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)



Alexandra Studio Wrestling Photos

 Some of the Alexandra Studio's wrestling photos used to be online but seem to have vanished. It's a shame they are mostly hidden from the fans. I'm not sure how many there are, hundreds at least, thousands maybe. The Turofsky brothers started their studio back around 1911, and when wrestling hit big in 1929 they would cover the action through to their deaths in the late 50s. Michael Burns who worked with the brothers would continue with the studio. These are some in the .com collection.

Top Row 
Ivan Kalmikoff vs Don Lee 1955
Whipper & Phil Lawson 1942 Lawson known for his unorthodox training! 
Whipper unmasking Masked Marvel w/Jack Dempsey 1949
Thesz vs Great Togo 1954

Layton vs Kalmikoff 1955
Whipper vs Hutton 1958
Whipper vs Don Leo 1960
Bill & Ed Miller 1957

Thesz with the Press vs Hutton 1957
Bobo Brazil vs Ed Miller 1957 
Bill Miller behind the fence 1957 Think that's Bill
Gene Kiniski orating after his suspension 1957

Kowalski vs Schmidt 1953  The fans hated Kowalski less
Sam Steamboat with the Thesz Press vs Don Leo 1960
Whipper with the Commando on Buddy Rogers 1956
Tolos Bros vs Mighty Jumbo (Yukon Eric) 1960 

For more on the Turofsky's an excellent article (external link-opens in new window) at  https://torontoist.com/2009/06/historicist_the_brothers_turofsky/

And one on Michael Burns (external link-opens in new window)

-AC

Thanks to Roger Baker 



Angelo Mosca in Toronto



MEAN & NASTY  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 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), 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 he had visited the dressing room and returned he ordered Mosca to the showers. Mosca then hit him with a left to the jaw. His own teammates dragged him to the dressing room and he left the arena while the ref threatened to charge Mosca with assault. That was the end of the playoffs for Mosca who would stick 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 would get his chance vs Sheik in June 1971, his first main event at the Gardens.

MOSCA GIVES SHEIK TROUBLE
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 would be his last appearance at MLG for a time but he remained an 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 would have a tough main event feud with Stomper Archie Gouldie over the Wildman's North American Heavyweight title in summer 1971. 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 would retire from the field and turn to wrestling full-time. 

  In late 1975 he would return 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). 

BIG ANGE RETURNS
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 would stay. 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 would arrive 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 would be usually with a 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. 

THE MEANEST MAN SAYS HE IS -NOW
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 would work 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 would make 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 would get a re-match with Bockwinkel, this time they were the main event over a title bout between Backlund and Gorilla Monsoon.

THE CANADIAN TITLE YEARS

  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 in Dec 1978 we now had a local title that Mosca would go on to hold through 5 reigns.

I'M NOT JUST A PRETTY FACE IN THE CROWD
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 would be photographed backstage with the belt but as far as we know never defended the title there). There would be no mention of Toronto while on WWF TV, but the magazines would have stories on him where they had observed the personality change depending on the location he wrestled. Mosca would reply 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 would be managed there by Lou Albano and appear 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 almost killed Pat Patterson with the water pitcher it left many of us scratching our heads. 

  While Canadian champ Mosca would challenge NWA champ Harley Race and the NWA Title. 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 would attract some mainstream coverage which had been minimal in the recent past. All three Toronto dailies, the Globe, the Star, and the Sun would feature 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.

ANGIE STILL HEARS THE CHEERS
'I built this image,' says Mosca, his face a bloody mask after his bout with arch-rival Ivan Koloff, 'of a guywho 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 would face Studd in front of 16,000 noisy fans. Our Canadian Title would take 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 would eventually regain 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 would face down on the ramp as Mosca waited for Studd to climb the stairs. Mosca would attack 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, would get 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 would return to the cage to help Mosca. Both would take 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 at 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 good tough bout with Mosca. Big Ange would batter 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 in 1966. Stomping and snarling he was a good opponent for Mosca in a short run. Kiniski had held versions of the Canadian title across Canada in his earlier days and they played up the mutual football backgrounds a 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. Saughter.

  In early 1984 Mosca beat Sgt. Slaughter to regain the Canadian title and would promptly disappear. 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 would be a vicious heel -and defend the title a few times- while the fans up here were left scratching their heads, again. 

BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER
'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. would debut here in 1984 after Sr. had been stripped of the title for not appearing. 'Injury' was the wrestling reason and they would hold a tournament for the vacant title in which Jr. would compete. Junior was a good athlete cut from the same cloth. He had attended a Ti-Cat camp for high school players in 1977 (at 17) but in June 1981 he had been cut 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 would appear on the Wildman's Big Bear circuit in and around Toronto. 

MOSCA MANIA

  By 1985 Sr. was planning to bring the NWA back to Ontario. In Feb 1986 he would run a show at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. While Hulkamania  may had taken over Toronto, there was 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. would also appear 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.

MEAN ANGELO MOSCA MEANS TO KEEP RAKING IN BIG BUCKS ON TV
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 would have none 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.

MOSCA MANIA A HIT
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 would likely 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.

EX VILLIAN CHARMS 
'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 we 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. would present 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 would be featured on the popular CTV show Lifetime which ran the same night as a big WWF show at MLG. Sr. would continue 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 has 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. 

-AC

Photos, etc 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



This one popped up on FB. 'Adapted' by an OD Flores, though this time not just lifted from the site, but they added some of their own words, and not very good ones. And then somewhat attributed it to Gary (sorry Gary) and the site, but not with the full site name nor a live link. Please enjoy the piece as it was written. Hey OD next time just link to it or heaven forbid write your own, words are free. Tks AC 

The Venues

 Ontario Venues 1929-1984

ONTARIO VENUES 1929 - 1984

First wrestling card listed where confirmed, many were only used during McKigney's era. 
Only spots used from the start, roughly 1929 though the end of the NWA days here 1984. 
Lots to fill in, if you can help please do. Can't recall who took the pic above, Eric P, Dave O maybe. Great pic.



Don Leo at Maple Leaf Stadium 1959

 

  A riot breaks out at Maple Leaf Stadium in August 1959 after Gene Kiniski interferes in a Don Leo-Whipper bout. The fans throw their chairs and Don Leo grabs a rope stand as he and Kiniski try to escape. Roger Baker's favorite ref Ref Joe Gollob is hit by a chair (again) and suffers a nasty head wound that requires stitches. 

Just another day in the Maple Leaf mat wars. 

We looked at outdoor events including the Stadium cards recently at Open Air Wrestling in Toronto

Alexandra Studio photo, mapleleafwrestling.com collection 


MapleLeafWrestling.com Presents

 

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

What they are saying 

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 

Andrew, congrats on publishing this well-researched and wonderfully insightful new book about Toronto and Ontario 
wrestling history.
-M Ward. freelance writer and artist

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!
-W Maidment. via Facebook



A week in the life 1981

Repost from 2007- hard to believe we are hitting 40 years ago this week .....

   In 1980 Frank Tunney went back to running a circuit in the towns around Toronto before or after the big Sunday MLG show. It had been some years since Tunney had put on regular shows around the region.



The 1950's and 1960's were busy times for the Toronto office. Barrie, Stoufville, Oshawa, Hamilton, St Catherines, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Galt (Cambridge), Kitchener, Milton, Ottawa, and others saw regular weekly-or-so cards.

Most of the towns had associates who used Tunney stars but ran their own shows. That ended in the late 1960's for the most part with some, including Dave McKigney, Whipper Watson Sr & Whipper Jr,  and The Love Brothers running their own shows. Often with Frank's guys and/or blessing to do it.

In 1980 with the success of the Mid-Atlantic partnership they went back to running a circuit. Not a full schedule but a week of shows and then space till the next MLG card. They also stopped co-operating so much with others, especially McKigney.

Some of the Mid Atlantic area stars would stay on for these cards. It gave popular wrestlers like Jay Youngblood a chance to star around the circuit while they were usually mid-card at MLG. They would fit a TV taping in also, in Kitchener, Brantford, Hamilton, or Guelph for the most part.

The MLG shows reduced to about 2 per month in this era so the circuit towns may see 2 shows per month also in the week around the big card. Here's a snapshot in Feb 1981, if you have the Ad for the Buffalo show please send me and I'll add it


AD above

81/02/22 MLG
CANADIAN TITLE: Angelo Mosca WP Great Hossein
Masked Superstar WDQ Ray Stevens
Jimmy Snuka WP Mad Dog Vachon
Bob Duncum/Swede Hanson W Sweet Ebony Diamond/Dewey Robertson
Tony Parisi D Kurt Von Hess (subs for Jim Dillon)
Frankie Laine WP Ron Ritchie

