OWH: Kinsmen Stadium

 Pro wrestling in Oshawa went way back to the start of weekly cards in nearby Toronto in 1929. The outdoor Kinsmen Stadium would host wrestling for the first time in 1954 after the adjacent Oshawa Arena had burned down on the day of the last wrestling card of 1953. 
Fritz Von Erich & Karl Von Schober vs Doug Hepburn (pictured) and Lord Layton at Kinsmen Aug 1954

The stadium opened in May 1949 and is still there, mostly un-changed from the early days and retains the charm of the old style baseball fields. Can imagine it was a fine spot for wrestling on a hot summer night. Unfortunately it rained much of the time (after a while they reserved Children's Arena, also adjacent, for stormy nights) but they still did well, packing them in. 

After starting the 1954 season in nearby Bowmanville the Return of Wrestling to Oshawa with Primo Carnera vs Tiny Mills drew 1500. The next week with boxing great Joe Louis refereeing a tag bout with Pat Flanagan/Tex McKenzie vs Al Mills/The Mighty Ursus they had 2000 in the seats. By summer 1956 they break the Oshawa attendance record (set July 1953 at the Arena, Whipper vs Togo 3527) with a main of Hardboiled Haggerty vs Yukon Eric drawing 4,600 to the Stadium. 

Promoter Pat Milosh used the Stadium through 1960 and regularly had 1000-2000 for the weekly shows. The venue fit nicely within the mini territory that he ran from Oshawa to Peterborough and from talking with older fans it was always a great night of wrestling-raining or not!

All of the Oshawa stuff that we put back is at Oshawa Wrestling History

Photos by AC, mapleleafwrestling.com collection. Info sourced from Oshawa Library microfilm
Originally posted at the old site 2011

Now Available on the Bookshelf

The Canadian Heavyweight Title The Complete History 1978-1984

Classic Cards: Double World Title 1982

40 years ago... Apr 25 1982 was the last time 2 of the major world/fed titles were defended on the same card at MLG. This also marked the first time the NWA & AWA titles shared the stage here. 

We saw wrestlers from all three major groups of the time (NWA, WWWF/WWF, AWA) so we had several double title nights in the later years. 

WWWF & NWA  : Jul 1977 SBG vs Strongbow, Race vs Sheik
WWWF & AWA  : Nov 1977 SBG vs Stasiak, Bockwinkel vs Carpentier
WWWF & AWA  : Dec 1977 SBG vs Strongbow, Bockwinkel vs Carpentier
WWWF & AWA  : May 1978 Backlund vs SBG, Bockwinkel vs Brunzell
WWWF & AWA  : Jun 1978 Backlund vs Patera, Bockwinkel vs Rufus Jones
WWWF & AWA  : Jul 1978 Backlund vs SBG, Bockwinkel vs Mosca
WWWF & AWA  : Sep 1978 Backlund vs Monsoon, Bockwinkel vs Andre
WWWF vs AWA : Mar 1979 Backlund vs Bockwinkel
NWA & AWA      : Apr 1982 Flair vs Race, Bockwinkel vs Mosca

In Jan 1979 both the NWA & AWA titles were to be defended but Harley Race never made it in. They finally rectified that in Apr 1982 with NWA champ Ric Flair to take on Race while AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel was to face Canadian champ Angelo Mosca. 

It was a busy day with many on the card appearing on an afternoon show in Buffalo which drew 10,000. By 8pm there were over 11,000 at MLG for the evening show. 

The opener in Toronto was an unannounced bout that ended up being a jewel. Ray Stevens returned as a good guy and faced off against local veteran Tony Parisi. They shook hands at the bell and went on to have a great scientific bout with endless holds and counters. It ended in a draw and the crowd was especially appreciative for the great prelim action. 

Next up was Johnny Weaver vs Private Nelson followed by the number one challenger to the Canadian Title John Studd vs Ron Ritchie. Studd flattened Ritchie quickly including a big slam on the ramp and it marked Ritchie's last appearance here.  

