Double Shot Feb 20 1983: NWA Champ Ric Flair


   There were quite a few double-shots during the Mid-Atlantic affiliation, an afternoon card in the Carolinas and an evening card in Toronto. This one in Feb 1983 had both main event participants wrestling in both cities.

Flair was keeping a schedule that would have killed mere mortals, and on this day he brought along some company. I assume they had a private flight lined up out of Greensboro to land in Toronto, forego customs, and hop in a waiting van straight to MLG arriving after the card had already started. You will note the length of the openers at the Gardens, to give the main guys time to arrive. 

Roddy Piper was scheduled but missed both cards. Up here Piper was said to be stuck in Puerto Rico. I remember reading years later in his book, or perhaps Flair's book, that it was indeed the case.

Terry Funk joined the others to take Piper's spot, the first time Terry had been back since he lost the title here to Harley Race in Feb 1977. In Toronto Flair was a huge fan favorite so if Funk hadn't been able to make the trip who would have faced Flair? His Greensboro partner Valentine would have been a natural pick but he didn't make the trip. They couldn't split the Slaughter Kernodle tag team (as the tag series was a hot feud) so maybe Ray Stevens. 

Others that may have been in the hat, had they been drawing names... Maybe Leo Burke, who had some title shots at NWA champs (not here) and Tony Parisi who had faced Jack Brisco here, in 1974. Longshots include Nick DeCarlo who had once faced Flair on TV before his title run, Johnny Weaver no stranger to title shots in his day as was Bobby Bass, though neither here. 

With the absence of Piper it made for an uncomfortable evening. Fans, upon arriving at MLG and picking up the program for the evening- featuring Piper on the cover- would soon hear Norm Kimber announcing that Piper wouldn't be appearing. This was the second time in recent times a program cover star had missed the show. Austin Idol missed his cover about a year earlier and never returned. As it was they had Funk to fill in on this night. While the fans were initially disappointed, he and Flair put on a exciting bout with Flair getting the pin on the former champ. 

As for Piper, he did return, making it back to Toronto in March to face Flair for the title, It was said he had to post a $15,000 appearance bond. On that same card (Mar27) Steamboat and Youngblood finally beat Slaughter and Kernodle in a title bout to claim the NWA tag titles - which they had already won in Greensboro 2 weeks earlier. That's for another post. 

2/20/83 Greensboro,NC 3PM Matinee
NWA Tag Titles: Sgt. Slaughter/Pvt. Kernodle W Terry Funk/Dory Funk, Jr
Ricky Steamboat/Jay Youngblood W Ric Flair/Greg Valentine
Jimmy Valiant W One Man Gang
Dick Slater W Jerry Brisco (subs for Roddy Piper)
Jack Brisco W Paul Jones
Dizzy Hogan/Larry Lane W Ricky Harris/Bill White
Larry Lane W Ricky Morton

2/20/83 Toronto,ON 730PM Evening
NWA Title: Ric Flair WP Terry Funk (subs for Roddy Piper)
Ricky Steamboat/Jay Youngblood W Sgt Slaughter/Don Kernodle
Salvatore Bellomo WDQ Ray Stevens
Leo Burke DCOR Tony Parisi
Destroyer W Terry Kay
Johnny Weaver WP Bobby Bass
Nick DeCarlo/Rudy Kay D Pvt Nelson/Tim Gerrard

Greensboro got a Jimmy Valiant vs One Man Gang which would have gone over well here. Valiant a pre Hulk Hogan type at this time, incredibly popular in Toronto. They brought that feud here later but in a tag bout. Valiant teamed with Parisi, Gang with his manager Sir Oliver Humperdink. 

They got the better card. Flair & Valentine as a team again (!), and against Steamboat & Youngblood, and the Funk bros, and the Brisco's. Pretty good afternoon in Greensboro.

-AC

Promoters - Ontario

*Old piece, more info to add as there is time. An overview... not a definitive history. Roughly '29-'84, stops at 1984 for now. Some like Bob Lane may have been 'only' arena managers. In the earlier days it often listed the arena guys as the promoter of note but Tunney or Corcoran or Mickailoff usually supplying the stars. 

Paul Baillergeon, John Katan, Whipper Watson Toronto 1955


ONTARIO PROMOTERS 1929-1984......In the early days Phil Lawson promoted amateur shows in Toronto as did Jack Daniels and his A-C Athletic Club. Others ran cards using 'exhibition' before the Pro Wrestling part in order to get around the licensing and such. The cost for a Wrestling license even by the 1930's was 500$, a considerable amount at the time. Many of the amateur boxers, wrestlers, and refs moved onto the pro side to wrestle and ref, and promote, after pro wrestling took hold in the 1930's. 

Toronto circuit regulars John Katan, Joe Maich, Al Dunlop, Pat Milosh, Les Lyman, Red Garner, and others (listed below) would go on to promote locally themselves. Sandor Kovacs ran in Rochester and later in Western Canada. U.S. based Toots Mondt and Paul Bowser also had an interest in the early Toronto scene.

Ivan Mickailoff ran the first weekly cards and stayed in the city to 1938 bringing in all of the top stars of the day. His first card May 4 1929 drew 500 fans to see the main event of Jack Taylor vs Jack Rogers. He would grow it to include Hamilton, Brantford, Oshawa, and other towns on a circuit starting in late 1929. Mickailoff also promoted through Canada's west in the 1930's and would also run shows in both Port Arthur and Fort William (Thunder Bay) On.
See Gary Will's TWH Ivan Mickailoff: "The man who made wrestling in Toronto"

Toronto businessman Jack Corcoran and his Queensbury Athletic Club would start with boxing in the 1920's. He would begin promoting wrestling in Toronto in 1930. Corcoran would be awarded the matchmaking duties for shows at the newly built Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931. The Queensbury Club would cover the region with shows from Barrie to Mount Forest down to Hamilton and the Niagara region. Ottawa and Kingston and some spots in the east as well. He ran Timmins (way up there) for a couple of summers. Corcoran, while mostly forgotten had a pretty good career and he was the one who hired the Tunney brothers.
See   Jack Corcoran: The Queensbury King

John Tunney and Frank Tunney would take over for Corcoran officially in 1939 for both Toronto and Ottawa. John's untimely death in 1940 would push younger brother Frank to assume the office. Corcoran would stay around a bit and help Frank in those early years but mostly stayed out of the spotlight. Many of Frank's trusted inner circle (listed below) would help with the operation and stay dutifully by his side until his death in 1983. Pat Flanagan & Fred Atkins notably, who don't get included here as promoters. Frank also had unique relationships with the the Toronto sportswriters which made for a lot of wrestling coverage and good press in those days

Tunney, after a slow start would gain ground with the help of Bill Longson and others listed below, and the emergence of Whipper Watson. He would enjoy the National TV exposure (after begrudgingly accepting it) from the onset of the popularity of television in the 1950's. Starting on CBC and later on CFTO and CHCH which would be the home for the TV shows continuing into the 1980's. Frank later went in with Jim Crockett Jr and George Scott in 1978 (officially in 1980) to promote in Toronto for the final years of the NWA years.
See  Gary Will's TWH Smiling John, The Forgotten Tunney

John's son John Jr aka Jack Tunney would join his Uncle Frank in the office in the early 1950s and take over officially in 1983. He would run TV and some of the outer towns, do some ring announcing, publicity, and other duties. Frank's son Eddie Tunney joined the office in the early 70s initially on the accounting side and was officially partnered with Jack post 1984.

