CELEBRATING 20 YEARS mapleleafwrestling.com presents

Over 120 entries and 175+ photos and images in 1-2-4 page format 
Promoters, lists, venues, stars, builders, classic matchups, did you know? and more!
 Featuring photos by Roger Baker 238 pages $10.99 in Canada
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Also see Waterloo Chronicle.ca -Thanks to Marshall & Sarah! 



Film from Maple Leaf Gardens Aug 1962. The first meeting between World champ Buddy Rogers and Bruno Sammartino in July 1962 ends when Bruno can't continue after hitting the mat head first and is is unable to get up before the 10 count. Two weeks later in front of 14,000 fans Bruno controls the bout and when Rogers attempts to leap over Bruno he gets hit below the belt by a charging Sammartino. Ref Tiger Tasker is ready to declare Bruno the new champ but Bruno, being the rule abiding hero, addresses the fans (in Italian) refusing to accept the title under the circumstances. 

A rematch is set for August. For the 3rd meeting (film clip) in front of 14,000 again (and with traffic jams outside MLG) Bruno gives Rogers a beating but when he tries for another drop kick and lands badly on the ropes, Tasker declares him done. Rogers takes the win, and next returns to Toronto to lose the title to Lou Thesz in Jan 1963. Film mapleleafwrestling.com. Click on pic below to see more clips on YouTube.

Fun: Frank's 30th Ticket if....

The Olympic Auditorium Twitter feed featured a great ticket from LA promoter Aileen Eaton's 30th Anniversary show. Don't believe they ever did something like this for Toronto wrestling but if they had, say, for Frank's 30th just a few years prior..

So sorry to hear our friend Marshall Ward had passed on. I loved talking wrestling with Marshall and feeling like kids again. Only other wrestling fans will understand. He was a big supporter of the site and did such nice write ups of the books for the various outlets he wrote for. Always had a kind word and gentle soul.  RIP. 


The Canadian Heavyweight Title :Book

mapleleafwrestling.com presents- with design and layout by Dick Bourne 
The Canadian Heavyweight Title The Complete History 1978-1984

'A remarkable, compelling, and long-overdue tale about a championship belt that shared the stage with some of the most respected titles in professional wrestling history.'  

Amazon Canada & Amazon Worldwide
Softcover black & white 6x9 126 pages
10.99 CDN in Canada
Free shipping with Amazon Prime

Review at Slam Wrestling
Thank you both!

In 1978 as the Toronto territory was taking off with the young stars of Mid-Atlantic wrestling, promoter Frank Tunney introduced a local championship. That title, the first true local title in many years, was named the Canadian Heavyweight Title to be defended by the top star in Maple Leaf Wrestling. 

During those years the area was one of the most exciting and important territories in the wrestling world. Join us as we revisit the big cards, the tournaments, the beautiful title belt, and many other memorable slices of Maple Leaf Wrestling 1978-1984.

Proud to be in the lineup! Check out all of the great books at

Phil Lawson: Dynamo from Byng Inlet

    Phil Lawson is mostly known as Whipper Watson’s trainer and manager but he was a real powerhouse in the city running shows and training upstarts for many years. He had come from Byng Inlet to Toronto in his youth and was an accomplished amateur himself. He won both City and Ontario championships after starting at the YMCA as a kid around 1910. In 1921 he won the noted Provincial Light Heavyweight Title in boxing, and in 1926 the Canadian Lightweight Championship in Wrestling. 

Lawson took over training for the YMCA in 1926  and started working with Watson as early as 1931. Officially he became his manager in 1940 but he had already been using his specialized training regimens from the time a teenaged Watson had first found the sport.  Besides Watson, Lawson trained Oshawa favorite Billy Stack and worked with others that frequented the MLG cards. Lawson was also very tight in the wrestling/boxing office of Jack Corcoran prior to- and after -the Tunney's taking over. He was later described as 'the eyes, ears, and sometimes mind of Tunney' as they built the office into one of the most successful on the continent. 

Lawson had influence, and was helped by his outgoing personality. He was once described as 'an outgoing character, confident and aggressive, bouncing off the walls in the office, and sometimes volatile.'  He was a health nut who preached clean living and vigorous exercise. Said to charge at everything he did, 'if he went out for coffee he banged doors as he went and he dog-trotted to the bistro.' 

