Catch up on some previous posts

Jack Dempsey, Nanjo, Whipper MLG 1950 
Open Air Wrestling in Toronto 
Outdoor cards over the years 
The Big Event 1986 
Hulkamania takes over the CNE 
It's Roger vs Terrible Ted! 
Niagara Falls Posters 
Some classics from 1953-54
Promoters, Venues, etc. 
Slaughter and that US title July 1982 
The 'other' US title at MLG
Mean & Nasty...
Almanac 1956
The year in Maple Leaf
Royalty & Wrestling
The Arenas and the Halls
Red Garner: The Pride Of Langstaff 
Story of Red & the CCWA 
Whipper saves the day
Whip and Togo set Oshawa on fire 1953
The feud heats up the region!

Taking a break, in the meantime enjoy some of our previous entries.
All active tags are listed at right, just scroll down a bit.

Our best wishes out to Roger. And to all the fans.
-AC 

Roger & AC in the Wrestling Room 2015



The Ramp!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Moments before attacking Roger! 

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

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

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

The Fans, and the heroes...

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

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

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

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

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

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

-AC

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

Below; the ramp through the years






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 would 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.



Oshawa Wrestling History: Tournament Of Champions 1967


    In 1965 Oshawa Promoter Pat Milosh would present his first Tournament Of Champions. It was a one night tourny with a 3 round system to determine the nights winner. Scotsman Andy Robin won three bouts to win that one defeating Professor Hiro in the finals. Milosh would present Robin with a nice trophy to mark the win. Robin (who would later become the Scottish Bearman after working with Dave and Terrible Ted here) took home a nice Canadian title belt which he may have had made to celebrate this win. 

   At the second one in 1966 Sweet Daddy Siki took the trophy. He beat Hans Schmidt in the final after taking out The Beast (Yachetti) and Mr X (also appeared in Toronto but never unmasked or identified). This time the hated Schmidt would attack Siki and destroy the trophy. They did that a lot in the days of trophies.  

  For the 3rd Annual in 1967 there was a mix of veterans and young stars. Dewey Robertson, Pat Flanagan, Siki were all entered. As was Bulldog Brower who would defeat Erwin Starr, Siki, and then have a draw with The Assassin (Guy Mitchell presumably) in the final. Ref Bunny Dunlop had counted out both wrestlers after they took the battle to the floor. A draw in a tournament? What to do? Often they would tack on a few extra minutes to decide a winner but Milosh elected to carry it over to the following week. 


    So a week later the two would go at it again in the main event, this time with no time limit. MUST BE A WINNER! shouted the ad. They would do it as a 2/3 fall affair with each taking one fall. During the 3rd fall Brower managed to rip off  Assassin's mask to reveal....a face full of tape. He had tape all around his face but for his mouth, nose, and eyes. For that action Dunlop would disqualify Brower. They should have thought of that! Bulldog would then grab the mic off the announcer and challenge Assassin to a Texas Death Match the following week. A winner must be decided. As an added bonus The Assassin would have to unmask if he lost. Note at this time Brower was a fan favorite in the area though he didn't change his style much. 



   For the 3rd bout the Texas Death Match rules were in effect, our version. Winner takes all, no disqualifications and no time limit. Falls count anywhere, outside of ring fighting permitted. No holds barred except the choke. As per the ad 'The fighting will continue till one man is completely helpless and the survivor wins the bout....'


   The war to end all wars would go six falls before Brower missed a top rope jump and injured himself. The Assassin would take advantage and beat on Brower's injured leg until he finally conceded. While Assassin kept his mask he would later lose it at MLG. Unmasked by the Sheik in 1971 to reveal Mitchell. That was the last tournament held in Oshawa during the Milosh days (through 1992). 

-AC


New Book: MapleLeafWrestling.com presents

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

For Toronto wrestling fans this is a ‘must have’ book. So much great info.
-Jeff Marek Sports TV & Radio, LAW

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

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

I really enjoyed this book, learned a lot about MLG wrestling, good read.
-Mark Bujan. 

So much information on the great history of Toronto’s Maple Leaf Wrestling. It will be a great reference guide for anyone interested in learning more about Maple Leaf Wrestling as we know it today!
-Wes Maidment.