81/02/23 Buffalo, NY
Masked Superstar/Paul Jones W Jimmy Snuka/Ray Stevens
Blackjack Mulligan W Bobby Duncum
Iron Sheik W Mad Dog Vachon
Sweet Ebony Diamond W Frankie Laine
Dewey Robertson W/DQ Swede Hansen
Tony Parisi W Ron Ritchie


81/02/24 Kitchener, ON TV Tapings
Iron Sheik/Bobby Duncum W Earl Pinnock/Ricky Johnson
Angelo Mosca W John Orlick
Mad Dog Vachon/Dewey Robertson W/DQ Iron Sheik/Bobby Duncum
Angelo Mosca W Chris Jones/Tim Gerrard in a handicap match
Swede Hanson W John Bonello
Frankie Laine D Ron Ritchie
Sweet Ebony Diamond/Tony Parisi W Kurt Von Hess/Brian Mackney
Swede Hanson W Ron Ritchie
Iron Sheik W Dewey Robertson
Angelo Mosca W Bobby Duncum


81/02/25 London, ON
Angelo Mosca W Hossein Arab
Mad Dog Vachon/Dewey Robertson W Bobby Duncum/Swede Hanson
Sweet Ebony Diamond W Kurt Von Hess
Frankie Laine WP Ron Ritchie
Tony Paris D Billy Red Lyons


81/02/26 - Kingston, ON
Angelo Mosca W Great Hossein
Mad Dog Vachon/Dewey Robertson W Bobby Duncum/Kurt Von Hess
Sweet Ebony Diamond W/COR Swede Hanson
Frankie Laine D Billy Red Lyons
Tony Parisi W Ron Ritchie

-AC


Flair vs Race: Photos


   During the Mid Atlantic era 1978 -1984 there were a few matchups that could pack the fans in at MLG. Flair vs Race would surely rank near the top. Their six bouts here, all over the NWA championship, are long remembered by the fans for both their science- and violence. 

  At the time of their first match-up in Nov 1980 Race was champ and Flair was arguably the most poplar 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 rooms to end their recent blowoff bout. 

   Flair would win the title from Dusty Rhodes in Oct 1981 and appear as champ for the 50th Anniversary card held in November. They would pack 16.000 in for that one and the next time the two would match-up was another special card. A double World title card featuring both the NWA and AWA titles. AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel would defend 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 promoter Jack Tunney had recently taken over for 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 bout takes place in early 1984, just months before Jack would align with the WWF. That card would stand 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

The 50th Anniversary card is at 50th Anniversary Card

The 83 Ex shows are covered a bit at Open Air Wrestling in Toronto

-AC and photos by...




Tiger Tommy Nelson

vs Billy Kohnke (mat) Sept 1938

   It was the ship that launched a thousand careers. Well, at least several, including the man who would become Toronto's -and Canada's-greatest name in pro wrestling - Bill Potts aka Whipper Watson.

He wasn't the only one. The others that accompanied the soon to be re-named Whipper on that ship to the U.K. in 1936 would also make an impact on the Toronto and Ontario wrestling scenes in the coming years.

It was June 1936 and a group of wrestlers from the amateur and semi pro ranks would embark on a tour of the United Kingdom. Along with young Bill Potts, there was Ken 'Tiger' Tasker, Al Korman, and Tom Nelson. Whipper, of course would return in 1940 and go on to a 30 year career. Tasker and Korman (later Krusher Korman) would continue their wrestling careers and then go on to be long time referees. Tommy Nelson's in-ring career would end sooner but he too would be a part of the office for many years to come.

Tommy was born in 1900 making him an elder statesman among the younger wrestlers he traveled with. He had formerly worked as a bus driver for the Danforth Bus Company. In 1928 he was involved in an accident at Midland and Danforth Rd when a CNR Train hit his bus, injuring him and the only passenger on board at the time. The bus was completely destroyed with fire after the train hit it, and ended his driving career.

There isn't notable mention of his earliest wrestling years but he likely came up in the same way that most did in those days. Learning their craft at the many clubs and related amateur contests that were plentiful in small halls and gyms around Toronto. He woul dlater  hang up the boots in the early 1940's and work with Tunney in a promotional capacity through the 1960's running shows in the outlying towns around the city.
London, England 1938

Nelson would wrestle in England as Bear-Cat Tom Nelson and Battling Tom Nelson. A Poster from Centenary Hall for a bout vs Hein Stack in Oct 1937 lists Nelson as 'from USA, extremely popular here as wrestler and referee.' A later ad in December of 1937 has him as 'from Canada and ex Olympic games, the return of an old and tried favorite, back by public demand, and glad to be back.'