Phil & Whip in The Hanger 1942
The local scribes frequently reported on the strange workout sessions that Lawson was putting his star through. Lawson would have Watson carry him on his back up the Scarborough Bluffs and other unorthodox regimens. One of the strangest is 'The Hanger' a noose like contraption that was to strengthen the neck muscles. It must have worked, Whipper bumped up his weight by 40lbs from his amateur days.

When Frank Tunney introduced the ramp in 1948 to protect Nanjo Singh from the fans, Lawson was right in the middle of it. Tunney had announced there was to be a ramp set up from the entrance way to the ring. An ‘escape hatch’ as described, it served exactly the purpose for which it was created. After Watson was declared the winner and new British Empire champ, Singh attacked Lawson trying to rip his tailored suit off. Watson saved his manager and Singh then hightailed it across the ramp, now safe above the heads of the surging ringside crowd. 

Lawson as an in ring manager got pulled into the action a fair bit for the times. He could take the bumps and would really fly when tossed by one of Whipper's foes.

In May 1949 Lawson died at the age of 48 after having recently suffered some heart trouble. He was memorialized as an 'imaginative man, with a lovely wit.' It went on to say that the local scene 'has been struck a shrewder blow than anything (Fred) Atkins ever presented the Whipper.' 

His passing certainly left a void in the local scene. As a result Watson took on an increased role alongside Tunney as the promotion moved into the boom of the 1950's. 

'Few men in the sports scene will be more sincerely mourned than the likeable chattery voice of Tunney enterprises...' - Daily Star May 31 1949


Lots to fill in on Phil's story...

Nostalgia mapleleafwrestling.com collection 

The Boom & beyond Tunney

While there were few threats to Frank Tunney's promotion throughout the 40 plus years he controlled Toronto and the outlying towns, it did happen a few times. As it was, Frank enjoyed the jewel of the territory, Maple Leaf Gardens, of which he had the exclusive wrestling rights. The Toronto office was seeing 200-300,000 fans a year through the turnstiles at MLG alone through much of the 1950's for the weekly cards.

Amidst the wrestling boom of the 1950's Tunney and his affiliate promoters were also busy promoting the towns around southern Ontario.

Niagara Falls, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Barrie, and Oshawa all had regular seasons, and others were run in the summers. He had trusted partners in place to run the bigger towns. Pat Milosh, Sammy Sobel, John Katan, and Tommy Nelson were some of the trusted few.

Others like the Maich brothers (Joe and Don) in Brantford on a smaller scale and Larry Kasaboski in North Bay on a larger one, ran their own show but kept an amicable relationship with Tunney going back to their wrestling days. Kasaboski's Studio TV Wrestling frequently featured Tunney stars 'Straight from MLG!' Dave McKigney (The Wildman) started promoting his brand of mayhem in the mid 1960's but at this time he was a young high flyer working on Red Garner shows.

 Garner and Kasaboski were both promoting shows in Tunney's backyard and it led to some friction.

Red Garner and the Middleweight Circuit

Garner (pictured) card 1951 
Edwin 'Red' Garner, a former amateur standout was based in the small town of Richmond Hill just North of Toronto. He ran a small circuit using mostly trainees from his gym set up near his home in Richvale. He started promoting cards in the 1940's and was going strong by the 1950's.

Using fast and exciting middleweight wrestlers he had a strong fan base around Richmond, Hill, Thornhill, and Aurora.

His wrestlers mostly had an amateur background but it was a pro style. The lighter grapplers didn't pose much of a threat to Tunney and Red started to create a regular fan base North of Toronto.

1952 was an especially good year for Red and company. They were doing brisk business with youngsters including Baron Waldo Von Sieber (later Waldo Von Erich), Jacques Dubois ( Dave McKigney), and Toronto born Gori Ed 'Killer' Mangotich whom later found great success in the UK. Mike (aka Baron) Scicluna and Bull Johnston also spent their formative years on Garner's circuit.

New Action In Stoufville

Despite Garner's success, in early 1953 Stoufville Arena announced a change for it's second Wrestling season -the arena opened in 1952- with a move to 'Southern States wrestlers.' Said to be the same stars from the Grapefruit states which were shown on Toronto's film TV shows. The wrestlers eventually featured were not household names. Irish Michael O'Toole, Steve Zaboski, Wes Glazier, a 'Red Demon.' Don Ireland of Oshawa, Ted Swift from Niagara Falls and others from the area.