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
All nostalgia & photos mapleleafwrestling.com 

-AC





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


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 on that night
Sam Steamboat with the Thesz Press vs Don Leo 1960
Whipper with the Commando on Buddy Rogers 1956
Tolos Bros vs Mighty Jumbo (and Yukon Eric) 1960 

-AC





MapleLeafWrestling.com Presents: Bookshelf

From Nanjo to The Sheik
Tales from Toronto Wrestling NEW!
Andrew Calvert with Roger Baker 
Softcover black & white 6x9 240 pages
16.99 CDN 
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For Toronto wrestling fans this is a ‘must have’ book. So much great info.
-Jeff Marek Sports TV & Radio, LAW


_____________________________


The Canadian Heavyweight Title
The Complete History 1978-1984
Andrew Calvert with design and layout by Dick Bourne 
Softcover black & white 6x9 126 pages
14.95 CDN 
Available through the Mid Atlantic Gateway - Bookstore 
And on Amazon Canada - USA & Worldwide
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If you would like a copy and not go through Amazon please contact us

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



Great privilege to work with Dick Bourne on this and also for the great cover!
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The Big Event 1986


   It re-wrote the record books in what became known as The Big Event, the WWF Exhibition Stadium card on Aug 28 1986. Originally announced as part of that summer's Grandstand Series during the annual CNE activities, the show would thrust Toronto into the world's wrestling spotlight once again.

HULK HOGAN/SPANKY SPANGLER SPECTACULARS SET FOR CNE
A world-title wrestling bout featuring World Wrestling Federation champion Hulk Hogan and truck-and-motorcycle daredevil spectacular. starring Spanky Spangler, Danny "Fireball" Reed and Robbie Knievel will fill the remaining two dates of this summer's CNE's grandstand lineup. The concert season also includes comedian Bill Cosby, and rock stars Van Halen, Elton John, Psychedelic Furs, Stevie Nicks and Whitney Houston (*also Genesis, AC/DC, Judas Priest). The Aug. 28 Hulkamania show pits Hogan against an un-named opponent for the world title. Tickets will go on sale soon.
Jul 15 1986 Star

By this time Toronto was deep into it's Hulkamania era. It was only a few years removed from Flair soaking in the fans cheers on the ramp, or Jimmy Valiant (the Mid-Atlantic era's Hogan) raising the roof as he hit the ring. As many of the old-time fans started to move away there were thousands of new ones. Kids were now a big part of the equation and were filling up MLG (along with their parents and family) again. 



TICKETS WILL COST YOU AN ARM AND LEG
You want Ticket Traumas!! I'll give you traumas!! Thursday's Hulkamania show al Exhibition Stadium is gonna be the bloodiest, baddest, bone-crunchingest and BIGGEST wrestling event in North American history. Bigger than Van Halen. Bigger than ,Judas Priest. Bigger than Elton John, The BIGGEST event in this year's CNW Grandstand series!! Don't take my word for it. The World Wrestling Federation says this show will make the record books. Already 42,000 tickets have been sold. They're going for 65,000. Toronto's a wrestling town. WWF president Jack Tunney lives here. He's been running successful matches in Maple Leaf Gardens since 1956. (*Not sure how they came up with that number, Jack in the office as early as 1951-52 and took over officially in 1983)
Aug 20 1986 Star

The papers too were now filled with stories on Hogan, the Rougeaus, Randy Savage, and the rest of the WWF cast. In the M-A era we were lucky to get the ad and the results and an occasional article. Now they were devoting multi page spreads in the dailies  and crossing over into the Entertainment sections. Even the Star entertainment guy Peter Goddard got on the bandwagon, kicking off his day-after column with 'I don't take wrestling seriously' no less. An article at the beginning of the year had CHCH (home of the local wrestling TV show) VP Gary Buss proclaiming 'I've never seen anything like it! Maybe five years ago you'd use wrestling as a throw-in. A client would say 'Oh, God, don't give me that unless it's free.' Now you look at it as a legitimate package. It's show-business.'

