A Brief History of Pro Wrestling in Toronto: Gary Will's TWH

Originally written for the program for the "Titans In Toronto" Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame Dinner 
-held September 18, 2004.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the launch of weekly professional wrestling shows in Toronto in 1929, and the city's wrestling heritage extends many years earlier.

The most famous wrestler of the 19th century, William Muldoon, made a stop in Toronto in 1883 and in the years immediately following the turn of the century, some of the biggest names in the business made appearances in the city. Frank Gotch, George Hackenschmidt, Stanislaus Zbyszko, and women's champion Cora Livingstone all wrestled more than once in Toronto.

Mickailoff turns Toronto into a wrestling city
But while modern era fans know Toronto as one of the world's top cities for professional wrestling, it wasn't always that way. Despite these occasional visits by all-time legends, the sport had largely been a minor attraction in the city until promoter Ivan Mickailoff boldly moved -- in the face of a lot of skepticism -- to bring world-class wrestling to Toronto on a weekly basis in 1929.

He ran shows at Arena Gardens, the original home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and from a slow start built the sport within a few months to the point where Toronto became a regular Thursday night stop for top-flight professionals. Strangler Lewis, Jim Londos, and Gus Sonnenberg were some of the names Mickailoff brought to town in his first year.

Jack Corcoran takes control
After Mickailoff had paved the way with his success, competition followed in Jack Corcoran, who had promoted boxing in the city. Corcoran started running pro wrestling shows on a regular basis in November 1930. His first show -- at Massey Hall -- was a disaster, but Corcoran aligned himself with the right people and by the time he won the right to promote wrestling at the new Maple Leaf Gardens in 1931, he had surpassed Mickailoff to become the city's top promoter.

In 1939, Corcoran passed the reins to his assistants, the brother combination of John and Frank Tunney. Older brother John Tunney was the head matchmaker, and quickly signed Wild Bill Longson, Lou Thesz, and Bronko Nagurski to make their first Toronto appearances.

The Frank Tunney era begins
But just a few months after becoming promoter, John Tunney died suddenly at age 32. From that tragic beginning, the Frank Tunney era in Toronto was born. Taking over from his brother at age 27, Frank controlled pro wrestling in the city for the next 43 years and became one of the most successful and respected promoters in the world.

Whipper Billy Watson arrives
Tunney had been head promoter for less than a year when he brought in a 25-year-old East York native who had been wrestling in England for the last four years. When he left in 1936, he was known as Bill Potts. He returned in 1940 as Whipper Billy Watson and would go on to be the greatest star in Toronto wrestling history.

Within seven months of his Maple Leaf Gardens debut, Watson was being pushed as Tunney's top star, and for the next 30 years he would rarely be in any match in Toronto but the main event or the semi-main event. His most notable feuds were with Nanjo Singh and Gene Kiniski, and he had memorable matches against the two men he would beat for the world title, Longson and Thesz, and Gorgeous George, whose head would be shaved in the ring following a loss to Watson at the Gardens in 1959.

The 1950s: The golden era
The 1950s were a golden era for Toronto wrestling, as TV introduced Tunney's stars to a national audience, and Gardens fans witnessed two NWA title changes: Watson defeating Thesz in 1956 and Dick Hutton also taking the title from Thesz the following year. Toronto fans were treated to regular appearances by future world champions Hutton, Kiniski, Pat O'Connor, and Buddy Rogers.

Wrestlers from Southern Ontario and other parts of Canada were also developing rapidly. Along with Kiniski, the 1950s saw the Gardens debuts of Billy Red Lyons, Chris & John Tolos, Waldo Von Erich (who received a brief babyface push as Wally Sieber), Mike Valentino (the future Baron Mikel Scicluna), the bear-wrestling Jacques Dubois (later known as Wildman Dave McKigney), Don Jardine, and George Cannon.

The trend continued into the 1960s with the Gardens debuts of future stars Stan Stasiak and Rocky Johnson, among others. But while they all wrestled in Toronto early in their careers, many of these Canadians had to become stars in other territories before getting a push locally.

The 1960s: Looking for new stars
With age, Watson's star power was beginning to fade in the 1960s and Tunney pushed several new wrestlers into main events, including Bruno Sammartino, Johnny Valentine, and Bulldog Brower, along with Canadians Johnny Powers and Tiger Jeet Singh. Lou Thesz won the NWA title from Buddy Rogers at the Gardens in 1963 and followed it up a couple of months later with a victory over Sammartino in the only match the two legends ever had with each other. Kiniski's three-year run as NWA champion from 1966-69 saw him defend the title many times in Toronto. In 1965, Tunney moved the shows from Thursday nights, where they had been from the beginning in 1929, to Sundays, where they remained for the next 30 years.

The Sheik takes over
A major turning point for Toronto wrestling occurred in 1969. Tunney brought back The Sheik, one of the all-time great heels who had caused a stir in the city in 1964-65. Sheik, with his manager Abdullah Farouk, took over wrestling in Toronto and was the city's dominant star for the next eight years, regularly drawing over 10,000 fans to the Gardens, at least for the first few years.

After his first match back, Sheik only wrestled in main events (or co-main events if the NWA champion was booked on the show) and didn't lose a match for over five years, wrestling in Toronto about twice a month, compiling a record of 100-0-27 before losing by disqualification to Andre the Giant in 1974. No single wrestler has ever dominated Toronto wrestling the way The Sheik did in this period.

Tunney beats back challengers
Through the years, there were never any serious threats to Tunney's position as ruler of pro wrestling in Toronto. Several promoters ran shows at smaller venues in the area, often with Tunney's blessing or indifference. But in the 1970s, there were two notable attempts by other promoters to run big-venue shows in Toronto.

Dave McKigney, a successful promoter outside Toronto and at smaller sites within the city, tried running a show at Varsity Arena in September 1971 with Tony Parisi booked in the main event. Tunney quickly scheduled a Gardens show directly against it. Parisi was a no-show and began working for Tunney the following week. According to the newspapers, the McKigney show drew 700 fans while Tunney got 15,500 at the Gardens.

History repeated itself five years later. George Cannon and Milt Avruskin had built strong awareness of their promotion in Toronto through a TV show broadcast on Global and taped at the Global studios in Don Mills. They tried to parlay that visibility into running a big-venue show at the CNE Coliseum, but once again Tunney moved quickly to book a Gardens show on the same day. The Toronto Star reported that only 600 people showed up for Cannon's show. The promotion moved to Montreal not long after.

