Toronto Programs: from Sonnenburg to Hogan

   Collecting Toronto Wrestling programs can be tough. There are huge gaps where it appears no programs were made, or have surfaced yet. Let's take a look at the programs issued over the years.

  The earliest one was issued in 1929, a generic program for Arena Gardens, where Mickailoff started the weekly cards. That style in 1930 -below. Full program 14 pages with a photo on near every page, rules listing, and a line up card. price 10c

  Next one is a 1935. This one has other sports content, hockey mostly but still has 6 pages of Wrestler bios, plus the event specific line up center spread. Cost 15c. Frank Ayerst who later worked with Tunney wrote many of the bios.

  There are others through the late 1930's and early 1940's that follow the same format as above. Not all of the Wrestling nights had wrestling on the cover either. There are examples with an elephant (Circus) or figure skaters (Ice Capades) for events that were coming up that were the focus rather than the Wrestling card. Still those had the lineup spread in the middle and some other pages devoted to wrestlers.

  The next change found is in the late 1940's. They went to a Maple Leaf Sports Magazine. Photo on the front with headliner or close for that night. About 50 pages covering all sports with several on the wrestlers and the 2 page center spread with the lineup sheet. cost 25c

1947 Example



  In the 1950's Star writer John Fitzgerald contributed alongside Ayerst who was now also penning a weekly wrestling column. They still used the generic MLG program with wrestling within it, and the lineup card in the center for wrestling. For other sports and events they did the same thing. Mostly it was Leafs on the covers. 

  In 1955 they used a different looking insert of 16 pages with a center lineup spread for that nights event. The papers often referred to the local stars as Tunney Thumpers. Not sure how long these lasted, it's only one I have come across. 

 Next ones are the early 1960's. A shorter format but wrestling specific. A bi-fold with 2 pages of info, a lineup card and a blank page with a holder for an insert photo with one of the stars. Frank Ayerst wrote a cover piece and then the page inside had a tidbits type column similar to his newspaper pieces, often with inside info or personal type stuff about the wrestlers. Price 25c

This one from '63

 That type to at least 1965 and then a gap again.

 Then the 1970's, huge cards when the Sheik was on top here, full houses and a revival in wrestling in Toronto - but no programs?

 Other than lineups sheets the only 1970's program found so far is this 1977 glossy type (below) put together by Stan Obodiac, then Maple Leaf Gardens publicity head. Similar in feel to a Maple Leafs hockey program this one is 12 pages and while not event specific (no lineup card) it features the participants from the July 11 1977 card held at Exhibition Stadium. Also has a NWA title history  and a page on Whipper Watson and Lord Layton, both retired from the ring by this time but working on the announcing side. Contributors listed are Norm Kimber (Announcer and Frank's publicity guy at this time) son Eddie and nephew Jack. cost 1.50$.

  They did have lineup sheets up to the onset of the M-A affiliation but not for every card and they have been slow to surface so not sure how many were issued.

Summer 1977

  Then another gap, a bit of unrest between the Sheik era and the M-A era but nothing in the 78-79 years (beyond occasional lineup sheets) and the beginning of the association with the Crockett stars.

   Fan Griff who has hunted down MLW artifacts, still has not found anything previous to Oct 19 1980 which is in the Stranglehold format. The Oct issue is listed as number 5 but unable to locate the earlier ones. Put together by Gary Kamansack under the Arena Magazine and Mancuso Publishing name. They were responsible for the Detroit area programs, also the fabulous Wrestling Exchange magazine, as well as programs for George Cannon's Superstars. Slick feel with good (often) local photos and a card specific lineup sheet as part of it. 75c then1$

This one Nov 16 1980 

 A bit of a gap through the end of 1980 and then starting in early 1981 and regular to the end of the NWA era in mid 1984. Mancuso and Arena pulled out in 1981. The format stayed mostly the same though the look wasn't always as good, the colors and cutout photos like the one below from 1983. Still with card specific lineup. cost 1$.

  When Jack Tunney switched to using the WWF stars they kept the Stranglehold format for a time as the one below shows. That's where I stop but they did switch to the WWF magazine some time after, a generic type with an inserted lineup sheet