That outfit ran a few shows and one report claimed it to be the 'best wrestling show that has been offered here since it was introduced here over a year ago.' The only notable local name that appeared was Killer Jim Conroy (somewhat famous Toronto bouncer) as Bert Killer Conroy.

By 1954 though, Garner was back in to Stoufville kicking off the season with Von Sieber against Mangotich. Garner's matchmaker, former amateur star Roy McMahon (yup), offered a money back guarantee if you weren't happy with the show

If we flash back to 1952 while Garner was filling out the arenas on his circuit, Tunney was running Barrie -using famed sportsman of the day Max Hurley as promoter- as well as Collingwood 60km away. With his regular stars and guests like Boxing great Jack Dempsey as special referee, they were regularly drawing 1000 fans to the small arenas. Tunney's shows ran from 75c to $2.50 for ringside while Garner had lower prices of 65c to $1 for ringside.
*Note: an item said that the top stars had issue with the fact that Dempsey received a hefty $225 to appear in Barrie. A 'very expensive proposition for Tunney.'

Wrestling Returns to Barrie 1954 - with Northland Wrestling

Wrestling was absent from the two towns through 1953. In 1954 Barrie announced a new summer wrestling season kicked off May 25, this time with shows promoted by Northland Wrestling Enterprises headed by Kasaboski. Northland was enjoying a huge upswing at the time due to its popular live TV Studio wrestling, one of the early studio shows in North America. Kasaboski had previously warned off Tunney a few years earlier as Tunney had contemplated running Kasaboski's North. 'I told Tunney I pioneered this territory and to keep out.' Tunney apparently agreed not to muscle in.

 In summer 1954 Kasaboski ran Barrie on Tunney's former Tuesday night while Tunney countered in Collingwood on Wednesday's.  At the end of the month Kasaboski ran a card featuring the very popular little people stars as the main event and filled the arena. Tunney sent his most well known stars of the day alongside Whipper. The Mills Brothers, Fred Atkins, Yukon Eric.

Kasaboski Tuesday Night Aug 10 1954

Tunney Wednesday Night Aug 11 1954

 A July main in Barrie had the former Olympic star and soon to be major star Maurice Mad Dog Vachon vs Bobby Ford while Tunney followed with Whipper vs Sky Hi lee in Collingwood. Dory Funk Sr. and Don Evans also appeared for Kasboski that summer and other U.S. stars came up to enjoy the Ontario North. Kasaboski was regularly drawing 700-1200 to the shows. Tunney's attendance was not reported.

 At that time Kasaboski's circuit was vast. He was running shows in over 30 towns from La Sarre in Northern Quebec across the northwest to Wawa, Ontario. And working his way down as far as Brockville on the Canada/U.S. border. 

1954 sharing the page, Tunney ad taking 2nd place

Tunney Fights Back 

 At the 1954 NWA convention Tunney, who had been elected as vice-president, complained about Kasaboski going into his towns and under-bidding him to promoters. Kasaboski was not a member of the NWA.

Tunney takes Stoufville 1957 
In 1956 Tunney moved into Stoufville bumping Garner out with regular cards featuring Dick Hutton, Fritz Von Erich, Whipper, and the rest of the cast. They also go more frequently to other towns Garner ran including Newmarket and Bradford. Garner continued to run Thornhill and Richmond Hill on alternate days to the Tunney cards. Tunney would promote with 'Big Name Stars' prominent on the ads.

In Sutton (across the Lake from Barrie) in July 1957 Tommy Nelson via Tunney drew 1,500 fans for a main of Whipper vs Kiniski. It was said to be the largest draw at the Sutton Arena for any sport over the past several years.

It's unclear if Tunney had any grievance with Garner who wasn't quite the same threat as Kasaboski was.

Somewhere along the way Kasaboski and Tunney settled up as some of the names crossed over. One Kasaboski card in September 1958 was set to have a main of  Fred Atkins (billed from Frank Tunney's Toronto circuit) vs Bobo Brazil, who were both current stars for Tunney. Bobo no showed forcing Atkins to face Scotty Thompson. It said the 'incident will not go unaccounted. Northland promoter Larry K who brings in the Toronto men through his friendly connection with Frank Tunney, is sure to find out the reason why.'  The recap for that bout claimed Thompson made Atkins 'work, probably harder than he has in many bouts.'

