick Park 1967

Rogers Corner: Keswick 1967


Roger meets Terrible Ted

    'It was back in the summer of 1967, I had received a phone call from wrestler Paul Diamond that Whipper Watson and Dave McKigney were going to a lakeside park in Keswick  to entertain a group of challenged youngsters.

 I was very excited at the prospect having the opportunity to be on hand, and possibly get involved as well, I called the Whipper to hear from him the details of the planned event and the location as well. I invited a fellow that lived in the same apt. building as myself to tag along with me to Keswick as I knew that he would enjoy seeing the bear take on all comers.

 The afternoon was all that I hoped it might be. First was a very informative and visual demonstration of wrestling holds and grips applied by Whipper Watson. McKigney had brought Terrible Ted to the park in his own custom trailer and the children would have a closeup look at a very large bear.


Phil 'Whipper Jr' Watson at far left


 Whipper's 17 year old son Phil (later Whipper Watson Jr.) along with several of his friends were also in attendance, McKigney yelled out 'Who wants to try and wrestle with the bear?' and one of Phil's pals stepped forward to meet the challenge. He lasted about 90 seconds before McKigney pulled the bear away.

 At this point no one else seemed interested in having a go with Ted so I stepped up to the plate and accepted the invitation. I will say for sure that when that big and heavy bear is smothering you with his massive paws and slobbering on your face it can be very intimidating. I think the Bearman let Ted maul me for about a minute and a half. Afterwards Whipper made mention that because a bear is round shouldered -it can't actually be pinned.

Dave, Ted, Phil again at far left


  When the afternoon's activities concluded the Whipper invited both myself and my friend to join him and his wife as well as Phil and his buddies for dinner at Whipper's home which backed onto Lake Simcoe. Whipper's wife was a very gracious hostess and we had an early dinner as Whipper had to leave at 6pm. He had a wrestling match scheduled at MLG that evening.'

-Roger

For more on Dave McKigney and Big Bear Wrestling see 
‘THE BEARMAN’ DAVE MCKIGNEY: 25 YEARS LATER  (externa link opens in new window)



New Book: MapleLeafWrestling.com presents

 

The next in the series looks at the boom of Toronto wrestling

The rich history of professional wrestling in Ontario comes alive in chaotic detail in a new book by a pair of veteran 
Canadian wrestling journalists...
-Marshall Ward. for Slam Wrestling

This was a really enjoyable read if you’re into the history of Toronto wrestling and the key people involved running the city. Tons of historical notes on attendance, ups and downs in the city, the good and bad of The Sheik from ‘69-‘77, the Mid-Atlantic years and into the WWF’s foothold from ‘84 onward.
-John Pollock. Post Wrestling  via Instagram

I must say I really enjoyed this book, learned a lot about MLG wrestling, good read.
-Mark Bujan. via KM message board

So much information on the great history of Toronto’s Maple Leaf Wrestling. Its roots its glory years and in-depth study on Two of Toronto’s most nefarious wrestling characters. It will be a great reference guide for anyone interested in learning more about Maple Leaf Wrestling as we know it today!
-Wes Maidment. via Facebook



Toronto Results Various 1908-1984

 

    This will just be some random or notable cards from the history, added as there is time. If you are looking for a specific card or wrestler please contact us. 

W=win        W/DQ=by dq      W/COR-by count-out       DDQ=double dq      NC=No contest=ref decides no winner   
W/DEC=win by ref decision    W/CNC=opponent could not continue    L= Loss by champion    D=Draw
    *most main bouts in the early days were 2 falls.



1908/05/16 Labor Temple, Toronto
Artie Edmunds D Young Muldoon 1hr 53 min (1 fall apiece)
*Police broke up the third fall as they had hit the 12 midnight curfew
Young Walker W Fred Daly
Bob McIntyre W Harry Raylot
Jack Edmunds W Bob Nash

1911/03/28 Agnes St Theatre, Toronto
Stanisłaus Zybysko W John Lemm 57 min (1-0 Lemm forfeits 2nd fall due to injury)
Herb Hughes W Sam Bain
*Before the bouts photos were shown of the Rogers-Hackenshmidt bout in London 3 years prior
as well as the Gotch-Hackenshmidt bout from Chicago 2 yrs prior

1924/05/16 Arena Gardens, Toronto
Stanisłaus Zybysko W George Walker (2-1)
Aug Jokennen W Matalon
Larry Ness W Jim Watson
*Walker is Canadian Champion
*Lou Marsh called the main 'Toronto's first taste of 'big league' wrestling

1935/04/25 MLG, Toronto
George Zaharias W Emil Dusek (2-1)
Al Mercier W Little Beaver
John Katan W Roy Shepek
Ernie Zeller W Jim Henry
*Henry pushed ref Phil Lawson and was fined 25$ by the commission

1939/11/30 MLG, Toronto
NBA World Title Bronko Nagurski W Ernie Dusek
Don Louis Thesz W Frank Sexton
Joe Savoldi W Pat Riley (The Angel)
Elmer Eastup W Jim Wright
*Lou Thesz had Toronto debut on 11/16 card)

1941/06/12 MLG, Toronto
Earl McCready W Whipper Watson 218
Bobby Bruns W Jerry Monohan
Billy Hanson W Jack Claybourne
Wallace Muscovich W Tiger Joe Marsh
George (K.O.) Koverly D Lee Henning
*Regina's Earl McCready was crowned Canadian wrestling champion after pinning Whipper Billy Watson of Toronto in the fifth round of their bout staged by the Queensbury A.C. at Maple Leaf Gardens last night before 2,000 fans. Working on a punishing toe-hold that had Watson limping during most of the fourth and fifth rounds. McCready set him up for a series of body slams that spelt finis at the 6:15 mark. On behalf of Promoter Frank Tunney, Controller Freddie Hamilton presented the winner with a belt emblematic of the championship.

1942/12/17 MLG, Toronto
'French Angel' Maurice Tillet W 'Swedish Angel' Olaf Swenson
Whipper Watson W Walter Sirois
Earl McCready W Andy Meixner
Nanjo Singh W Zimm
Pat Fraley D Pedro Martinez

1947/05/15 MLG, Toronto
World Title: Lou Thesz D Whipper Watson
Mike Sharpe W Wee Willie Davis
Bob Wagner W Bobby Bruns
Ben Sharpe W/DQ John Katan
Sky Hi Lee W Dick Bishop

1947/05/29 MLG, Toronto
World Title: Lou Thesz W/DQ Whipper Watson
Bob Wagner W Brother Jonathon
John Katan W Tom Collins
Ken Kenneth W/DQ Sky Hi Lee
Lou Newman vs Pat Flanagan

1947/06/05 MLG, Toronto
Whipper Watson W John Katan
Educational Feature : Tuffy Truesdale vs Rodney The Alligator
*Joe Perlove remarked 'Personally I didn't know any more when it was over except there must be easier ways of making a living than wrestling Alligators.'
Sky Hi Lee W Toar Morgan
Bob Wagner D Ken Kenneth
Bulldog Drummond D Tom Collins
Brother Jonathon W Dick Bishop

1947/06/12 MLG, Toronto
World Title: Lou Thesz W/DQ Sky Hi Lee
Mike Sharpe W Brother Jonathon
Ken Kenneth D John Katan
Ben Sharpe W Lou Newman
Dan O'Connor W Toar Morgan

1947/06/19 MLG, Toronto
Wild Bill Longson D Mike Sharpe
Handicap Bout: Sky Hi Lee W Brother Jonathon/Walter Sirois
*Joe Perlove remarked: 'A swift poll of the gathering at the gardens revealed the opponent they would like to see Lee in with next is Rodney The Alligator, or better still with a whole alligator farm of alligators.'

1949/08/04 East York Collegiate Memorial Stadium. Toronto
Whipper Watson W/CNC Sky Hi Lee
Wladek Kowalski W Abe Zvonkin
*'Kowalski, just. 22 6 foot 5. 265 pounds, all rock, rushed to his third consecutive rapid fire victory.
'This made a total of five minutes Kowalski has expended in three matches here. Nobody's had a good look at him yet, especially his opponents.'
Tom Rice vs Ben Sharpe
Al Korman vs Tom Collins
Jimmy Simms vs Red O'Malley
*Attendance was 5,000 (plus several hundred peering at the show free from their porches and bedroom windows)

1950/06/15 MLG, Toronto
Yvon Robert D Whipper Watson (curfew)
*Ref Ed 'Strangler' Lewis
Larry Moquin D Strangler Bob Wagner
Timothy Geohagen W Jim Henry

1950/11/30 MLG, Toronto
Yukon Eric W/DQ Whipper Watson
Lee Henning W Bobby Nelson
Pat Flanagan D Willie Davis
Les Ryan W Jack Moore
Dan O’Connor D George Scott
Main is face vs face

1952/10/30 MLG, Toronto
NWA Title: Lou Thesz D Whipper Watson (curfew)
Pat Flanagan D Lou Plummer - cut to allow the main to start at 10pm
Chief Big Heart W Tiger Tasker
Jack Pasek D Bull Montana
Dick Raines W Jim Coffield

