It's been fun over the years to hear from fans and their own tales of pro wrestling fandom back in the day. A frequent mention is how much fun it was just getting there, or getting home! And making your own title belts, a lot of fans did that. Another tie is family and friends. Some got introduced to the sport by their Dads, an older brother, or a Grandmother (lots of them!) while others attended with fellow fans. For me usually just one or two if you could find, there weren't many (admitted) wrestling fans in my neighborhood. 
In our later years it's a common bridge, the fun of wrestling as a kid. Some even found inspiration in the art of the contest, the fitness, the devotion to craft. Lessons that remained throughout their lives. I'm happy to leave my friend Jeff's wonderful love letter to wrestling & family as a final note. Thanks to Jeff and thanks to all of the friends of the site and their stories....AC

'It was in Toronto Ontario Canada where I was born and where I grew up. And that’s a very important part of this story and the impact that this sport had on the person that I was to become and the career path I chose. I can honestly say looking back and reflecting, that the impact of professional wrestling on me from a very early age, was the single biggest determining factor in my future success.'  
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Promoters, lists, venues, stars, builders, classic matchups, did you know? and more!
 Featuring photos by Roger Baker 238 pages $10.99 in Canada
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1961 NWA Convention in Toronto























Photo from the 1961 NWA Convention held in Toronto  Click on photo to see full size

In 1961 Frank Tunney stepped down as NWA President to be replaced by Fred Kohler of Chicago. He held a card on his regular Thursday night, the first day of the convention. Stu Hart was scheduled to make what was by then a rare wrestling appearance (last at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1955) but didn't appear and never returned. You can see in the notation from the article listed further down.

*As of September 28, 1961, Stu Hart was not listed on the membership roster of the NWA. Haft, Quinn, Light, and Luttrall paid their dues right before the 1961 convention in Toronto. Hart may not have paid his dues, and was considered not an active member

Globe Aug 26 1962
Tunney participated in other meetings and conventions over the years, mostly boxing and mostly at the King Edward where much of the business went down in those days. There are a couple of mentions of Frank hosting parties during the festivities for the dignitaries in town. This was the only NWA Alliance convention held here but Frank & Whipper (and later Jack and Eddie) attended meetings held across the U.S.

Roger mentioned that he remembers some of the visiting promoters siting in the Tunney seats above the ramp taking in the card. 

Tim Hornbaker's report on the convention follows...
Thanks to Roger Baker and Tim for the use of the notes
Nostalgia mapleleafwrestling.com collection 

-AC



























---
From Legacy of Wrestling by Tim Hornbaker
http://www.legacyofwrestling.com/NWA1961.html 

National Wrestling Alliance Convention - 1961
Meeting Location: Toronto, Ontario
Meeting Dates: August 24-27, 1961

Officers
President: Fred Kohler (elected)
1st Vice President: Dr. Karl Sarpolis (elected)
2nd Vice President: Roy Welch (elected)
Executive Secretary: Sam Muchnick (reelected)
Treasurer: Sam Muchnick (reelected)

Membership Roster
Fred Kohler                        Chicago, IL
Sam Muchnick                    St. Louis, MO
Karl Sarpolis                       Amarillo, TX
Roy Welch                          Nashville, TN
Jim Crockett                       Charlotte, NC
Al Haft                                Reynoldsburg, OH
Harry Light                         Detroit, MI
Mike London                       Albuquerque, NM
Salvador Lutteroth              Mexico City, Mexico
Cowboy Luttrall                  Tampa, FL
Leroy McGuirk                    Tulsa, OK
Vincent McMahon               Washington, D.C.
Joe "Toots" Mondt               Pittsburgh, PA
Don Owen                          Eugene, OR
Eddie Quinn                       Montreal, Quebec
Morris Sigel                        Houston, TX
Frank Tunney                     Toronto, Ontario
Stu Hart*                            Calgary, Alberta

 

As of September 28, 1961, Stu Hart was not listed on the membership roster of the NWA.
Haft, Quinn, Light, and Luttrall paid their dues right before the 1961 convention in Toronto.
Hart may not have paid his dues, and was considered not an active member.