Farewell to the Sheik
Meanwhile, at the Gardens, Harley Race took the NWA title from Terry Funk in 1977 in the fourth and final time the belt would change hands in Toronto. The Sheik's act had grown stale after an amazing run and fans were ready for something new. The Tunney-Sheik partnership ended in 1977, and for the next year Toronto fans saw a mix of AWA and WWWF stars performing in the main events -- sometimes with both world titles defended on the same show.

Ric Flair revives Toronto wrestling
The stars of Jim Crockett's NWA-affiliated Mid-Atlantic promotion were added to the mix the following year, as Tunney went into partnership with Crockett and his booker, Hamilton native George Scott. The first Gardens card with Crockett's talent in 1978 featured a match between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat, both making their Toronto debuts. For the first few years, AWA and WWWF stars also continued to perform in the city, including a historic meeting between AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel and WWWF titleholder Bob Backlund in 1979, with Flair vs Steamboat also on the card.

New local heroes
Along with presenting top wrestlers from the U.S., Tunney also launched the Canadian title in 1978 and used it to turn Dewey Robertson and Angelo Mosca into local babyface heroes and main event stars.

Death of Frank Tunney
By 1983, rivalries between the various promotions made it difficult to bring talent from different factions together. And it was right at this time that Frank Tunney passed away at age 70, leaving his piece of the Toronto promotion in the hands of his son Eddie Tunney and his nephew Jack Tunney -- the son of John Tunney.

Toronto joins the WWF
The next-generation Tunneys quickly moved to align themselves with Vince McMahon's WWF. Crockett had begun sending his B-team to Toronto and attendance at the Gardens was plummeting. Toronto became one of the first of the former NWA strongholds to jump to the WWF, starting a trend that would continue through the 1980s.

After a 34-year run, the NWA title -- which had made its Gardens debut in January 1950 --made its final appearance in the building in May 1984. Whatever nostalgic feelings long-time fans had for the old days, the McMahon-Tunney alliance and Hulkamania captured a whole new audience, attracting sell-out crowds to the Gardens and drawing over 65,000 people to Exhibition Stadium in 1986 and 68,000 to SkyDome for Wrestlemania VI in 1990 to see Hulk Hogan lose the WWF title to the Ultimate Warrior.

Rivals take a run
With the Gardens locked up by the WWF, the AWA held a show at the CNE Coliseum in December 1989 that drew what remains the smallest crowd ever in the city for a show from major promotion -- just 200 people. WCW, which evolved out of Crockett's Mid-Atlantic promotion, ran three shows at the Coliseum in 1990 with better results, but not good enough to keep Toronto on their schedule. WCW came back in 1993 and drew about 4,000 to SkyDome, and then made a big return to Toronto with two well-attended shows at the Air Canada Centre in 1999 before the promotion fizzled out.

End of the Tunney era, and Maple Leaf Gardens
McMahon ended his relationship with Jack Tunney in 1995 and the 64-year affiliation of pro wrestling and Maple Leaf Gardens ended in September of that year. The WWF has continued to run shows in Toronto ever since. It drew another 68,000 back to SkyDome for Wrestlemania X8 in 2002, with Hulk Hogan vs The Rock in what was generally seen as the main event. That card made Hogan the main event performer in the top-drawing Toronto show of the 1980s, the 1990s, and (so far) the 2000s.

In 2003, Toronto was host to just three major-league pro wrestling shows, all from the sole surviving big-name promotion, Vince McMahon's WWE.

- by Gary Will

The Referees

 A look at the referees in Ontario over the years. The regular refs and those that were appointed as a 'special referee' mostly for big bouts or in heated feuds. Often a special referee was inserted to create a new feud or to cause an unjust or incomplete ending to a bout. Most special refs were wrestlers themselves. A few pro boxers frequented the rings from the 30s through the 70s, and occasionally office or non wrestling performers would don the officials attire. Most of the regular referee's too were once wrestlers themselves, either amateur or professional, and many also had boxing in their past.

Main pic: Al 'Bunny Dunlop lifts Bobo Brazil's hand 1970

The Ontario Athletic Commission licensed the Referees just as they did the wrestlers, usually about 6 at a time. The OAC once treated Wrestling mostly the same as they did Boxing or other sports despite such mandates for a wrestling referee to 'be both knowledgeable about the rules and be able to deal competently with the two opponents': not exactly an accurate description of a typical wrestling ref, especially as the years wore on.

Special referees will be noted by SR and the dates beside their names denoting when they were active.

Note that the referees weren't regularly noted in the recaps or results so the info is what is readily available and will not be complete, dates are from what I could find so far, will not be entirely accurate or complete. I also have to get to Kasaboski's referees....

Many here have longer features on the site. Fred Atkins, Pat Flanagan, Joe Gollob, and others. We covered Billy Stack for Slam Wrestling a while back. Contact me if you can add to anything here.

Phil Lawson: Notably known as Whipper Watson's trainer and manager up until his death in 1943, Lawson was a veteran of the Toronto mat scene by the time he started refereeing in the 1930's. He frequently reffed Amateur Wrestling and boxing also and looks to have stopped on the pro side around the time he was guiding Whipper to the top in the early 1940's.

Jack Forbes: When Forbes died in 1953 his obit said he had refereed 'over 7,000 bouts for promoters Ivan Mickailoff, Jack Corcoran, and Frank Tunney'. Starting in 1928 it is quite possible that number is accurate. He had been a noted amateur star and then a professional. Was wrestling in Toronto as a light heavyweight as early as 1916 and was called the Canadian Champ in 1920. In a 1944 article it said he had started wrestling in his native Scotland on the carnival circuit. Reffed at a couple of bouts in Oshawa in late 1929 and started to work the Arena Gardens cards. In the early 1930's he was working on both the Arena Gardens/Mutual St Arena cards (Mickailoff) and the MLG cards (Corcoran). He was the referee for the very first card held at MLG Nov 19 1931 and was ref for many of the big bouts through the 1930's.

Cliff Worthy: He was a regular on the local amateur circuit wrestling in the heavyweight division alongside lightweights Jim Allen, Ben Engbloom, and Ted McKinley, all of whom later turned pro for a time. Tournys were held in Toronto in the early 1930's usually run by Phil Lawson and Worthy was often listed as 'Canadian Champ'. Refereed wrestling as early as 1934 and continued up until the mid 1960's. He also refereed boxing in the early 1930's in and around Toronto.

Alex Sinclair: Reffed Boxing in the 1920's alongside Lou Marsh, and wrestling in the 1930s.

