Quick Bits: North Bay with Tunney & Sobel 1941

North Bay Nugget

Cool ad for a Frank Tunney-Sammy Sobel card in North Bay 1941. This is prior to Larry Kasaboski and his Northland Wrestling taking over the northern part of Ontario in 1945. 

The Toronto promoters mostly stayed closer to home (excluding Ottawa) but did branch out, more so in the early days.

Ivan Mickailoff who started the weekly cards in Toronto in 1929 ran across the region and as far north as Timmins in the early 30s. Jack Corcoran and his Queensbury Club also went into Timmins, North Bay, Barrie, and other near north towns. 

Tunney never went that far north again (North Bay etc) but did hit Huntsville, Barrie, and others in the 50s & 60s, mostly in the summer. Whipper often ran those and likely got in some prime fishing time. 

Whipper's son Phil/Whipper Jr and his crew ran the near north in the early 70s while Dave McKigney and Big Time wrestling went further up in the 70s and early 80s hitting North Bay, Sturgeon Falls, and some of the other one-time Kasaboski stops.-AC

The Canadian Heavyweight Title :Book


Wow! 5 years ago......
____________________________________________________________
mapleleafwrestling.com presents- with design and layout by Dick Bourne 
The Canadian Heavyweight Title The Complete History 1978-1984

'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.'  

Amazon Canada & Amazon Worldwide
Softcover black & white 6x9 126 pages
10.99 CDN in Canada
Free shipping with Amazon Prime

Review at Slam Wrestling
Thank you both!

In 1978 as the Toronto territory was taking off with the young stars of Mid-Atlantic wrestling, promoter Frank Tunney introduced a local championship. That title, the first true local title in many years, was named the Canadian Heavyweight Title to be defended by the top star in Maple Leaf Wrestling. 

During those years the area was one of the most exciting and important territories in the wrestling world. Join us as we revisit the big cards, the tournaments, the beautiful title belt, and many other memorable slices of Maple Leaf Wrestling 1978-1984.


Proud to be in the lineup! Check out all of the great books at
http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/book-store.html

Lists: Titles in Toronto 1929-1984

Pro Wrestling was 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 here. 

-AC and photo by...

Film: World Title Buddy Rogers vs Bruno Sammartino Toronto 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
-AC



CELEBRATING 20 YEARS mapleleafwrestling.com presents

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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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Frank Tunney: The Early Days

The Tunney family had originated from Ireland. Frank's great-grandfather Peter Tunney immigrated to Toronto sometime prior to 1849 when he married Bridget Potter in St Pauls Church in Toronto. Peter and Bridget had 7 children. First born Hugh in 1851 married Ellen Quigley in 1873 in Newmarket, ON living life as a farmer before retiring in 1919. Hugh (d. 1931) and Ellen (d. 1933) had 3 boys including first born Thomas Peter in 1875 or 1876 in the township of Whitchurch Stoufville.

Thomas Peter Tunney later settled on a farm in Hagermans Corners near 14th Ave and Kennedy Rd in the town of Markham. Thomas had married Markham born Annie Corcoran (born 1873) in 1901 and they had three children, the youngest of which was Frank.

We can note that Frank's mother Annie bears the same name as the Toronto Boxing and Wrestling promoter Jack (John Jr) Corcoran with whom Frank and brother John began working for in the 1930's. In the marriage announcement of Franks parents on Nov 8 1901 (date of marriage Nov 4) Annie is said to be daughter of one John Corcoran (d.1911).

Was there a family relationship between Frank's mother and his future employer? Corcoran was not an uncommon name but given the fact that Frank went to work for Jack it's quite probable that Frank's mother was related to Jack whose family also had ties to Markham. At least publicly there was no admission of a family connection between the two.

Thomas and Annie Tunney had three boys. First born John in 1907 (d.1940), Thomas Peter Jr. in 1910 (d. 2000), and Francis Martin (Frank) in 1912. It's not clear when Thomas Sr settled on the Markham farm as both John and Thomas were listed as born in Scarborough. The Tunneys first had a farm in the Milliken area (now Agincourt), while Frank is generally listed as being from Markham.

Main pic: Frank & Barry Lloyd Penhale in Tunney's office at MLG 1957

Frank Tunney

Frank, the youngest of the three boys was described as growing up doing the usual farm chores. In 1927 when Frank was just a teen his father passed away at the age of 51. There was to be a considerable amount of tragedy in Frank's family as the years went on.

with French Angel 1942
In a Aurora Ontario newspaper report in August 1933, Frank, described as a former resident, son of Mr & Mrs Thomas Tunney, almost drowned at Harvey's pond north of Unionville. He was swimming with a friend when his friend got cramps. Frank grabbed his friend who was not a good swimmer and almost took him to the bottom of the pond. The friend managed to free himself and called for help. A young man jumped in and saved Frank and a Doctor on scene administered artificial respiration for over an hour, succeeding in resuscitating him. The young man who saved Frank later received a medal for bravery while the others received life saving certificates.

As a high schooler Frank was apparently quite athletic, he competed in football, sprints and high jump at Markham and was said to have won a junior championship. In a 1947 piece (bearing in mind -the usually tongue-in-cheek sports writer) Joe Perlove referred to him as the 'Markham speedball'. 

On Aug 10 1937 Frank married Edna Mary Layola Kirby at St Brigid's Church in Toronto, the best man is older brother Thomas. The couple honeymooned in Muskoka before returning to live in Toronto. They went on to have 4 children including Eddie who worked at the office (accounting side) in the 1970's and later officially as partner with cousin Jack after Frank passed away in 1983. Eddie also had worked for Exhibition Stadium in the 1970's. The Stadium was the scene of several large wrestling cards over the years starting in 1977 and later included the huge Night Of Champions cards in 1983 and the bigger than huge WWF Big Event show in 1986.