1955/03/03 MLG, Toronto
Antonino Rocca D Whipper Watson (Rocca unable to continue, ref awarded the match to Watson, but he refused win)
Lord Athol Layton/Bill McDaniel W Timothy Geohagen/Tex McKenzie
Mike Paidousis W Pat Fraley
Ken Kenneth W Alan Garfield
Frank Marconi W Harry Lewis
*Rocca-Watson was a return bout, first meeting (and Rocca's Toronto debut) was a draw
Both fan favorites

1953/12/17 MLG, Toronto
The Mills Brothers W Fred Atkins/Lord Layton
Pat Flanagan W Larry Moquin
Yvon Robert W Mr Kato
(was the feature TV match)
Golden Hawk D Sky Hi Lee
Ilio DiPaolo W Firpo Zbyszko

1959/01/15 MLG, Toronto
NWA Title: Pat O’Connor W/COR Lou Thesz
Bobo Brazil W Hans Hermann
Ivan/Karol Kalmikoff) W Fred Atkins/Mike Valentino
Hans Schmidt W Al Korman
Wally Seiber W Tiger Tasker

1959/12/17 MLG, Toronto
Canadian Open Tag Team Title: Don Leo Jonathan/Gene Kiniski D Ilio DiPaolo/Whipper Watson - curfew
Sam Steamboat W Dan Miller
Hard Boiled Haggerty/Fritz Von Erich W/COR Bobo Brazil/Timothy Geohagen
Doc Gallagher W Cowboy Hughes
Ivan Kalmikoff D Ed Miller
Bud Cody D Yvon Losier

1961/11/30 MLG, Toronto
Bulldog Brower W Yukon Eric
(Lumberjack Bout - both wrestlers wear heavy high cut boots)
Hurricane Smith/Cyclone Smith D Chris Tolos/John Tolos
Gentleman Jim Hady W Chief Kit Fox
Taro Sakuro W Chief Lone Eagle
Antonios Kontellis D Timothy Geohagen

1962/04/26 East York Arena, Toronto
Sweet Daddy Siki W Tom Emperor Jones
Bruno Sammartino W Hurricane Smith
Frank Valois D Juan Sebastian
Billy Red Lyons W Donn Lewin
Sam Steamboat D Pat Flanagan

1962/12/14 MLG, Toronto
US Title: Johnny Valentine W Bruno Sammartino to win the title
Roger Littlebrook/Sonny Boy Cassidy W Sky Low Low/Irish Jackie
Yukon Eric W/DQ Taro Sakuro
Stan Stasiak D Sam Steamboat
Gino Marella W Ron Bull Johnson

1964/02/20 MLG, Toronto
Handicap Bout: The Beast/Martino Angelo W Whipper Billy Watson
Johnny Valentine W Hans Schmidt
WWWF Title: Bruno Sammartino W Great Kudo
Bulldog Brower/Fred Atkins D Erich Froelich/Jim Hady
Andreas Lambrakis W Great Mephisto

1964/12/17 MLG, Toronto
Whipper Billy Watson W Professor Hiro
(Fred Atkins handcuffed to Lord Layton)
Bulldog Brower W Sweet Daddy Siki
Billy Red Lyons/Andy Robin D Chris Tolos/John Tolos
The Sheik W Pat Flanagan
Michele Barone W Bob Leipler
Paul DeMarco D Alexander the Great

1966/02/27 MLG, Toronto
NWA Title: Gene Kiniski W/CNC Johnny Valentine
International Tag Titles: Masked Yankees W Seaman Art Thomas/Emile Dupre
Lord Athol Layton W Bob Leipler
Professor Hiro W Georgios Kanelis
Ernie Ladd W Joe Killer Christie
Tiger Jeet Singh WCOR Paul DeMarco

1967/12/17 MLG, Toronto
US Title: Tiger Jeet Singh D Edouard Carpentier
International Tag Titles: Whipper Billy Watson/Bulldog Brower W Fabulous Kangaroos
Little Beaver/Johnny Russell W Frenchy Lamont/Little Brutus
Assassin D Sweet Daddy Siki
Chief White Owl W Crybaby Cannon
Pat Flanagan W/DQ Hans Schmidt
Fred Atkins D Dewey Robertson

1969/10/05 MLG, Toronto
The Sheik W/COR Dominic Denucci
Lou Thesz W Magnificent Maurice
Fabulous Kangaroos: Al Costello/ Ray Kent W Bulldog Brower/Murray Cummings (2-1) 1
Whipper Billy Watson W Joe Killer Christie
Haystack Calhoun/Paul Diamond W Masked Assassin/Big Bill Terry (2-0)
Bobo Brazil W Mike Loren
Fred Atkins D Dewey Robertson
Lou Klein D Terry White

1969/11/30 MLG, Toronto
The Sheik W Giant Saka
(Saka managed by Cannon)
Bobo Brazil W Masked Assassin
Whipper Billy Watson/Bulldog Brower WDQ Fabulous Kangaroos: Al Costello/Ray Kent
Little Beaver W Frenchy Lamont
Haystack Calhoun/Mighty Igor WDQ Reginald Love/Hartford Love
Angelo Mosca W Mike Porky Loren
Dominic Denucci W Fred Atkins
Fred Curry W Ivan Kalmikoff

1972/02/20 MLG, Toronto
The Sheik W Carlos Rocha
Love Brothers D Bulldog Brower/Tex McKenzie
Johnny Valentine W Lee Henning
Pampero Firpo W Mighty Ursus
Fabulous Kangaroos W Mighty Igor/Ivan Kalmikoff
Ben Justice/Haystack Calhoun W Hans Schmidt/Killer Christie
Jacques Rougeau/Gino Brito W Masked Marvel/Man Mountain Cannon
Chris Tolos W Lou Klein,
Tony Marino W Baron Mikel Scicluna
Tony Parisi W Mike Loren

1972/12/17 MLG, Toronto
The Sheik NC Johnny Valentine
Tiger Jeet Singh W Lee Henning
Chief Jay Strongbow W Mike Loren
Pampero Firpo W Ivan Kalmikoff
The Beast/Sweet Daddy Siki W Hans Schmidt/Lou Klein
Lord Athol Layton/Dewey Robertson W Joe Killer Christie/Big Brutus
Tony Parisi/Mighty Igor W Killer Brooks/Dan Miller
Ben Justice/Haystack Calhoun D Kurt Von Hess/Karl Von Schotz
Tex McKenzie/Tony Marino D Love Brothers
Hayes/Louie W Lamont/Adams

1973/09/23 MLG, Toronto
NWA Title: Jack Brisco W Eric the Animal
The Sheik W Tony Marino
Ben Justice D Lee Henning
Pampero Firpo W Mike Loren
Executioner W/DQ The Beast
Hans Schmidt/Chris Tolos D Steve Bolus/Ron Doner
Mongols D Tex McKenzie/Billy Red Lyons
Bearcat Wright/Sonny King W J.B. Psycho/Pat Scott

1974/02/10 MLG, Toronto
The Sheik D/DQ Andre the Giant
Johnny Valentine W Masked Marvel
Tiger Jeet Singh W Big Brutus
Chief Jay Strongbow W Andy Marton, Jacques Rougeau D Hans Schmidt
Love Brothers D Dominic Denucci/Sweet Daddy Siki Billy Red Lyons D Chris Tolos
The Beast WDQ The Executioner
Lee Henning D Ron Doner

1975/11/30 MLG, Toronto
NWA Title: Jack Brisco L/DQ Spiros Arion
Stan Stasiak/Mark Lewin W The Sheik/Waldo Von Erich
The Beast W Mike Angelo
Edouard Carpentier W Lou Klein
Sweet Daddy Siki D El Brassero
Mongols W Dino Bravo/Nick DeCarlo
Crusaders W Don Kent/Kurt Von Brauner
Duncan McTavish/Lord Athol Layton D Chris Tolos/Wildman

1977/02/27 MLG, Toronto
US Title Spec Ref: Chris Tolos: The Sheik W Bobo Brazil to win the title
International Tag Titles: The Crusaders W Kelly Twins
Stan Stasiak/Chief Jay Strongbow W Ivan Koloff/Tarzan Tyler
Edouard Carpentier/Gino Brito WP Reginald Love/Lou Klein
Michele Barone W Terry Yorkston
Ken Patera W Steve Bolus
Sweet Daddy Siki D The Wolfman
Crazy Luke Graham D/DQ Tony Parisi

1978/12/17 MLG, Toronto
US Title: Ricky Steamboat W Ric Flair to win the title
Canadian Title: Dino Bravo W Gene Kiniski to win the vacant title
Tony Atlas/Jay Youngblood W Baron Von Raschke/Greg Valentine (nontitle)
Tiger Jeet Singh W Zimba Khan
Paul Jones W Gene Anderson
Jimmy Snuka W Swede Hansen
Johnny Weaver W Rudy Kay