There is no record of Olympic involvement or active at any games, Olympic background a frequent boast to push wrestlers in those days - though many wrestlers participated in events qualifying for them.

Other names alongside Nelson in those years Ben(gal) Engbloom, the popular in Toronto amateur Finn, as well as Herb Parks. Parks was said to be a fine wrestler in his day and he and his brother Bill (Dinty) were early stars for Larry Kasaboski's Ontario based Northland group in the 1940's. The Parks brothers later owned Sunset Park in North Bay while starring for Kasaboski until Herb disappeared on a hunting trip in 1956 and was later found drowned. Sunset Park, the inspiration for the naming of the Sunset Flip.

Nelson made it through other parts of Europe through 1939. On a physicians statement in Toronto on Feb 20 1940 it lists his past bouts and includes stops in Belfast (where he won a title bout), Edinburgh, Vienna, Budapest, Paris, London, Manchester, and finally home to Toronto. 

The Belfast title bout in March 1939 was vs Mike de Mitre for the Light Heavyweight Championship of Europe. Nelson wins and the local media plays it up with Tommy listed as a local wrestler. They don't mention it again though but the win stands. He goes on to more dates through Europe where they played up the title win or added it to his credentials (see Physicians report below)


His debut at MLG came on Jan 12 1940 vs Pete Baltran. The write up lists Nelson as hailing from Ireland and having had won the European light-heavyweight championship back in 1939. I . In his recap of the bouts Joe Perlove called Nelson an 'undersized grappler from Ireland' in his draw with Baltran.
1938

It's not clear when Nelson joined the office in an official capacity but appears to have been involved as one of Tunney's insiders by the late 1940's. Nelson worked as an associate promoter in the same way that Sammy Sobol and others had through the years. Running the outside towns and reporting (bringing the $$$) back to the Toronto office.

He publicly ran Stoufville, Aurora, Barrie, Collingwood, Sutton, and Bradford. And for a time in bigger centers such as Galt (Cambridge) and Kitchener until Johnny Powers bought Tunney (and Nelson?) out around 1965.

In 1955 Nelson was announced as taking over for Roy McMahon as matchmaker for CCWA (Red Garner's group) in Aurora on Aug 29 and then promoting in Stoufville, this time with Tunney stars instead of Garner's team. Garner and Tunney had a small turf war in the area (that's for another story) and listing Nelson as part of Red's group was likely a ploy to keep Red's fans.

The only mention of a Toronto-proper show under Nelson was a 1958 show held at Scarboro Arena  on Oct 4 to benefit the Scarboro Hospital Building Fund using Tunney's stars. There is a small mention later of Nelson being on the Board of the Scarboro Police Youth Club.

In some towns Nelson was referred to as Matchmaker for the Queensbury Club, the Toronto office's official name.

Above pic from 1958 with about 200 years of Toronto wrestling in there. Wrestlers Refs Promoters
l. to r. top: *unknown, Pat Flanagan, Joe Gollob, Dara Singh, Frank Tunney, Lou Pistocia
l. to r. bottom: Sam Gotter, Al 'Krusher' Korman, Tommy Nelson

From a 1958 piece on Nelson in the Galt Evening Reporter  ' I was wrestling on a pro card in Manchester, England in 1938. I was thrown out of the ring and cracked my spine on the exposed iron part of a ringside theater-type seat.'

The result was five painful months in an English hospital with the not-too-heartening news that he would never walk again. But just two years later Nelson was not only walking but was back on the pro grapple beat. It was 1940 now and he was booked into Detroit. Gus Sonnenberg was his opponent and when big Gus attempted a flying tackle both gladiators went sprawling among the ringsiders. Nelson, on the bottom, found another empty iron frame with his tender spine. Another long siege in hospital followed. But this time it was the end. There definitely would be no further wrestling.

After a series of spinal operations they found that he shrank somewhat from the effects of the spinal knife job. In a later 1962 piece in the Barrie Examiner, it repeats the story and says his height was pared by a couple of inches as well as his weight. It says he fought at 220lbs (don't think so but he was now down to 150lbs) and from later photos looks to have stayed in good shape into his senior years.