A 1944 article from the Stoufville Tribune states that due to physical ailments Frank was unable to join the army but that he was doing his part to ease the monotony of army life by bringing leading wrestlers to the various 'camps' without charge. As far back as 1939 it was noted in the Star that he (and John) were also bringing members of the military to Maple Leaf Gardens to watch Wrestling and Boxing on his dime and was said to have entertained '7 thousand' over the year 1939 alone.

Corcoran and The Tunneys
with Strangler Lewis 1942

In Toronto in the late 1920's the local wrestling scene was growing. Ivan Mickailoff had begun weekly shows in 1929 at Arena Gardens (later Mutual St Arena and then The Terrace, a long time roller rink, a great spot if you grew up in the 1970's) and in 1930 Boxing promoter Jack Corcoran and his Queensbury Athletic Club obtained a wrestling license.

Corcoran, who had been promoting boxing in the city since the 1920s formed the Queensbury Club with Ed Rudd who ran the Rudd Athletic Club. Jack grew into the leading wrestling promoter in the city, arranging to be the matchmaker for shows at the newly opened Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931. Corcoran was said to have partners in Paul Bowser and Toots Mondt. His first card at MLG on Nov 19 1931 fell a week after Frank's 19th birthday.

Frank is placed in the office circa 1931 or sometimes 1932. He was initially described as a 'secretary' while brother John was later to be the 'matchmaker'. There is nary a public mention of brother John until March 1939 when he is described as taking over matchmaking duties for an ailing Corcoran for the March 23 card. Frank merits public mention earlier as both 'boxing promoter' and secretary in 1938.

When John passed away suddenly soon after his 32nd birthday in January 1940, it noted he had been handling duties for Corcoran for 6 years placing him in the office about 1934. Corcoran was still listed (publicly anyways) as 'Matchmaker' into 1939.

In a 1986 story on John's son Jack (who took over after uncle Frank passed away in 1983) it notes that 'Jack has been promoting since 1956', Frank and John 'since the Gardens opened in 1931'. By that time it was a long way removed from the 1930's. In various obits it put nephew Jack in the office as early as 1952. Other stories on Frank or MLG later in the 1970's and 1980's generally refer to Frank having 'promoted since 1931.’ While he may have been in the office at that time he didn't promote officially until 1939-40

In a 1948 article on Frank, it mentions he came to Toronto to take a 20$ a week job. A later article put it at 15 a week. An item in the Liberal (Richmond Hill) Social page has him attending business college in Toronto as of Feb 1930. In an obituary in 1983 it placed Frank in the office around 1931 straight out of business college. In another article from 1980 with Frank's comments it says he hopped the local (bus) with his diploma from Markham Collegiate and took his first -and only -job at the Queensbury Club. He (Frank) mentions that he 'wasn't all that interested in the fight game, bit I liked the place'. He goes on to say 'I liked Jack (Corcoran), a very fine man, like a father.'

with Red Shadow and Manager 1943
In June 1951 Frank's 3 week old son died after being found in his crib with breathing difficulties. Another son Frank Jr. later passed away after a battle with cancer in 1978 at the age of 38. Both Eddie and Frank Jr. had made the Star paper in a 1948 photo of them play wrestling at the Tunney home with the visiting 'Wild' Bill Longson.

On Apr 16 1938 at the age of 65, Frank's mother Annie passes away at her home at 102 Oak Park Ave, Toronto. Services are held at St Brigids.

In 1939, Jack Corcoran took ill and Toots Mondt came up to run a show while he was away from the office. There was a front page story not long after about an incident on Lake Simcoe where Corcoran and others almost drowned after his boat capsized on a day out on the water.

John & Frank Step Up 

Around that time John and Frank buy the now on-the-downside promotion from Corcoran. Other investors are said to include Paul Bowser, Jack Ganson, and Jerry Monahan while the boxing matchmaker is 'Deacon' Allen. Perlove states in a March 1947 bit that John and Frank had lost $2700 in the first 3 shows they put on after taking over. Perlove called John the 'hustler and scuffler of the outfit'. Corcoran was also promoting Ottawa at the time and John became matchmaker for those shows. Monahan, a former wrestler, was described as as Frank's right hand also promoted in Buffalo & Pittsburgh, PA. He was close with Frank but passed on after an illness in 1947. 

Jack Corcoran somewhat retires from the promotion soon after passing the reins to John & Frank. He does stay on in a limited capacity, mostly helping with the boxing side, and from all accounts was very well respected in the city. He sets the tone that Frank continues for many years. That of the unassuming anti-promoter type, not very common in the Wrestling or Boxing world of the day- and close with the media of the day.

While later articles refer to the Tunneys taking over for an 'ailing Corcoran' (in addition to the boat accident he also had a nasty bout with the flu early in 1939), Jack appears to have wanted to retire at that time to pursue other interests. He retired at the relatively young age of 47 and went go on to spend another 25 years in the city. The near death experiences on the lake and with the flu may have expedited his decision.