1980/06/15 MLG, Toronto
Canadian Title: Great Hossein W Dewey Robertson
US Title: Ric Flair W Jimmy Snuka
Angelo Mosca W/DQ Ray Stevens
Tony Parisi W Tim Gerrard
Pedro Morales/Johnny Weaver W Doug Sommers/Steve Muslin
Bob Marcus W John Forsythe

1981/11/30 MLG, Toronto
Canadian Title: Big John Studd L/DQ Bad Leroy Brown
Ron Bass/Rick Steamboat W Greg Valentine/Ivan Koloff
Johnny Weaver W/COR Lord Alfred Hayes
Jay Youngblood W Ricky Harris
Tony Parisi W Frank Marconi
Steve Bolus W Tim Gerrard

1982/07/11 MLG, Toronto
WWF Title: Bobby Backlund W Greg Valentine
NWA US Title: Sgt. Slaughter W Wahoo McDaniel
Mid Atlantic Title: Jack Brisco W Roddy Piper
*Piper had actually won the title 7/7 in Charlotte, North Carolina but was not acknowledged here
Jimmy Valiant/Jake "The Snake" Roberts W Ivan Koloff/Ninja
Johnny Weaver W Tim Gerrard
Tony Parisi W Bob Marcus

1984/05/27 MLG, Toronto
NWA Title: Ric Flair W Dick Slater
Russian Chain Match: Angelo Mosca W Ivan Koloff
Angelo Mosca Jr. W Great Kabuki
Grapplers W Pez Whatley/Vinny Valentino
Buddy (Bret) Hart/Johnny Weaver W Leo Burke/Rudy Kay
Terry Kay W Don Kolov
Brian Adidas W Doug Vines
Tony Parisi WP Jeff Sword

-AC



The Ramp!


Flashback - originally posted 2010 updated 2018
      It's one of the most memorable parts of Maple Leaf Wrestling no matter when you attended cards at MLG The Ramp. An elevated walkway to the ring that was originally put in to protect the heels, specifically Nanjo Singh, from the wrath of the fans. In 1948 when it was first used, the weekly cards were often brought to rioting by the heels of the day. Whipper Watson was in his prime and the star of the show. That made any of his opponents public enemy #1. In particular the dreaded Nanjo Singh.

   Nanjo and Whip had been feuding for years by 1948. Nanjo may have been the inspiration for The Sheik years later. A lot of biting, eye gouging, and foreign objects. It wasn't all an act either. The Sheik was one Ed Farhat, but apparently Nanjo was still Nanjo out of the ring. Frank Tunney later noted that the only way he could get Singh to calm down was to threaten to call the cops. That's the only thing that scared him. He later went to prison (1958) for the murder of his wife in Philadelphia.

   Whenever the fans got so enraged that they tried to attack Nanjo, he would escape under the ring. He would stay there until they could clear a track to the dressing rooms, usually with police and other wrestlers to form a protective line. The fans were used to this escape by then. Wild Bill Longson had used it on many occasions in the 1940s and mostly versus Whipper. The fans loved Watson feverishly. Even with the escape under the ring Nanjo would still have to fight his way to the hallway that led to the dressing rooms, with fans attacking, throwing drinks, chairs, and anything else they could find. They would learn new tricks too, including lighting papers on fire and throwing them under the ring to ‘smoke him (Singh) out – like a porcupine.'

   By 1948 Tunney had tried different measures to keep Nanjo both in the ring - and away from fans. The wire fence match, an early precursor to the cage match was used to varying degrees of success.

   In May 1948 during one of those bouts Singh was battering Watson into the ring post when a female fan jumped up and attacked Singh over the fence. The police rushed in to restrain her and Singh tossed Watson high and up out of the ring to crash down on the floor. Referee Cliff Worthy counted Whipper out while Nanjo strutted and taunted the fans from the ring. As they were carrying Whipper out on a stretcher Nanjo pointed and screamed 'That's your champion.' The fans were enraged again. There were 11,000 in attendance and about 1,600 at ringside. Joe Perlove remarked in the Star the next day that while there were 1,600 at ringside '3000 tried to get at him.' As the police and other wrestlers tried to shield him he somehow made it safely to the back.

Nanjo will need it more than any of the others...

  Anytime the fans got out of hand in those days Tunney would get flak from the Ontario Athletic Commission. That may have led to his decision to create a safer passage for Nanjo next time the two met. Right from the start it was called the ramp. An 'elevated ramp from rink-side gate to ring apron which will be erected for the occasion. Nanjo will need it more than any of the others and it is questionable if even that will help him escape the wrath of the customers.'

   That first bout with the ramp in place went the same way. Whipper had dropkicked Singh off the apron to the floor where he was counted out. The fans gathered around him and Nanjo awoke in a hurry and jumped back in the ring to attack both Whipper and his manager Phil Lawson. Whipper took the upper hand while the fans crowded around the ring. Then Nanjo went through the ropes and 'stepped out on that blankety-blank ramp and walked over the heads of the frothing populace.'

   Perlove opined that Tunney should have cared more about the fans that were unable to get their frustrations satisfied due to the easy exit by Singh on the ramp. Tunney was said to be quiet about the outcome until notified that Nanjo had split his head for 11 stitches upon whence he elicited a wide grin.

   At any rate it was a success, It had protected Singh from the fans and as time went on there were other advantages to having the ramp there. Wrestlers could use the structure as part of the story-line (see slams, suplex's, etc) and more importantly it created an entrance that the whole arena could see, no matter where you were seated in the vast MLG.


   It was built out of wood, basically a solid structure with a few steps built on at the front to enable the wrestlers to step up and walk to the ring where the end of the ramp met the height of the canvas. It was a solid piece. They don't make stuff like that anymore. It was initially kept in the basement of Maple Leaf Gardens where they kept the ring until Wrestling nights. While the ring was set up downstairs to enable training the ramp appears to have been stacked in a corner. A bunch of pieces put together by the rink staff and only put together on Thursday nights.

   Was it the same ramp we saw in the 1970's and early 1980's? Basically, but it did change and evolve a bit over time. The early days saw the steps very close to the hall. So the wrestler came out and was already up the stairs before most of the fans saw them. By the mid to late 1970's the ramp was a bit further out from the hall. The wrestler would take a few steps out behind the curtain before hitting the stairs. The actual ramp shrunk substantially over the years; but so did the ring.* While originally built as a short term solution to an age old problem the ramp ended up being a mainstay of the weekly cards and would stay in place through the WWF days until they deemed it un-necessary.

    In my era there was a lot of action on the ramp. It made for a lot of memorable moments. Likewise back in the 1950's. The fan favorites could soak in the cheers on their way out while the heels could taunt the crowd and turn up the jeers while they lingered on the ramp. While it served as an additional area to wrestle and brawl it also worked as an easier way to go over the ropes without hitting the floor an additional 4 feet below.
*In those days the ring was huge, with an apron so wide that they could walk around the outside easily. In tags the second referee could find a spot there to stay out of the way.
   
   Whipper Watson slammed Lou Thesz on the ramp in 1956 and beat the count back to the ring to claim the NWA title. Whipper used the ramp to his advantage many times since he had first walked it in 1948 and others would use it as an additional tool to enrage the fans. In the 1960's Bulldog Brower (just barely!) unable to  lift the actual ramp would oftentimes just pull up the stairs and heave them around. In a 1962 bout against NWA champ Buddy Rogers he pinned the champ with his feet up on the ropes, claimed the championship belt, and was celebrating with his new title on the ramp before the result was overturned.


 'This wrestling photographer was very familiar with the Gardens ramp, since I had on many occasions climbed the steps leading to the ramp. Standing on the ramp offered me opportunity to get many dramatic photos of the wrestlers both on the ramp, as well as in the ring.

My favorite entrance to the ring side floor was climbing the steps to the ramp, take a calculated jump down to the concrete floor with my cameras, and then I was able to roam the ring side, always looking for that great wrestling shot.

Moments before attacking Roger! 

However my luck ran out one night many years ago. One of wrestling's greatest villains Dick The Bull Dog Brower  was wrestling on this night, his opponent had managed to inflict a head cut on Brower who was in a very vile mood.  I sensed an opportunity to get a close up bloody shot of Brower on the ramp so I climbed the steps, and found myself just a few feet from this very violent man, I took my picture and then he came rushing at me, without hesitation I leaped off the ramp, at this moment burdened down with a bulky twin lens camera, also a 135mm camera, and a strobe flash with a large power pack.

I hit the concrete floor off balance with my equipment all over me, it was a very nasty and painful fall that I took. It took me a minute or two to get back on my feet. Thankfully Brower went back to the ring. I landed on the floor which was a corridor between the dressing rooms on the south side, and the north side of the gardens, while I struggled to get to my feet a wrestler that I'd done a prior story on was standing feet from were I fell and he had a grin on his face, that bugged me, but It's all part of the game.'
-Roger

   Near title changes and actual title change celebrations, while starting in the ring, would inevitably end up on the ramp with the belts held high and the center of the spotlight. In the 1970's The Sheik would own the ramp. He would race out and attack his opponent, often before they had a chance to get in the ring. Some bouts took place entirely outside the ring in those days.

The Fans, and the heroes...