The last time Jack had ran Exhibition Stadium it was the summer of 1983 and wrestling was in a downturn again. They were a huge success at the time. Cards 2 weeks apart and anywhere from 30-45,000 people total depending on source. The Night of Champions, and Return of Champions were the biggest cards (as far as bouts/titles) ever held here to that time. If the first one actually had 19,000 or more it would have been the record for the city to that point. The Gardens was packed to the rafters at a bit over 18,000. 
We looked at the '83 Exhibition Stadium cards as part of a broader look at  Open Air Wrestling in Toronto

Fast forward 3 years and the stage was set again. This time at the height of wrestling's popularity in the city in recent years. Jack staged it as a partnership with CPI and the Ex and to say it was a huge success would be a massive understatement. When all was said and done attendance was variously reported from 61-71,000 fans. A souvenir seller said business was better than at rock concerts. Available: 12$ Hulk t-shirts, 6$ posters, 3$ programs, and buttons, cups, and the rest of the WWF merchandise machine. Seats were 20$ for ringside down to 8$ for 'seats close to Mississauga.' 

RECORD 65,000 HOLLER FOR HULK
You had to be there. History was made in Metro last night, a large hammerlock on the sweatier chapter of our  book of records, hundreds of blows for mankind against the forces of evil and; most important, a welcome black mark (nearly $100,000) on the profit ledger of the Canadian National Exhibition. Forget rock concerts, country singers, killer trucks or the midway if you're talking rebirth of the Ex. Last night It was wrestling. Wrestling with a capital W. It was the Hulkster, Adrian Adonis, the Killer Bees and that damn Jake The Snake Roberts, everyone you've cheered or cursed on all those endless TV matches. Before it was over, 65,000, the largest crowd in the history of the sport (er, entertainment, er, exhibition) travelled, fought and bought their way into a chilly Exhibition Place to set a world attendance record for a single card and a near record for the largest grandstand show in the history of the creaky old Ex. 
Aug 29 1986 Star

.

Bill Stockwell, GM of the Ex said 'There's been bigger crowds here but nothing like this. This is unique.' The Ex was in a bit of a decline in attendance that year, but all was forgotten that night. 'They say there's nothing new at the Ex and I say to them, let them beat this one.' Profit was based on ticket sales, said to be a minimum $75-100k plus a large peripheral gain including parking and concessions. 

It added that Stockwell had come up with the idea two years before, when visiting the Texas State Fair. 'Put it together I said, and this result is tonight.' 

The Globe mentioned that 'The Toronto crowd, described by the promoters as a world record size for watching a professional wrestling match, surpassed a crowd of 52,000 in 1980 at Shea Stadium in New York.' Shea had held the acknowledged (pro wrestling version) record to that point but was in actuality considerably less. The Big Event would hold the title for just a year, until Wrestlemania III shattered it, with 93,000 proclaimed. The Globe also added that Ricky Steamboat had said that although wrestlers lose a great deal of money with the exchange rate when they wrestle in Canada, 'Toronto is my second home.' Steamboat a big favorite here in the M-A era. 

We would later break our own record with 67,000+ at the Skydome in 1990 for Wrestlemania VI, and then again in the early 2000's. That's a lot of wrestling fans! 





It wasn't all happy Hulkamaniacs though, a ticket snafu left some fans fuming. 

ANGRY FANS PROMISED REFUNDS AFTER TICKETS PRINTED IN ERROR
Concert Productions International says it will refund money to the hundreds of wrestling fans who were involved in last night's ticket mixup. Many wrestling fanatics showed up at Exhibition Stadium to find their choice floor seats didn't exist. Others couldn't see the ring be­ cause the seat less people were told to huddle in aisles. CPI spokesman Barbara Hoffman said late last night tickets were printed by mistake after a worker didn't consult the seating plan carefully. She said she didn't know exactly how many wrong tickets were sold. 'But people involved in the problem will be given a full refund,' she said. Details on how to collect refunds will be announced once CPI decides which tickets are eligible for rebate, she said. Paul Bernard, 16, paid $21.40 for his floor seat and came from Mississauga to see the Hulkster. He waited "several hours" to get seventh-row ringside seats  when tickets went on sale a month ago, he said. "What a joke," Bernard said. "They tell me I'm part of wrestling history. I tell you I got no seat and I gave up a night for this when I could have been at the cottage." He left after only three matches because he couldn't see kneeling in an aisle.
Aug 29 Star



The Toronto Fire department was also on hand to make sure it met fire safety standards. It did. The Stadium had come under scrutiny the summer before when Bruce Springsteen packed 69,000 in - twice. Under the regulations, capacity was only 54,331. After some investigation they decided that the jurisdiction did not extend to the field area of an open stadium because in the case of a fire it is considered a safe area. 