A 1941 story quoted Montreal Promoter Eddie Quinn as saying that Corcoran was still receiving 5% of the gate from Tunney's shows while he is referred to in the late '1940's as 'retired from everything' and 'keeping a low profile.' When noted athlete Lionel Conacher died in 1954 Corcoran was one of the guards of honor at the funeral, alongside Primo Carnera (Boxing champ, also wrestled), Red Dutton (NHL Exec.), and others. He was active in real estate in Toronto since the 1920's owning several buildings including the Queensbury Hotel on Scarlett Rd as well as Nealon House on King. He also owned racing thoroughbred horses from the 1930's up. He passed away in 1965 at the age of 73.

A June 1939 bit in the Ottawa paper mentions a 'New Deal campaign to bring fans back by eliminating the so-called champions, masked wrestlers, kicking, eye-gouging, hair-pulling, fights outside the ring and mauling of refs. Real old-fashioned wrestling with real holds is to be the vogue.' Said to include Promoters Paul Bowser of Boston, Tom Packs of St Louis, Jack Ganson of Montreal, John Tunney of Toronto, Jules Bauman of Rochester, and Hans Furst of Syracuse. A.E. Long, the Eastern Rep for the Ontario Athletic Commission gave his approval.
with Fred Atkins 1949

On June 5 1939 in Toronto under the byline 'King Kong Cox refuses to accept 'New Deal' bout, John Tunney announced the cancellation of the June 8 card with Dan O'Mahoney. Under contract he offered the bout to King Kong Cox on the condition he obey his edict and cut out the rough stuff. Apparently Cox refused to change his style and Tunney announced the bout was off and Cox would not be allowed to return until he was ready to wrestle instead of 'act like an enraged animal'. Seems quite comical now but the Athletic commission in those days was frequently involved, giving fines and such. They even reprised the idea on the smaller circuits later as 'real wrestling.' Suffice to say nothing much changed in the ways of the ring.

Though he had apparently already passed the reins to John and Frank by this point, in a Sept 4 1939 bit by Fred Jackson Sports Editor at the Star he reports 'business back as usual at the Queensbury Club. Corcoran back from his prolonged vacation and near fatal trip on Lake Simcoe, Deacon Allen back from California with Jimmy Webster, (and at the office) Frank and John and Phil Lisner.'

After a summer break the Oct 19 1939 show promoted as the first show of the season, Corcoran is still named. As of Nov 1 1939 he is listed as chair of Sports Service Leagues wrestling and boxing committee. At the end of the year on Dec 26th he is still named as boxing head at the office.

In Jan 1940 just a few days after his 32nd birthday John Tunney passed away suddenly. He left behind wife Fidelis Merrick (d.1969) and 4 children (one a newborn) including John Jr. aka Jack who later joins his uncle Frank in the office.

We will note that when Fidelis passed away in 1969 she was listed as Thomas Tunney's wife. When Thomas died in 2000 it listed his first wife as Fidelis Merrick. We could assume if that is correct, that Thomas stepped in to help John's young family as was not uncommon in those days. Later family notices seem to confirm this.

In John's obit it mentions his father Thomas was second cousin to Gene Tunney boxer. There is nothing definitive to indicate that is true. Though it is possible, both families following a similar path from Ireland. Some of the Tunney's did bear somewhat of a resemblance to the champ at different times in their lives. Boxer Gene also had a famous son John - a long time U.S. Senator.

Frank Takes Over

The card scheduled for Jan 19 was postponed and on the 20th Frank was said to have 'assumed matchmaking duties for the Queensbury Athletic Club' and was said to be 'brother and partner' of John. The obituary in the Ottawa paper described John as 'First Lieutenant' for Jack Corcoran, a 'genial soft spoken man, reputation for being sincere, a capable executive, a gentleman, and a good sportsman.'

In the 1940's in addition to Toronto, Frank was promoting Ottawa as well as shows throughout Ontario. Whipper especially was in high demand after beating Bill Longson for the NWA (National Wrestling Association) Title in 1947. He appears on shows across the province from Ottawa to Windsor where Bill Thornton was the promoter with Frank getting co-promoter billing on those shows. Whipper continued to have working ties to the office through to the early 1970's and branched out to promoting smaller shows (in alliance with Frank) in and around Toronto in the 1950’s and 1960's.

Star of the 1940's Pat Flanagan also became a big part of the promotion on the inside. In addition to being one of the more prolific wrestlers (and referee) in Ontario from the 1940's to the late 60's, Flanagan worked as a type of booker for Tunney. Barry Penhale told me that Flanagan was the person who set up the outside towns as far as supplying the wrestlers to the local promoters. He formed close bonds with the area promoters such as in Oshawa with young promoter Pat Milosh.

In Oshawa at least, it ran with Milosh booking the arenas, doing the advertising, and running the shows. Part of the net proceeds go back to the office in Toronto. Frank frequently had Pat as a guest at MLG for parties and such. He appears to have maintained a close and very amicable relationship with most everyone he dealt with.

Along with Whipper and Flanagan, other former wrestlers formed the core of the office both during their wrestling days as well as after, some in non-official roles. Earlier stars including Al 'Bunny' Dunlop and Kenneth 'Tiger' Tasker stayed on for years as referees as did Bowmanville star Billy Stack. Fred Atkins, after a lengthy career later became a trainer and manager (said to have trained Dick Hutton prior to his NWA reign and also notably Tiger Jeet Singh and Giant Baba) and refereed right up into the 1980's. Athol Layton remained close to Frank while another former star Billy 'Red' Lyons became a TV commentator as his career finished.

With many of the other towns it was set up similarly where each town or area had a promoter who took care of the shows while working in tandem with the Toronto office. Along with Milosh, there was Joe Maich for Brantford and area, Sammy Sobol in the Niagara region, even the Northland group run by Larry Kasaboski often featured talent sent up by Tunney 'direct from Maple Leaf Gardens'.