 In 1980 Ray Stevens was attacked by a fan as he was leaving the ring following a tag bout with he and Jimmy Snuka against Flair and Dewey Robertson. After the fan had climbed up on the ramp Stevens kicked and knocked him off  leaving him unconscious on the floor. Once Stevens and Snuka had departed they put the fan back up on the ramp where he was put on a stretcher and examined by Gardens trainers.

   In the late 1970's early 1980's Ric Flair was a master at using the ramp to his advantage. With his extravagant robes for maximum visual effect he would soak in the crowd and turn to face the fans above the ramp. During bouts he would escape to the relative safety of it, and from his first appearances in Toronto, he would take the fight to the ramp.

  During Flair and Harley Race's brawls over the NWA Title they would battle back and forth exchanging suplexes and piledrivers on the hard wooden structure. Fans all over the arena were able to see unobstructed by the ropes and was much better than the two fighting outside the ring on the far side to where you were seated. Race would also drop his falling head butt out on the ramp with Flair moving aside just in time. Ref Terry Yorkston, not known for his quick movement would get out there with them and start counting. It seemed he would hit 30 - 40 before they came back to the ring.

   At ringside in that era  you were able to get up close and personal at certain times. The ushers were fairly vigilant but it depended on who was working. Oftentimes they were as into it as the fans so you were able to crowd the ramp as the action spilled out. Other times they kept you in the seats which were about 7-8 feet away from the ramp, separated by a metal rail. It also helped for photographs without having the ring ropes in your way. They also used the ramp a bit around the circuit at different times.
   
  When Jack Tunney switched to WWF in 1984 Hulk Hogan was a big hit on the ramp. It was made for him at that time with the cupped ear thing he did. When he was here in 1981 vs Andre The Giant he had used the ramp to give a good arm flip-off to the fans. Hated heel back then. 

   In later years far removed from MLG and the NWA days in Toronto, many wrestlers including Flair and Hogan, when asked about wrestling in Toronto inevitably say - that Ramp! Nowadays nearly every wrestling (and other sports, concerts etc) show has a ramp of some kind somewhere.

   And the 2$ question is what happened to it after the Gardens became a Loblaws? Did it actually become the dock at Jack Tunney's lakeside. Was it used to build a shed at Ed Tunney's house? Did it become firewood? Or was it just tossed out in the many dumpsters of garbage removed from the site. If you know please share it!

-AC

Photos mapleleafwrestling.com collection
Circa 1950 main pic out of the MLG book 1981
Brower a Roger Baker pic - and Thanks to Roger

Below; the ramp through the years






Podcast chat / Slam Q&A

  Was a pleasure to speak with Andy from Grappling With Canada about Gene Kiniski and wrestling in Toronto in general. The podcast looks at Canadian wrestling and has a ton of great content. Here he speaks with the author of the Gene Kiniski book and we join in about the 1h 51 mark to discuss T.O. Listen to it here Grappling With Canada Ep4


Posted by Marshall Ward | Mar 29, 2021

The rich history of professional wrestling in Ontario comes alive in chaotic detail in a new book by a pair of veteran Canadian wrestling journalists. Wrestling giants of yesteryear like Whipper Billy Watson, Fritz Von Erich, Yukon Eric, Gene Kiniski, and Bulldog Brower come to life in the pages of From Nanjo to The Sheik: Tales from Toronto Wrestling by Andrew Calvert with Roger Baker, out now and self-published. ...Read More

Ron Hutchison Chat: Toronto & the Early Days

Ron in his fan days at MLG with Hossein and Backlund. And in recent times

   Pain, Torture, Agony. Not three things at the top of my list but I never wanted to be a pro wrestler. When I was a kid the wrestlers were larger than life. Literally. The whole pro wrestling scene was. And mysterious. In my younger mind it would have been more viable to to become an astronaut (never tried), or a rock star (tried) than a pro wrestler. 

  In the book of the same name Pain, Torture, Agony published by Crowbar Press, Toronto native Ron Hutchison tells his fascinating and inspirational story of being a rabid Toronto wrestling fan, becoming a pro wrestler, and going on to carve out a well respected career as a promoter and trainer of some big names. 

  As a Toronto fan close to the same age as Ron, we shared many of the same favorites. Dewey, Backlund, Hossein The Arab/The Iron Sheik come up often. We are thankful to be able to do a longer-form visit with Ron and discuss some of our favorite T.O. wrestling memories. Enjoy.

Once a fan..

Q-AC. Was there a particular moment or wrestler that made you say 'I want to be a wrestler' At that age did you believe you WOULD become a wrestler

A-RH. I can't say that there was one defining moment or wrestler that made me say that I wanted to be a wrestler. Of course, I did have my favorites, The Crusader and The Sheik but, overall, I think it was just the entire way the sport was presented, as a spectacle that fascinated me. I went to my very first live show on April 7, 1974. It was a match between the Crusader and the Sheik that got me there. If the Crusader lost, he had to unmask and as fate would have it, he lost that night and then unmasked inside the ring. If I wasn't hooked forever before that moment, I was definitely hooked then. That match was, of course, in Maple Leaf Gardens. 

Although I wanted to be a wrestler for as long as I can remember I didn't believe that I would actually be a wrestler until I started and, then, completed my training at Sully's Gym. The business was hard to break into. There weren't a lot of wrestling schools around period, and none in Toronto that I knew of.  When I finally discovered that training was offered at Sully's, got into the school and began to train, I then knew that my lifelong goal was, indeed, possible. I would have been 17 going on 18 at the time. 

What were some of your favorite matchups. Who were your favorites. Did you like the bad guys too, any that you secretly wanted to see win

Of course, my favorite match up would have had to be the Crusader vs. Sheik match in 1974. We had a lot of great matches at the Gardens during the mid-seventies and early eighties. Nick Bockwinkel vs. Bob Backlund, the AWA champion vs. the WWWF champion comes immediately to mind. A champion vs champion match. A real rarity at the time!

Any of the Ric Flair vs. Roddy Piper or Ricky Steamboat matches also have to be considered some of my favorite matchups.

As far as favorite wrestlers go, initially it was the Crusader but when he lost his hood he lost a little bit of his appeal to me and I gravitated towards the Sheik. The Sheik was the man in Toronto. He would meet and defeat any and all comer's week after week, month after month and year after year.

Following the Sheik, Superstar Billy Graham and then, his replacement, Bob Backlund rose to the top of my favorites list. Particularly Backlund who, in later years, I tried to pattern my babyface wrestling style after, complete with red velour jacket and a white towel draped around my neck.

Ron's great fan photos from MLG 1978, Gorilla, Patterson & Stevens, Backlund & SBG in the cage, Dom Denucci

Is there a particular card that stands out as one of the best during our era

As far as complete cards go, I think the first two Canadian Heavyweight Title tournaments stand out to me. I think because they were treated as being very special. They got media coverage with pictures in the Toronto newspapers and Whipper Watson was present. Another that stands out is the Cadillac Tournament won by Jimmy Valiant.

Matches that stood out to me were, of course, the Backlund/Bockwinkel match and a coal miners glove match between Ivan Koloff and Jimmy Valiant. That was a really bloody affair that saw Koloff slice an artery in his head and therefore a trip to the hospital for the Russian bear. 

On Feb. 6, 1977 I witnessed Harley Race defeat Terry Funk for the National Wrestling Alliance world title. I was 12 at the time and the next day I turned 13. That match stands out, again, as it was portrayed as being special. The CHCH television trucks were outside the Gardens, a riser was set up on the North end of the Gardens and Whipper Watson and NWA President Sam Muchnick were sitting in that riser with headphones on, doing commentary on the match. Hardcore fans knew that this was going to be a special night and that something big was going to happen because, as a rule, the television trucks didn't come to the Gardens at the time. Muchnick was never here by that time and Watson wasn't wrestling so he made very infrequent Gardens appearances as well.

Another one that stood out was Abdullah the Butcher vs. The Sheik. I remember it because Abby, instead of coming up the ramp to begin the match like all of the other wrestlers did, came from the south end of the Gardens. He was running with a metal garbage can over his head towards the ring (with the Sheik already in it). He used that garbage can to bash over the Sheik's head. I remember it because it was different. I like different, if it makes sense! 

How did you rank the feds, NWA AWA WWWF, how about the champs, who was the top in your books

In order, I rated the feds as NWA, AWA and, then, WWWF.

The National Wrestling Alliance was definitely the kingpin at the time and their champion was a travelling champion, who even the other leagues recognized as the world heavyweight champion. That being said, as a youngster, I just adored Bob Backlund. And Ric Flair and Nick Bockwinkel were the kings of the ring to me. The 70's and early eighties were a great, great time to be a wrestling fan.  

*AC. Yeah I know but I 've asked everybody that for over 40 years. I had NWA, WWF, then AWA on my list, as we saw Backlund and WWF more in the M-A era but I loved Bockwinkel too. Just as worthy. Most fans that were big on the 77-78 years rank them as Ron did. 

The stars in T.O..

