Greg Valentine in Toronto

The most successful of the father-son combos in Toronto as far as both careers standing on their own has to be Johnny and Greg Valentine. Each made an impact in single and tag team bouts and headlined their share of main events at Maple Leaf Gardens and around the Ontario scene.

Johnny appeared here from 1962 -1975 while Greg saw action from 1970-1983 in the NWA era, and post 1984 for the WWF. Our feature on Johnny is here* back soon

Heading out to face Backlund Jan 1982

Greg Valentine in Toronto

On July 26 1970 veteran Lou Klein opened the MLG card with a bout against a young wrestler by the name of Babyface Nelson. Greg uses this persona again in December teamed with Baron Mikel Scicluna against the Love Brothers. 

Greg returns to MLG in March 1972 this time as Johnny Fargo, wrestling brother to Don Fargo. He teamed with Chris Colt against Haystack Calhoun and Ben Justice. Also on the card was father Johnny marking the first time the father-son combo appeared at MLG on the same night.

The following month Greg as Fargo took on Danny Hodge in what was Hodge's only appearance at the Gardens. Hodge billed as Junior Heavyweight champ gets the win over the rookie. Greg continued to appear sporadically through 1974 (as Fargo) with Johnny on many of the same cards.

As Fargo in Buffalo 1972
Johnny Valentine makes his last appearance in Toronto on July 20 1975. The fateful plane crash which ended his career happened in October of that year. Also on the plane was Valentine devotee Ric Flair who was to play a big part in the career of son Greg. In all Johnny had wrestled at MLG close to 200 times with many main events and another couple hundred bouts around the area.

Following a four year absence Greg appeared first on Maple Leaf TV as one of the incoming stars from Jim Crockett Jr's promotion based in the Carolinas. Mid Atlantic Championship as we knew it.

The first card associated with Crockett on Oct 22 1978 featured the Mid-Atlantic stars including Flair, Ricky Steamboat and The Anderson Brothers. Greg didn't appear at MLG until a December card.

His first appearance as Greg Valentine was as half of the NWA Tag champions with Baron Von Raschke against Tony Atlas and Jay Youngblood. The champs lost but it was a non title bout. On the same card Ric Flair lost his U.S. Title to Ricky Steamboat. All three wrestlers were to be a big part of the next few years in Toronto.

By this time the U.S. Title had switched lineages twice since Johnny held it here. That version passed to Tiger Jeet and disappeared in 1972 when The Sheik and his U.S. Title took over. When The Sheik moved and the Mid Atlantic stars came in Tunney recognized their U.S. Title. As we didn't have one of our own he then created the Canadian Heavyweight Title which Bravo won to kick it off on the Dec 17 1978 card.

Greg was an instant hit with the fans. Some of the older fans remembered Johnny, and Greg was very similar to his father in style and appearance. The newer fans could appreciate his skills and tough demeanor in the ring. Though a heel the fans still respected the style, as they did with Flair and the Anderson's and the like. The term 'remarkable talent in both the brawling and scientific categories'' was used.

The next night the champions took on Atlas and Ricky Steamboat in Kitchener in the main event marking an important return to the circuit for the promotion.

When Valentine returned to MLG in February he was in the main vs U.S. champ Steamboat. His pal and usual tag partner Flair interfered in the bout getting Valentine disqualified.

Title showdown MLG Jan 1982

We also got to see the great tag of Valentine and Flair that we had only seen on TV. They faced Canadian champ Bravo and partner Steamboat in March. The Mid Atlantic stars were so hot here they main-evented over AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel vs Billy Robinson in the semi in what had become a regular occurrence.

While Flair went back to feuding with Steamboat, Valentine moved on to Bravo and his title, beating Bravo in his second try. It didn't last long with Bravo winning the belt back in a Lumberjack bout and Greg was onto his next challenge.

Valentine had also been appearing in the WWF rings as a more than viable contender to champ Bob Backlund and soon faced Backlund at MLG for the WWF title. This was their first of three bouts against each other here and they were matched well. Valentine could really wrestle and was a good storyteller as Johnny had been before him. Some fans cheered Greg (I did) as they did with Flair, guys you loved to hate and hated to love.

Backlund stayed on after an appearance in July '79 (beating Flair at MLG) to wrestle in Oshawa in a dream time of the time. He teams with Canadian champ Bravo to face Valentine and Ken Patera.