It should be noted that at the 1954 NWA convention Tunney who had been elected as vice-president complained about Kasaboski going into his towns and under-bidding him to promoters. Kasaboski did try to make some inroads in the outside towns (Barrie, Peterborough etc) but never got close to Toronto. As with Tunney's on and off again relationship with Dave McKigney later the feuds appear to be few and far between. Whipper too promoted shows in alliance with Tunney in and around Toronto in the 1950's and also join Frank at the NWA conventions starting in 1954. Whipper himself  became a member a year later when he bought into the Seattle territory staying until 1956.

John Katan who had been a big star in the 1930's and '40's also played a big part in the Toronto history in those early days - in the Hamilton area. Katan became the promoter of the town and running it with Frank's help and wrestlers it became a major stop on the Canadian circuit. Hamilton was also the site for Tunney's TV for many years.

Although Frank wasn't one to get too involved on the wrestling side as far as angles with the wrestlers, in 1941 there was an alleged lawsuit by Whipper against Tunney in regards to a breach of contract. Whipper claimed he had been signed to wrestle in the main event against Masked Wolf. When Tunney held an open tournament to determine the number one contender for the world title on May 1, 1941, Watson submitted a copy of his entry form to the Ontario Athletics Commission so that Tunney couldn't claim he didn't enter. He then won four matches in one night to win the tournament. That was the beginning of the 30 year run with Whipper on top.

To Frank's credit, especially as a young promoter in the position he was thrust into, in a 1947 story it was said that Bowser, Gannon, and Monahan had all been against the big push for Whipper. As the 'Pride Of East York' Watson became the home town favorite earning both the NWA (Association) title in 1947 and then the NWA (Alliance) title in 1956. The once national British Empire Title became Whipper's hometown title which was defended around the country again when Tunney had national TV in the 1950's. It proved to be the decision that saved Toronto wrestling.

In 1945 Frank makes what may have been his only appearance as a referee. He officiates a bout between Whipper Watson and Whitey Hewitt at the Coliseum on a mixed Boxing-Wrestling card for the Armed Forces.

An item in the Social section in Nov 1948 shows Frank & Mrs Tunney hosted a party at their home after the Loretto dance. Guests included Mr & Mrs Winnett Watson (Pat Flanagan), Joe Perlove, Frank's brother Thomas, and a William Tunney and their wives. Also notable is a Miss Lorraine Henning who became Frank's second wife after Edna passed away on the last day of December 1969.

A 1948 article offers a peek inside the office. It reports 'he (Frank) and staff use 4 rooms and a basement in the NE corner of MLG. His private quarters are well secreted you peer through a little wicket at Frank Ayerst who does a Houdini under his deck. there is a click and presto, you are past the outer guardian or tiler and into a cubicle where nine times out of ten, Phil Lisner confronts you and shakes hands. No doubt Frank has to screen himself from tumultuous wrestlers who, like grizzlies, are playful.' It goes on to describe that office as 'overstuffed, its walls reeking with pictures of assorted fighters, wrestlers, and friends, which Jack Corcoran occasionally uses. The back office where Tunney resides behind a desk 'that wouldn't shame the untidiest editor in the business for the infinite variety of its charming disorder.'

The office once occupied part of the space that became the Hot Stove Lounge, site of many Tunney press conferences and parties. A large portrait of Frank hung on the wall there for many years (alongside one of Whipper) and when Frank passed on his friends and peers gathered there after his funeral.

Tunney also had points in the St Louis office starting in the 1940's. He had formed a relationship with then St Louis promoter Tom Packs and when Packs retired in June 1948 he (Packs) sold his interests in the World Title and offices to Thesz, Bill Longson, Tunney, and Quinn. A year later, Muchnick and the Thesz outfit formed a partnership and Frank followed. At the 2nd annual NWA convention in November 1949 Tunney was present representing Toronto. A later correspondence states that Tunney, along with Bill Longson, Bobby Manganoff, and Whipper Watson held about 34% share in the St Louis Office.

When Frank passed away in 1983 Sam Muchnick commented "I first met Frank 46 years ago, we were kids, working for big promoters, and we were witnesses at an anti-trust trial (to do with wrestling) in Columbus, Ohio. It was declared a mistrial -as good as a win- and even better, I acquired a friend for life."

Muchnick chuckled at the memory of Tunney's casual approach to business matters. "Frank had a piece of the action when I was running shows in St. Louis," he said. "I'd mail him a cheque every so often but lost of times years would go by before he'd cash one. The bank would call up to see if they were still any good. They'd have been buried in a pile of stuff on top of his desk. "One time he asked me to pull something out of the heap. It was a hydro bill from a year before. 'Guess that's why they shut off my power,' he said. I pulled again. It was an envelope with several $100 bills in it. He had no idea where that came from."

Boxing

In the early to mid 1940's there were several boxing promoters in the city alongside Tunney and Deacon Allen. Playfair Brown was the most active. Sam 'The Furniture Man' Keller was another promoting shows at the CNE Coliseum and at least one card at MLG back in 1937.

Lil' Arthur King a Toronto native and regular at the Massey Hall amateur boxing cards made his debut at MLG for Tunney in 1946. In the midst of a successful career King switched managers from Dave Yack to notorious Philadelphia mobster Blinky Palmero in 1948 and see his career suffer as a result. In 1956 Tunney helped arrange a buyback to bring King back to Toronto and King was forever thankful for it.