Did you ever get to meet Frank Tunney. How about some of the older stars, Whipper, Fred Atkins, Layton etc. Did you ever go to the office

I don't recall meeting Frank Tunney but I do remember him walking down the main hallway and into the Gardens dressing room the odd time. One time he was carrying a brown paper bag and I remember one of the regular fans making the comment that the bag must have contained the bologna sandwiches that Frank was famous for giving the boys. In reality I think that it was Frank's wife's homemade mustard that the boys liked.

I met most all of the older stars. Mainly when I was a fan, outside on Church street. Not, really on Wood street in the mid-seventies as the wrestling office was located inside the Gardens at the time. It was at the very northeast corner of the building, on Church at Wood Street, with the entrance being on Church street.

I used to try to get their autographs, in an autograph book that I still have. Looking through it for this article, I see I had all of the older names you mentioned above sign it as well as gentlemen like Pat Flannagan, Tiger Tasker, Lee Henning, Lou Pitoscia (at that time managing the Kelly Twins), Frank Valois (manager/handler of Andre the Giant), Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski, Killer Kowalski and even Abdullah Farouk (manager of the Sheik).

Of course, I went into the office on Carlton Street to get my cheques for working TV many times but, in the early years, when the office was inside the Gardens, I only went in there once and it was on a dare!

A couple of my friends and myself were walking by the Maple Leaf Gardens wrestling office one weekday and the boys dared me to go in there. They egged me on and egged me on and finally, I threw open the big heavy glass and wooden door to the office of the Queensbury Athletic Club and upon entry blurted out, 'I'm the only man who can beat the Sheik!'

I had heard Chris Tolos make that claim on a CHCH television interview on the wrestling show one night so I figured it was as good a thing to say as any as I made my quick, in and out, foray into the office. Before I left though, Jack Tunney spoke up and said, 'Yeah, he'd like to get hold of you too!'

I was in and out of there quickly so didn't have a chance to take much of anything in but when I got back out onto Church street, I remember my friends and I having a great laugh about it.  

Did you get smartened up at all as a fan, when. What kind of inside stuff did you know already, prior to training

As a fan, none of the boys smartened us up. The closest to it would be when the Iron Sheik foreshadowed to me that he would be winning the Canadian title off of Angelo Mosca one particular Sunday. I had befriended the Iron Sheik as a fan, took him down Yonge Street to get a suit jacket one time, chatted with him a lot and on one show day, out of the blue (it may have been when we were going to find him a suit jacket) he said to me, 'Ronny! How do you think the people would react if I were to become Canadian champion?' He was working with Mosca that day, for the title, and I was smart enough to put two and two together and sure enough by the time the show was over The Great Hossein Arab was the new Canadian Heavyweight Wrestling champion.  

Around that time and even prior to that, a bunch of us used to be regulars hanging at the Church street office door, in an attempt to meet the wrestlers. When the Mid-Atlantic guys come in we knew that they were staying across the street from the Gardens at the Westbury Hotel and, most of us, were given permission to access the hotel lobby, sit in the seats and meet the wrestlers. On occasion, Terry Justice would come up from New York state and bring us some of the newsletters that he was publishing. The TNT Times was the name of one of his newsletters. The newsletters contained clippings and news of what was going on all over the United States. Who was wrestling who? The size of the draw, etc. Sometimes, with Terry came Tommy and a young, pre-wrestling days, Eddie Gilbert and we all would sit in the lobby of the Westbury and chat. So, I had all of that knowledge before I even set foot in the training gym.

And, in case you were wondering, as the word spread among more and more fans that the wrestlers were staying at the Westbury things began to get a little overwhelming as far as crowd control issues at the hotel went, so the boys had to move a fair way down the street from the Gardens to the Hilton Hotel on Bay Street, if memory serves me correctly.

*AC. I got a few pics at the Westbury in 81-82 but was chased out of the lobby the few times we tried it, every time

To be pushed, or not..

If you had broken in a few years earlier, say 1975 or 1979 do you think your career here would have been different (as a wrestler). -in relation to how hard it was to break the MLG barrier, and then the WWF machine

If I had broken in earlier there is no doubt in my mind that things would have turned out a lot different for me. I don't even think I would have entered the world of training people. I am sure, given the opportunity that an earlier entrance into the business would have given me (and assuming I was finished with school at the time) I would have be travelling the territories and loving it!

Ron Starr once asked one of my buddies who was visiting him in the Alabama/ Pensacola, Florida territory, You know Ronnie?' Hell, I would have him up here in the territory just to entertain the boys. He wouldn't even have to wrestle!' I was in school at the time or I might have taken him up on his offer, although I would have been wrestling too.

Did you become friendly later with any of the stars you watched and liked. Dewey? BRL . How about the lesser known guys, the Marcus Bros etc

I became friends with Tiger Jeet Singh. Tiger was on the very first live show I saw, the very first show I worked and, when I was training people he brought not one but two of his sons, Tiger Jr. and Rob, into the gym to be trained. I also went on two tours with Tiger, one to England and the other to India. Tiger Jr., of course, toured Japan with his father and worked WWE for a time as Tiger Ali Singh whereas Rob wizened up, even before he finished his training, and is now a very successful realtor in Ontario. Tiger Jr. heads up the Tiger Jeet Singh Foundation which is a non-profit charitable organization which provides people with a hand up, if needed.

I also became great friends with Bobby Bass. He trained at Sully's before me, under the tutelage of Phil Watson. He was already working his craft before I began but when I started, I ended up working with him, touring with him in Atlantic Canada and then, as is common in our business, not seeing him for years until we met up one fateful night at the CAC.

After you were trained did you have a new appreciation for any of the stars you may not have liked before. See them in a new light. Any prelim guys you think could have made it big with the right push here, or in a different era

I really had a deep-rooted appreciation for all of the wrestlers I saw in the ring. It didn't matter to me what position they had on the card. On top, in the middle, at the bottom. I had respect and admiration for all of them. These people were doing what I, at the time, could only dream of doing. When I got trained, I maintained that respect as people that I had looked up to became my co-workers. It was a great feeling to have because when I had my first match I was19 years old and had trained for two years to get to that point. While my friends from school got themselves jobs working in a grocery store or retail store or what have you, I got the chance to live out my dreams while working with my childhood heroes. Guys that I grew up watching on TV. I really don't think there could be anything much cooler than that and, to this day, I count my blessings for that.

I think a lot of the guys I worked with could have made it big with the right push here and it really wouldn't matter the era. As professional wrestling isn't the Olympics it really doesn't matter how great of a wrestler you were or are, the push was dictated mainly by the 'pencil' (booker) and/or promoter. If you had the 'power of the pencil' behind you could be the top star in the territory no matter your skill level. The most glaring example of that would be the push and subsequent championship reigns of Master Sgt. Al Tomko in Vancouver. Was he a golden-haired Adonis? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Was he the best wrestler anybody ever seen? Nope. Many would say, not even close. BUT, he was the promoter/ pencil/ owner of the company and, for years he pushed himself as the top wrestler in the company and, it was a company that was broadcast nationwide throughout Canada.

Another example I'll try to use to illustrate my point is my pal, Tim Gerrard. He worked for years for Tunney but, for the most part, Tunney wasn't pushing locals so Tim went in to work and did exactly what was asked of him. Now, take Tim out of that environment, put him with a different "pencil" who puts him under a hood and calls him one half of the Destroyer's tag team combination and all of a sudden, Tim is working at, or near, the top of the cards.

Bobby Bass, same thing. Tunney was averse to pushing locals (unless he, more or less had to) and I mention this in my book. Prior to working for the Tunney's Bass had a decent run in Stampede, was half of the tag team champions (with the Iron Sheik) in Vancouver, etc. Different 'pencils'. Different ways of doing things. Different ideas.

Iron Mike Sharpe. Most fans remember him for his long line of loses in the WWF. Before that notoriety though he made a name for himself in Vancouver and the Mid-South territory, holding several championships in both. Even when he first entered the WWF he was pushed at the beginning. Most people don't remember that. He came in, was managed by Capt. Lou Albano and even got a WWWF title shot against Bob Backlund at the Philadelphia Spectrum in 1979. Shortly after that, the pendulum swung and he started to be booked differently but he was booked, working steady, making steady money and that is the name of the game.

A wrestler that you'd probably have to be a die-hard Maple Leaf Wrestling fan to remember, Korean wrestler Kim Chang, is one guy I definitely wondered why they didn't try to push. Nice looking guy, decent build, work wasn't bad and, even as a fan not yet in the business, I thought that they could have done more with him. Why? Well, for the characteristics mentioned above but, perhaps, more importantly, because he was Korean! They didn't have Korean wrestlers. Ethnic draws were a huge part of the business at the time and Toronto had/has a very sizeable Korean population. I thought that if they promoted him right, it could have brought out more of the Korean population into the Gardens.

I think that they really could have did more with the Marcus Brothers locally and, really, just about anybody. Now, I'm not saying fans would have bought it, and in a lot of circumstances the boys perhaps couldn't commit to it (let's say for instance, the travelling) because they would rather homestead and come back home every night to be with their families and/or full-time jobs with benefits. There could be a multitude of reasons why anyone wasn't given a push. What I am saying though is, for the most part, given that the wrestler had an even decent amount of ability and athleticism, the "power of the push" fell into the hands of the pencil and I don't think that you'd find too many wrestlers that would disagree with me.