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Barrie would see its first pro card in 1935. Playfair Brown, matchmaker for the Shamrock AC in Toronto had ran some mit-mat (boxing & wrestling) shows in the early 1930's as was common in those days before pro wrestling became more popular. While billed as Professional Boxing & Wrestling, the wrestling was often closer to amateur style. Brown ran boxing in Toronto against Corcoran's club but the two were friends and occasionally teamed up. A 1935 show promoted by Jack Pearl and his Cadillac Wrestling Club of Toronto ran at Barrie Arena. Drawing 400 fans, the card featured Pearl, Walter Parnell, Johnny Gyroffy, Tom George, Bull Findlay, and the Masked Marvel. Deemed a success they ran again a couple of weeks later.

When Wrestling returned to Barrie in 1936 it was promoted by Ross Richardson. The army base at Camp Borden near Barrie was also the site of mit-mat cards in the early 1940s and featured exhibitions of pro wrestling but unsure of who promoted them. Max Hurley famous athlete and former part time wrestler would also run some shows in partnership with Tunney in Barrie in 1952-1953. The 50's also saw shows by Tunney and associates as well as Kasaboski (listed below).
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Oshawa 1950 Milosh

Oshawa would present its first pro card in October 1929 at the Oshawa Armouries featuring the stars of Mickailoff's Toronto shows. Stanislaus Zbyszko, Archie Jeanuette, Renato Gardini, Charlie Manogan, Cowboy Rogers, and Irish Ned McCarr would all appear on that first card. In the early 1940's The Oshawa Wrestling Club with Pat Farrell and Jimmy Szikszay would take over and run shows until 1946. Amateur standout Ted McKinley may have also been involved. 

After a riot at the last card of 1946, a young boxer and wrestler named Pat Milosh would take over and continue promoting until the 1980's, and later in tandem with Jack Tunney. Shows would take place at the Oshawa Arena and later at Kingsmen Stadium, Childrens Arena, and Civic Auditorium.

Milosh would also promote shows regularly in Whitby Arena, Bowmanville Arena, Port Perry Arena with occasional trips to Cobourg Arena and Peterborough Arena.

Milosh also ran Peterborough select years in the 1950's with a full schedule of weekly shows over the winter at Brock Arena using the Tunney stars. The stars were mainly what was big in Toronto but some homegrown talent including Billy Stack, Sandor Kovacs, and Jimmy Szikszay would be favorites around the area. Milosh would continue to promote locally after the WWF aligned with Jack Tunney in 1984, albeit with a lesser role, but was still involved to 1992. His last was promoting a WWF event at the Civic.
See  Pat Milosh The Casino Kid
And Oshawa Wrestling History 
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Ottawa, like Toronto and other major cities would get the large promotion treatment. The city would have to be considered among the big three wrestling cities in the province, alongside Toronto and Hamilton. Jack Ganson then Montreal promoter also ran shows in the 1930's at the Ottawa Auditorium. Corcoran would run the city in the late 1930's with Tunney taking over in 1940.

Sammy Sobel would become the promoter of record in the early 1940's, representing the Queensbury Club under Tunney. Many of the stars from Toronto would occupy those shows, Whipper Watson, Pat Flanagan, Fred Atkins et al. Sobel wore many hats under Tunney and is included below for other areas. He also was the ring manager of Vic Christy in the late 1930's.

In 1939 new Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn would take over the city promoting shows at the Auditorium with stars such as Yvon Robert, Ray Eckert, Bobby Manganoff, Larry Moquin, Frank Valois, and all the major stars of the Montreal-Toronto corridor. It appears that Tunney kept a stake in Ottawa and reaped some of the profits from the Quinn shows.

In the mid 1950's as television took hold, the CBC affiliate CBOT would broadcast live from ringside. Alongside the Quebec stars, Tunney's stars would continue to share the stage in Ottawa as the years progressed. Quinn also promoted some shows at Cornwall Arena in 1954-55. Howard Darwin would step in around 1961 to function as the local man for Quinn and just 2 years later Quinn passed away. Darwin continued through the 60's using a mix of Tunney's main stars and the Quebec regulars for shows at both the Coliseum at Lansdowne Park and the Civic Centre.

Starting around 1972 Grand Prix out of Montreal would take over the Civic Centre and on occasion Lansdowne Park for outdoor shows in the summer. Led by Paul Vachon the shows would include Vachon, Jos Leduc, Don Leo Jonathon, Dino Bravo, Reggie Parks and all the stars of the very popular Grand Prix circuit. Not sure if they were taping TV in Ottawa at the time. Grand Prix reportedly gave Tunney 5% to run Ottawa and would also run shows in the northern towns along the border with Quebec, spots including Haileybury and Temiskaming.

In 1980 AWA head Verne Gagne would try his hand in Ottawa after a two-year pseudo-partnership with Tunney in Toronto. Shows were at Ottawa Civic using Tunney's ex Canadian Champ Dino Bravo ,Gagne, Crusher Blackwell, Adrian Adonis & Jesse Ventura, Mad Dog Vachon, Lord Alfred Hayes, Steve Olsonoski, and Quebec stars Gino Brito and Pierre Lefebvre. Gagne had earlier promoted shows in Kenora, ON in 1973 featuring his AWA stars including a young Ric Flair. Fort William/Thunder Bay was also visited by the AWA over the years. The shows in Ottawa in 80-81 listed Ray Boucher as promoter and drew pretty good (first show 2500 2nd 5000) but deemed not well enough to continue. Ottawa a long way from Winnipeg. 

International Wrestling out of Quebec run by Gino Brito and Frank Valois staged some shows in Ottawa in 1981 and drew fairly well averaging 3500 fans for several cards with the International stars Dino Bravo, Mad Dog Vachon, Pierre Lefebvre, and others.

Mike Vachon, son of Mad Dog ran shows also in Ottawa, Brockville, Kingston, and Belleville in April/May 1981 using many of the Quebec stars and some of McKigney's crew. McKigney was promoting Mad Dog and Carpentier but neither was appearing much - or at all. Shows in Sudbury and and other spots in the east and along the Ontario Quebec border look to have some partnership between McKigney and Mike. 

Perhaps seeing the potential in the nations capital, Frank Tunney would also promote a series of shows at the Civic in 1981-1982 using the same stars at MLG at the time.

Just across the river in Hull Quebec, wrestling in the 1940's at Decosse Stadium and at Hull arena featured Quebec stars under Eddie Quinn. Quinn would also extend further into Ontario as far over as Cornwall and Kingston on occasion.
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Dave McKigney would start promoting his own shows in 1965 up to 1987 in Ontario. To say he was an innovator would be a huge understatement. The way he ran shows and procured talent, sometimes world class talent - is an anomaly in the wrestling business. Without TV, without a big budget, and often without the support of the powers that be, he managed to create a whole subsystem of wrestling, beyond what could be called an indy fed.

Running under various names including 'Big Bear' and 'Big Time' Wrestling McKigney would cover a lot of miles across the province. He would also run shows in Toronto and area encroaching on Tunney turf on occasion. In 1971 he ran Varsity Arena the same night as a Tunney MLG card which drew about 5,000 compared to McKigney's 'less than a thousand'.