In 1956 Toronto native George Chuvalo turned pro and beat 4 opponents to win the 4th annual Heavyweight Novice Tournament run by Tunney and Deacon Allen in co-sponsorship with Jack Dempsey. Chuvalo went on to have many bouts at MLG under Tunney including a 1966 title bout vs Ali where he lost by decision. Afterwards Ali called Chuvalo 'the toughest guy I ever fought'. Chuvalo was managed by Deacon Allen up to 1964 when Chuvalo moved to Irv Ungerman

Frank with Chuvalo and Deacon Allen 1959
While the boxing side brought some success, there were many problems from the start. Illnesses and problems with the commission and other promoters took its toll.

Tunney worked with - and against - his counterpart in Montreal, Eddie Quinn. Quinn also promoted both wrestling and boxing. In 1945 the two combined to contribute to an Ottawa area boxing & wrestling (mit-mat) card with proceeds to Armed Forces. In 1958 Quinn offered Tunney 10% of the receipts to move an Archie Moore - Yvon Durelle bout from Montreal to Toronto to escape Montreal's Athletic Commission tax of 5% and the taxing of American Television coverage of the bout. Toronto's was only 2%. The bout and a subsequent one ended up being fought in Montreal.

Another dealing with Quinn in 1962 saw Tunney getting an injunction to stop a fight in Montreal between Archie Moore and Robert Cleroux after Cleroux had failed to abide by a contract to face Chuvalo in Toronto and had been barred. The fight was called off with Tunney commenting that Quinn had saved him further legal expenses in the matter. Quinn sees his boxing license suspended for his actions surrounding the booking and promotion of the bout and never promote boxing again, but still promotes a wrestling card at the Forum 2 days later. He subsequently loses the wrestling license too but regain it continuing to promote until he retired in 1963. Quinn dies soon after in 1964

Quinn also promoted wrestling in Ottawa (with Tunney moving out) starting in 1946. There was said to be tension between the two as Whipper Watson was being promoted by Tunney as a Canadian Champion while in Quinn's realm of Montreal-Quebec-Ottawa his star Yvon Robert was regarded as Canada's best. Robert also worked for Tunney both in Ottawa and Toronto as a Canadian and World champ. After Quinn moved in to Ottawa, Tunney didn't return to the nations capital for another 35 years, running shows in 1982.

Tunney also had issues with promoter Howard Darwin in Ottawa -and also involving fighter Robert Cleroux. Darwin who was promoting boxing and wrestling in Ottawa in the early 1960's was forced to cancel a proposed bout between Cleroux and Cecil Gray again because of the suspensions over the previous Chuvalo-Cleroux problems. Tunney threatened to take out an injunction to stop the fight while the OAC threated to pull both Darwins boxing and wrestling licenses. The bout eventually went ahead with Ottawa area alderman Robert Guertin stepping in as promoter.

In 1966 Tunney again got the better of Darwin when he was said to secure the Cassius Clay- Ernie Terrell bout at MLG ahead of second choice Hull (Hull is directly across the river from Ottawa). The bout was originally scheduled to take place in Chicago but was canceled after Clay made anti-war statements in the media. Other cities refused to host it and when it was sanctioned in Toronto, Conn Smythe the builder of MLG and a veteran himself resigned as Director of MLG and sold all his shares in protest.

Harold Ballard, then Executive VP of the Gardens announced how the gate was going to be split up, a look inside the boxing side at the time. Clay receive 50% of the gate, Terrell 20% with the Gardens taking the remaining 30%. Tunney put a guarantee in excess of 96k while a full house of 17,500 paying from 10-100$ would net approx. 195-225k. The fight did go ahead on March 29th but Clay's opponent due to Terrell backing out amid a contract renegotiation - was George Chuvalo. Tunney notably shows up at the glove ceremony with the wrong size gloves.

For Tunney, the wrestling side proves to be far more profitable and easy to manage compared to the boxing side. In 1969 on the occasion of his 30 years as Wrestling promoter Frank reflected on his time in boxing in a Jim Proudfoot article and summed it up as 'It got to be a joke after a while'.

In contrast to his often problematic dealings with others in the boxing game, Tunney had much more success on the wrestling side. Wrestlers and promoters alike had only good to say about the genial promoter. Along with St Louis head Muchnick, Frank was close with Vince McMahon Sr in New York and was well liked and respected by the others in the NWA membership. Many wrestlers over the years including Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino, and Gene Kiniski had nothing but praise for Tunney, both about his honesty in payoffs and his easygoing demeanor.

Frank with Whipper 1950
He was however not above a good rib, as was just part of being a wrestler in those days. He had a 'electric chair' in his office for many years that was hooked up to an electrical charge and once inviting the unsuspecting mark into the chair he set off an electric shock. No-one was spared even Thesz who was said to have jumped the highest. One writer was remembered as having on long underwear under his suit and sitting through the whole shock with nary a response.

In the early days it was evident that the sportswriters in the city were in a quasi-working type relationship with the office. Joe Perlove in particular was almost an extension of the office and was close to Frank for many years. His creative and often humorous recaps of the bouts in the Star come off not dissimilar to what a good publicity director would put out. Frank was an astute promoter, he definitely knew the advantage of having the writers close to the office, both with Perlove and with Ayrest. Perlove also covered horse racing and was present at many of the 'clambakes' at the King Edward Hotel where much of the boxing and wrestling business went on in the old days, He passed on in 1966. Star sports editors Milt Dunnell and later Jim Proudfoot both had sidebar columns frequently covering wrestling with features and tidbits from behind the scenes.