Ed 'Strangler' Lewis: SR 1949-1950. Former star appointed special referee for several bouts in 1949 including British Empire Title bouts between Whipper Watson and Fred Atkins as well as Whipper vs Yvon Robert. Also a bout with Whipper vs Masked Marvel in which Watson was to retire if he lost. Marvel had to unmask when he lost revealing Lew Reynheer. In 1950 appointed special referee for a bout in the Whipper Watson-Nanjo Singh feud and again for a Whipper - Yvon Robert bout.

Tommy McClure: 1930s McClure was a notable local sportsman and boxing referee who later became an announcer at many events from water racing to horse shows to stock cars. He was a friend and peer of Lou Marsh and ran a theatrical agency for many years in the city.

Jack Sharkey: SR 1943-1972. Former Boxing champ reffed some bouts early 1940's including a World Title bout between Whipper Watson and Bill Longson in 1944. In 1949 Sharkey jumped into the ring at the end of a bout between Whipper Watson and Yvon Robert in which another Boxing great Jack Dempsey was officiating. The papers said he was just a 'spectator on his way home from deer hunting'. In 1950 he was appointed special referee for Yukon Eric vs Primo Carnera bout and again for a Whipper/Pat Flanagan vs Larry Moquin/Yvon Robert tag bout. In 1956 he was appointed special referee for an NWA Title bout between Lou Thesz and Whipper Watson. This bout ended with Sharkey declaring Whipper the winner by dq after Thesz hit him with a low blow. He also declared Whipper the new Champ. Sam Muchnick NWA President was on hand and declared NO!. In the re-match 2 weeks later (special ref Jack Dempsey) Whipper wins the coveted title from Thesz. 1972 appointed special referee for The Sheik vs Carlos Rocha bout.

Duke Willis: Former Hamilton Tiger Cat started refereeing in Hamilton and later came into Toronto. Appointed by the Ontario Athletic Commission for a Bill Longson vs Dan O'Mahoney bout in Jan 1940 and worked some big bouts over the next few years.

Al Korman: 1950s Wrestler turned referee known as 'Krusher/Cursher Korman'
Roger Baker sends along 'Korman made a few appearances (as a ref) as I recall. He also managed a large hotel, and I remember seeing him walk the floor where the entertainment was in full swing. If they needed a bouncer, they sure had Korman to rely on.' Once referred to a 'Cement Mixer' due to his stature, he also once worked for the Toronto Star and was a light heavyweight champion in his amateur days. 

Frank Tunney: SR 1945. Yes the king of Toronto Wrestling once (at least) stepped in as a referee. Although I don't show him reffing at MLG will include him here. Tunney was one of the small group of promoters who weren't former wrestlers and though he did have an athletic background he doesn't appear to have ever wrestled. In 1945 a Boxing-Wrestling card for the Service was held at the Coliseum in Toronto and Tunney worked as a referee. If he did it any other time I haven't found it yet. Not sure if his brother John ever did either. His nephew Jack refereed a few times himself (on the circuit shows) but never at MLG as far as I know.

Bert Maxwell: Main ref from the mid to late 1940's into the early 1960's. He was also a former amateur wrestler known as the 'West Hill Terror' and later earned the nickname 'The Little Flower of Uxbridge' not exactly tough sounding name for a wrestler! He took a fair amount of (tongue in cheek) abuse in the papers, Joe Perlove called him 'Mert Baxwell' while Jim Proudfoot called him 'the epitome of incompetence and ineptitude personified'. Maxwell was also a regular ref on the circuit shows and occasionally still wrestle on the undercards through the 1950's in the smaller towns. Worked many big bouts including Dick Hutton's NWA Title win over Lou Thesz at MLG in November 1957. he held the position of Head Gateman at MLG for over 25 years.

MLW Photog and Writer Roger Baker sends "I do believe that Bert Maxwell got the little flower of Uxbridge name because he was a horticulturist, if memory serves me I read that bit of info in one of the MLG. programs that Frank Ayerst wrote his wrestling tidbits in." Thanks Roger !

Ernie Powers: Another former star who took to referring in the early 1940's to the early 1950's. He was the main ref in the mid 1940's and also worked the outlying towns.

Al 'Bunny' Dunlop: The former star and known strongman first donned the officials attire in the early 1940's while still wrestling. He remained a fixture as a ref on the scene through the 50's and 60's and right up to 1972. While he stopped as a regular wrestler in the mid 1940's he still occasionally wrestled including a couple of bouts vs Whipper Watson in the late 1950's. A mini feud would develop due to his ref actions during Whipper bouts. It was short lived as Dunlop was fairly long in the tooth by then though he did step in again in 1960 to take on Dave McKigney's wrestling bear Terrible Ted. There are many stories of Dunlop's strength. MLW Photog and Writer Roger Baker remarked about 'Bunny' ... "I believe that Dunlop worked for the Parks Dept, I once saw him park a large commercial vehicle in front of a diner that I was visiting, he was larger than I ever thought, and his forearms resembled a pair of ham hocks.

Sam Gotter: Another amateur wrestling standout from the 1930's and '40's and a long serving ref from the early '50's into the early 1960's. Roger Baker sends along 'Sammy Gotter had a full time job with The LCBO."
INFO needed

Jack Dempsey: SR 1937-1956. The former Boxing champ was appointed special referee for many bouts including a 1949 British Empire Title bout between Whipper Watson and Fred Atkins. Also in 1949 for a Whipper vs The Mask bout in which Whipper 'unmasked' The Mask to reveal Lew Reynheer. 1950 appointed special referee for a Whipper Watson vs Yukon Eric bout and a Yukon Eric vs Nanjo Singh/Strangler Wagner handicap bout. Also a Whipper vs Hans Hermann bout and Whipper vs Nanjo Singh. In 1951 appointed special referee for a Whipper Watson vs Zebra Kid bout. Dempsey would help Whipper remove the mask after the bout to reveal George Bollas. 1955 appointed special referee for a Timothy Geohagen vs The Great Togo bout. 1956 appointed special referee for NWA Title bout between Lou Thesz and Whipper Watson. Whipper wins the title in front of a hometown crowd after Dempsey counts out Thesz who lay injured on the ramp.

Lou Pistocia: Wrestler turned referee worked many bouts in the 1950's, really short stocky type. He later acted and appeared on the Wayne and Shuster show. the Littlest Hobo, and SCTV among others.