Lakeshore Arena, Scarborough Arena, The Concert Hall, Brampton Memorial Arena, Ted Reeve Arena, and Varsity Arena would all see Big Bear shows. In the early days he ran with the blessing of Tunney using the MLG guys and running shows sometimes alongside Whipper Watson in the nearby towns. If you look at a map of Southern Ontario you will be hard pressed to find a town that never saw one of Dave's shows. In the later mid 1970's and early 1980's he would go further out from the Southern hubs into Renfrew, Huntsville, Pembroke and Vanier Arena, as well as tours of the Maritimes.
See Dave McKigney: 25 years later - Slam Wrestling -External Link
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Toronto 1961 Marmon

Gus Marmon promoted some shows in Toronto in 1961. As the 'Olympic Wrestling Club' it appears he went in with Red Garner, by then working under a mask as Great Kudo. Garner had started using the Olympic name for his Thornhill Market shows in 1960. Some of the stars appearing on the 1961 shows at the Lansdowne Theatre included Kudo, Aledo Orlando, Tony Manousas, Killer Joe Conroy, Wildcat Osborne, Billy Foster, the Brothers Jennings (incl Wilf),

Marmon would also put on some shows at the Cobourg Arena in 1960 with some of the above plus Cowboy Carlson, Ali Pahsa and Danny Shane. There is also mention of a TV show on Channel 11 in Kingston in June 1960 featuring the above stars. As well in the Richmond Hill paper it mentions Red is a 'director' of the Olympic Club and the TV show will run on Kingston CKWS late at night and that they hope to run on CHCH 11 in Hamilton! I am unsure if the Kingston shows ran, if so it would be quite rare as TV exposure would remain elusive to the small town promoter. At any rate it looks like Marmon bought Red out as Red wanted to retire to his family. 
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Toar Morgan, a former wrestling star would promote in Lindsay in the early 1950's. He would also serve as the manager of Lindsay Arena for a time. Barry Lloyd Penhale, who was close to Morgan told me about the shows but have been unable to find ads as of yet.
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Dewey Robertson would open gyms in Hamilton and Burlington in the mid 1970's and run cards out of them. Am unsure if he ran anywhere else but he was frequently on cards run by pals Parisi and McKigney so may have had some involvement.
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The main name in the North was Larry Kasaboski starting in 1945 out of North Bay and extending out to Renfrew, Pembroke and area. Running under Northland Wrestling the circuit grew to include a weekly circuit including Sudbury Inco Club, Sault Ste Marie McMekeean Centre, North Bay Ferris Community Centre, Timmins MacIntyre Arena, and Noranda (Quebec) Rec Centre.

Other towns that saw regular shows include Smith Falls, Wawa, Sundridge, Bracebridge, and Huntsville, Elliott Lake, Blind River, and Bancroft among others. On occasion Kasaboski would try his hand closer to Toronto in Orillia, Lakefield, Perth, and Brockville. In 1954 he ran Barrie Arena and Alliston Arena and later went head to head with Tunney.

In the past Kasaboski had maintained a relationship with Tunney and would often feature 'stars straight from Maple Leaf Gardens' at shows and on his TV tapings. In 1954 at the NWA Convention Frank Tunney complained about Kasaboski going into his towns and under-bidding him to promoters.

Still, his shows in Barrie in the mid to late 1950s were well received by fans and often outdrew Tunney shows in the area. Kasaboski enjoyed success through the 1960's but crowds were waning in the 1970's. The TV show based out of North Bay and Sudbury on CKSO and hosted by Barry Lloyd Penhale is said to be the first Studio Wrestling TV show in Canada. It was shown here in Toronto as of 1954, a year after CBLT went with Wrestling from MLG.

Huntsville saw some cards in 1931 put on by Muskoka native Conrad LaLone featuring LaLone, Alex Koski, Ali Hassan, Chief War Eagle, and Jack Thomas.

Around 1973 Quebec based Grand Prix extended outward for shows at the Renfrew Arena featuring Andre The Giant and other stars. They drew 1,000 fans for a show in Aug 1973.

In 1975 Renfrew Community Center hosted a few shows featuring Quebec stalwart Edouard Carpentier and other stars of the Quebec circuit under the banner Super Stars Of The Mat.

Dave McKigney would also move north starting in the summer of 1973 with shows at the Renfrew Armouries as part of his summer tour. His first show in June 1973 used his regular stars including McKigney (as The Beast), Angelo Mosca, Bulldog Brower, and the midget stars. Later with Mike Vachon. Kasaboski continued with shows on his own and co-promoted with Grand Prix at the Arena through 1975 and was done. 

For a good read seek out the book The Rassler From Renfrew by Gary Howard, it's an extensive look at Kasaboski and Northland and one of the best wrestling books out there. Very underrated territory that had Studio TV before most of the big cities. 

We looked a bit at Kasaboski and Barrie at The Wrestling Boom of the 1950's - Beyond Tunney
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Grimsby 1960 Wentworth

Hamilton, just down the road from Toronto would enjoy a rich history alongside its larger neighbor. Some shows in the 1920's at the Barton St Arena and Grand Opera House were put on by Toronto based Mickailoff.

In the 1930's shows at the Municipal Pool began, put on by George Hills. Hills may have been involved as early as 1929 as he was a regular on Mickailoff shows in Toronto. Wrestlers used were mostly from the Detroit and Toledo offices including Jimmy Redd Simms (later promoter, below), Martin Blimp Levy, Rudy Epps, and Johnny Tipa, along with the Toronto guys.

Late in the decade Toronto based Corcoran saw the potential for Hamilton and started at the Municipal Pool as well as the Hamilton Ballpark using the Toronto stars. The city would prove to be an important stop for the major stars coming into Toronto for big bouts. Lou Thesz, Joe Savoldi, John Katan, Danno Mahoney, as well as local boy Johnny Silvy were regulars over the early years. As with Ottawa and Niagara Falls, Sammy Sobel would run the shows for the office in the early 1940's.

John Katan the strongman from Palermo and Toronto star would branch out around 1947 to promote shows in Hamilton at the Municipal Pool and The Forum. He would work closely with the Toronto office presenting the stars of Toronto and the action mirrored the cards from MLG. Running under Hamilton Sporting Club Katan would continue up till 1958. Katan was an important member of the early group that supported Frank and remained one of Frank's most trusted allies.  

Jack Wentworth operated the Queenston Wrestling Club out of Hamilton. In addition to training many wrestlers and running shows at his gym in Hamilton he promoted some shows at the Simcoe Arena in the late 1950's and later at Grimsby Arena. Local guys like Martin Hutzler, Dick Caron, Ron Logue, Skull Nurenburg and Lloyd Morris would appear in the late 50's for Wentworth.

During the Mid-Atlantic era Tunney ran cards and TV tapings at the Forum, Convention Centre and the low ceilinged Germania Club.
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Acton  1949 Maich

Brantford operated similar to the other towns as a circuit town run by Mickailoff and later Tunney By 1950 Brantford was seeing shows by former Olympic and pro, and stock car enthusiast Joe Maich and his brother Don Maich, as Maich Sports Enterprises. Don had been a fixture on the Toronto amateur boxing scene in the early 1930's. They had their own crew of mostly lighter grapplers but would often use Tunney stars and ran shows at the Arctic Arena, Delhi Arena, Cockshutt Park, and the Brantford Armouries.

In the 1950's the circuit grew to include the Simcoe Armories, Preston Arena in Cambridge, Georgetown Arena, and Welland Arena. Jimmy 'Red' Simms also ran Welland arena in the early 1950s and later in Hamilton and other towns in the region. By the early 1960's the Maich brothers were running cards through Milton, Acton and area.