After Bravo had been stripped of the title for not appearing Tunney held a tournament in September 1979. Valentine, as an ex-champ, was heavily favored among a mix of M-A stars, local guys, and a few surprises. Alongside Gene Kiniski, Mad Dog Vachon, Angelo Mosca, Jimmy Snuka, Steamboat, and others Valentine won his first round bout against Pedro Morales. In the second round he beat Vachon and was awarded the third round bout by forfeit when scheduled opponent Steamboat had been injured in his second round bout vs Snuka. That set up a final of Valentine against local favorite Dewey Robertson. Dewey got the win but Valentine was acknowledged as one of the best in the area.

Through 1980 Greg continued to be a big part of the local scene both on his own and in tags with Jimmy Snuka. After an unsuccessful try at Canadian champ Robertson in March 1980 Greg teamed with Ray Stevens to take on the new NWA tag champs Steamboat and Jay Youngblood. They couldn't wrest the belts away, but when Greg returned in May he and Stevens were the new champs. This time they wore the belts in a defense against Steamboat & Youngblood

vs Flair at MLG 1980 

Soon the latest feud tearing up the Carolina's was between former tag partners Valentine and Flair. The broken nose angle was one of the best ever. They brought the battle here in July with Flair now getting all the cheers at MLG. Flair wore a nose protector and Greg would try to re-break it while the two went after each other with full ferocity. They tore it up again in a Texas Death match but Flair came out on top both times. That led to tag match ups, Flair with Mosca, and Valentine with Hossein The Arab/The Iron Sheik.

In September they went at it again, this time Flair with heavy tape over his nose and the fans went crazy when he hit the ramp. The two fought in and out of the ring, and a couple of times Valentine had Flair ready for a pin but pulled him up to continue the assault. 

As with most bouts between the two the blood was soon pouring from both wrestlers. Flair captured Greg in his figure-four but Valentine makes it to the ropes. When the action again went outside the ring Valentine climbed back up and dragged Flair along. He set up to deliver a reverse back suplex on Flair who was on the ring apron outside the ropes. As Valentine had him in the air Flair shifted his weight, kicked the ring ropes and turned it into a cradle and pin.

The two continued to brawl after the verdict and the other wrestlers on the card ran in as they battled right back down the ramp.

Greg also travelled the area appearing in Niagara Falls, Brantford, Hamilton and notably in Buffalo when Tunney ran some shows at the Aud (presumably with WWF blessing) in mid 1980.

Most of the feuds mirrored what was going on down South and on TV so Valentine faces Sweet Ebony Diamond (Rocky Johnson) and Flair through the summer. He also takes part in some local type bouts against Mosca, and teaming with Hossein the Arab against Mosca and Tiger Jeet Singh.

Occasionally the legacy of Johnny is brought up in the programs or promos, comparing Greg to his father in terms of their ring style and vicious nature. Greg was also billed from Seattle, WA as his father had been before him.

The feud with Flair raged on through the summer on 1980. They appear in TV matches in tags and 3 man tag combinations. Usually the heel team of Valentine and Hossein teamed with a veteran like Swede Hansen and Hansen was the one who got pinned. On the July 20 card Flair gets the pin in a bloody bout over the U.S. belt and again the two continue to battle causing the prelim guys to come out and break it up.

Greg also plays a part in the Angelo Mosca-Hossein The Arab feud over the Canadian Title interfering in their bouts. On Nov 16 1980 U.S. champ Valentine was battling Mosca when Canadian champ Hossein charged the ring just as Mosca had a sleeper on Greg. Hossein whacked Mosca with a boot and the two continued a beat-down on Mosca leading to a long feud between Mosca and Hossein.

Valentine and Flair meet all over the circuit until a bout on Feb 1 1982 at MLG sealed the Toronto feud. Flair then starts his pursuit of the World title.

Of all the opponents Valentine faces here Backlund would have be in the top 3. Flair & Bravo maybe the others. The two met again twice during 1982. Great bouts with lots of near pins and with the belief that Greg could -and may- lift the title of the champ. In thinking about 'dream teams' at the time these two would have made a great tag team. Valentine and Bravo also. Later when Greg teamed with Bravo years down the road in the new WWF they actually were called The Dream Team.

In 1982 the Wrestler magazine in it's candid photos page had a pic of Valentine at the counter at Toronto Airport (saw a few wrestlers there back in the day) with the caption 'the courageous woman behind the counter said to Greg's face, 'I'm finally glad you're leaving.'