There are so many examples. Nick DeCarlo and, even, Dewey Robertson locally. In my day I remember Nick being used only as a carpenter here. But, prior to my remembrance here, he held several championships throughout the US and Canada including the IWA Brass Knuckles championship. Dewey? When Tunney was using him on top here, went he went down to work for Crockett during the same period, he was used mid-card, at best, there. So, like I said, it's, primarily, up to the 'power of the pencil". You can control your look but you can't control your push.

Quick. Toronto Wrestling..

Pick 4-5 names that encapsulate Toronto wrestling for you - as a fan

Well, first and foremost when you think Toronto wrestling you have to think of the Tunney's, mainly Frank. For decades upon decades, he brought the very best in professional wrestling to the Maple Leaf Gardens. We got matches in Toronto, from different Federations, that all of the other fans could only dream about. We were spoiled here and didn't realize it! 

In-ring I'd have to go with Whipper Watson who became a Canadian wrestling icon as Canada's wrestling representative to the world. He also had a huge media presence for the charity initiatives that he was involved in, most prominently the Easter Seals and his Snowarama's.

The Sheik, being the man at the Gardens for the majority of my youth, certainly cannot be overlooked.  I think that he was almost as important to the Toronto scene as he was to his own Big Time Wrestling promotion in Detroit.

Dewey and Mosca as the Canadian champions of their respective runs are two more names that encapsulate Toronto wrestling for me. They were our hometown heroes and the people could get behind them.

Then, in later years, how could Billy Red Lyons not fit onto my list? Not for his body of in-ring work here necessarily, but rather he became the television face of Maple Leaf Wrestling when the business was sizzling hot in Toronto, he was the man that fans saw weekly on television urging fans sitting at home to 'dontcha dare miss it!' (the next upcoming card.)

Did you travel to see shows outside the area , go to any TV

All of them in Toronto and whatever I could get to locally. Brampton mainly but I also saw the third Pat Patterson vs. Bob Backlund match at Madison Square Garden in New York. Aug. 27, 1979. I remember I talked my mom and dad into taking a family vacation to New York City. It was specifically so that I could see the big wrestling match at the Garden and I ordered two tickets ahead of time from the Garden box office. They were mailed to me here in Toronto. My mother had absolutely zero interest in wrestling so the night of the show, she stayed in the hotel room and my dad and I walked to the Garden to take in the show. 

Always a fan of the business, before and after I broke in, I went with a buddy of mine who used to take photos for some of the wrestling magazines (Brian Lackie) to the first Crockett Cup Memorial Tag Team Tournament in the New Orleans Superdome.

*AC. Brampton was one of McKigney's stops, Ron started his career on a Wildman card in '83

You wrestled Dory Jr and others that you would have seen as a fan, what was your feeling looking across the ring rather than up at it. Did you have any names that you really wanted to wrestle at the time

I felt like the luckiest man alive. Standing in that ring, looking directly across from wrestlers that I had admired for so long and doing what I had dreamed of doing for so long is a feeling that I, probably, can't adequately describe. I was young and while most of my friends would take jobs in grocery stores, perhaps take an internship at a weekly newspaper out in the boondocks somewhere when they got out of journalism school, I on the other hand was pursuing my dreams. I travelled and worked with my heroes. When I did WWF television I was on TV around the world and the business was so popular at that time that, pretty much, everyone that had a TV set had seen me. The business was so hot that, in 1986, the Toronto Sun even ran a full-page feature story on me that was syndicated in newspapers throughout Canada. I really felt that I was blessed.

As far as names that I would have liked to work with at the time goes, I basically worked against every top-level heel in the WWF. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any that I didn't work with in the day (although there may have been one or two). I worked Orndorff, Kamala, Bundy, Adrian Adonis, Dick Murdoch and guys like Jesse Ventura and Roddy Piper that really didn't wrestle on television all that much at the time, but when they did, they wrestled me. When Bret Hart started his heel run in the WWF he turned heel in a singles match with me. I'm about 20 or 21 at the time. I had dreamt of doing this all of my life. As a babyface I worked against all that they had to offer but, if I had been a heel, I think that adding the name Hulk Hogan to my resume would have been so cool.

60 Minutes with..

If you could go back in time what wrestler would you want to do a 60 min bout with. Toronto wise. And in general

Bob Backlund was certainly be at the top of that list for reasons already mentioned above. That would have been the ultimate match for a young Ron Hutchison.  

Ric Flair would have been an obvious choice. Billy Robinson would have been a thrill to work an hour with. 

Plus, and this pick is probably going to surprise you but I would have loved to work an hour long match with Mike Shaw (a.k.a. Bastion Booger, Makhan Singh, Norman the Lunatic, etc.). You're probably thinking how in the hell would we have ever accomplished that? Mike, although around the 300 lb. mark when I was working with him in '86/87 was a very smart worker. In Stampede Wrestling which is where he was working before he joined the Maritime tour, I knew that Mike worked quite a few 60 minute matches, or at least 45 and 50 minute matches, with Owen Hart, and I, just like everyone else, wondered how in the world he was ever able to do that, at his girth?!?

Well, it could be done, IF you worked smart! There is a difference between being able to work and being able to 'work smart.' Mike Shaw, worked smart. It was during a match that I was working with him that I realized just what a 'smart worker' was, as opposed to just being a worker. I was the face at the time and he, if I remember correctly, had just turned heel. He did start off as a face in the Maritimes. Anyway, I was working him, he got his heat on me and I made my comeback. During some point in the comeback he retreated into the corner turnbuckles, sat on the bottom turnbuckle and whispered to me to kick him when I followed him in.  

'Kick me, kick me, kick me,' he would tell me and I, being the obedient face, would do as I was told because that was the lay of the land. The heels called the match and the face followed. Kicked and kicked and kicked at his stomach during my fiery comeback but I was blowing up!?! I was in good condition, but this guy, with the huge waistline, was blowing me up!! Finally, right there in that very moment I knew what he was doing. He was deliberately trying to blow me up. He knew it and was getting a chuckle out of it as I kept kicking away at him. When I realized what he was trying to do and the fun that he was having while doing it, I stopped kicking and said something to the effect of, 'you bastard.' He smirked and right then and there I learned how to work smart. How to pace myself better. How to slow the story telling down. Whatever you want to call it but, that very moment is the exact moment that I learned how to work smart.' I always knew how to work but working smartly was another whole kettle of fish. There's a whole lesson to be had from this paragraph for a lot of today's Indy talent, especially. So, that is how Mike Shaw and Owen Hart worked so many long, long matches around the Calgary loop. With all due respect to Owen Hart, because it takes two to tango, Mike, particularly, had to work smart!


A Boy with a Dream..

How did the book do, any plans on another. Are you working on anything. I know you are involved with the CAC, how did that come about. 

The book, Pain Torture Agony, was well received and, during its launch, at the CAC, in Vegas we sold out of all available copies on hand very, very quickly. The print version is still available to order from crowbarpress.com and the eBook version is available worldwide on Amazon. I don't have any plans to do another as I can't fathom seeing myself sitting down in front of my computer typing for years and years on end again (it took me five years to write it and get it published). 

I am involved with the Cauliflower Alley Club and sit on their executive board of directors. Everyone in the industry as well as fans of professional wrestling should know about it and the great work that it does. The CAC is a non-profit charitable organization that helps those in the wrestling industry that have fallen on hard financial times, through no fault of their own, a hand up by helping in whichever way we can. The club, through the generous support of its membership and donors, helped pay wrestlers funeral expenses, we've helped guys from getting their houses seized on them for delinquent taxes, we've helped with medical expenses (and that's a big issue for many in the United States) and a lot more. It really is my pleasure to, not only sit on the board, but be a lifetime member of pro-wrestling's oldest C-4 charitable organization. Fans and wrestling people (and we do accept BOTH for membership consideration -- there is, to some, the misconception out there that only wrestlers are allowed to be members and that is just not true) can find out more about the club and also apply for and purchase a membership by visiting the CAC website. 

I got involved simply by going actually. For years, I knew about the club and had purchased a yearly membership but in 2012 I actually made my first trip to their annual reunion in Las Vegas. Now, I am not one, nor never have been one to go to wrestling functions of any nature, dinners, conventions, fan fests, whatever. For some reason though, in 2012, the urge hit me to check out the CAC and see exactly what it was about. So, I mentioned it to Luis Martins (who is a former wrestling student of mine) and he expressed interest on attending as well. So, both Luis and I attended our first CAC reunion in 2012 and both loved it!! The both of us have attended every reunion since.