Tuffy Truesdale: SR 1949. appointed special referee for several bouts in 1949 including a couple of '10 x 8-minute-rounds' bouts between Fred Atkins and Whipper Watson (one went for the full 80 minutes) Also Ray Villmer vs Fred Atkins and a Whipper Watson vs 'Wee' Willie Davis bout. Truesdale was well known for his Alligator Wrestling feats, appearing in Ontario from the late 40's to the early 1960's, and was probably a decent special referee considering his ability to contain the reptiles.

Ted Thomas: SR 1949. Buffalo wrestler appointed special referee for a Fred Atkins/Wee Willie Davis vs Whipper Billy Watson/Pat Flanagan bout.

Max Baer: SR 1949. Former Boxing champ appointed special referee for a British Empire Title bout between Whipper Watson and Yvon Robert.

Bobby Manganoff: SR 1950. The former star appointed special referee for an NWA Title bout between Lou Thesz and Yukon Eric.

Jimmy Orlando: SR1950 Orlando was a former NHL player (Detroit) notable for a stick swinging incident in 1942 against the Maple Leafs and a fight with the US government over draft status. He was appointed for the big Watson-Yvon Robert bout and had previously reffed in Ottawa under the OAC. Earned the wrath of the fans who called him the 'Detroit Slasher' in siding with Robert but Whipper won the bout.

John Katan: The former star and Hamilton promoter refereed occasionally at MLG in the early 1950's.

Gordon Maxwell: - .....

Timothy Geohagen: SR 1955. Wrestling star appointed special referee (along with Pat Flanagan) for a Whipper Watson/Tex McKenzie vs The Mills Brothers tag bout.

Luther Lindsay: SR 1955. Star appointed special referee for a couple of Mills Brothers vs Kalmikoff Brothers tag bouts as well as a Whipper Watson/Paul Baillergeon vs Mills Brothers bout.

Mike Mazurski: SR 1954. appointed special referee for a Whipper/>> vs Mills Brothers bout.

Pat Flanagan: The former star became a regular referee at MLG in the early 1960's and continued until 1974. He also was a 'special referee' at various points in the 1950's. Another of Tunney's 'inner circle' who wore many hats in the office.

'Lord' Athol Layton: SR 1955-1976. Layton who had started as a heel was by the 1960s a beloved and honorable type. He was also a pretty big guy and was just right to bring in to maintain order in a heated feud. In 1955 appointed special referee for a Whipper Watson/Yukon Eric vs Karl Von Schober/Fritz Von Erich bout. In 1961 for a Whipper Watson vs Black Terror (Laverne Baxter) bout. In 1962 for a Bulldog Brower vs Jim Hady bout. In 1964 for a Johnny Valentine vs Professor Hiro bout. In 1966 for a Tiger Jeet Singh/Fred Atkins vs Whipper Watson/Bulldog Brower bout. In 1970 for a bout between The Sheik and Whipper Watson. In 1975 for an Abdullah The Butcher vs Mighty Igor bout and again in 1976 for an Andre The Giant vs Angelo Mosca bout.

Bobby Bruns: SR 1964. The former star was appointed special referee for a Johnny Valentine vs Mighty Hercules bout

Yvon Robert: SR 1964. The former star was appointed special referee for a Professor Hiro vs Johnny Valentine bout.

Kenneth 'Tiger' Tasker: Tasker had famously accompanied a young (soon to be) Whipper Watson and others to England in 1936. After his amateur and pro wrestling career he started refereeing in the early 1960's and continued into the mid 1970's. He was a frequent ref during The Sheik's run in the 70's and worked many big bouts including 1962 Bruno/Buddy Rogers and 1963 Thesz over Buddy Rogers for the World title.

Gene Kiniski: SR 1970. appointed as special referee for a bout between The Sheik and Lord Athol Layton in February and again in March 1970. Likely by design but in the first bout he remained distracted by Abdullah Farouk and counted out Layton after missing a loaded fist shot by The Sheik, Kiniski's long time arch-rival Whipper Watson would come to Layton's aid and level Kiniski before going after Sheik.

Mighty Igor: SR 1970. appointed as special referee for The Sheik vs Bobo Brazil bout.

Joe Gollob: The former boxer (sometimes listed as Gollub) became one of the longer serving referee's at MLG working bouts from the early 1950's to the late '60s. He was often paired with another ref as many of the tag bouts in the 1950's were served with 2 officials to maintain order. For many bouts he was paired with Billy Stack and the two made an impressive duo in maintaining order in the big ring at MLG.

Because of his pugilistic background he was able to take a lot of bumps and become involved (always on the losing end) with both wrestlers. fans, even other referees! Notable beat-downs including being on the end of a right hook from both Jersey Joe Walcott and Joe Louis when they were co-refs. He even played the 'heel referee' at times and worked the outside towns as well as the main stage in Toronto. He was working bouts as late as 1968 and was in the middle of lots of big bouts including the Whipper/Gorgeous George bout in 1959 when George lost his hair.

Roger Baker was kind enough to send over a memory of Joe Gollob
  'Joe Gollub was my favourite Ref., he had both the size and strength for the mat action that he would handle as the third man in the ring. Joe befriended me in the early sixties, and as a result many great opportunities to get interesting wrestling pictures became available to me. We often made plans to meet on the road and travel out of Toronto to the smaller towns were Joe was to handle the officiating duties.
Joe was a very active man, he used to work at The Globe And Mail in dispatch, as well at one period of time during our friendship he managed a tavern on Dundas St. East in Toronto. He promoted me as the taverns photographer at large, and encouraged me to take pictures of the patrons for the purpose of making a sale to those who would want a picture of their visit to the tavern."Joe was a great story teller, and he would often regale me with wrestling stories that he knew I would enjoy to hear.

I will relate one human interest story that he and I both enjoyed together, this was probably around 1961, Joe and myself drove to the town of Uxbridge, which is North East of Toronto. There was wrestling card that evening that was to take place in the local arena. Joe was to handle the officiating duties that night. The main event was Hans Schmidt v.s. Billy Red Lyons, Schmidt was at his most violent self, and was kicking Lyons, as well as pounding on him with his fists, suddenly at the point were the match was out of control, 'The Little Flower of Uxbridge' Bert Maxwell climbed up and into the ring and ordered Schmidt to cease and desist, Maxwell was out of shape, however he could raise his voice at Schmidt and the nasty villain finally backed off, the local crowd went wild, and cheered Maxwell for well over five minutes.

At the time of this event Bert Maxwell had not been a wrestling referee for some time, of course Hans Schmidt recognized Maxwell and that's why he was not roughed up. Afterwards during our drive back home, Joe remarked to me, 'do you know what that meant to Maxwell, being back in a wrestling ring, being the savior referee in front of his home town wrestling fans', I emphatically nodded in the affirmative.'