In an interview in 1980 Frank had this to say about the scribes. 'That old Queensbury was a nuthouse and I loved it! And you know who the biggest crazies were? The Newspaper types...I don't know how they got away with it, hanging around all the time. And then there were the guys who had nothing to do but sit around reading the Racing News all day. They didn't even watch the workouts.' That Racing news comment refers to Joe Perlove, Deacon Allen, Corcoran, and others that were involved with Horse Racing in some respect, either writing about, betting on, owning them, or all three!

A notice in the social section in Sept 1954 listed the marriage of Teresa Tunney, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Tunney with the reception held at the home of Frank Tunney. Jack Tunney, brother of the bride was an usher. 

By this time Toronto had become one of the major centers in the wrestling world while Frank was recognized as one of the top promoters in the business. We will look at the rest of the 1950s through the M-A era in a future piece.


-AC

Info from the Toronto papers, Ontario archives, Oshawa library microfilm, genealogy sites
Barry Lloyd Penhale, Gary Will, Roger Baker, and conversations with others over the years
Photos & Nostalgia mapleleafwrestling.com collection
Originally posted 2015 Info is as presented. With respect……

 

BUDDY ROGERS VS BRUNO SAMMARTINO TORONTO 1962

Film from Maple Leaf Gardens Aug 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 when he 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. Film mapleleafwrestling.com. Click on pic below to see more clips on YouTube.

Fun: Frank's 30th Ticket if....

The Olympic Auditorium Twitter feed featured a great ticket from LA promoter Aileen Eaton's 30th Anniversary show. Don't believe they ever did something like this for Toronto wrestling but if they had, say, for Frank's 30th just a few years prior..

Promoters - Ontario



A look at Ontario wrestling promoters 1929-1984.
An overview, not a definitive history. Roughly 1929-1984. Some like Bob Lane may have been 'only' arena managers. In the earlier days it often listed the arena guys as the promoter of note but with Tunney or Corcoran or Mickailoff supplying the stars. *Old piece, more info to add if there is time, and some with dates that could be amended. AS WE REORDER SOME LINKS MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE

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

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

Main pic: Paul Baillergeon, John Katan, Whipper Watson Toronto 1955
___
Ivan Mickailoff runs the first weekly pro cards in 1929 and stays in the city to 1938 bringing in the top stars of the day. His first card May 4 1929 drew 500 fans to see the main event of Jack Taylor vs Jack Rogers. He grew it to include Hamilton, Brantford, Oshawa, and other towns on a circuit starting in late 1929. Mickailoff also promoted through Canada's west in the 1930's and ran shows in both Port Arthur and Fort William (Thunder Bay) On.
See Gary Will's TWH Ivan Mickailoff: "The man who made wrestling in Toronto"

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

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

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

John's son John Jr aka Jack Tunney joined his Uncle Frank in the office in the early 1950s and took over officially upon Frank's death in 1983. He ran TV and some of the outer towns, did some ring announcing, publicity, and other duties. Frank's son Eddie Tunney joined the office in the early 70s initially on the accounting side and later partnered with Jack.

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

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

Oshawa 1950 Milosh
Oshawa presented its first pro card in October 1929 at the Oshawa Armouries featuring the stars of Mickailoff's Toronto shows. Stanislaus Zbyszko, Archie Jeanuette, Renato Gardini, Charlie Manogan, Cowboy Rogers, and Irish Ned McCarr all appear on that first card. In the early 1940's The Oshawa Wrestling Club with Pat Farrell and Jimmy Szikszay take over and runs shows until 1946. Amateur standout Ted McKinley may have also been involved. 

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

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

Milosh also ran Peterborough select years in the 1950's with a full schedule of weekly shows over the winter at Brock Arena using the Tunney stars. The stars were mainly what was big in Toronto but some homegrown talent including Billy Stack, Sandor Kovacs, and Jimmy Szikszay are favorites around the area. Milosh continues to promote locally after the WWF aligned with Jack Tunney in 1984, albeit with a lesser role, but was still involved to 1992. His last was promoting a WWF event at the Civic.
See  Pat Milosh The Casino Kid

Ottawa, like Toronto and other major cities got the large promotion treatment. The city has to be considered among the big three wrestling cities in the province, alongside Toronto and Hamilton or London. Jack Ganson then Montreal promoter also ran shows in the 1930's at the Ottawa Auditorium. Corcoran ran the city in the late 1930's with Tunney taking over in 1940.

Sammy Sobel becomes the promoter of record in the early 1940's, representing the Queensbury Club under Tunney. Many of the stars from Toronto occupy those shows, Whipper Watson, Pat Flanagan, Fred Atkins et al. Sobel wore many hats under Tunney and is included below for other areas. He also was the ring manager of Vic Christy in the late 1930's.
In 1939 new Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn takes over the city promoting shows at the Auditorium with stars such as Yvon Robert, Ray Eckert, Bobby Manganoff, Larry Moquin, Frank Valois, and all the major stars of the Montreal-Toronto corridor. It appears that Tunney kept a stake in Ottawa and reaped some of the profits from the Quinn shows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just across the river in Hull Quebec, wrestling in the 1940's at Decosse Stadium and at Hull arena featured Quebec stars under Eddie Quinn. Quinn also extends further into Ontario as far over as Cornwall and Kingston on occasion.

Dave McKigney starts promoting his own shows about 1965 up to 1987 in Ontario. To say he was an innovator would be a huge understatement. The way he ran shows and procured talent, sometimes world class talent - is an anomaly in the wrestling business. Without TV, without a big budget, and often without the support of the powers that be, he managed to create a whole subsystem of wrestling, beyond what could be called an Indy fed.