They were already speaking about doing it again the following year. Stockwell:  'Are you kidding? This is big big bucks we're talking about, serious money. The demand is growing for this sort of thing and of course we'll bring it back.'




HERE ARE RESULTS OF LAST NIGHT'S BOUTS
For the record, here are the results of last night's wrestling match at the Canadian National Exhibition:

...Orndorff wears the Hulk's championship belt, but it was a short lived honor: the referee disqualified Orndorff and gave the wrestling crown back to the rightful owner, Hulk Hogan. 

Bout one
The Killer Bees faced the dreaded Funk Brothers of Texas and looked like early losers - until they left the ring to don masks and newfound power. Even though the Funks threw them out of the  ring, the Bees stung back for victory, much to the delight of the pro-Bee crowd.
Bout two
King Tonga and the Magnificent Muraco engaged in a singles grudge match, but time ran out be fore it could be decided once and forever. Muraco had Tonga on the ropes but the bell preserved the draw. The crowd was demanding a crown for Tonga.
Bout three
It was billed as the battle of the strong men, but the crowd was slightly upset when Tony (Mr. USA) Atlas was a late scratch. Still, Ted Arcidi had little trouble hammering fill-in bodybuilder Tony Gramm with a series of crushing blows as the fans roared their approval.
Bout four
In one of the big matches of the night, the ever popular Junkyard Dog defeated the hated Adrian Adonis, a man who admits he marches to a different drummer. The bout was decided when the Dog threw Adonis outside the ring and into the face of his manager, The Mouth of The South. Adonis, despite his flowing blonde locks and supply of flowers, could not climb back into the ring. Neither could his manager.
Bout five
Evil Iron Mike Sharpe of Hamilton failed to spark against Dick (The Rebel) Slater, who. finished him off with a suplex from the upper rung of the ropes.
Bout six
It was billed as one of the biggest. tag-team matches of the century but  the  result  appalled the  huge
crowd. The Machines (one of whom is rumored to be the banned Andre The Giant) destroyed the dreaded Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy, but they were disqualified after the Machines manager, Captain Lou Albino, leaped into the ring to help his team. Studd and Bundy were awarded the win as the crowd cursed and manager Bobby (The-Brain) Heenan laughed.
Bout seven
In  one  of  the  night's  other big matches, Ricky (The Dragon) Steamboat  destroyed  the  hated Jake (The Snake) Roberts in a death-match. Roberts was hindered, however, because he wasn't allowed to use his snake because of objections from  the  Toronto Humane Society.
Bout eight
Bllly Jack Haines, a comer from, the West Coast, defeated Hercules Hernandez with a drop-kick to the throat as the crowd thundered it's approval.
Bout nine
This one had the crowd up for a standing ovation as the Canadian Rougeau Brothers (Jacques and Raymond) battled to a victory over Greg (The Hammer) Valentine and Brutus Beefcake in a bitter tag-team match. Jacques was so excited after Valentine an Beefcake were finally subdued that he  plucked  a  Canadian flag from a fan and waved it over his head.
Bout ten
To no one's surprise Handsome Harley Race made mincemeat out of Pedro Morales as the trend of good over evil continued.
-Aug 29 1986 Star


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Excerpt 'From Nanjo to The Sheik: Tales from Toronto Wrestling'

Excerpted from the latest 'MapleLeafWrestling.com presents'
From Nanjo to The Sheik: Tales from Toronto Wrestling 
Chapter: Have No Fear Kiniski Is Here 
Begins p 83 and ends p 85
Picks up with the Kiniski-Whipper feud in full swing 1957.