Billy Stack: Wrestler turned referee Stack was present at many of the cards in the 1950's and '60's both on his own and paired with Joe Gollob for the tags. He also continued to wrestle while refereeing and was a big favorite with the fans. 

'Farmer Boy' Frank Townsend:  SR 1961 appointed special referee for a Bulldog Brower vs Gene Kiniski bout

Haystack Calhoun: SR 1973-1975. In 1973 appointed as a special referee for a Sheik vs Chief Strongbow bout. 1975 appointed as a second referee for a Sheik vs Abdullah the Butcher bout

Ernie Ladd:
SR 1974. appointed as special referee for The Sheik vs Edouard Carpentier. Ladd ended up chasing Abdullah Farouk back to the dressing room while Sheik beat on Carpentier. When Ladd returned he had to count Carpentier out and then recieved a beating himself from Sheik.

Merv Unger: Unger promoted closed circuit boxing and other sports. He was a 'special ref' for the AWA in the 1970's, and worked at MLG a bit during the AWA affiliation. He also promoted wrestling in Winnipeg.

Sam Steamboat: SR 1962. appointed special referee for a Whipper Watson/Billy Red Lyons vs Chris & John Tolos bout.

Tony & Adrien Baillargeon: SR 1956. appointed special referees for a Whipper Watson/Wilbur Snyder vs The Lisowski Brothers tag bout.

Andre The Giant: SR 1976. appointed special referee for a Sheik vs Gene Kiniski bout. Andre would have a impact on the bout grabbing The Sheik's pencil out of his hand and at one point Andre picks up the interfering Abdullah Farouk and carries him down the ramp and deposits him in the hallway. While Andre is away The Sheik works behind reg referee Tiger Tasker's back and manages to pin Kiniski for the apparent win. Tasker raises Sheik's hand but Andre returns to the ring and disqualifies Sheik and awards the bout to Kiniski.

Fred Atkins: Former star began reffing in the early 1970's and was one of the main officials for the last part of MLW into the early 1980's. He was a no nonsense type ref, just as in his true persona, and had a couple of run-ins along the way. In an incident with Chris Tolos in the late 70's, Tolos had supposedly during a bout spit at Atkins, who offered to put him to an early retirement. Worked many big bouts including the Race/Funk NWA title change in 1977. Ended up being one of Tunney's longest serving of the inner circle with his career here going back to 1949. Reffed his final bout around early 1984 and passed on in 1988 at the age of 77.

Ilio DiPaolo: SR 1954-1960. Along with Pat Flanagan, was appointed special referee for bouts between The Duseks and the Mills Brothers and again for a Duseks vs Yukon Eric & Mighty Ursus bout. 1960 appointed special referee for a Whipper Billy Watson/Billy Red Lyons vs Murder Inc (Tiny Mills/Krusher Kowalski) bout.

'Wee' Willie Davis: SR 1956-1957. 1956 appointed special referee for a NWA Title bout between champ Whipper Watson and Mr Moto and another between NWA champ Dick Hutton and Yukon Eric. 1957 appointed special referee for a Whipper vs Gene Kiniski bout.

Wilbur Snyder: SR 1958. appointed special referee for a NWA Title bout between champ Dick Hutton and Lou Thesz.

The Fabulous Kangaroos (Al Costello/Roy Heffernan): SR 1958. appointed special referee for a NWA Title bout between champ Dick Hutton and Whipper Watson.

Rocky Marciano: SR 1956. Former Boxing champ appointed special referee for a Whipper Watson vs Gene Kiniski bout.

Mike Valentino: SR 1960. appointed as special referee for a Whipper Billy Watson/Ilio DiPaolo vs Mike Gallagher/Doc Gallagher bout. Before becoming 'Baron Mikel Scicluna' Valentino was a regular on the Toronto and area scene from 1957 to 1965.

Terry Yorkston: Wrestler who started reffing in the late 1970's while still occasionally wrestling on the undercards and circuit shows. Started to take over for Fred Atkins as one of the main refs in the early 1980's. Known in the later years for his buffoon ref persona, slow counts and counting to 5 occasionally, all part of the act I'm sure. He stayed on after the WWF came in and was working into the late 1980's, he had some back issues in 1988 and was out shortly after.

Chris Tolos: SR 1976 . appointed special referee for a Sheik vs Bobo Brazil bout. This was the bout where Sheik won his belt back from Bobo having lost it (a very rare occurrence!) on the previous card.

Gino Marella/Gorilla Monsoon: SR 1961-1978. In 1961 appointed as special referee for a bout in the very heated feud between Bulldog Brower and Whipper Watson. Under his actual name Marella had appeared in Toronto regularly from 1960 to 1963. In 1978 he was appointed special referee for a Dusty Rhodes vs Superstar Graham bout. After leaving Toronto and making his name in the WWWF as the Manchurian monster Gorilla Monsoon he came back here as a fan favorite in 1977. A few cards after the Rhodes/Graham bout Monsoon would pull a heel turn, but only here in Toronto. During a tag bout with Andre The Giant against Pat Patterson and Ray Stevens, the two big men collidde and set up a mini run for Monsoon as a hated heel- which culminated in a title shot vs then WWWF champ Bob Backlund.

Tommy Young: The Mid Atlantic main ref worked here a few times in the dying days of the MLW period that ended when the WWF replaced NWA in 1984.

Wayne Cashman: AKA Wayne Cassibo he worked some big bouts at MLG in the late 70s including Backlund-Bockwinkel. Went on to be a regular ref on Dave McKigney's Ontario circuit.

Blackjack Mulligan: SR 1980. appointed special referee for an Angelo Mosca vs Bobby Duncum bout. Blackjack and Duncum had been feuding and had met the previous night in Buffalo

Tony Parisi: SR 1981. appointed special referee for a US Title bout between Roddy Piper and Ric Flair. Parisi also refereed around the region occasionally but don't believe he worked any other bouts at MLG.

Sonny Fargo: Fargo worked some bouts in the final years of the Mid Atlantic crossover including the Mosca-Tyler and Mosca-Slaughter bouts in 1982.

'Jersey' Joe Walcott: SR 1956-1962. Former champion Boxer appointed special referee for many bouts including a Whipper Watson/Yukon Eric vs Gene Kiniski/Fritz Von Erich tag bout. In 1957 appointed special referee for a Buddy Rogers vs Whipper Watson bout and Whipper vs Kiniski. 1958 appointed special referee for a Whipper Watson/Yukon Eric vs Gene Kiniski/Fritz Von Erich bout. 1962 appointed special referee for 2 separate NWA Title bouts between Buddy Rogers and Bulldog Brower.