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

Lakeshore Arena, Scarborough Arena, The Concert Hall, Brampton Memorial Arena, Ted Reeve Arena, and Varsity Arena all see Big Bear shows. In the early days he ran with the blessing of Tunney using the MLG guys and running shows sometimes alongside Whipper Watson Sr in the nearby towns. If you look at a map of Southern Ontario you will be hard pressed to find a town that never saw one of Dave's shows. In the later mid 1970's and early 1980's he goes further out from the Southern hubs into Renfrew, Huntsville, Pembroke and Vanier Arena, as well as tours of the Maritimes. In the period between Sheik & M-A he also teams up with Jack Tunney for some shows through the East.

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

Marmon also put on some shows at the Cobourg Arena in 1960 with some of the above plus Cowboy Carlson, Ali Pahsa and Danny Shane. There is also mention of a TV show on Channel 11 in Kingston in June 1960 featuring the above stars. As well in the Richmond Hill paper it mentions Red is a 'director' of the Olympic Club and the TV show will run on Kingston CKWS late at night and that they hope to run on CHCH 11 in Hamilton! I am unsure if the Kingston shows ran, if so it would be quite rare as TV exposure remained elusive to the small town promoters. At any rate it looks like Marmon bought Red out as Red wanted to retire to his family. 

Toar Morgan, a former wrestling star promotes Lindsay in the early 1950's. He also serves as the manager of Lindsay Arena for a time. Barry Lloyd Penhale, who was close to Morgan told me about the shows but have been unable to find ads as of yet.

Dewey Robertson opened gyms in Hamilton and Burlington in the mid 1970's and run cards out of them. Am unsure if he ran anywhere else but he was frequently on cards run by pals Parisi and McKigney so may have had some involvement.

The main name in the North was Larry Kasaboski starting in 1945 out of North Bay and extending out to Renfrew, Pembroke and area. Running under Northland Wrestling the circuit grew to include a weekly circuit including Sudbury Inco Club, Sault Ste Marie McMekeean Centre, North Bay Ferris Community Centre, Timmins MacIntyre Arena, and Noranda (Quebec) Rec Centre.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grimsby 1960 Wentworth
Hamilton, just down the road from Toronto enjoyed a rich history alongside its larger neighbor. Some shows in the 1920's at the Barton St Arena and Grand Opera House were put on by Toronto based Mickailoff.

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

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

John Katan the strongman from Palermo and Toronto star branched out around 1947 to promote shows in Hamilton at the Municipal Pool and The Forum. He had, and continued to work closely with the Toronto office presenting the stars of Toronto. The action mirrored the cards from MLG and was a regular stop with Toronto & Ottawa for the World champs. Running under Hamilton Sporting Club Katan continued up till 1958. Katan was an important member of the early group that supported Frank and remained one of Frank's most trusted allies.  

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

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

Acton  1949 Maich
Brantford operated similar to the other towns as a circuit town run by Mickailoff and later Tunney By 1950 Brantford was seeing shows by former Olympic and pro, and stock car enthusiast Joe Maich and his brother Don Maich, as Maich Sports Enterprises. Don had been a fixture on the Toronto amateur boxing scene in the early 1930's. They had their own crew of mostly lighter grapplers but often used Tunney stars and ran shows at the Arctic Arena, Delhi Arena, Cockshutt Park, and the Brantford Armouries. Wrestler Killer Joe Christie was also involved for a time in the early '6'0s

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

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

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

N Falls 1975 Parisi
Niagara Falls had Sammy Sobel at the helm as part of Corcoran's Queensbury Club in the 1930's. He was an early promoter of the area and as with the other circuit towns, the stars appearing in Toronto occupy the cards.  

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

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

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

St Catharines was promoted by George Bird in 1959.
-to add

Al 'Bunny' Dunlop a star of the pre war years and later as a referee, also promoted some shows in Toronto in 1947 under the banner Atlas Athletic Club. He put on several shows at Oakwood Stadium featuring Dunlop, Joe Maich, Billy Stack, Ted McKinley, Jack Sipthorpe, Walter Allen, Bob Larsen, Joe Kayorie, Sandor Kovacs, and Frank Hewitt. Maich, who was to promote Brantford and area was also involved in the promotion side for these shows.

Stoufville 1954 Garner
Edwin 'Red' Garner, the Pride of Langstaff started promoting cards regularly around 1948 based around his home in Richmond Hill. In addition to the Richmond Hill Arena, Garner put on regular shows at the Newmarket Arena, Weston Arena in Toronto, as well as Scarborough Arena.

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

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

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

If there were an Ontario based Mt Rushmore of promoters Garner deserves a spot up with Tunney, Kasaboski, and McKigney etc. 

Bob Lane promoted in Georgetown in 1951. He may have been working with Joe Maich, On those shows were Maich, Farmer Bill Jones, Chief War Eagle, Wild Bill Cody, The Great  (Sandor -Frank) Fozo, and Masked Marvel.

Gus Marker was a retired NHLer who promoted some shows in Kingston in the early 1950's at the Kingston Centre as an associate under Tunney. The cards were mostly Tunney stars with some local talent. They had a TV show with Marker doing the announcing for a short time, but not clear who appeared.

Earl 'Sully' Sullivan, owner of Sully's Gym in Toronto and noted trainer and good guy was said to have promoted some wrestling as well but unable to pinpoint any. Maybe within Sully's similar to Dewey at his gyms. Sully's regular Ron Hutchison told us no as far as wrestling cards. 