Ivan Koloff & Don Kernodle teamed up to take on the fan favorites Jimmy Valiant & Porkchop Cash. As Norm Kimber was making the intros Valiant & Cash stormed the ring causing Norm to make an escape with the big boom box that had heralded Valiant's intro. Even with hazy memory.. most of the bout was exactly what I captured in that photo.

An Indian Strap bout was next with Jay Youngblood seeking revenge against Ninja who had sprayed his green mist in Youngblood's eyes at their previous meeting. Ninja again tried the mist but Youngblood turned and took it to the body, enabling him to take the advantage and drag his opponent to all 4 corners to secure the win. That's ref Terry Yorkston counting out 'two!'

AWA champ Bockwinkel soon made his way down the ramp with the fans united in a thunderous boo. His opponent was the reigning Canadian champ and area's top good guy Mosca. Big Ange got the best of the champ and was on the verge of winning the title when his archenemy John Studd ran in and helped Bockwinkel beat Mosca down. That led to a tag bout on the next card with Bockwinkel & Studd vs Mosca & Jake Roberts (who subbed for Blackjack Jr.) and marked Bockwinkel's last appearance in Toronto. 

Though this was Bockwinkel's last title defense at MLG, he defended the following day vs Youngblood in Ottawa. Note the ref in the ring with Bockwinkel above is Bill Alfonso who later found fame with the ECW. He stayed to ref the final bout too. Toronto favorite NWA champ Flair vs #1 challenger Race. Both were disqualified after an exciting bout. Flair covered in blood and some of the other wrestlers coming out to break up the post bout brawl. This fan left very happy with another great card at the Gardens!

More on Flair vs Race
- AC and photos by....
Posted Apr 25 2022

Now Available on the Bookshelf

From Nanjo to The Sheik Tales From Toronto Wrestling

Quick Bits: The East-West Connection

In January 1982 Maple Leaf Gardens was abuzz with anticipation for the first area appearance of the East-West Connection. Adrian Adonis had previously appeared here as Keith Franks back in 1975-76 while tag partner Jesse Ventura was making his MLG debut.
   It was my first time seeing them in person but they were already one of our favorite tag teams. Their bouts with Gagne & Brunzell in the AWA over the tag titles was a constant on the Winnipeg TV we got here. On this night they would take on the 'Italian Connection,' Domenic Denucci and Tony Parisi. An entertaining bout with the good guys frustrating the heels with a barrage of ring tricks. Adonis eventually pulls the tights for the pin on Denucci and ref Terry Yorkston awards the victory to the former tag champs.
 We didn't know it yet but both Adonis & Ventura had just moved to the WWF  under the managerial tutelage of Freddie Blassie. They were mostly wrestling solo and Adonis in particular gives Backlund some tough matches. The following night after their MLG debut Adonis was in Madison Square Garden beating the stuffing out of Backlund when the ref stopped the bout due to excessive blood loss of the champ.

  Toronto promoter Frank Tunney also made the trip to MSG the next day appearing in the ring alongside Vince Sr., WWF President Hisashi Shima, and then NWA President Jim Crockett Jr. as they made an announcement about an upcoming  tournament to take place in Japan.
  Adonis & Ventura were both scheduled for the Cadillac Tournament to be held two weeks later but it was snowed out. They eventually had it in March and both return for the tourny. Adonis lost his first round matchup to Ricky Steamboat while Ventura fared better beating Mike Rotundo, then Johnny Weaver, before losing to Jimmy Valiant in the finals.

  It was unfortunate for the fans that we didn't get to see more of them at the time especially as a team. Both return post 1984 in the WWF days and appear fairly regularly. Still, Adonis will be forever connected locally as the tragic crash that took his life also claimed our own Dave McKigney and Pat Kelly.

More on this bout in the look at Terry Yorkston
-AC and photos by...

Frank & The Kangaroos 1967


     Aanother Roger Baker classic, this time with Frank Tunney and the Kangaroos Al Costello & Ray St Clair. Taken in Detroit a couple of years prior to the Sheik streak in Toronto, Frank (and nephew Jack with him) take in a Detroit show. This version of the Kangaroos also appeared in Toronto. The original team of Costello and Roy Heffernan appeared here back in 1957-58 and had even been special referees for a World title bout (Hutton vs Whipper in '58)- both of them. 