Salvatore Bellomo: SR 1983. appointed special referee for a Jimmy Snuka vs Ray Stevens bout.

Sandy Scott: SR 1983. appointed special referee for a NWA Title bout between Ric Flair and Roddy Piper. Sandy and brother Scott had also been regulars on the smaller circuit here from the late 1940's to early 1950's.

Johnny Weaver: SR 1983. appointed special referee for a NWA Title bout between Harley Race and Ric Flair. At the second Night Of Champions card at the EX Weaver ended up slugging Flair at the end of the bout after he disqualified the Nature Boy who was a fan favorite here.

Joe Louis: SR 1955. Former champion Boxer appointed special referee for a Whipper Watson/Yvon Robert vs Mills Brothers tag bout.

John Laing: Worked late 1970's into the early 1980's before going to Florida, was an associate of Dewey Robertson and was said to have come out of Dewey's gym.

Bill Alphonso: Reffed here early in his career 1981-82 and worked some big bouts including NWA Title bouts between Harley Race and Ric Flair as well as an AWA Title bout between Nick Bockwinkel and Angelo Mosca. He went on to success in the ECW later on.



Thanks to Roger Baker
Main photo by Roger Baker and Tasker w/Rogers
Dempsey is an Alexandra Studio pic as is Pistoscia and Gollob/Stack
M-A era pics by AC, Atkins is a video still

Oshawa Wrestling History: Peterborough 1952-1953

A look at the winter wrestling season of 1952-53 in Peterborough ON. It's part of the Toronto circuit locally promoted by Oshawa promoter Pat Milosh.

This Peterborough season starts when the Oshawa season ends and ends a few days before the 1953 Oshawa season opens. Peterborough was a regular spot from the 1930s and by this era was full with the Tunney stars and assorted indys. Red Garner (CCWA), Toar Morgan, and Larry Kasaboski (Northland) all ran cards in the area in the '50s-60s.

Some highlights of the year include a visit by Primo Carnera to take on another giant in Sky Hi Lee. The tag team of Dirty Dick Raines & Lou Plummer was on top of the busy tag scene while the Red Mask (later unmasked as Dutch Hefner at MLG -by Lou Thesz) would task the fan favorites. 

52/11/05 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Chief Big Heart W Lee Henning
Lou Plummer W Jim Coffield
Dick Raines D Jack Pesek

52/11/12 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Chief Big Heart W Lou Plummer
Johnny Barend D Bull Montana
Dick Raines W Tony Lanza

52/11/19 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Chief Big Heart DCOR Bobo Brazil (Sub for The Great Togo)
Billy Stack W/DQ Dick Raines
Jim Coffield D Kenny Ackles

52/11/26 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Dick Raines/Lou Plummer vs Chief Big Heart/Billy Stack
Kenny Ackles vs Lee Henning
Tony Lanza vs Lou Pitoschia

52/12/03 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Dick Raines/Lou Plummer W Chief Big Heart/Kenny Ackles
Wee Willie Davis W Bull Montana
Jack Wentworth D Jim Coffield

52/12/10 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Dick Raines/Lou Plummer W Chief Big Heart/Pat Flanagan
Lee Henning D Johnny Barend
Bull Montana DCOR Joe Christie

52/12/17 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Canadian Tag Titles: Dick Raines/Lou Plummer D Pat Flanagan/Bobo Brazil
Sky Hi Lee W Johnny Barend
Man Mountain Dean Jr W Jim Coffield

53/01/07 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Canadian Tag Titles: Dick Raines/Lou Plummer DCOR Pat Flanagan/Whipper Watson
Sky Hi Lee D Earl McCready
Man Mountain Dean Jr W Johnny Barend

53/01/14 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Canadian Tag Titles: Dick Raines/Lou Plummer W Ski Hi Lee/Frank Valois
Man Mountain Dean Jr W Chief Big Heart
Joe Christie D Frank Taylor

53/01/21 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
The Red Mask W Chief Big Heart
Earl McCready D Joe Christie
George Scott W Ray Clarke

53/01/28 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
The Red Mask W Yukon Eric
Man Mountain Dean Jr W Frank Taylor
Don Beitleman W Bill Stack

53/02/04 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Yukon Eric W The Red Mask
Ovilia Asselin W/DEC Frank Taylor (Asselin refuses victory after hitting Taylor with a low blow)
Earl McReady D Frank Valois

53/02/11 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Ski Hi Lee/The Red Mask W Whipper Watson/Yukon Eric
Larry Moquin W Frank Valois
Earl McCready D Steve Stanlee

53/02/18 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Ski Hi Lee/The Red Mask W Larry Moquin/Sammy Berg (sub for Yukon Eric)
Pat Flanagn W Joe Christie
Billy Stack W Frank Valois

53/02/25 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Ski Hi Lee/The Red Mask W Larry Moquin/Pat Flanagan
Lou Plummer W Ovilia Asselin
Joe Christie D Frank Taylor

53/03/04 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Primo Carnera W Ski Hi Lee
Larry Moquin D Steve Stanlee
Firpo Szybsko W Hardy Kruskamp

53/03/11 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Canadian Tag Titles: Dick Raines/Lou Plummer W Pat Flanagan/Bobo Brazil
Sammy Berg D Firpo Szybsko
Ovilia Asselin W Joe Christie

53/03/18 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Man Mountain Dean Jr W Bobo Brazil
Sammy Berg DCOR Don Beitleman
Ovilia Asselin W Steve Stanlee

53/03/25 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Man Mountain Dean Jr/The Red Mask W Yukon Eric/Timothy Geohagen
Larry Moquin D Firpo Szybsko
Ovilia Asselin D Frank Taylor

53/04/01 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Timothy Geohagen/Larry Moquin/Pat Flanagan W The Red Mask/Man Mountain Dean Jr/Firpo Szybsko
Earl McCready W Jan Gotch

53/04/08 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Timothy Geohagen D The Red Mask
Midgets- Little Beaver/Prince Salie Halassie W Tom Thumb/Mighty Schultz
Larry Moquin W Bert Ruby

53/04/15 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Hans Hemann W Timothy Geohagen
Siamese Foot Boxers - Exhibition
Pat Flanagan W Ben Sherman

53/04/22 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Canadian Tag Titles: Dick Raines/Lou Plummer W Hans Hermann/Bobo Brazil (Hermann refuses to tag in)
Pat Flanagan W Firpo Szybsko
Billy Stack D Jan Gotch

53/04/29 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Canadian Tag Titles: Dick Raines/Lou Plummer W Pat Flanagan/Bobo Brazil
Abe Zvonkin D Steve Stanlee
Billy Stack W Firpo Szybsko

53/05/06 Peterborough, ON Brock Arena
Bobo Brazil/Timothy Geohagen W Hans Hermann/The Red Mask
Pat Flanagan W Jan Gotch
Abe Zvonkin DCOR Billy Stack


Top drawing matches, year-by-year, 1929-1977: Gary Will's TWH

These are the main events of the cards reported to have been the largest draw each year from 1929 to 1977. There are two problems with this list 1) not all cards had an attendance figure reported and 2) the reported numbers weren't always accurate.