In 1960-1961 there were cards in Brantford at the College Theater with Bull Johnson, Red Mask, Terry Yorkston, Mickey & Robby McDonald, Ernie Moore, and Pat Murphy appearing. Johnson would occasionally run shows around Hamilton and area up to the early 1980's. In the late 1970's Bull and his son Danny Bullwhip Johnson would run cards at the Shamrock Club in Hamilton with Terry Yorkston, Bob Marcus, lady wrestler Jean Baxter, and others. 

In the late 1970's Tunney would begin taping TV shows at the Brantford Civic Arena for broadcast on channel 11 CHCH out of Hamilton and seen across the region. 
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N Falls 1975 Parisi

Niagara Falls had Sammy Sobel at the helm as part of Corcoran's Queensbury Club in the 1930's. He was an early promoter of the area and as with the other circuit towns, the stars appearing in Toronto would occupy the cards.  

Sobel would continue to run the area in the 1950's , Toronto would supply the stars and let the local promoters run the shows with money getting kicked back to the office. It would prove to be a huge boost as the smaller towns would continue to see the TV stars and get big bouts including World title matches. When Sobel died in 1957 it said he had promoted wrestling for 30 years, the last 20 in Niagara Falls.

In the 1970's Tony Parisi would promote at the Memorial Arena using a mix of the Tunney stars and the crossover from McKigneys shows. Parisi would also feature shows at the Skylon Tower, Oakes Park, and The Optimist Club using the same crews, many of them Tunney stars. He also ran Welland on a at least a couple of occasions. Parisi would arrange shows during the annual CNE Exhibition as well as the CHIN Picnic in Toronto using mostly local stars or old friends including the Love Brothers, Dom Denucci, The Executioner (Don Lewin), and Dewey Robertson. The Tunney stars also were on cards at the Ontario Place Forum in the early 1970's with Parisi maybe running things.

Around 1980 when Tunney would go back to a circuit type setup they would run at the Memorial Arena and occasionally do TV tapings there through 1982, with Parisi handling the local end.

St Catharines was promoted by George Bird in 1959.
-to add
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Al 'Bunny' Dunlop a star of the pre war years and for many ears after his wrestling days a referee at MLG, also promoted some shows in Toronto in 1947 under the banner Atlas Athletic Club. He would put on several shows at Oakwood Stadium featuring Dunlop, Joe Maich, Billy Stack, Ted McKinley, Jack Sipthorpe, Walter Allen, Bob Larsen, Joe Kayorie, Sandor Kovacs, and Frank Hewitt. Maich, who was to promote Brantford and area was also involved in the promotion side for these shows.
See   Al "Bunny" Dunlop: wrestler, referee, promoter: Gary Will's TWH
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Stoufville 1954 Garner

Edwin 'Red' Garner, the Pride of Langstaff would start promoting cards regularly around 1948 based around his home in Richmond Hill. In addition to the Richmond Hill Arena, Garner would put on regular shows at the Newmarket Arena, Weston Arena in Toronto, as well as Scarborough Arena.

For several years in the mid '50's he ran the Thornhill Farmers Market every Tuesday. Red, running under the Canadian Wrestling Alliance (a Roy McMahon would sometimes be listed as matchmaker) would branch out to Stoufville Arena, Aurora Arena, Port Perry Arena, Keswick Arena, Cobourg Arena, Georgetown Arena, and Peterborough, Lindsay, and others occasionally.

Some of the stars over the years on Red's shows included Ed 'Gori' Mangotich, Stoney Brooks, Joe Greenfield, Harold Van Dyke, Ivan Klimenko, Jack Flicker, Tom Sullivan. Al Wallace, Wildcat Osborne, Billy Foster, and future stars Mike Scicluna (later Baron), Ron Doner the Newmarket Flash, Holland Landing's Wally Seiber (later Waldo Von Erich) and Jacques Dubois (McKigney)

In the late 1950's son in law Joe Greenfield was listed as Matchmaker and Promoter as well.

If there were an Ontario based Mt Rushmore of promoters Garner would surely be up there alongside Tunney, Kasaboski, and McKigney. 

See Red Garner The Pride of Langstaff
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Bob Lane promoted in Georgetown in 1951. He may have been working with Joe Maich, On those shows were Maich, Farmer Bill Jones, Chief War Eagle, Wild Bill Cody, The Great  (Sandor -Frank) Fozo, and Masked Marvel.
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Gus Marker was a retired NHLer who promoted some shows in Kingston in the early 1950's at the Kingston Centre as an associate under Tunney. The cards were mostly Tunney stars with some local talent. They had a TV show with Marker doing the announcing for a short time, but not clear who appeaqred.
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Earl 'Sully' Sullivan, owner of Sully's Gym in Toronto and noted trainer and good guy was said to have promoted some wrestling as well but unable to pinpoint any. Maybe within Sully's similar to Dewey at his gyms. Sully's regular Ron Hutchison told us no as far as wrestling cards. 
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Frankie Laine promoted some shows around the London area in the late 70s early 80s including the main stop Centennial Hall in London in 1981. These shows were mostly the same guys from McKigney's cards including McKigney himself, Candi Divine, Sheik, George Steel and Whipper Jr., and padded out by Joe Cagle and Mike Vachon. Laine also put on indy type shows in the summers at the the London Fairgrounds featuring Tim Gerrard, Sheik Ali, and others into the early/mid 80's.
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Tommy Nelson was another of Tunney's inner circle of former wrestlers who would promote shows in the nearby towns. Using Tunney's stars he would put on shows at the Barrie Arena, Collingwood etc in the 1950's. Later with regular shows at Stoufville Arena, Aurora Arena, Sutton Arena, and Bradford Arena in the early 1960's. He was also noted as promoter on a 1958 Scarboro card using Tunney stars for a charity night show. Interesting note is that he was said to take over for Roy McMahon as matchmaker for Red Garner's CCWA in 1955. Nelson also ran Galt (Cambridge) and Kitchener until Johnny Powers bought Nelson and Tunney out around 1965. Powers would later take over in Cleveland and ran opposition to the Crocketts in North Carolina in the later 1970's.
See   Tiger Tommy Nelson
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Toronto 1954 Lyman

Les Lyman would promote shows around the Toronto area in the early 1950's. Regular shows at East York Arena commenced in 1953-54 as Lyman a long time wrestler, was getting up in years. Worked similar to Red Garner, using many of the same stars and looked to have some degree of a working relationship with Red while both were putting on shows at the same arenas. East York would be the most common stop along with Scarboro Arena.

Tunney himself would also book shows at East York and on occasion Scarboro Arena when MLG was unavailable. Lyman had Tunney's blessing as Les would occasionally wrestle on the MLG shows. Some of the stars on Lyman shows included Lyman, Jack Sibthorpe, Blackjack Richards, Kenny Evans, Paul Penchoff, Joe & Sandy Scott (yes that Sandy Scott, Joe is not George AFAIK) , Al Kendall, George & Bob McKeague, Ivan Klimenko, Ronnie Kopac, Killer Jim Conroy (also wrestled at MLG), and future Tunney/McKigney ref Wilf The Sudbury Wolf Jennings.