Somewhat related was that the Barrie Fair that same month had originally scheduled wrestling via Kasaboski. It was reported that the OAC had said it was illegal to put on wrestling at the fair so the card was cancelled. Have to wonder as many fairs in Ontario at the time had 'exhibition' wrestling, and if in fact Tunney had something to do with it. 

Northland Winning The Fight

 A column in the Barrie Examiner in Sept 1958 looked at the past season and determined the best wrestling was ....Northland.

   'While the Northland wrestlers were although a mite smaller, proved far more schooled in the science of the game. They were faster, and did more than hold their right arms up, claiming victory.'

 Added was 'Best Villain - Maurice Vachon' and best supporting cast of Bill Curry, Louis Papineau, and the soon to be appearing at MLG Sandy Scott, and Frank 'Scotty' Thompson.
Tunney heads North 1958
Tunney in turn headed North into Kasaboski's area promoting some shows at the Bracebridge Community Centre.  Bracebridge -100km North of Barrie, 200km north of Toronto - is the gateway to the North. For two successive shows they ran Yukon Eric vs Kiniski mains.
In 1959 Ricky Starr missed a Tunney show in Barrie. In a column titled 'Bad Feelings' Barrie Sports Editor Steve Jonescu kicked off with 'Francois Tunney, wrestling promoter at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto doesn't have too many friends among the wrestling crowd in the Barrie area.' He reminded readers of the Bobo no-show the previous year but said that Starr hadn't drawn very many anyways - as they weren't advised of the substitution until they entered the arena. Again it was said 'Northland Wrestling Enterprise was quite upset...'

Garner Still Going Strong

All this time Red Garner wouldn't miss a beat, filling them in at the Thornhill Farmers Market shows and in his home base of Richmond Hill. One of Garner's stars Stoney Brooks was from Campbellford in the eastern part of Ontario and they ran occasional shows in the region including Cobourg and other towns. Kasaboski also occasionally dropped south of his usual circuit and ran Perth and Cornwall and other towns in the Eastern area.

No Hard Feelings

Both Garner (as Great Kudo) and Kasaboski returned to wrestle at MLG in the early 1960's. Garner was slowing down and would retire soon after, but not before a WWWF title shot vs Bruno Sammartino. Larry K wrestled for Tunney in 1958 and again in 1960. He came in for a last time in 1964 to face newcomer The Sheik who spent the better part of the 15 minute bout 'chewing on his victims left ear.' Maybe Tunney got his revenge after all.


Garner teamed up with Gus Marmon and The Olympic Wrestling Club in the early 1960's for a time and they had a short run TV show shown in Eastern Ontario as per ads. Red retired for good in 1964 and went on to drive the Bookmobile (library on wheels) in North York and was later the head of Woodview Library. He passed away in 1994.

Kasaboski continued to promote the North through 1975 but wasn't down in the southern part of the province very often after his initial run in the 1950's. The great story of Northland Wrestling (if you can find it) as told by Gary Howard in  'The Rassler From Renfrew' is a great read - and my favorite wrestling book.

Tunney celebrated the 50th Anniversary of MLW in 1981 and passed on in 1983 after 42 years at the helm. The promotion passed to nephew Jack and Frank’s son Ed, and as far as I know, no one else ever had rights to promote wrestling at MLG before it closed in 1999.


*The info on Tunney complaining about Kasaboski may have come from Gary Howard or maybe Barry Penhale. If you have additional info (I already asked Tim Hornbaker...)

For more on Red Garner and the CCWA see
Red Garner: The Pride of Langstaff
History of the CCWA *back soon 

And more on Ontario Promoters

Photos: Wildman cards

All photos taken at the Water St Arena Cornwall, ON
Sheik 1982,83,85 vs Bobo, Martinez, Valiant and McTavish

Chris Colt 1982 & 83 ....Vs Valiant, Whipper Jr, Wildman

Bullwhip/Blackjack Johnson 1983. Vs Whipper Jr and in a 6 man tag with the Destroyers

Gentleman Ben facing all comers 1982 & 83

Von Hess summer 1982. Vs Luis Martinez, and tagged with Steele vs Denucci & Bruno Jr.
And one there he is serving as a lumberjack for a Colt-Dave bout, look closely

Eddy Mansfield vs Ricky Johnson Sept 1982

Luis Martinez vs the masked Killer Kowalski June 1982....