I think it's likely that the biggest crowd of the year would be mentioned, so if there was no attendance reported, it was likely not the biggest draw of the year. But there's no guarantee of that, and after 1974 the attendance reports become highly infrequent. The inaccuracy of the numbers could be a bigger issue. Usually the figures in the papers made sense, but sometimes there would be a huge number out of the blue, and occasionally different papers would report completely different crowd sizes, sometimes separated by thousands. But this is the best information available.

Whipper Billy Watson was in the top drawing match 21 times. The Sheik is next with 10.

1929Gus Sonnenberg vs Dan Koloff (9,000)
1930Gus Sonnenberg vs Stanley Stasiak (9,600)
1931Jim Londos vs Gino Garibaldi (15,800 - first Maple Leaf Gardens show)
1932Jim Londos vs George Zaharias (14,350)
1933Jim Browning vs Joe Savoldi (11,000)
1934Jim Londos vs Joe Savoldi (11,000)
1935Dan O'Mahony vs Jim Browning (16,000)
1936Dan O'Mahony vs Ray Steele (9,000)
1937Dan O'Mahony vs Dean Detton (7,000)
1938Masked Marvel (Ted Cox) vs Vic Christie (10,000)
1939Elimination Tournament, won by Vic Christie (6,000)
1940The Angel vs Jerry Monahan (11,000)
1941The Angel vs Masked Wolf (10,000-)
1942The Angel vs Strangler Lewis (10,000)
Whipper Billy Watson vs Wild Bill Longson (10,000)
1943Whipper Billy Watson vs Jack Claybourne (11,000)
1944Whipper Billy Watson vs Hard Boiled Hannigan (12,000)
1945Whipper Billy Watson vs Frank Sexton (10,000-)
1946Whipper Billy Watson vs Wladyslaw Talun (14,000)
1947Whipper Billy Watson vs Wild Bill Longson (15,000)
1948Whipper Billy Watson vs Nanjo Singh (13,000)
1949Whipper Billy Watson vs Masked Marvel (14,000)
1950Whipper Billy Watson vs Yukon Eric (13,000)
1951Whipper Billy Watson vs Lord Athol Layton (14,000)
1952Hans Hermann vs Yukon Eric (13,000)
1953Al Mills/Tiny Mills vs Whipper Billy Watson/Yvon Robert (16,000)
1954Al Mills/Tiny Mills vs Ernie Dusek/Emil Dusek (13,000)
1955Whipper Billy Watson vs Antonino Rocca (13,000)
1956Whipper Billy Watson vs Lou Thesz (15,000)
1957Whipper Billy Watson/Yukon Eric vs Gene Kiniski/Dick Hutton (15,000)
1958Whipper Billy Watson vs Al Bunny Dunlop (13,000)
1959Whipper Billy Watson vs Gorgeous George (14,000)
1960Whipper Billy Watson vs Gene Kiniski (10,000)
1961Bulldog Brower vs Yukon Eric (10,000)
1962Buddy Rogers vs Bruno Sammartino (14,000)
1963Buddy Rogers vs Lou Thesz (11,000)
1964Whipper Billy Watson vs The Beast/Martino Angelo (11,000)
1965Johnny Valentine vs The Sheik (7,000)
1966Masked Yankees vs Whipper Billy Watson/Lord Athol Layton (7,500)
1967Tiger Jeet Singh/Fred Atkins vs Whipper Billy Watson/Mighty Igor (7,500)
1968Ivan Koloff vs Edouard Carpentier (10,000)
1969The Sheik vs Gene Kiniski (15,000)
1970The Sheik vs Whipper Billy Watson (17,000)
1971The Sheik vs Tiger Jeet Singh (18,000)
1972The Sheik vs Carlos Rocha (18,000)
1973The Sheik vs Andre the Giant (18,000)
1974The Sheik vs Andre the Giant (16,000)
1975The Sheik vs Abdullah the Butcher (12,000)
1976The Sheik vs Mark Lewin (8,000)
1977The Sheik vs Tiger Jeet Singh (7,000)

-by Gary Will 

Wrestlers who made their Toronto debuts in main events, 1930-1989: Gary Will's TWH

Starting From The Top: Wrestlers who made their Toronto debuts in main events, 1930-1989

Whipper Billy Watson didn't do it. Neither did Hulk Hogan, The Sheik, Buddy Rogers, Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino, Ric Flair, or even Andre the Giant. In fact, very few wrestlers did it after the 1930s -- made their big-venue Toronto wrestling debuts in a main event.

It was easier to do in the 1930s because the weekly shows only began in 1929, so more wrestlers were making their debuts. And the undercards were much shorter, so a greater percentage of wrestlers on a card were in the main event.

These lists are in chronological order.

1930s: (31)
Cyclone Ress
Bill Demetral
Jack Winters
Jim Browning
Jack McCarthy
John Pesek
Glenn Wade
Jack Sherry
Joe Wagner
Ed Don George
Pinky Gardner
Lee Wykoff
Jim McMillen
Jim Clinstock
Dick Shikat
Casey Berger
Vanka Zelesniak
Abe Kashey
George Godfrey
Lionel Conacher
Sammy Stein
Jack Brown
Young Angelo
Dan O'Mahony
Ali Baba
Frank Sexton
Dave Levin
Vincent Lopez
George "Dazzler" Clarke
Cliff Thiede
Bronko Nagurski
1940s: (2)
Golden Terror
Gorgeous George

1950s: (5)
Lord Athol Layton
Lord James Blears
Antonino "Argentina" Rocca
Reggie Lisowski
Art Neilson
Nikita Kalmikoff

1960s: (1)
Mighty Igor

1970s: (5)
Harley Race
Jack Brisco
Abdullah Farouk
Terry Funk
Nick Bockwinkel

1980s: (3)
Buzz Sawyer
Tonga Kid

- by Gary Will

Indie show with Terry Yorkston, 1972: Gary Will's TWH

This poster went up for sale on eBay in early 2003. If it hadn't been for Terry Yorkston's name in the opening match, I might not have given it a thought. Yorkston was a prelim wrestler for Frank Tunney in the 1970s who went on to be a referee for Maple Leaf Wrestling. He had been wrestling for years before coming to the Gardens, including a good mid-card run in Quebec. He had just come off a stint in the Maritimes before arriving in Toronto in 1972.