The Great Antonio, a strongman type promoted some shows around Owen Sound, Collingwood and other near north spots in 1964. Mostly un heralded types but included Mr Wonder the wrestler with no legs. They drew 1,400 to one card but the fans weren't impressed. He tried a year later again but had no license and was chased out of Wawa, ON.

Frankie Laine promoted some shows around the London area in the late 70s early 80s including the main stop Centennial Hall in London in 1981. These shows were mostly the same guys from McKigney's cards including McKigney himself, Candi Divine, Sheik, George Steele and Whipper Jr., and padded out by Joe Cagle and Mike Vachon. Laine also put on indy type shows in the summers at the the London Fairgrounds featuring Tim Gerrard, Sheik Ali, and others into the early/mid 80's.

Tommy Nelson was another of Tunney's inner circle of former wrestlers who promoted shows in the nearby towns. Using Tunney's stars he ran the Barrie Arena and Collingwood Arena in the 1950's. He added regular shows at Stoufville Arena, Aurora Arena, Sutton Arena, and Bradford Arena in the early 1960's. He was also noted as promoter on a 1958 Scarboro card using Tunney stars for a charity night show. Interesting to note is that he was said to take over for Roy McMahon as matchmaker for Red Garner's CCWA in 1955. Nelson also ran Galt (Cambridge) and Kitchener until Johnny Powers bought Nelson and Tunney out around 1965. Powers later took over in Cleveland and ran opposition to the Crocketts in North Carolina in the later 1970's.

Toronto 1954 Lyman
Les Lyman promoted shows around the Toronto area from the early 1950's into the early 1960's. Regular shows at East York Arena commenced in 1953-54. Worked similar to Red Garner, using many of the same stars and looked to have a working relationship with Red while both were putting on shows at the same arenas. East York the most common stop for Lyman along with Scarboro Arena.
See Les Lyman

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

Roger Baker attended one of Lyman's shows at Scarboro Arena in the early 1950's and remembers Lyman working out at the YMHA gym at Bloor and Spadina and wrestling on the mats there. 

Sam Yanaky promoted in Georgetown, Milton, and area in the 1950's and 1960's, sometimes with Bob Burke. He was known as Nanjo Singh's manager in Toronto and was close with Pat Flanagan. One item says he is Pat's father, maybe 'like a father' not sure what the relationship was. He owned a restaurant called The Corner Cupboard and used the Tunney stars in Georgetown in the late 1950's and early 1960's at Georgetown Park. The Milton Arena opened in 1950 and started running wrestling in July 1950 with a first card main of Whipper vs Sky Hi Lee. Yanaky may have gone further out too into some of the smaller towns in the southwest. 

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

Sports writer Ross Pearon was listed as promoter for some shows at the Milton Arena in 1960 using mostly Tunney's guys.

The Love Brothers Hartford (Wes Hutchings) and Reggie (John Evans) promoted some shows in the early 1970's at Grimsby Arena, Oakville Arena, St Catharines Arena, and around the Hamilton area among others. Its hard to decipher their scope as it overlaps with both McKigney and Whipper Jr. as they all used the same guys for the most part and ran the same spots.

Windsor 1960 Robertson/Doyle/Barnett
Both Blake Robertson and Bill Thornton ran Windsor in the late 1940's. Tunney had run Wigle Park as well as the Arena at times through 1947. Robertson ran out of the Market Building, using Bert Rubi, Eddie Lee, Johnny Gates, Pierre LaSalle, and others. Robertson owned a barbershop in Windsor. 

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

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

In the 1970's Windsor was mostly served by the Detroit side, The Sheik as well as Dick The Bruiser ran shows alongside, and sometimes in co-operation with McKigney.

London could be considered the #4 behind Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton. In the 1920's and '30s' shows ran at Winter Gardens The 1950's and '60's saw cards at the Arena and the Gardens featuring the MLG stars mirroring the Toronto scene at the time. Tunney cards with Flanagan, Whipper, and others running them. 

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

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

After a busy 1960's Tunney left the area on a regular basis not to return until 1978. He added London, along with Kitchener, Hamilton, Niagara Falls. Oshawa. others as regular stops the days before or after the usual Sunday MLG card. In 1980 -81 we saw 5 day circuit appear, with stops at the above cities in addition to one offs in Oshawa, Kingston, Guelph, Peterborough and other stops.

Cannon 1977
George Cannon brought the upstart Universal Wrestling to Ontario in 1975 Featuring Tony Marino, Ben Justice, Super Hawk, Sailor White, Lionel Robert, and Richard Charland he ran a show at the Riverside Arena in Windsor. The same group also invaded Toronto that summer aided by Kurt Von Hess, Karl Von Schotz, and Killer Tim Brooks for shows at both Mimico Arena and Scarboro Arena Gardens.

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

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

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

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

Whipper Sr. also ran shows as one of Tunney's most trusted pals, promoting cards around his home base of Keswick, Newmarket, Brampton, etc in the 1960's. Sr. also worked alongside McKigney in the late '60's and I was told that McKigney tried to get Whipper to work with him against Tunney but Sr. would not go against Frank. Whipper Sr. did have a part of Hamilton in the late '60's as well as some of the outlying towns at least through 1970. He also had interest in Seattle and St Louis and took the MLW stars to the Maritimes and NL regularly in the mid 50s though the mid 60s, usually in concert with the Easter Seals campaigns. Those would take him across the country to raise money and why not-wrestle too. 

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

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

__________________ To be continued.....ongoing

-AC