This version didn't last long, Costello (the nicest guy in wrestling as per Roger) would soon team with Ray Kent/Don Kent, later Bulldog Don Kent. Frank and Jack perhaps scouting out the hot-at-the-time Detroit territory in a prelude to the teaming with the Sheik. 


Film: World Title Buddy vs Bruno 1962

Buddy vs Bruno MLG Aug 30 1962
The first meeting between World champ Buddy Rogers and Bruno Sammartino in July 1962 ends when
Bruno can't continue after hitting the mat head first and is is unable to get up before the 10 count. Two weeks later in front of 14,000 fans Bruno controls the bout and when Rogers attempts to leap over Bruno he gets hit below the belt by a charging Sammartino. Ref Tiger Tasker is ready to declare Bruno the new champ but Bruno, being the rule abiding hero, addresses the fans (in Italian) refusing to accept the title under the circumstances. A rematch is set for August. For the 3rd meeting (film clip) in front of 14,000 again (and with traffic jams outside MLG) Bruno gives Rogers a beating but Sammartino tries for another drop kick and lands badly on the ropes. Tasker declares him done. Rogers takes the win, and next returns to Toronto to lose the title to Lou Thesz in Jan 1963...

From our MLG Film

MLG Film: Scufflin' Hillbillies vs Brower/Eakins June 1964

Clip of the Scufflin Hillbillies vs Bulldog Brower & Big Ike Eakins at MLG 1964. Tasker & Dunlop are the refs. The Hillbillies had a pretty good run around the circuit accompanied by manager Alfred who also wrestled.  

'The first time that I met Chuck Conley was in one of the wrestlers locker rooms in MLG. He was dressed in bikers digs, leather jacket, boots, jeans and one could over hear him telling another wrestler in the room that he had driven his motorcycle five hundred miles almost non stop to be at the Gardens for a match that was to get underway in half an hour.

This hillbilly biker persona caught my interest, and after introducing myself to him, he agreed to work with me on a story and photo shoot on both himself and current wrestling side kick Cousin Alfred.

Both Conley and Cousin Alfred were staying at The Prince Carlton hotel which was on the south side of Carlton street just East of  MLG. We had agreed that I meet them at the hotel the following week and we would tape the interview before leaving for the drive to Hamilton where the Hillbillies would be appearing. 

I had brought an old turntable cassette player combo that was very heavy as well as awkward. So when we got ready to leave Conley saw that I was struggling somewhat with the turntable. He grabbed a hold of it and carried it down to their car,  that simple act of helping me out was certainly appreciated.

We did the photo shoot in the Hillbillies dressing room inside the Hamilton Forum. They were nice guys to work with and it was obvious that they knew a number of goofy poses to strike when the camera was flashing away.

After Conley's match with a grizzled tough Japanese wrestler (Professor Hiro), which he won after launching a series of very high dropkicks, Jack Tunney came into the dressing room and told The Hillbillies that they had to head out from the Forum to their next date over the the border. 

The original plan was that the three of us would head back to the Prince Carlton in Toronto. Both  wrestlers without hesitation assured me that they would drive me back to Toronto, for that I was much relieved. 

From this point The Hillbillies would then get back on the QEW and drive to their next booking. For their unselfish act I will always remember these two wrestlers.'


Quick Bits: Whipper and the Hallway

Though not quite as famous as the ramp the hallway has some history too. At Maple Leaf Gardens the entrance to the dressing rooms was a hallway from the arena floor. There were a few steps to the ramp which led to the ring. In earlier eras Frank Tunney headed the hall, always smartly dressed with an ever present cigar. In the boom of the 1950s he was often accompanied by Pat Flanagan or Whipper Watson and others as they ran the show. Frank was there right into the early 70's as you can see in some of Roger Baker's photos around the site. In this one below Roger captures a sharp looking Whipper taking in the bouts from the hall.
Whipper in the hallway 1960

On the MLG Film and in other photos from the collection you can also see the wrestlers waiting their turn to the ring. Often the villains and heroes just a few feet apart. In the photo below from 1957 it's a rare look from up the hall as Fritz Von Erich & Gene Kiniski battle with Whipper & Pat O'Connor  Oct 1957. The bad guys had just won the tag titles after Roy McLarity (he's in white) interfered and they all brawl down the ramp, and into the hall. You can see Flanagan and others at the entrance behind the wrestlers.