April 2 1972 Maple Leaf Gardens. Tony Marino easily handles Chris Colt while Colt's tag partner Lee Henning looks on. Pat Flanagan is the referee on the other side while Marino's tag partner Bob Harmon is out of view. 

A lot of Toronto years in this photo with Flanagan & Henning alone. Flanagan came up with the Balmy Beach Club and was wrestling semi pro by 1936. He debuted at MLG in 1941 and wore many hats. Wrestler, booker & matchmaker, agent, promoter, and referee, before retiring in 1978.

Lee Henning debuted in Toronto in 1940 and finished up -wrestling! - in 1975. By the 1950s he was mostly a prelim guy testing the newcomers and such but had some bigger profile bouts, especially on the circuit. He was the opponent for Whipper Watson's debut at MLG in 1940 and notably in the later years was the opponent for Jean Ferre's (Andre) Toronto debut in 1971.

Tony Marino wrestled in Toronto from 1960-1976 while Chris Colt wrestled for Tunney from 1972-1976 and served a memorable tenure for Dave McKigney's Big Bear through to 1986.

Thanks to Roger Baker for all his contributions to the site and photo by...


Flair vs Race: Science & Violence

During the Mid Atlantic era 1978 -1984 there were a few matchups that could pack the fans in at MLG. Ric Flair vs Harley Race surely ranks near the top. Their six bouts in Toronto, all over the NWA title, are long remembered by the fans for both their science- and violence. 
At the time of the first match-up in Nov 1980 Race was World champ and Flair was the most popular star in Toronto. He was coming off successful feuds against old tag partner Greg Valentine as well as Hossein the Arab/The Iron Sheik, whom he had just chased to the dressing room to end their latest bout. 

Flair won the NWA title from Dusty Rhodes in Oct 1981 and appeared here as champ for the 50th Anniversary card held in November. They pack 16.000 in for that one and the next time the two match-up was another special card. A double World title card featuring both the NWA and AWA titles. AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel defended against our Canadian champ Angelo Mosca while Flair and Race had another hard fought battle that was action from start to finish. 

The main photos were taken at that bout. In the sequence the battle rages from the ring to the ramp and Race catches Flair with a piledriver after turning the tables on champ Flair. The last pic of the sequence shows Flair being restrained by Ron Ritchie and Johnny Weaver from going down the ramp after Race.

In the summer of 1983 Jack Tunney had recently taken over for Uncle Frank and took a risk promoting two big shows at Exhibition Stadium. They were packed with title bouts and topped by Race vs Flair. Both cards. 

The last matchup takes place in early 1984, just months before Jack aligns with the WWF. That card stood as the last great turnout of the NWA days.

11/16/1980 NWA Title - Harley Race D/COR Ric Flair est 14,000 not reported
11/15/1981 NWA Title - Ric Flair W Harley Race Att: 16,000 
04/25/1982 NWA Title - Ric Flair D/COR Harley Race Att: 11,000 
07/10/1983 NWA Title - Harley Race W/DQ Ric Flair Att: 20,000 est
07/24/1983 NWA Title - Harley Race W/DQ Ric Flair Att: 14,000 est
02/12/1984 NWA Title - Ric Flair W Harley Race Att:17,700

More on the 50th Anniversary card at 50th Anniversary Card
The 83 Ex shows are covered a bit at Open Air Wrestling in Toronto

-AC and photos, nostalgia by...

*Results are from the paper where available, estimated in person, and bulletins of the day

Quick Bits: More with Great Kudo 1961

Clad in a yellow full judo style outfit with mask and wrestling barefoot, Red Garner- as Great Kudo-  tore up the outer circuits before making it to MLG for a few big bouts against Bruno. By 1960 Red was winding down his own CCWA and went in with Gus Marmon & his Olympic Wrestling Club while he went under the mask as Kudo. They ran un-masking bouts around the circuit including one in Kingston in 1961 that caught my attention. 