One of my personal highlights that year was, one night in the hotel lobby Bobby Bass and I spotted each other. We hadn't seen each other in years. We embraced and I remember him saying to me, 'Ronnie! How are you? We heard that you were sick. I was getting ready to come to your funeral!' Now whether he was ribbing me or not, I couldn't tell you to this day but I convinced him that I was perfectly fine and that the only thing sick about me was still my mind! LOL

The very next year, in 2013, Bob Leonard (Stampede Wrestling) convinced me to do a wrestling training seminar as part of the free seminar series they gave each year to their members that attend the yearly awards banquets and reunion. I generally don't do things of that nature and, in fact, had never ever wanted to do a wrestling training seminar outside the confines of my training centers in Toronto. I had always kept my training courses private. For the CAC though I agreed to do it and I remember it being billed, factually, as my first ever training seminar in a public forum. The seminar was well attended, well received and was the very last seminar scheduled as part of two days of seminars before the big formal awards dinner.

In 2014 the CAC awarded me with their first ever trainers award as part of their formal awards dinner. As I was walking around the Casino I had two people (that I can remember) come up to me and ask me if I would consider sitting on the CAC board. Those two people that I remember were wrestling historian Tom Burke and CAC executive board member Bob Leonard. I told them both that I would be honored. A bit later on that day I did receive the official word and congratulations from the board.

From starting with the general board in 2014 I then moved to the Executive Board, by unanimous vote, on July 13, 2019. I am still there today and, doing my very best to move the club forward while continuing to do good things for our members and our brothers and sisters in need.

Looking back, looking forward..

Do you have the itch again to be training or promoting in an official capacity. What was the most difficult hat to wear, wrestler, promoter, or trainer

I'd be lying if I said that I ever lost the itch to promote or train again. I noticed that you didn't say wrestle! LOL That is always a possibility too. In my mind, I'm the world's oldest teenager! Perhaps when the world is right, I may just promote, train or, even, wrestle again!  

Of the three, wrestler, promoter and trainer, wrestler was the easiest, by far! All I had to do when I wrestled is show up, wrestle and get to the next town to do it all over again. The wrestlers have it easy as most of them don't have a care in the world.

Training I would put in the middle of that trio. I had a knack for it. The only thing I absolutely hated was the business end of the training. 

Promoting I thought was the most difficult of those three tasks. As I was the promoter/booker (and very, very hands on) I not only had to book talent, but I had to find and/or retain venues, worry about finances, the ring, the ring crew, publicity, ongoing storylines, travel arrangements, etc. You have to contend with the egos and quirks of the talent. Trying to make everyone 100% happy at all times is impossible no matter how much you try. Promoting actually made my physically sick. It's a lot of pressure. In my case, I was worried mainly about any of the talent getting seriously hurt. The business has changed so much that talent started to do things that I thought was pretty unwise, from a safety standpoint. They were working but, in my opinion, a lot of them could have worked a lot smarter! There's that concept of 'smart work' again. Watching them perform and having the weight of the world hang over me if one of them got seriously hurt on my watch was just something that I, eventually, I just couldn't keep doing. 

 Would I do it all again? Absolutely! You have to be a bit crazy to be in the wrestling business to begin with. Some are crazier than others. I followed my dreams and then some. I'm getting closer to where I'm going then where I've been and I wouldn't trade anything for the world. I just hope that some young up and coming wrestler (or, really, anybody reading this far actually, wrestler or not) has the passion and courage to follow their dreams. There will be roadblocks for sure. There will be nay-sayers. There will be hardships but if you want something bad enough no obstacle will be a major hurdle to overcome. Live your dreams my friends. Stay passionate. Stay on the straight and narrow, don't let anyone destroy your dreams and, for those youngsters reading this that are in the wrestling business, for God's sake WORK SMART!!

*AC. And no I didn't ask Ron about wrestling, not because of ageism! Thesz wrestled at 74 after all. When it comes to pro wrestlers never say never! 

_____________________________________

Thanks again to Ron, not only a great wealth of insight but also a very nice and humble guy. We looked at his book, our favorite wrestling bio/auto bio at Ron Hutchison: Pain Torture Agony! and highly recommend it if you want to learn about Pro Wrestling. Period. 

Ron also contributed to our bit Wildman, the OAC & Court

You can find and follow Ron on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RonHutchison1

Buy Ron's book Pain, Torture, Agony at http://crowbarpress.com/cbp-books/44-rh.html 
Soon again he will have autographed copies for Canadian fans. Check his twitter feed for updates. 

The CAC is at www.caulifloweralleyclub.org

We also compiled a Q&A from the KM board on Ron's buddy and ours- Tim Gerrard 
Q&A Tim Gerrard -Part 1
Q&A Tim Gerrard Part II

Photos from the Ron Hutchison collection

-AC

Red Garner: The Pride Of Langstaff



    Edwin 'Red' Garner certainly deserves his place in the history of professional wrestling in Canada for his tenure as an amateur, pro, and promoter for over 30 years in Southern Ontario.

    Red's story goes back to about 1932 when he started showing up on Toronto's busy local amateur boxing and wrestling scene. At 17 years old and 126 lbs Red would learn the ropes out of the Premier Athletic Club, one of the many athletic clubs in Toronto. The city was full of contests at all sorts of venues. Amateur mostly, some mit-mat (boxing & wrestling), and some that were a mix of the pro and amateur styles.

    Maple Leaf Gardens had been open for about a year with Jack Corcoran running pro cards there. Ivan Mickailoff, the man who started the regular weekly cards in the city was holding court at the Mutual St Arena.

    Around 1933 Garner began wrestling on shows for the West Toronto Wrestling Club out of Mavety Hall (later West End Theater) at Mavety and Dundas St. Now up to 150 lbs Red would begin moving up the ladder to main event bouts which lead into appearances on the cards at Mutual St. Amateur star Ted McKinley would became one of Red's early allies. McKinley was a regular on the scene in the early 1930's (and a bit of pro later) earning a Silver medal in the 1934 Commonwealth Games in the Bantamweight division. McKinley was often billed as a Canadian Champion.

    In 1937 Red suffered a serious injury with dislocating a neck vertebrae and there was a benefit card held for him at the Mutual St Arena. The main event featured McKinley vs another regular Ernie Hughson. Others appearing included Sam Gotter who later worked with the Toronto (Tunney) office and refereed at MLG. 

   Garner would recover and join the Army in 1940 to train soldiers in physical fitness and athletics. He would appear regularly on the weekly shows for the Crawford A.C. held at Foresters Hall at College and Yonge, and was busy organizing and wrestling on the many mit-mat shows around the area.

    In 1946 Red traveled to Mexico and would spend nearly a year there, appearing in a Welterweight Tournament held at La Arena Coliseo. The following year he appeared on several cards in Oshawa for Pat Farrell who pre-dated Pat Milosh as head of the Oshawa scene. 

Turn to Promoting, Moto, Wally, & Dave    

    The promoting side for Garner began around 1948. Red would start with shows near his home at the Richmond Hill Arena every Tuesday evening.
Oshawa 1947

    As the early 1950's began Red was also running cards at the Thornhill Market, Weston Arena, Lakeshore Arena, and Newmarket Arena. 

    Shows in Richmond Hill were billed as 'Professional Light-Heavyweight Wrestling - coolest spot in town - Wrestling On Ice.' Other wrestlers now appearing included The Black Knight, Juan Lopez, and Roy Hassan/Hassan Bey (Georgio Stefanides - later a referee at MLG). Garner would also travel a bit up the road to both Ottawa and Montreal and other towns in Quebec before coming up with a new angle to help himself get over.

    Friends had told him he looked Asian so he took up Sumo and studied the style and costumes of Japanese Wrestlers in order to turn into Mr. Moto, dreaded Japanese heel. In his new persona Red would speak in broken English and made up a phony story about his Japanese ancestry. The first appearance of Mr Moto was in Ottawa in 1952. As Mr Moto he would face a young Buddy Rogers in Montreal that same year.

    Red would set up a gym in his garage in Richmond Hill and start to train wrestlers to use on his cards. Joe Greenfield, Norm Alexander, Bill Clubine, Harold Van Dyke, Stoney Brooks were all trainees that worked on the local scene. Al Korman who would later referee at MLG and Mike Scicluna aka Baron Scicluna were other early trainees. Most notable were Wally Seiber and Dave McKigney, two newcomers who would each make ta big impact on the Ontario Wrestling scene.

    Wally, from Holland Landing progressed first into Waldo Von Seiber, and then later teamed up with Fritz Von Erich as cousin Waldo Von Erich. He became Waldo away form Toronto but both Wally and Fritz had appeared on the same cards around Toronto in those early days. McKigney too would create his own legacy by using a wrestling bear as early as 1957 and later becoming The Canadian Wildman. At this time McKigney was billed as Jean or Jacques Dubois -the Flying Frenchman. Along with McKigney and Seiber, others on the cards included soon to be Garner regulars, Ed Gori Mangotich, Ron 'Wildcat' Osborne, Tom Sullivan, Al Wallace, Ivan Klimenko, Jack Flicker 'The Aurora Madman', Billy Foster (Georgetown Lacrosse Star), and Les Lyman. Mangitoch would make several trips across to the UK and became quite a star there in the 1960's.