Among those in attendance for the conferences were Muchnick, Tunney, Kohler, Sarpolis,
Crockett, Haft, Londos, Lutteroth, McGuirk, McMahon, Mondt, Owen, Sigel, Welch, Eddie
Graham, Bobby Bruns, Pat O'Connor, Buddy Rogers, Nick Gulas

Cowboy Luttrall, Harry Light, Eddie Quinn, and Stu Hart did not attend the Saturday
session, but may have appeared at other meetings.

In July 1961, Muchnick claimed there were 12 members of the NWA. Following the
convention, there were 18 members in total.

The NWA Membership Committee rejected the application of Danny McShain because at
the time he didn't meet the requirements of the NWA By-Laws for membership. The
committee decided he should resubmit his application, and his check was returned to him.

The Membership Committee also wanted Jim Barnett and Johnny Doyle to resubmit
up-to-date applications. Sam Muchnick had accepted their applications without approval
from the membership committee, in violation of the NWA By-Laws. Barnett and Doyle were
prepared to take action against the NWA for refusing them into the organization, and
Muchnick had persuaded them not to do anything until they'd resubmitted their paperwork.

The Membership Committee was made up of Mike London, Don Owen, Morris Sigel,
Vincent McMahon, Jim Crockett, Harry Light, and Joe "Toots" Mondt.

Although, Sam Muchnick was no longer the president of the NWA and having the same
amount of responsibilities he once had, he was still being paid $15,000 a year by the
organization. In a letter to the membership dated October 10, 1961, NWA President Fred
Kohler brought up this fact, and that the money was being paid for Muchnick to book
Buddy Rogers "as world's heavyweight champion," and Pat O'Connor "as the United
States Heavyweight Champion."

At the Toronto Convention, the NWA membership agreed that Muchnick, on behalf of the
organization, would book O'Connor as the U.S. Champion - a new designation awarded to
the former World Heavyweight Champion - to any member that wanted to use him. That
meant O'Connor had a national booking schedule, similar to that of the heavyweight
champion. Muchnick, the secretary-treasurer, was then compensated by the Alliance for
booking him. There is still some debate whether or not the U.S. championship was actually
sanctioned by the Alliance. It is a slippery slope because Muchnick was being paid by the
NWA to book O'Connor, yet there wasn't a U.S. Title committee and the title didn't need
any measure of Alliance approval to change hands - like the heavyweight, junior
heavyweight, and light heavyweight titles.

Kohler, in his letter of October 10, 1961, stated that he'd heard that Muchnick wasn't even
booking O'Connor, and it was Muchnick's assistant, Bobby Bruns. The reasoning for
$15,000 annual payment to Muchnick was questioned even more.

In addition to the Barnett-Doyle and McShain applications, one came in from Jules
Strongbow of Los Angeles on October 2, 1961. Muchnick sent copies to Kohler to initiate
the membership process.

With all the power that comes with being the NWA President, Kohler called a special
meeting of the Board of Directors to Chicago on November 12, 1961 "for the purpose of
adopting a resolution to dissolve the corporation, National Wrestling Alliance," according to
a letter from NWA attorney Harry N. Soffer to Muchnick dated November 3, 1961. If a
majority of the Board adopts the resolution, it would then be voted upon by the
membership. 75% of the membership voting in affirmative to dissolve would be needed.
Kohler informed the members that if they couldn't make the November 12th meeting, they
could vote by proxy. Soffer told Muchnick, "I know of now law whereby boards of directors
can vote by proxy." Soffer also said that it would take a three-fourth vote of "all the
members" to dissolve the membership, not three-fourths of the members voting.

Soffer also said it would be better to hold such a vote after the result of the Sonny Myers
vs. NWA retrial in Des Moines, which was being staged the week of November 13, 1961.