After Flair had won the NWA World Title he defended here 10 times between 1981-1984 on his different reigns. Valentine earned one of those title shots in May 1983. He got billing as #1 contender and the play-up to the bout pressed the fact that the two former partners knew each other so well 'the fans were due for a good battle.'
with Canadian belt 2003

In the summer of 1983, as U.S. champ, Valentine appeared on the big Night Of Champions card at Exhibition Stadium. He and arch-rival Wahoo McDaniel had a brawl with both being counted out of the ring. The follow up card Return of the Champions had Valentine defending against one Cy Jergensen, an opener type from the Carolina's in his only appearance in Toronto

A feud with Roddy Piper closed out the year culminating with a bloody dog-collar match. That marked the last appearance for Greg in the NWA days here. When Jack Tunney aligned with the WWF exclusively in July 1984 Greg appeared on that first card facing another ex Canadian champ Sgt Slaughter. When new champ Hulk Hogan made his first WWF appearance on the next card he faces - Greg Valentine. A new chapter is written....

-AC

Some photos vs Hodge at Danny Hodge 1972: Classic Photo
Flair-Valentine pics out of Ring Wrestling
Fargo by Roger Baker
Ramp and title showdown - AC
2003 - Griff Henderson

Toronto: Early Timeline

1892 
John Joseph 'Jack' Corcoran is born in Toronto. Toronto businessman and noted sportsman, he forms the Queensbury Club in 1923 when he joined with local boxing promoter Eddie Rudd. In 1931 he was awarded the wrestling license for the newly built Maple Leaf Gardens.

1901 
Phil Lawson is born in Byng Inlet, ON. Lawson becomes a noted amateur wrestler and boxer winning the Canadian Lightweight championships in both sports. He had been on the wrestling scene as a promoter (amateur cards) and trainer since the early 1930's and became close with Frank, said to be his 'eyes and ears' and helping with the publicity side. Trained and managed Whipper Watson until Lawson's untimely death in 1949.

1907
John Tunney is born in Scarborough, eldest of three sons to Thomas & Annie Tunney.

1912
Francis 'Frank' Tunney is born in Markham. As a high-schooler Frank competed in football, sprints and high jump at Markham and was said to have won a junior championship. 

1915 
Bill Potts later aka Whipper Billy Watson is born in Toronto. He appeared on the semi pro cards at the old Consols Stadium before leaving for England in 1936. His Maple Leaf Gardens debut in 1940 was the start of a 31 year run, most with the British Empire Title. In tandem with Tunney he ran many of the outside towns through the 1960s and later with son Phil/Whipper Jr in the early 1970s.

1922
Jack Corcoran presents his first boxing card with a bout between Johnny Dundee and Jimmy Gooderich at the new Civic Arena on the Exhibition grounds, Corcoran said to be a 'well-known west end sportsman' wanted a big attraction for his debut as a Boxing promoter and Toronto beat out Buffalo and New York City for the bout.

1923
Jack Corcoran teams with fellow promoter Eddie Rudd to form the Queensbury (Athletic) Club to run additional cards around Toronto.

1924
The Ontario Athletic Commission re-licensed the two clubs promoting boxing in the city, Corcoran's Queensbury AC and George Williams International AC. 

1929
Ivan Mickailoff starts running weekly cards in the city at Arena Gardens and will soon feature the first star in the city, former carnival wrestler Stanley Stasiak.

1931
Corcoran is awarded the wrestling license to promote at the newly built Maple Leaf Gardens. Frank Tunney would later maintain exclusive rights to promote wrestling in MLG for more than 40 years.

1932
Frank Tunney, diploma in hand from Markham Collegiate takes a 20$/week job as secretary for Corcoran's Queensbury Club. It is his first- and only- job. Frank later says that he 'wasn't all that interested in the fight game, but I liked the place. I liked Jack (Corcoran), a very fine man, like a father.'

1935
John (Jack) Tunney Jr. is born, 3rd child to John Tunney & wife Fidelis Merrick. Jack would work in the office as early as 1952 helping his Uncle with the phones and light publicity.

1939
After two lengthy bouts with pneumonia and a near drowning on Lake Simcoe Corcoran sells to the Tunney brothers John and Frank. John is working as matchmaker (publicly from March 1939) while Frank had previously been the secretary for the Queensbury Club. Jack would stay on in a non-official capacity helping with the boxing side. Other investors are said to include Paul Bowser, Jack Ganson, and Jerry Monahan (said to be Frank's right hand man), while Jack 'Deacon' Allen (sometimes called a partner of Frank) handles the boxing end. John and Frank lose $2700 in the first 3 cards they put on after taking over.

1940
John Tunney suddenly dies a few days after his 32nd birthday. He left behind wife Fidelis Merrick (d.1969) and 4 children including John Jr. aka Jack Tunney who would later join his uncle Frank in the office.

Frank immediately takes over the promotion and runs it until his death in 1983. Jack Tunney takes over and aligns exclusively with the WWF in June 1984. 

-AC