Initially notable because Whipper is appearing on what was then an Indy fed. Through the history of Red Garner's CCWA there was no crossover that way. Many wrestlers ended up on the Tunney circuit but not the other way around. A few including George Scott and Bull Johnson crossed back to the Indy’s early in their careers but not after they were established.

Kudo was feuding with Scissors Joe Greenfield, Red's real life son-in-law. They had some heated battles before Kudo then faced Whipper in Napanee that ended in a no decision. Scissors Joe taking over the referee spot for the big bout. And again for the rematch in Kingston later in the season. 

This time Whipper beat Kudo winning 2/3 falls. The recap in the Kingston paper written by Paul Rimstead no less tells of Greenfield & Watson having to forcibly remove the mask to reveal ....'a fat faced fellow with a square-cut-goatee.' It goes on to name the un-masked Kudo as 'Kudo Tokida background and personal statistics unknown.'

Later that year Yukon Eric came to Kingston (along with fellow Tunney homesteaders Pat Flanagan & Bunny Dunlop) to face Kudo. This time they had more info. Kudo was Cam Takeda (an actual wrestler) from Vancouver. His father Japanese, mother Irish, and wrestling for 18 years. It claimed he had put on the mask a year before and that most fans think the story is a falsehood. 'Is the old devil trying to pull a fast one? No one knows except the promoter.'.... Wink!

Interesting that Garner's previous gimmick as Mr Moto is as confusingly entangled; there was the U.S. based Hito & Moto that were here during that time (mid 50s). Was Red also Kudo - yes he was. Was he always Kudo - who knows! 

More with Garner at Red Garner: The Pride Of Langstaff  and around the site
Some footage of Kudo vs Bruno  and more on the MLG Film 



Lists: Titles in Toronto 1929-1984

Pro Wrestling was a myriad of titles with most every wrestler in the classic era holding a title somewhere sometime. Many used old or fictitious claims. Fred Atkins in his early days in Toronto was Australian champ, Carlos Rocha the Portuguese champ, Emile Dupree the Maritimes champ, and many, many more. For the purpose of this list I just listed those titles that were defended* and officially recognized in Toronto from the start of the weekly cards in 1929 to the end of the NWA days in 1984.

Main pic AWA Title belt in front of the W in NWA at MLG 1982
I took that as Nick Bockwinkel made his last defense here in Apr 1982 vs Angelo Mosca

Toronto's own titles
  • World Title (Toronto)  1938-1939
  • British Empire Title (Toronto)  1941-1967
  • Canadian Open Tag Team Titles (Toronto)  1952-1961
  • International Tag Titles (Toronto)  1961-1977
  • U.S. Title (Toronto)  1962-1973
  • North American Title (Toronto) 1973
  • U.S. Title (Toronto)  1974-1977
  • Canadian Heavyweight Title (Toronto)  1978-1984
  • Canadian TV Title (Toronto)  1982-1984
  • North American Title (Toronto)  1982-1984

  • Canadian Title  1929-1941 pre dates the start of the weekly cards in 1929
  • World Title  1929- 1947  pre dates the start of the weekly cards in 1929
  • NWA (Alliance) World Title  1950-1984
  • Canadian Title (CCWA)  1950-1962
  • Middleweight Title (CCWA) 1951-1961  
  • WWWF/WWF Title  1964-1982
  • Women's World Title  1971-1983
  • NWA Junior Heavyweight Title  1972*
  • North American Title (Big Bear circuit only)  1974-1983
  • U.S. Title (Big Bear circuit only) 1974-1982** 
  • AWA World Title  1977-1982
  • AWA Tag Titles  1977-1979
  • AWA British Empire Heavyweight Title  1978
  • U.S. Title (Mid Atlantic)  1978-1983
  • NWA Tag Titles  1979-1983
  • NWA/Mid Atlantic TV Title  1979-1983
  • International Tag Titles (Japan Stars Tour)  1980
  • World Tag Titles (Detroit) 1980 
  • Mid Atlantic Heavyweight Title  1981-1983
  • Mid Atlantic Tag Titles 1981-1982
  • North American Tag Titles (Big Bear circuit only) 1983
  • Intercontinental Title (WWF)  1983

*Danny Hodge was billed as NWA Jr champion in his one bout at MLG in 1972 but had lost it prior. He won it back the next night in Shreveport, LA.
**Sheik title, same lineage as Tunney/MLG for the most part. Sheik lost it at MLG twice.