    Scarborough's Les Lyman, often billed as a Canadian champ, was promoting around Toronto at the Scarborough & Lakeshore Arenas and the two were sharing talent and resources. One of Red's trainees 'Jumping' Joe Greenfield would also emerge on the scene and become family when he married Ed's daughter Phyllis in 1953.
Fighting from the knees 1952

    In the late summer of 1953 Red along with Ed Mangotich described as 'the biggest Toronto villains' were invited to Quebec to wrestle on shows for Promoter Sylvio Samson. Samson, similar to Garner, was promoting shows in competition with the big players in Quebec, Eddie Quinn and others. Garner would see action alongside Dr Jerry Graham, the Lortie's Bob, Donald, and Ray, as well as the Quebec version of the Wrestling Bear, Gorgeous Gus (handled by Billy Fox).

    Waldo Von Seiber would also make some of those shows with partner Kurt Von Seiber as would another prominent Ontario name Joe Maich. Maich was another notable amateur turned pro who promoted for many years in Brantford and area along with his boxer brother  Don. Red would show up on their shows from time to time in Simcoe, Delhi, and the other spots they were running.

    Back in Ontario under the banner of Central Canadian Wrestling Alliance (CCWA) Red would expand out into the smaller towns across the Southern part of the province. Stoufville, Georgetown, Port Perry , Cobourg, Peterborough, and Lindsay were all popular stops. Former wrestler Toar Morgan who had settled in Lindsay would also promote some shows in that area in a partnership of sorts. Locally the troupe would fill Lakeshore Arena for weekly shows in the mid 1950's and other spots, East York Arena, Scarborough Arena. In 1955 they would start in Aurora on Monday evenings at the Aurora Arena for a season lasting usually 4-5 months.

Family Affair

    It truly was a family affair for Red. Along with son-in-law Joe Greenfield who wrestled and refereed,  Joe's brother Pal and Ed's son Ed Jr would truck the ring and bear trailer around to the different venues. Ed Jr billed as 'Red Jr' would also wrestle a bit on his Dad's shows. Red's daughter Phyllis (Joe's wife) would help man the box office. One night Red got into it with a fan and Phyllis hit the guy over the head with the moneybag and it split open sending cash all over the Arena floor. Another daughter Betty was married to wrestler Stoney Brooks, a regular on the circuit for many years. Joe's son ( Red's grandson) Edwin remembers that when he was a kid that the ring was set up in Garner's backyard for the wrestlers to work out and train for the upcoming shows.

    In the summer of 1955 Red promoted a series of cards at the Port Perry Arena. Baron Von Seiber would headline most of them with other names such as 'Langstaff Jumping Jack' Tommy White, Irish Jack Phelan, Sylvain Richard, Calvin Cosburn, and Joe Greenfield, billed 'Langstaff Scissors King'.
Garner would also feature the fabulous midget wrestlers who were very popular in those days. A two card series in Stoufville in 1957 featuring the midget stars would draw 3,000 people over the two cards. Red would also run weekly shows in the winters at the Thornhill Farmers Market between 1955-1958.

Tied in the ropes circa 1952

    In the mid 1950's Red would also be visible in his local area as Manager of the Langstaff Bantam minor hockey team. His son-in law Joe would serve as coach. Red (and Joe) would continue that involvement through the 1960's and when mentioned in the hockey news section was usually preceded with 'Well known Wrestler Red Garner...'.

The Big Circuit  

  In 1956 Red would make it to Maple Leaf Gardens using his Mr Moto persona. He would team up with a Mr Hito (Mamoru Noguchi), both using a sleeper hold as a finisher, and would prove very successful in taking on the teams of the day. Bouts against the Lewin Brothers Mark and Donn, Pat Flanagan and Billy Stack, and the Brunetti Brothers Guy and Joe would ensue. On Oct 4 1956 Moto and Hito would interfere in then NWA champion Whipper Watson's bout vs Mighty Ursus to earn the wrath of the new champ. Hito was up first the following week only to lose via dq, then both Moto and Hito were to take on Watson in a handicap bout. Both would end up disqualified but they had earned their success at the top. Moto would get his shot at Watson alone also only to lose by dq after both Hito and Whipper's pal Tim Geohagen interfered in the bout.

As Moto (right) 1956

    On the Oct 25 card they would beat the Brunetti's by dq and appear to take the Canadian Open Tag Team Titles. The brothers would argue that they can't lose the belts via dq (many belts were lost by dq in those days) leaving both teams claiming the titles. They would meet in a re-match a few weeks later which ended in a draw. It appears the earlier dq win was discarded as the Brunetti's kept the titles until losing to the Miller Brothers (Dan & Bill) in Feb 1957.

    On Thursday Nov 8 1956 Red as Moto would again face Watson with Wee Willie Davis appointed as special referee. Watson would win the bout clean and Red would earn another spot in history as being Whippers last opponent as NWA champ. The next day Watson would lose his belt to Lou Thesz in St Louis ending his reign.

    The success at MLG that year and into 1957 would lead Moto and Hito to travel. In Winnipeg they would face other heel teams, Fritz Von Erich and Karl Von Schoberg and the Kalmikoff's. One bout in Montreal pitted the two against the star pairing of Edouard Carpentier and Verne Gagne while another put them up against Dick The Bruiser and Killer Kowalski. Red would make his last appearance as Moto at MLG in Jan 1957 but continue to show up elsewhere through 1958, solo and with Hito. The Moto character, sometimes as the Great Moto would continue into the late 1950's on Red's shows around the area.

    I asked Roger Baker if he had ever attended any of Red's shows.
'I did see one of his shows in Toronto back around 1957-1958, he had it staged in an old Toronto movie theater called 'The Runnymede' this was down on Runnymede Street near the intersection of Runnymede and College. It was the first time that I got a to see how a small 'Indy' promotion was staged. Garner wore many hats that evening, including being the announcer, as well as the referee, and wrestling with the mask on as well. He was very adept in all his roles that evening. 

Can remember only the name of one wrestler who worked on that show, his name was Killer Joe Conroy. Several years prior I was invited to second some wrestlers who appeared on a show in Scarborough, one of those wrestlers was Killer'Joe, and I can recall him telling me that he was going to live up to his moniker that night. Being a young guy at the time and not having been clued in, this big brawler had me on edge.'


    The intimidating Killer Conroy would return on Red's shows under several aliases including Mr X, The Masked Marvel, and bearded 'Russian' Ivan Volkoff. Conroy, who retired around 1970, later was the doorman at Kelly's bar at Shuter and Dundas and had quite a reputation. 
Kudo on the mat 1960

    Another promoter coming on the scene by the name of Gus Marmon would put on shows under the name Olympic Wrestling Club. Marmon had a partnership of sorts with Garner, hitting many of the same towns with many of the same wrestlers as was appearing on Red's shows as well as Red himself. Red at this time had taken a job with the Toronto Library and started to wrestle under a mask to avoid being recognized.

    A 1960 Cobourg ad has  'Channel 11 in Kingston for a new ‘Live Wrestling Show starting June 11 Featuring International TV Stars, Ali Pasha, Cowboy Carlson, Danny Shayne, The Blonde Bomber, Kudo'. Unsure if that ever got off the ground but the promotion would continue. Along with the smaller towns in Ontario Marmon would hold some shows at the Lansdowne Theater in Toronto in 1961. Along with Killer Conroy, others on these cards included the Jennings Brothers (including Wilf the Wolf Jennings who would later work for McKigney and and Tunney) Tony Manousos, and Garner regulars Orlando and Osborne. Headlining these shows was The Great Kudo.

The Great Kudo   

 This was the new masked persona for Red - The Great Kudo - and he would wrestle barefoot. Kudo would make his debut around 1960 on the circuit shows before showing up at MLG in February 1962.

    After a few bouts Kudo would be matched up against the newest Toronto star Bruno Sammartino and the two would get embroiled in a lively feud. During one bout Kudo's manager Sam Sullivan (Gus Marmon?) would get involved with Bruno outside the ring, and a near riot would ensue.
As Kudo vs Bruno MLG 1962

    Roger Baker was at ringside and taking photos on that night.
'As I recall it was a very rough match and both wrestlers got involved with some rowdy ringsiders who tried to beat up Garner's manager for this appearance'.

    Bruno would go on to win the WWWF title and when he made his first Toronto appearance as champion, his opponent again would be Kudo.

    Red would hang up the boots soon thereafter as the ring was taking its toll on both his body and his family life. In an 1981 article he remarks 'I was too old, too tired, and it was too hard to keep in shape' and how he 'wanted to spend more time with Dorothy and the kids.' He would work up to be a Chief Librarian in Toronto before retiring in 1980. In 1981 he would become restless and take on a job driving the kids favorite, the Bookmobile.

    Red would pass away in 1994 and while most remembered in the wrestling community as the trainer of Waldo and Dave among others, he certainly had a major impact on the local scene. He also likely inspired McKigney to branch out on his own as Dave started promoting around 1964, filling in where Red once filled the smaller arenas.

Thanks to E Greenfield for his help and photos 
Thanks to Roger Baker

Some info on Ted McKinley here Ted McKinley

-AC

Enjoying retirement with Dorothy