Regarding the talk of dissolving the NWA, Morris Sigel sent a letter to Kohler (and other
members) on November 7, 1961, telling him that "Neither as a member of the Board of the
National Wrestling Alliance nor as a member of the Alliance, can I vote for its dissolution at
this time." Sigel pointed out that such an important decision should wait until all members
could be present at a meeting to discuss it. He also noted that dissolution hadn't been
brought up at the last annual convention. "Furthermore," he wrote, "has it been fully
thought out just what will be substituted in its place if we end the Alliance?"

Research by Tim Hornbaker
December 14, 2010
From 'Legacy of Wrestling' by Tim Hornbaker
http://www.legacyofwrestling.com/NWA1961.html

...Thanks Tim! 

Film Clip Little Beaver Sky Low Low MLG 1962

 'Little Beaver must be the best performer in the business...tremendous!'
Jim Proudfoot Toronto Star, on Beavers Toronto debut May 1955

Little Beaver & Sky Low Low MLG August 1962. 

ADS: Dick Hutton's Toronto Title run

Ads from Dick Hutton's title run for Toronto. He defeated Lou Thesz at Maple Leaf Gardens in November 1957 and defended there nine 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.


Ads in order from top all MLG
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  

-AC









Classic Toronto clip: Martino Angelo & Pat Flanagan suspended in a cage

Classic Toronto Wrestling: Film from Maple Leaf Gardens Apr 1964. Manager Martino Angelo is suspended above the ring in a cage with Pat Flanagan while his charge The Beast (Yachetti) faces Whipper Watson. This was to keep Angelo from interfering in the bout. Apparently he wasn't not a fan of heights and was having some real issues so they went to the pin and lowered it. 

The aftermath is fun, with Flanagan leaning into his mule kick of the old days. By this point Flanagan was a referee and TV/MLG commentator but still got back into the ring (or cage) to settle a grudge if needed. Referee is Tiger Tasker. From the Classic Toronto Wrestling YouTube channel

Big Anthony's & Tony Parisi

Big Anthony's in Niagara Falls Ontario was a popular spot for many years. Owned by Tony Parisi and family, the restaurant was filled with great photos and nostalgia from Parisi's career, There was even a sitting area roped off like a ring.

I took that in 2006. Quite a poster! 

Parisi had a strong presence in the area since he had moved there in the early 1960s and later opened the Tony Parisi Sports Lounge. He first appeared at Maple Leaf Gardens back in June 1963 and put in a good showing vs Killer Kowalski despite getting the loss. His second bout was against Gene Kiniski before he soon teamed up with Lorenzo Parente in a popular Italian team. Parisi remained a regular on the weekly cards and the busy circuit to 1965, though in other areas he was mostly Antonio Pugliese, Bruno Sammartino's cousin. 

The Italian Connection remained strong as he partnered with Domenic Denucci & Gino Brito in Toronto. When Parisi came back in 1968 teamed with Brito, he was billed as Pugliese (only time as Pugliese here) but didn't stay around long. He was scheduled to be on Dave McKigney's Varsity Arena show in 1971 that went head to head with Tunney but didn't appear. A couple of weeks later he was back in the MLG ring. 

In 1976 he did appear for a rival promotion. George Cannon and his Superstars of wrestling ran at the CNE Coliseum while Tunney moved his 45th Anniversary show up to go head to head. Again no grudges held as Tony was back on the Tunney cards soon thereafter.

Throughout the 1970s Parisi promoted in and around Niagara Falls. Cards at Memorial Arena as well as the Skylon Tower, and at Oakes Park. One card at the Skylon brought in 2,700 fans for a main of Tony vs Waldo Von Erich. Of course in Niagara Tony always won. He also ran the popular wrestling shows at the annual CHIN Picnics in Toronto for many years. 


In late 1977 he took some time off but returned for the exciting Mid Atlantic era. He was still very popular and exciting in the ring. Quick and light on his feet. He would get up on the top rope and lay down like he's sleeping (his opponent was boring him) and other fun stuff. By this time he was mostly in the openers alongside Frankie Laine, The Destroyer (Beyer), Billy Red Lyons, and other skilled veteran types. We were lucky to have some good prelim bouts through this era. He did team with Flair and other stars too, able to keep up with anyone.