There were others defended outside Toronto proper including Kasaboski's titles, the Labatt Tag Trophy, Ontario Tag Titles, and more but not included here. 

-AC and photo by...

Angelo Mosca in Toronto

Best of mapleleafwrestling.com 
Originally published 2005 revised 2021
Angelo Mosca was already a well known star by the time he first appeared at MLG in 1969. He was in the middle of his second go around with the Hamilton Tiger Cats and near the end of his Hall of Fame career in the Canadian Football League.

He had started wrestling in Ottawa and Montreal in 1960 on a part time basis while earning his reputation as 'Mean and Nasty' on -and off- the football field. He had been in some trouble while at University of Wyoming in 1958. They cancelled his athletic scholarship for 'scholastic deficiency and disciplinary reasons.' He had also been sent away from Notre Dame for similar infractions.

Just around the start of his wrestling career he was in Montreal playing for the Ottawa Shaffers in the Eastern Canada Senior Basketball playoffs (alongside some other CFL'ers earning extra money) when Mosca slugged the referee and was promptly suspended. He had taken a kicking and kneeing penalty earlier in the game and took it out on the ref with a right to the jaw. The coaches hauled Mosca off and convinced the ref not to call the game. Once the ref had visited the dressing room and returned he ordered Mosca to the showers. This time Mosca hit him with a left to the jaw. His own teammates now dragged him to the dressing room and Mosca left the arena while the ref threatened to charge him with assault. That was the end of the playoffs for Mosca who stuck to causing trouble on the field and in the ring.

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

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

Mosca gave The Sheik trouble but still notched another mark on Sheik's unbeaten streak, then at 49 wins 0 losses and 7 double dq/double countouts. That marked his last appearance at MLG for a time but he remained a regular around Ontario. He spent a few tours with Wildman Dave McKigney, as well as the crossover WWA (Indianapolis/Michigan) cards held around the southwestern portion of the province. He had a tough main event feud with Stomper Archie Gouldie over the Wildman's North American Heavyweight title in summer 1974. At the end of that summer Mosca got into an altercation with a man after leaving a restaurant in downtown Hamilton. The other guy filed charges for assault after he was left with a 'bump on the head and torn clothes after a scuffle' with big Ange. The following year he retired from the field and turned to wrestling full-time.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the big 50th Anniversary card on Nov 15 Mosca faced Studd in front of 16,000 noisy fans. Our Canadian Title took 3rd semi behind Andre vs Kahn, and the main of Flair vs Race. There was two referees and they brawled their way to the floor where Studd had enough and fled to the dressing room. It left Mosca the winner but not the champ. Mosca eventually regained the title a few months later in a cage bout.

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

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

A big card two weeks later was a double world title night. Flair vs Race and Mosca vs Bockwinkel. The AWA champ was making his first appearance since 1979 and had a tough bout with Mosca. Big Ange battered the champ and looked to be on the verge of winning when John Studd charged the ring and attacked Mosca. He and Bockwinkel laid a beating on Mosca until he was able to fight back and chase them from the ring. Official decision was a dq win for Mosca.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

The main event brought Toronto favorite Ric Flair back for the first time since May 1984 to defend his NWA Title against Dusty Rhodes. At that time Flair was a heel while Rhodes was a fan favorite but the fans didn't want any of it. Flair had long been beloved here and during the Flair-Rhodes bout the fans started cheering Flair. They reversed roles with Rhodes 'second' Baby Doll Roberts interfering. Flair took the win to a huge ovation and the card which also featured the Road Warriors, Jimmy Valiant (always hugely popular here), Abdullah The Butcher, Sgt. Slaughter and a host of local guys was declared a huge success. Longtime MLG ring announcer Norm Kimber, recently let go by the Toronto office, did the introductions for the night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both Moscas were featured on the popular CTV show Lifetime which ran the same night as a big WWF show at MLG. Sr. continued to show up in  TV commercials, and various ventures capitalizing on his name. Remember the Peach Pages?; a business directory he started with a partner in 1989. In recent years he had revisited his old Canadian title belt at tribute and fan events in the area, sometimes accompanied by a still fit (and very friendly to the fans) Junior. 

RIP to a true legend of the ring - and the field. 

From 2005 revised 2021

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