By the Mid-Atlantic era that entrance was always covered by a curtain so you couldn't see down the hall until they opened it. Sometimes Jack Tunney or Billy Red, or one of the wrestlers would stand in front of it watching the bouts. Meanwhile inside the hall and behind the curtain the wrestlers would pose for photos in front of the telltale MLG brickwork before hitting the ramp.

Some photos in the hall M-A era
Other times they would step out to talk to fans or watch the bouts. Below Jay Youngblood steps out in front of the curtain for a photo op in 1982. You can also note the empty camera mount and seat when they had a camera running above the entrance. 

-AC and Youngblood photo by... 

Thanks to Roger Baker

MLG Film Professor Hiro vs Billy Red Apr 1964

Professor Hiro vs Billy Red at MLG Apr 1964 from the MLG Film. Hiro was brought in by Fred Atkins who served as his manager and tag partner. He was coming off a WWWF title shot vs Bruno and also challenged NWA champ Thesz that year. Mostly unbeatable type. Some of his pre bout ritual and good shot of the ramp at the end. Joe Gollob is ref. 

All of the MLG Film

Congrats to Dick Bourne of the Gateway!

A hearty congratulations to our friend Dick Bourne on being recognized by the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame for his contributions to pro wrestling journalism. Dick & David Chappell of course run the great Mid Atlantic Gateway- our favorite wrestling site! 

'I am extremely honored to be receiving the 2022 James C. Melby Award and look forward to being in Waterloo, Iowa, at the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Hall of Fame this July. It is humbling to be recognized with an award previously given to others for whom I have such enormous respect.' Dick Bourne at the Mid Atlantic Gateway

After leaving wrestling mostly behind, about 20 years ago I first went online and typed 'Mid Atlantic Wrestling' and found the Gateway - I couldn't believe it. It was so packed with info and photos and I spent months reading all the articles, printing them out to read whenever I got the chance. It inspired the start of this site and over the years I have tried to fashion it in a similar way. And likewise for their site credo.

'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.' - Dick Bourne

On a personal note I've been fortunate to work with Dick occasionally on articles and share info that connects our Maple Leaf with their Mid Atlantic. As well I will be forever grateful for our time working on the Canadian Title book. It was a lot of fun and would not have come to fruition without his immeasurable contributions and helpful direction. 

Congrats Dick I can't think of anyone more deserving for such an award! 

The Mid Atlantic Gateway
All of Dick Bourne's books at Mid Atlantic Gateway Bookstore
We loved all the books and highly recommend them for Toronto fans as it's part of our history too! 
A look at Dick's latest Crown Jewel The NWA World Championship 1959-1973 


Quick Bits: Brower & Graham 1963


By October 1963 Bulldog Brower was firmly entrenched as the number one heel in the area. He had been running roughshod over all his competition, causing havoc from MLG to the smaller arenas on the circuit. We looked at some of Bulldog's exploits in 'From Nanjo to The Sheik' but you could write an entire book on Brower.

'Bulldog Brower was without a doubt one of the greatest and most violent of all the heels that ever appeared in the Toronto region. He first appeared in MLG in the early sixties, and then the carnage began in earnest. In his initial matches he savaged his opponents with such brutality that he was soon the top dog in the feeding chain at MLG.' - Roger 

Brower was coming off a 3 bout series vs NWA champ Buddy Rogers and had tagged with Sweet Daddy Siki & Johnny Valentine before teaming up with Dr. Jerry Graham. Dr. Jerry had been in Toronto for just a few months before he and Bulldog teamed up. It proved to be a good union as they took the International Tag Titles from Art Thomas & John Paul Henning in their first bout as a tag. They held the titles for just a couple of months before losing to Johnny Valentine & Jim Hady and the two went their separate ways. 