Roger Baker attended one of Lyman's shows at Scarboro Arena in the early 1950's and remembers Lyman working out at the YMHA gym at Bloor and Spadina and wrestling on the mats there. He was always a Canadian champion but not a great wrestler look. Lyman an interesting name we will try to look at further...
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Sam Yanaky promoted in Georgetown, Milton, and area in the 1950's and 1960's, sometimes with Bob Burke. He was known as Nanjo Singh's manager in Toronto and was close with Pat Flanagan. One item says he is Pat's father, maybe 'like a father' not sure what the relationship was. He owned a restaurant called The Corner Cupboard and used the Tunney stars in Georgetown in the late 1950's and early 1960's at Georgetown Park. The Milton Arena opened in 1950 and started running wrestling in July 1950 with a first card main event of Whipper vs Sky Hi Lee. Yanaky may have gone further out too into some of the smaller towns in the southwest. 

Red Garner would promote shows every 2 weeks on his summer tour of 1955 at the Georgetown Arena using his regular crew including hometown boy Lacrosse star Billy Foster.

Sports writer Ross Pearon was listed as promoter for some shows at the Milton Arena in 1960 using mostly Tunney's guys.
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The Love Brothers Hartford (Wes Hutchings) and Reggie (John Evans) promoted some shows in the early 1970's at Grimsby Arena, Oakville Arena, St Catharines Arena, and around the Hamilton area among others. Its hard to decipher their scope as it overlaps with both McKigney and Whipper Jr. as they all used the same guys for the most part and ran the same spots.
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Windsor 1960 Robertson/Doyle/Barnett

Both Blake Robertson and Bill Thornton ran Windsor in the late 1940's just as Tunney stopped running the city. Tunney had run Wigle Park as well as the Arena through 1947. Robertson ran out of the Market Building, using Bert Rubi, Eddie Lee, Johnny Gates, Pierre LaSalle, and others. Robertson owned a barbershop in Windsor. 

Thornton, a former star and promoting in Windsor since the late 1930's ran out of the Arena using Stocky Kneilson, Whitey Wahlberg, Red Lyons (not BRL) , Rene LaBelle, The Great Mephisto, Frankie Hart, and Tommy Martindale. Thornton also promoted some cards using Tunneys stars with Tunney as co-promoter. Thornton also promoted other cities or was listed as matchmaker, Toledo for one.

Around 1960 Jim Barnett and Johnny Doyle along with Robertson would run shows at Windsor Arena and Cleary Arena featuring the Detroit stars, Dick The Bruiser, Wilbur Snyder, Mitsu Arakawa, Bobo Brazil etc. At the same time there were smaller shows at the Teutonia Club with Luis Martinzex, Divie Duncan, and others, not sure who promoted those. Robertson was a Windsor barber and also ran shows in some of the nearby towns including Leamington and Essex. 

In the 1970's Windsor was mostly served by the Detroit side, The Sheik as well as Dick The Bruiser ran shows alongside, and sometimes in co-operation with McKigney.
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London could be considered the #4 behind Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton. In the 1920's and '30s' shows ran at Winter Gardens The 1950's and '60's saw cards at the Arena and the Gardens featuring the MLG stars mirroring the Toronto scene at the time. Tunney cards with Flanagan, Whipper, and others running them. 

Through the 1970's and early 1980's McKigney ran shows at Centennial Hall, the Arena, and the Fairgrounds, and in the early '80s facing competition from the Tunney's who ran the London Gardens on the same day or close to Dave's shows.

For a couple of years 1973 and '74 McKigney worked with the WWA out of Michigan and featured Bobby Heenan, Baron Von Raschke, Jimmy Valiant Cowboy Bob Ellis and others alongside McKigney's regulars in London, Windsor, and other towns along the Western side of Southern Ontario.

After a busy 1960's Tunney would leave the area on a regular basis not to return until 1979. He would add London, along with Kitchener, Hamilton, Niagara Falls. Oshawa. others as regular stops the days before or after the usual Sunday MLG card. In 1980 -81 we would see a 5 day circuit appear, with stops at the above cities in addition to one offs in Oshawa, Kingston, Guelph, Peterborough and other stops.
__________________
Cannon 1977

George Cannon brought the upstart Universal Wrestling to Ontario in 1975 Featuring Tony Marino, Ben Justice, Super Hawk, Sailor White, Lionel Robert, and Richard Charland he ran a show at the Riverside Arena in Windsor. The same group would also invade Toronto that summer aided by Kurt Von Hess, Karl Von Schotz, and Killer Tim Brooks for shows at both Mimico Arena and Scarboro Arena Gardens.

Cannon tried to take a serious run at Tunney in 1976 with a show at the Coliseum at Exhibition Stadium using Bull Curry, Luis Martinez, Eric The Red, Tony Parisi, Fred Curry, The Love Brothers, the McGuire Twins, Frenchy Martin, and others. Tunney responded by moving up a show at MLG to go head to head. Tunney won fairly easily despite Cannon using Lou Thesz, a staple of Tunney's cards (and the NWA) in the 1950's. Sandwiched around that show Cannon ran cards at Cobourg Arena and Ohsweken Memorial Center using mostly the same crew.

Cannon was also unique among indy promoters in that he had TV at several times in the 1970's and early 1980's. His Superstars Of Wrestling running on the Global network in Ontario was quite popular and reached across the province. Tapings would take place at the Global studio in Don Mills and at the University of Windsor. He also later had a show on CITY TV Toronto and ran under several names including Contact Sports and Can-Am Promotions. He would promote shows in Windsor at the Elmwood Casino and Windsor Arena and branch out as far as Quebec and Newfoundland. Cannon would use a mix of Ontario, Detroit, and Quebec stars including those who were usually found on Tunney shows including The Destroyer (Beyer), Bravo, Nick DeCarlo, and others.

In 1981 Cannon would put on some shows in Detroit and around Michigan/Ohio said to be with the help of Tunney (blessings maybe) and Gino Brito. The cards did feature some of the then Mid Atlantic/Tunney guys including Sweet Ebony Diamond, Greg Valentine, and Swede Hansen in addition to those named above. Other local Ontario guys included Ricky Johnson and John Bonello as well as regular Cannon mainstays Sailor White and Luis Martinez. How much involvement Tunney had with Cannon is not clear, it was likely more of a 'let them go' type thing as the fall of Detroit under The Sheik opened up the area for others to try running cards. 
__________________

Phil "Whipper Jr" Watson assisted by father Whipper Watson ran some shows in the early 70s as far as Huntsville using MLG stars Whipper , Jr, Dewey Robertson, Haystack Calhoun, and Red Pollard. Whipper Jr would continue to promote some shows over the next few years with shows at the Aylmer Arena, Ajax Arena, Uxbridge Arena, Brampton Arena, Brooklin Arena, and Markham Arena using Jr, the Love Brothers, the McGuires, Executioner, Nick DeCarlo, Big Bad Coleman, Cheif White Eagle, and others. Some shows are hard to figure out as there is some overlap with McKigney shows and with the Love Brothers who ran at the same time with the same guys. Whipper Sr and Jr trained wrestlers in a barn in Keswick and many filled out the cards, mostly during the summertime months.

Whipper Sr. also ran shows as one of Tunney's most trusted pals, promoting the cards around his home base of Keswick, Newmarket, Brampton, etc in the 1960's. Sr. also worked alongside McKigney in the late '60's and I was told that McKigney tried to get Whipper to work with him against Tunney but Sr. would not go against Frank. Whipper Sr. did have a part of Hamilton in the late '60's as well as some of the outlying towns at least through 1970.
__________________

Lars Anderson and his World Wrestling League ran a show in Terrace Bay in 1982 (and maybe also in 1979 or 1980), and probably in Thunder Bay featuring Anderson, Timmy Rich, Junkyard Dog (not that one), and other Pfefer like names.