 ....That would set the feud in motion with Kiniski & Whipper going to battle on the next card and later with a wire fence bout (early type cage match). Dick Hutton would side with Kiniski and draw himself into the bouts and team with Kiniski against Whipper and Yukon Eric on a subsequent card as well as interfere in each other’s bouts.

The Fence match on Jan 24 ended in a wild finish with Kiniski and second Hutton going after Whip and ref Jersey Joe Walcott who was again part of the action. Kiniski had previously tried to interfere in the Hutton-Dick Beyer bout earlier in the night before being ejected by ref Bunny Dunlop.

A bout at East York Arena between Watson and Hutton the following week led to another incident involving Kiniski. In front of a standing room only crowd of 2,500 with 1000 turned away, Watson beat Hutton to win the $1000 check that Hutton had been offering to anyone who could beat him within 20 minutes. Whipper would be the first in Toronto to beat Hutton but after the bout Kiniski jumped in and tore up the check. Then he and Hutton attacked ref Dunlop. Gene would also spend much of the bout inciting the fans who were now picking up chairs and swinging them over their heads.

The chairs started flying and Joe Perlove reported that Gene had to be 'the gamest and no doubt the craziest character in history - to pull that stuff in the Whipper's backyard.' Whipper of course lived in the area and was known as the Pride of East York. The riot ensued and Kiniski and Hutton were said to be 'fielding them (flying chairs) in the best Mickey Mantle style.' Dunlop and announcer Jerry Hiff escaped while the Miller Brothers Ed and Bill came out to aid police and ushers in restoring order. Both Kiniski and Hutton were cut and left bloody by the chairs they couldn't 'field.' This led to Kiniski being given a $500 fine by the OAC, said to be the steepest penalty handed down at the time. Kiniski was also given a 4 week suspension from wrestling in Metro Toronto.

Ontario Athletics Commissioner Merv McKenzie was also said to have curtailed the license of Tunney to promote at the East York Arena for 6 months. It was all likely legit as Tunney didn't return to East York until Oct 1957, though they only used it when the Gardens was not available. Les Lyman and others mostly ran the smaller Arena in that era. Tunney admitted fault saying 'I'm not apologizing for Kiniski. He was way out of line in engineering the rumpus. However we erred by not having the chairs anchored to the floor as required by the rules.'

World champ Kiniski on the mat with Carpentier MLG 1966

In a Milt Dunnell column in March 1957 he mentioned that Gene's admirers 'both of them -will welcome him back to the Gardens tonight.' 

Dunnell goes on to call Kiniski 'the hottest box-office item in Canadian sports, and that’s not excluding national heroes such as Jean Beliveau and Rocket Richard.' Kiniski himself brags 'Over in Buffalo they're gonna give me a pair of golden trunks for drawing more than 100,000 people to 10 wrestling shows. Those people who write to me may say I'm a jerk, but the bank manager addresses me as 'Mister.'



He was making money in Toronto too. The first 4 main events he was in drew more than 48,000 fans. He was the anti Whipper Watson and the crowds came out to see him. A note in 1965 quoted Kiniski as saying his best year (to date) was making $89,000 in 1957. It attributed his success not to gimmicks, trick holds, weird get-ups, or racial exploitation' (but that) 'In the ring he is simply a miserable so-and-so.'

After serving out his 4 week suspension he was back for the long awaited main event against Watson which ended with both wrestlers counted out while brawling on the floor. Kiniski had attacked Watson before he could enter the ring, Watson heaved Gene over the ropes and onto the announcers table. When Gene got back in Whip again heaved him out the other side. Ref Dunlop hadn't even made it to the ring yet. When announcer Jerry Hiff came in to make the introductions, Kiniski grew impatient with the pace and again ran at Watson who sidestepped and Kiniski flew between the ropes. He stamped up the corridor and waved his arms as if to say 'Get somebody else!' When he finally returned the two brawled it out for another 17 minutes. In the paper the next day it said that while the bout lasted 17 minutes Kiniski 'found a way to brawl through half an hour.'

© 2020 MapleLeafWrestling.com Presents. Independently published in Ontario, Canada
Black & White 240 pages with many photos by Roger Baker 16.99 CDN  Dec 2020
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