Photos in the MLG dressing room and during the title change bout Oct 1963
Note the brass knuckles on Bulldog...
Thanks to Roger! All of his valued contributions can be found in Roger Baker's Corner


Quick Bits: The Lisowski's & Jersey Joe 1958

 A young Reggie Lisowski faces off against special ref Jersey Joe Walcott at MLG in April 1958. That's brother Stanley watching on with second referee Bunny Dunlop. In those days they had two refs for the tag bouts. 

Reggie had arrived in the area in 1954 with Art Neilson as his partner. When he returned in 1958 his partner was Stan Holek as brother Stanley Lisowski. In later years Stan teamed with Art Neilson as well, elsewhere, as the Neilson brothers. 

In their first bout as a team at MLG Reggie & Stanley took the Canadian Open Tag Titles from Whipper & Yukon Eric. For the bout in April Jersey Joe was assigned as the Lisowski's took on Whipper and partner Wilbur Snyder in an 'all-in' bout. Snyder and Watson steamrolled their opponents in the non-title affair and an unhappy Reggie decided to square up with the former boxing champ. It didn't end well!  

Wilf Long drawing of the previous weeks bout vs the Miller's Apr 1958

Reggie departed in 1959 and found worldwide fame as The Crusher. He returned as Crusher for two bouts during the brief AWA affiliation in 1978. 


ADS: Dick Hutton's Toronto Title run

A look at Dick Hutton's title run in Toronto. He defeated Thesz at MLG in '57 and defended 9 times. A somewhat forgotten champ but an important part of the history with his $1000 challenge and a big tag team with Kiniski. He also defended on the Ontario circuits (including vs Kiniski in Hamilton and Kasaboski's North Bay) but only Toronto included here. More on Dick Hutton in Toronto

Ads in order from top
57/12/05        Dick Hutton W Yukon Eric
58/01/16        Dick Hutton WDQ Whipper Watson
58/01/30        Dick Hutton D Whipper Watson
58/06/26        Dick Hutton W Wild Bill Longson
58/08/14        Dick Hutton WDQ Lou Thesz
58/08/21        Dick Hutton D Lou Thesz
58/09/11        Dick Hutton D Whipper Watson
58/10/30        Dick Hutton WDQ Whipper Watson
58/11/27        Dick Hutton WCOR Hombre Montana  


Quick Bits: Firpo, Sheik, & Tunney 1972


   More classic Roger Baker photos as The Sheik takes on Pampero Firpo in a Jungle Strap match MLG May 1972. Sheik didn't lose much but he did earn his share of beatings over the years, many in these type of bouts. During his reign they were endless. Mexican Death matches, Indian Death matches, Texas Death matches (all pretty much the same) and some new ones; Arkansas Death match (Haystack Calhoun), Portuguese Death match (Rocha), and South American Death match (Firpo).

This one was called a Jungle Strap but they were tied together with a chain and collar similar to the Dog Collar bouts we saw later. In his various feuds Sheik had a bad habit of leaving the bout early, hence the chain to keep him in the battle. 
Firpo using the chain to his advantage
11,000 in the seats see Firpo take immediate control and try to 'disengage the Syrian's head from it's moorings.' Sheik gets a foreign object from manager Farouk which soon ends up in the hands of Firpo and both are soon entangled in the chain. They go down to the mat and Sheik gets the pin! He takes off down the ramp while Firpo, not to be underestimated on the madman scale, attacks ref Tiger Tasker. Sheik comes back to rescue Tasker (not really) and they all brawl to the back. 

The bout lasts a bit over six minutes bell to bell which includes the pre-requisite wind up before the start with others trying to force Sheik to participate. Dewey Robertson, Tex McKenzie, and Layton had 'persuaded' Sheik to finish attaching the collar and get to work. 

The last pic facing down the ramp captures Firpo & Sheik at the stairs. You can note Frank Tunney in his usual spot at the head of the hallway and Sheik's bodyguard Mike Loren is awaiting the boss's return. Loren may have been the Masked Marvel on this night as he wasn't listed. 
Thanks to Roger! His contributions can be found all around the site and in Roger Baker's Corner