Fort William, now part of Thunder Bay had regular shows in the 1950's. The later part of the decade at least and into the late 1960's was Laddie Simkanin in charge. Some of the Toronto guys would appear alongside Al Kashay, Verne Gagne, and others. As noted previously Mickailoff was running Fort William and Port Arthur in the early 1930's.

__________________ To be continued.....ongoing

-AC

Ilio DiPaolo vs Don Leo Jonathon 1959

Ilio's Muscles Mean Big Money 

      Ilio DiPaolo shows his strength as he hoists Don Leo Jonathon at MLG in October 1959.  

  Don Leo had been enjoying an unbeaten streak here before losing to Whipper Watson a few weeks prior. DiPaolo earns a hard fought draw with the big man and would soon team with Whipper vs the Canadian Open tag champs of Don Leo and partner Gene Kiniski. The good guys would prove to be one of the most popular teams in Toronto history and would later take the titles from Don Leo & Gene on the last card of the year. That's wrestler turned ref Billy Stack looking on. 

-AC


Alexandria Studio photo. mapleleafwrestling.com collection

Jack Corcoran: The Queensbury King

    On April 4 1922 Jack Corcoran promoted a bout between Johnny Dundee and Jimmy Gooderich at the new Civic Arena on the Exhibition grounds, Corcoran was said to be a 'well-known west end sportsman' and wanted a big attraction for his debut as a boxing promoter after Toronto had beat out Buffalo and New York City for the bout.

It attracted the largest fight crowd of the season with over 8,000 to see Dundee beat Gooderich in 10 rounds.

In March 1923 Corcoran refereed at the Canadian Trials at Toronto's Gayety Theater alongside Lou Marsh and would be picked to to go to Winnipeg to oversee the national bouts later in the month. Corcoran would also ref on his early cards, often with Marsh as a ref or judge.

Marsh was a noted and well respected sportsman and writer and frequently wrote the results column for the previous nights card. He was also an early supporter of Corcoran and they ran in the same circles, hunting and fishing together.

When Marsh died in March 1936 Corcoran related several anecdotes including crediting Marsh with saving him when their canoe turned over on a fishing trip. Marsh was so influential and respected that the Star devoted all of its cover and most of its first 4 pages to him upon his passing.

The 'Queensbury (Athletic) Club' is formed in 1923 when Corcoran joins with local promoter Eddie Rudd to run additional cards around Toronto. They held bouts at the Coliseum with some problems early on with cancelled bouts and such but came back with strong cards. Rudd had promoted as early as 1922 on his own, around the same time Corcoran had put on his first card.

They went on to run cards at the Standard Theater at Dundas and Spadina in 1924 and there was a mention of  'less than 3,000' paid for 3 consecutive cards held in January, though that number doesn't seem too bad for a small venue.

1922 Opener

An item on Feb 20 1924 looking at the upcoming Queensbury Boxing card mentions that Wrestling may be making a comeback in the city. Cards had been held at the Labor Temple with Jack Forbes, George Walker, and other notables of the day appearing.

In Nov 1924 the Ontario Athletic Commission -OAC -re-licensed the two clubs promoting boxing in the city, Corcoran's Queensbury AC and George Williams International AC. It was said that it was a vote of confidence that the two groups were bringing good cards to Toronto.

A Nov 4 1925 item in the Star has Corcoran buying the Tyndall Apartments on Tyndall Ave consisting of 12 suites in 2 buildings for a deal which included cash and an exchange of housing properties on Ossington Ave, Dovercourt Rd, Perth Ave, and Hillary Ave in amounts to $84,500. He also owned the namesake Queensbury Hotel on Scarlett Rd and Nealon House on King St.
1933

A May 22 1930 item refers to Corcoran buying one of the 'Seagram Stable' horses at auction for $100. A horse owned by Corcoran a 'Rundall' placed 2nd in a race at Long Branch in June 1930 and another 'Fire Girl' placed first in the first race a week later. He would add more and keep a presence in the sport for many years. Often the races at Thorncliffe track in Toronto would be named for sporting and local personalities including the wrestling stars and Corcoran himself.

Due to the resurgence of Pro Wrestling in Toronto under promoter Ivan Mickailoff, on Nov 6 1930 Corcoran promoted his own first Wrestling show at Massey Hall.

A write up prior suggested that with the principals on the scene nothing remains now for 'Corcoran to do but sit back and listen to the merry click of the turnstiles' of which would appear certain due to the large demand for tickets. It was added that 'despite the outstanding wrestlers in the main event, Corcoran has decided not to increase his prices and the same popular rates will prevail as at previous shows'. 
The main event was to feature Jim Browning vs Jack 'Rough-house' McCarthy said to be a former sparring partner of Jack Dempsey.

A review by the Star's Sports Editor W.A. Hewitt said that 'Corcoran was handed a lemon for his first show. 'Rough-House' McCarthy turned out to be such a poor performer that the Queensbury Athletic Club reported him to the Ontario Athletic Commission. The crowd razzed the wrestlers in a good-natured way, and Jim Browning, a real good grappler, was also a victim, though he made short work of McCarthy in a very business-like manner. The show lacked color and action. Promoter Corcoran should make amends in his next show by bringing along some top-notchers that the fans are acquainted with instead of 'unknowns' of the mat game.'

Lou Marsh wrote in his column that Corcoran was double-crossed and alleges one of the main bouters (McCarthy evidently) was 'Pie-eyed' and the OAC may fine Corcoran the purse amount. Marsh suggests that Corcoran will not be successful until he birngs in a 'rival gang of equal strength to the crowd which is operating here now - a crowd which knows what is all about' and adds 'Corcoran might be well advised to stick to the boxing end' as he 'knows his boxers, and he has the confidence of the local boxing public'.

Nov 6 1930

In the recap the card was referred to as 'a thorough flop'. 
Jim Browning over Jack McCarthey 2 falls
Joe Shimkus beat Jack Kogut
Chief War Eagle defeated Charles Monoogean

Prior to the Nov 19 card Lou Marsh wrote that 'it was openly charged that certain interested parties paid a couple of howlers to go to the first card and start the Bronx cheers and that the same parties fixed up a nice set of double-crosses for the show.'

For that second show Corcoran set up John Pesek vs Joe Shimkus as the main. Pesek wins and in the other bouts Jim Browning returned to beat Alan Eustace, and Frank Wolfe beat Jack Krogut in the opener. Marsh in his column the next day suggested that Corcoran and Mickailoff get together and set up a Pesek-Sonnenberg (Sonnenberg appearing on Mickailoff cards) bout.

Pesek returns in December and Marsh plays up a rivalry between Corcoran and Mickailoff.

On Oct 23 1931 Marsh writes that Corcoran is moving his show to the Coliseum for the nights card. That he 'is probably trying to get the boys used to the wide open spaces; for the shows Corcoran runs in the future are going to be at the new Maple Leaf Gardens'. He adds that the MLG people have a boxing license and have hooked up with Corcoran for the wrestling end.

The Oct 23 show draws over 7,000 to the Coliseum to see George Zaharias battle Mike Romano and Hewitt writes that 'when the Queensbury club stages its championship bout at the new Maple Leaf Gardens on Nov 19 a record wrestling crowd is likely to attend'. The 7,000 is to date one of the largest crowds to see pro wrestling in Toronto.