(A few years later, he also worked under a hood for George Cannon. Somewhere in taped-over video heaven is a Cannon TV show with a scrawny teenager in the fourth row yelling "Hey! Terry Yorkston!" all through one of his matches. It took a couple of minutes to solve the puzzle, but I recognized him as someone I knew as soon as he came to the ring.)

 I don't know much about the show on the poster, but I was able to track it down. It was held on August 30, 1972 at the York Centre Ballroom -- south of Eglinton and east of Dufferin -- just a couple of months after Yorkston had made his Maple Leaf Gardens debut for Tunney (as a sub for Chris Colt).

Pat McMahon would go on to become Shillelagh O'Sullivan, who got a brief push at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1973. Andy Martin, from the main event, would make his first Gardens appearance in December. Pat Scott made it to Carlton Street for two matches in 1973. Ernie Schwaab (name misspelled on the poster) had done a job for Killer Kowalski at the Gardens in December 1971. There was a Golden Boy Apollo who wrestled at the Gardens in 1974, but I don't know if it's the same guy. The other names don't ring any bells.

I couldn't find any other shows at the Ballroom advertised in the Star, which is where the ad above is from.

-by Gary Will

Hercules Angelo Mosca?, 1970: Gary Will's TWH

This column by Jim Proudfoot appeared in the Toronto Star on August 1, 1970. It's a nice story about the success Angelo Mosca was having as a pro wrestler -- particularly his work for Roy Shire in Northern California as Hercules.

The only problem with the piece is that I can't find any record of a wrestler named Hercules working for Shire at the time.

The late Ron Valim kept detailed records of Shire's shows in San Francisco and other cities in the territory, and there's no Hercules to be found.

So was he using a different ring name with Hercules as a nickname? I don't see any likely candidates in Valim's results. Other than a few prelim guys, the workers Shire was using at the time are all well-known wrestlers. I don't see anyone who could have been Mosca.

In Proudfoot's column, Mosca is quoted saying the shows could draw 30,000 people to the Cow Palace in San Francisco. That's about double the actual maximum (the annual battle royal in November 1969 drew 15,974 and that seems to be the biggest crowd of the year).

Was the whole thing made up?

-by Gary Will

Whipper Watson's fifth decade in wrestling, 1970: Gary Will's TWH

This Globe & Mail story ran on March 5, 1970 and is a look back at the career of Whipper Billy Watson, who had just started his fifth decade as a pro wrestler.

The story doesn't try to hide the unhideable -- that the 54-year-old Watson's career is winding down and he can no longer go more than once or twice a week. Even so, he would continue to wrestle for nearly two more years until an accident put an unwavering end to his career in the ring.

In the story, Watson says that when he returned to Toronto in 1940 after a lengthy stay in Britain, promoter Frank Tunney wasn't all that enthusiastic, although Tunney says he saw something in Watson right away. There's no question that Watson got the home town boy push from the start.

The writer of this story, Louis Cauz, went on to become a well-known figure in the Canadian horse racing world. He has been the managing director of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and the archivist/historian for the Ontario Jockey Club. In 1978, he wrote a book on the Toronto Blue Jays called Baseball's Back in Town. He also wrote a book on the King's/Queen's Plate that was published in 1984.

-by Gary Will

Frank Tunney's 30th Anniversary, 1969: Gary Will's TWH

There were several anniversary shows at the Gardens in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. Some were anniversaries of the first Gardens show in 1931. Others celebrated Frank Tunney's years as a promoter. Those were always tricky since there were three different years that could be used -- the year he started working for Jack Corcoran, the year Corcoran passed the promotion along to the Tunneys (1939), or the year John Tunney died, leaving Frank the main promoter (1940).

Tunney's 30th anniversary show was held on May 18, 1969 and featured a rematch between The Sheik and Whipper Billy Watson and the Toronto debut of NWA world champion Dory Funk Jr. The show drew 13,000 fans, making it the highest reported attendance at a Toronto card in years.

The writer of this retrospective piece from the Globe, Jim Vipond, went on to become Ontario Athletics Commissioner -- he's the unnamed guy in Jim Freedman's book DRAWING HEAT who's accused of being a friend of Tunney's and a thorn in the side of Dave McKigney.

-by Gary Will

*note the picture used in the paper was taken by Roger Baker, there are a couple of photos from that event elsewhere on the site

CARTOON: Henri DeGlane by Chuck Templeton, April 12, 1934: Gary Will's TWH

This cartoon is more of interest for the artist than the subject. Chuck Templeton was still a teenager when he drew this cartoon featuring Henri Deglane. He had been been hired by the Globe as a sports cartoonist in 1932 -- his first job in media. He quit in 1936 to become a very successful evangelist, which ended when he became an agnostic. Templeton later became better known as Charles Templeton, one of Canada's leading journalists, broadcasters, and writers.

In his memoirs, Templeton wrote that Tommy Munns, who handled publicity for promoter Jack Corcoran, hired him to draw sketches of wrestlers for the programs sold at the events.

-by Gary Will

Grey Cup Preview: The 1952 Edmonton Eskimos: Gary Will's TWH

The Edmonton Eskimos played the Toronto Argonauts in the Grey Cup final in 1952. In its preview of the game, the Globe & Mail ran profiles of the Eskimos players, including three 23-year-olds who would go on to be pro wrestling stars:

The Argos won the game, 21-11. It would be their last Grey Cup victory for 31 years. Kiniski would make his Maple Leaf Gardens debut as a wrestler in 1956, Blanchard in 1957, and Snyder in 1958. Snyder and Blanchard didn't make many appearances in Toronto. The card at right, from March 6, 1958, is the only time they were on the same show. Kiniski went on to become one of Toronto wrestling's all-time greats.

One of their teammates was an all-time star player for the Eskimos, Ted Tully. Maybe that name stuck in Blanchard's head a couple of years later when his son was born.

There were reports in 1950 that Whipper Billy Watson was going to play for the Eskimos, but nothing ever came of it.

-by Gary Will