Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Verne Gagne in Ontario

Verne Gagne didn't wrestle much in Toronto but holds a place in our wrestling history both locally and across Ontario.

In his prime he was one of the most respected of the 'real' wrestlers, held in high regard alongside peer Lou Thesz. While Thesz came to Toronto regularly Verne made considerably less appearances at MLG.

Verne had appeared up in Fort William Ontario (later Thunder Bay) as well as in Ottawa  through 1958 but first came to MLG in October 1958 to face Karl Kulaski and returned 2 cards later to face Al Alberto.

In a write up a week prior to his first appearance it had him set to meet Gene Kiniski which would have been a big bout had it happened.

In the results recap for the second bout vs Alberto Verne was described as 'Balding Verne Gagne.' Ouch. It also said he had the whole hearted approval of the multitude (of fans) before making Alberto submit to his claw hold (arm scissors type finisher).

His next appearance in Toronto would be almost 20 years later in November 1977.

In the meantime he had started the AWA and stayed mostly around Minnesota although they (AWA) did make a few stops in Kenora and Thunder Bay in Northern Ontario due to the proximity to AWA territory.

Frank Tunney stopped using The Sheik in summer 1977 and switched to using the top tier guys of the AWA to fill out the cards here. Verne returned to Toronto on the second card to feature the AWA stars to face El Santos (local masked heel, likely MacTavish or Yorkston).

He would appear four more times through 1978 when Tunney switched to the Mid-Atlantic stars.

For a time Verne tried promoting in Ottawa in 1980 using Dino Bravo on top not long after Dino had been Tunney's top man here. They didn't draw very well but must have made enough of an impression that Tunney returned to Ottawa not long after.

pic below clip has Verne on the MLG ramp after being attacked by Super Destroyer  in Aug 1978 with son Greg and Jim Brunzell coming to his rescue.