Jack with Playfair Brown 

Corcoran brings in World champ Jim Londos for the Nov 5 card to introduce him to Toronto fans matching him with Romano. Romano is said to be runner up in the New York Tournament conducted to provide an opponent at Madison Square Garden for Londos and is sufficient indication as to the caliber of bout presented to fans here by the Queensbury club.

For the first MLG show on Nov 19 1931 reported attendance was 15,800 and Corcoran was off to a good start. Lou Marsh wrote that it brought in $13,000 from paid tickets as many more were invited guests. Another 2,000 more said to be outside unable to get in.

Marsh added that 'the brains of the Curley rasslin loop' Joe 'Toots' Mondt who wrestled Hans Bauer on the card was really there 'counting up the customers'. Mondt was in fact a partner in the Toronto office. 
Mondt would a year later stand trial locally on a manslaughter charge due to a car accident that killed a woman and Corcoran would be called to testify. *1


1932

On Jan 7 1932 it is written that Corcoran had added St Catharines to his loop and drew more than 1,600 on the 6th to the new stadium there to see Frankie Hart, Jack Kogut, Alex Kasaboski, and others. He would also branch out to Niagara Falls, Hamilton, Brantford, and other towns around Southern Ontario for regular shows.

A Feb 29 1932 item says Corcoran is just out of the shadows after a bout with 'Kid Pneumonia'. He had been ill for ten days and word was held back from the sporting public. It adds that Foster Hewitt, sports announcer and Andy Taylor building manager of MLG were also out with the flu. Another item says Corcoran was gone from the office for nearly 6 weeks.

In March 1933 Corcoran is said to be promoting in Buffalo and Detroit. He also runs wrestling in Ottawa from 1932.

An Apr 12 1933 story says Corcoran 'who controls pro wrestling over the major portion of Canada' is after a contract with 'Jumping' Joe Savoldi who had just pinned Jim Londos in Chicago to earn the claim as World Titlist. He ends up signing a 3 year deal said to be worth $100k.

Another item says it is Percy Gardiner doing the negotiating on brother-in-law Jack's behalf. Gardiner is noted to 'be financially behind the Queensbury AC man (Corcoran) since the beginning.' It goes on to say that it is likely that Gardiner is acting on behalf of the Bowser-Curley-Mondt interests in which Jack was a partner.

An item a year and a half later mentioned that at the time, everyone thought the man behind the money was 'screwy' to offer that much money. Savoldi, after beating Londos had passed that amount already just halfway into the 3 years making the deal a shrewd one.

In 1934 Corcoran made news as a part of the Ontario Athletic Commission bribery scandal. *2

In 1935 Corcoran published a 'Wrestling Guide'  (right) featuring sketches by Lou Skuce whose work was a regular fixture in the Star and included drawings of the wrestlers with facts about their careers. The book/pamphlet type was sold at newsstands and turns up occasionally on e-bay. 

In May 1937 Corcoran appeared before the OAC to settle a dispute with fellow Boxing Promoter Playfair Brown and agreed to work with his rival. Fellow rivals Jack Allen and Doc Cook were also present.

Corcoran would have another nasty battle with the flu in March 1939 taking some time off to recuperate in Florida. Mondt would supervise the March 16 card featuring Londos vs Vic Christie and for the Mar 23 card John Tunney is said to be taking over matchmaking in the absence of Corcoran.

In July 1939 Corcoran and 8 others including 6 children and a dog escaped serious injury after their boat capsized in Lake Simcoe. They spent over 2 hours clinging to cushions waiting to be rescued, eventually by two teens and said to be in the nick of time. The story made the front page in Toronto.

1939 Terror on the Lake
Corcoran would later receive a bronze medal from the Royal Canadian Humane society presumably for saving the life of the dog. The original incident article made note of the fact that Jack blamed a lot of the distress on the flailing of the dog in the water, and that the dog almost cost them their lives.

Its around this time Corcoran sells to the Tunney brothers. John Tunney was matchmaking and is now Promoter. His younger brother Frank, secretary of the Queensbury Club is listed as matchmaker and other partners include Paul Bowser, Jack Ganson, and Jerry Monahan.

Jack stays in the office handling some of the boxing but starts to retire away from the promotion. Frank takes over for his brother John when he dies suddenly in Jan 1940. Jack would continue to be the Boxing Promoter through 1941 but by 1942 was retired from the office in an official sense. A 1943 charity mention referred to him as the 'Queensbury Hotel's Jack Corcoran'.

While later articles refer to the Tunney's taking over for an 'ailing Corcoran', Jack appears to have wanted to retire at that time. He would leave at a relatively young age and go on to spend another 25 years in the city. The severe bouts of the flu, the near death experience on the lake, and then the sudden passing of John (from the flu) may have expedited his decision.

A 1941 story said that Corcoran was still receiving 5% of the gate from Tunney's shows while he is referred to in the late '40's as 'retired from everything' and keeping a low profile. When noted multi sport (including a short stint in pro wrestling) athlete Lionel Conacher died in 1954 Corcoran was one of the guards of honor at the funeral alongside Primo Carnera, Red Dutton (NHL Exec.), and others.

In Dec 1957 a bit in the entertainment section reports that Corcoran a 'great-hearted Irishman who himself has done more for humanity in this time than many a group, was this week dragged out of mothballs (he's retired from even seeing his friends, it seems) and asked to talk about the infamous Red Ryan'. It goes on to describe a TV interview with Jack about the infamous bank robber and one time wrestler Ryan. *3


Portrait previously online at City of Toronto Archives


On Apr 12 1960 Milt Dunnell, in his sports column, reported that Corcoran was ailing at a Ft Lauderdale hospital. Jack - John Joseph 'Jack' Corcoran - passed away Apr 12 1965 at St Joseph's Hospital in Toronto. A sports page obit in the Star lists him as 73. It lists him as brother of Margaret, Ambrose, and Vincent. Earlier mentions of hunting trips and social events list other family members though un-clear on relation He was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery as would Frank Tunney when he passed on in 1983.

In an interview in Frank's later days he remarked that Jack had been like a father figure to him. Easy to work for, and obviously an influence on the young Tunney who lost his own father at a young age. Frank with ever present cigar in hand, just like Jack before him, would mirror his predecessor's easy demeanor and likewise earn the respect of the Toronto sporting community over his long career as promoter.

-AC

Items mapleleafwrestling.com collection, Toronto Star, Globe, COTA.
Further reading





Whipper, Tunney, & McCready 1941

Whipper Tunney & McCready 1941

    A notable date in MLW history featuring Whipper Watson vs Earl McCready for the undisputed Canadian Heavyweight Championship on June 12 1941

This was the beginnings of the British Empire Title which became one of the main titles here for close to 30 years. McCready had come in to Toronto as holder of both the B-E Title and the Canadian Championship and had faced Whipper the week before this bout.

In the mid 40's McCready owned a farm on 2nd Concession in Whitchurch Township (Vandorf) near what is now Aurora. He would be gone for 6 months at a time traveling around the world and was known for a time as the Whitchurch Farmer. In a 1944 Stoufville paper it proclaimed Frank Tunney as the second most well known local name in pro wrestling - next to McCready.

In June of 1941 rookie promoter Tunney introduced a new title belt 'emblematic of the dominion wrestling championship' in order to give more credence to Canadian wrestlers. McCready was still billed across the nation as champ and Tunney deemed local star Whipper Watson to be a claimant so the two were set to meet at MLG.