Roger Baker attended some of Nelson's shows in the early 1960's.
...Nelson was a very nice guy who was worried for his incoming wrestlers on a particularly snowy evening in Kitchener but still kept his smile amid the pressure of the evening...At another show in Sutton when one of the wrestlers threw his opponent via a slingshot into one of the corner posts with such force that the ring ropes popped out of the turnbuckles. Tommy came to the ring dressed in a suit, and again under pressure got those ropes back up, and the balance of the card was able to go ahead. A part time wrestling promoter must be able to handle a litany of potential problems!
-Roger

-AC

Thanks to Roger Baker, and for ID help
Thanks to Brian Lanigan for nostalgia & Nicholas Campbell for some info on the Belfast bout
If you can add anything to Mr Nelson's story please contact me.



Crown Jewel and the love of Wrestling


Repost  On my latest visit to see my friend Roger Baker I was able to take him a copy of Dick Bourne's new book Crown Jewel The NWA World Championship 1959-1973. One of my favorite of Roger's photos is featured in the book, a shot of Kiniski (lifting his ring jacket to show the belt) facing off before a title bout with Carpentier in Toronto in '66.

  The book is jammed full with the history of the title, the origins of the belt, and the names that held it. Pat O'Connor, Buddy Rogers, Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski, Dory Funk, Jr., and Harley Race. This time Dick goes back a bit before the scope of the Mid Atlantic Gateway site -and it is a fascinating read with all of the quality and great photos you expect with Dick's books. 

  Of course Toronto was a big part of that title, especially in the earlier years. Thesz was a staple in T.O. while our once British Empire champ Pat O'Connor was for a time, second in popularity only to Whipper. Buddy Rogers had some notable bouts in Toronto including losing the title to Thesz right here in our ring. Gene Kiniski was a top 3 maybe around here, a huge part of the boom of the '50s and returned as champ to defend 18 times in Toronto alone (busy on the circuit too). During those years 1959-1973 we saw about 58 world title defenses if I count right. 

  One of the most interesting chapters is Dick Hutton: Champion without a belt. Hutton, maybe the most forgotten of the early NWA champs. He had a great impact in Toronto, from his arrival in 1956 through his title win (also at MLG) and reign, his beat the yank $1000 challenge, and teaming with Kiniski and others. When he took the title from Thesz in Nov 1957 he wasn't a big hit as champ, either here in Toronto or elsewhere. 

  After O'Connor returned as new champ in Jan 1959 Steve York of the Globe wrote 

'Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. How else can you account for O’Connor replacing Dick Hutton as NWA champion? O’Connor bounces around, has more color and is more expressive than the phlegmatic, stolid Hutton, who does everything deliberately. Besides which Pat is as good a wrestler as Hutton.'

    While Hutton was champ he wore a belt, but not that belt. You can learn all about that in the book. The in depth information is as usual, very well researched, and is presented in a smooth and transitional way that you will be familiar with from all of Dick's books. 

  And that brings me back to Roger. We talked a while back about Hutton, the forgotten champ, the champ without a belt.

'Dick Hutton was a powerhouse of a man, he was built like a tank, weighed around 260lbs. This Oklahoma bred mat man was all business in the ring and he could stay on his feet much to the consternation of many of his opponents. Hutton could also lay a sledgehammer elbow smash to an opponent that would knock the recipient senseless!' 

  It's always a pleasure to sit and talk with Roger. I can spend hours and hours reading newspaper clips but to talk to a fan that was there, you can really feel the excitement of that era, and brings it alive. The biggest compliment I could pay The Crown Jewel is that it does a great job of that; it really conveys the time and the atmosphere around the NWA and pro wrestling in general. 

  We loved the book! I am on my 3rd go round it's so much fun. You can really tell Dick loves what he does, just spend a few minutes at the Gateway and it's wholly evident. In a fine spotlight on the book  Dick Bourne’s new wrestling book is a ‘Crown Jewel’  I thought the author himself summed it up perfectly.

'Our website is all about the positive, about reliving and sharing good memories,” says Bourne. 'We don’t get into any of the backstage drama. We like to try and present the history of the territory just as it was presented to us back then on television and in the arenas. It’s like back in the days when people passed along folk tales from generation to generation; we want to pass along these great stories told decades ago so that new generations of wrestling fans will know them, too, and those great names will never be forgotten.'

We feel the same way 

  Pick up this great book though the Gateway Bookstore   👍👍

-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 from the fans. 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 he would still have to fight his way to the hallway that led to the dressing rooms, with fans attacking physically as well as 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.

  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.
   
   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.

   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. I once dabbed a Program in a bit of Ivan Koloff's blood. See. Its real! 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 in Kitchener and London.
   
  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 Eddie 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

*In those days the ring was huge, with an apron so wide that they could walk around easily. In tags the second referee could find a spot there.

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