With the onset of the M-A affiliation the promotion went back to a circuit, with Parisi handling the Niagara Falls cards. Mostly held on the Monday after the big Sunday MLG card with Flair, Youngblood etc hitting the circuit towns for a couple of dates before heading back south. 
Let the match begin...Apr 1982 MLG -one of my favorite pics

At MLG in April 1982 he took on Ray Stevens, now a good guy after years as 'The Crippler.' They shook hands at the beginning of the bout and had an all scientific type match, one of the best bouts of the era for me. It was a good way to kick off the evening which was also the last time two major titles were defended on the same card. NWA Title (Flair vs Race) and AWA Title (Bockwinkel vs Mosca). 

Parisi passed on in 2000 and the family continued for a time before selling the business. Last time I was by there it was an Indian restaurant. Tony was deservedly inducted into the Niagara Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

-AC and photos by ...

1980 poster 

From Nanjo to The Sheik: Tales From Toronto Wrestling

The next in the series looks at the boom of Toronto wrestling
Available Worldwide $10.99 in Canada  

'From Nanjo to The Sheik: Tales from Toronto Wrestling was an education in Toronto’s squared circle history.'  
-Griff Henderson for Slam Wrestling review 

'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

'Expertly researched and interestingly compiled, would recommend to any wrestling historians (the dates, title histories and trivia are tops) as well as anyone with an interest in Toronto / Canadian wrestling history.'
-Nicholas Campbell, Author 'Falls, Brawls and Town Halls: The History of Professional Wrestling in Northern Ireland'

'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 

'Wanted to connect to let you know how much I enjoyed From Nanjo to the Sheik. It’s great!'
-Vance Nevada

Lists: Titles in Toronto 1929-1984

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

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

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

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

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

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

-AC and photo by...

Baker & Bruno: Two champs in Toronto

Roger Baker's photos from the classic days of Toronto wrestling are all around this site but this time the tables are turned! Thanks to Mike Mastrandrea for sharing this great photo of Roger with Bruno Sammartino in Toronto 2010.
Baker & Bruno: Two Champs in Toronto

The occasion was a reunion dinner with Bruno as the main attraction. Almost 50 years prior Roger had been at ringside snapping pictures of Bruno. That was 1962 and the Italian Strongman was fast gaining fans from MLG to the smaller arenas on the circuit. In July-August of that year Bruno had faced World champion Buddy Rogers in a 3 card series at Maple Leaf Gardens, and it became an integral part of the Toronto history.

Bruno returned in 1964 with his WWWF title and defended here over 25 times through 1976 with Roger taking photos at many of those bouts. In the main photo you can note Bruno is holding some of those photos that Roger brought him and he was chuffed at seeing Roger again. Who wouldn't! 

Bruno vs Waldo 1964, vs Johnny Powers 1965, vs Rogers 1962
All photos at MLG by Roger Baker
After Bruno's initial run he went on to hold the WWWF title through the balance of the 60s while Roger continued as a roving photographer for the big magazines of the day. Bruno sure got his share of magazine covers and so did Roger with photos taken in and around Toronto like the one below in October 1968. In addition to his fine photography skills Roger also wrote some great articles full of history and facts around our favorite Toronto stars. If a mag covered Toronto it was likely Roger's story, seek them out you will enjoy them!


This site wouldn't be the same with Roger and we can say the same about Bruno as far as the Toronto history goes. Thanks to both of these champs for their contributions to the sport we love. 👏

The city's Italian populace has found a major hero in Bruno Sammartino and have been flocking to cheer their countryman. Bruno is a hero in the same mould as the great Rocca is to the Puerto Ricans in New York. Veteran mat officials are together in their view that Bruno Sammartino, if he continues to improve, will be the next World Champ.
Toronto Daily Star 1962 

 -AC

Some clips from the 3rd Rogers-Bruno bout at the Toronto Classic Wrestling YouTube channel
Special thanks to Mike Mastrandrea, his fine photography can be found online