The initial meeting was inconclusive but in the re-match McCready pinned Watson in the 5th round of another 8 round bout to become undisputed champ. Both were said to be competing for the chance at the World title so it helped to establish Watson as a worthy challenger. The new British Empire title would then become the centerpiece for the next decade and provide a platform for Whipper to eventually attain the World Title.

McCready would lose the title to Nanjo Singh who then lost it to Whipper for his first run in Apr 1942, McCready would regain it from new champ John Katan late in the year and by 1943 Whipper would regain it and hold it on and off (mainly on) before it was retired in 1967.

Watson and McCready would also find time to team up as a formidable tag in 1942 in a bout billed as the 'first time four men in the ring at the same time.' Our era's Texas tornado bout. The two would beat John Katan and Al 'Bunny' Dunlop in a wild bout.

McCready would continue to appear often through the 1940's while still maintaining a busy schedule throughout the wrestling world and would wrestle his last area appearances here in 1954 before finishing his career out West.

*Note in the photo above with all three, McCready who was billed at 5'11 looks to tower over Whipper (billed 5'10, was close to that) (and Tunney -5'9 or so?) , another photo shows them to be about an inch apart, must be the angle of this one.

-AC



Oshawa Wrestling History: Whip and Togo set Oshawa on fire

 June 23 1953

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

-AC

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



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...




Dave McKigney: 25 Years Later 2013

    Thanks to Greg for putting this back online at the new Slam Wrestling, originally posted 2013

    Some further findings since that ran, one clarification would be about the genesis of the Bearman part. In summer 1957 while Dave was wrestling in Red Garner's CCWA, Terrible Ted the bear would appear alongside handler Paul Brunet. Dave would start appearing with Ted the following summer. A future story (here) may look at some other facets of Dave and his promotion that have come to light since that article ran. Some of the stuff from our old Wildman site will also be back in the New Year. 

THE BEARMAN DAVE MCKIGNEY: 25 YEARS LATER
   It has been 25 years since 'The Bearman' Dave McKigney died in Newfoundland and Labrador when his van left the road to avoid a moose. But his story is so much richer than just the end, from growing up poor in Toronto, to working the Ontario circuit, to promoting shows across the province. Come with us on a wonderful ride, revisiting the Bearman!   read more at Slam Wrestling   (external link will open in new window)

Toronto Scrapbooks June-Dec 1960

As a companion to the new 'From Nanjo to The Sheik' we will be presenting some of the Toronto Scrapbook collection. Next up is Jun-Dec 1960. Non stop excitement with the Bravo brothers, World champ Pat O'Connor, Watson & DiPaolo tag champs, and more. 

Thank you to Roger for compiling, preserving, and sharing these treasures with us. 


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50th Anniversary Show Nov 15 1981: Sunday Night


   Over the years we have looked at the various anniversary shows held at Maple Leaf Gardens, this time we focus on the final one, celebrating 50 years of wrestling.

   The first card was held on Nov 19 1931 under the promotion of the Queensbury Athletic Club headed by Jack Corcoran. Corcoran passed the promotion to John & Frank Tunney in 1939 and when John passed away suddenly in 1940 Frank took over the reigns. 

By 1981 the promotion was celebrating 50 years at the Gardens. 

   The card was set for Sunday Nov 15 and would feature an NWA title bout with new champ Ric Flair defending against #1 contender Harley Race. At that time newspaper coverage was minimal as compared to previous eras, but this anniversary earned some notable entries in the dailies.

  The Toronto Sun had an enlarged ad type entry on Nov 11 with the caption 'He does it with Flair' with a photo of the new champ and his belt. It was billed as 3 championship bouts, Alongside Flair vs Race, Angelo Mosca was trying to regain his Canadian Heavyweight Title from John Studd, and NWA TV champ Ron Bass would defend against Kurt Von Hess. Added to that was Andre the Giant going for revenge against Killer Kahn for breaking his leg (actually happened well before and the two had had several return bouts elsewhere) and 'others' including Johnny Weaver, Mike Miller, Mike (billed as Ron) Davis, and Victor Jovica.


   The Globe had a feature article by James Christie (40 years at Globe as Sportswriter) entitled 'Love and pain and 50 years of grappling.'  He looked at the history of wrestling here and quoted Tunney as saying he would sell out the show expecting 17,000 and a gate of $100k.

   The card did almost sell out MLG, announced attendance was 16,000 which made it one of the best of the era. Since 1974 there had only been two other cards over 15,000.

The place was full, and loud.

The card itself did not disappoint, though there were some minor changes from what was scheduled.

NWA TITLE: Ric Flair WP Harley Race 24:03
Andre the Giant D/DQ Killer Kahn 14:19
Canadian Heavyweight Title: John Studd LCOR Angelo Mosca 15:47
TV Title: Outlaw Ron Bass W Mike Miller (sub for Kurt Von Hess) 10:46
Johnny Weaver W Charlie Fulton 8:24
Tony Parisi/Mike Davis W Doug Vines/Izzy Slapowitz 11:12

About to hit the ramp! 


   The highlight was Flair vs Race. 24 minutes of suplexes, figure fours, falling headbutts, and all out action, both in the ring and on the ramp. As was usually the case when these two met, both were covered in blood after sacrificing themselves on the hard wooden ramp.

   Race appeared to pin the champ when ref Terry Yorkston counted Flair down for 3 and the fans thought we had seen another title change in Toronto. Ref John Laing came out to tell Yorkston that Race had pulled Flair's trunks. During this exchange Flair got behind Race and threw him into the ropes catching him in a cradle and pinning him. Flair was declared the winner and some of nights wrestlers came out from the back to congratulate him.

   Race though, blew his stack and laid out Mike Davis before piledriving Flair into the mat. Race continued to stomp on Flair until Johnny Weaver grabbed the NWA title belt and chased Race out as the fans cheered.

  That was their 2nd of 6 bouts here over the NWA Title between 1980-1984, each as champ for 3 bouts. Flair who was popular here since his switch in 1980 always earned the cheers, while mostly a heel in other areas. Even as a full fledged heel here in 78-79 the fans loved him. When he made his return as NWA champ we saw 10 defenses total 1981-1984. The only downside of his NWA runs was that we saw him less often.


     The Andre- Kahn bout was also a hard fought, very realistic and rough battle. Andre looked to be killing Kahn before Miller, Fulton, Slapowitz, and Vines rushed out and dragged Kahn away from the angry Giant. Andre had Kahn on the ropes trying to break his leg and wouldn't let up so was officially a double dq.

   Mosca and Studd continued their feud with two referees and 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.


   Those 3 bouts alone were worthy of the card and the openers were pretty good, including the only appearance for Slapowitz. Some of the wrestlers appeared in Brantford for TV tapings the following day, notably Race who wrestled 3 bouts for the day.

   The card got some write ups in the magazines of the day including an 'Arena Report' in PWI, 'The Wrestler' had a' story entitled 'The John Studd School of Rulebreaking' - Studd mentoring Slapowitz, Miller, Davis and a great shot of the old dirty Maple Leaf Dressing room,  and a 2 page spread in 'Ring' Magazine.

 The Mid Atlantic Gateway has the TV bout from the next day featuring Race vs Weaver 

   None of the bouts from the 50th card have surfaced, I have a hazy memory of seeing portions of the Andre-Kahn and Flair-Race bouts on the CITY TV News.

Some other Flair-Race pics are Flair vs Race: Photos

-AC