Waldo Von Erich: Holland Marsh's gift to the wrestling fraternity

1965 Maple Leaf Gardens in front of 'the wall'

Over the course of his career Wally Sieber aka Waldo Von Erich used about 10 different names before making it big as 'Waldo Von Erich' wrestling brother of Fritz. His early career is mostly unknown or forgotten but he was a big 'star' on Red Garner's Toronto area circuit from 1950 through 1957. He learned the ropes alongside other Garner regulars who went on to bigger things including early training partner Jacques Dubois (Dave McKigney), Mike Scicluna (later Valentino/Baron Scicluna), Ron Doner, and Ron 'Bull' Johnson.

1951
He appeared on a Garner Weston Arena card in November 1950 described as a crowd pleaser from Stuttgart, Germany. He shows up on more Weston arena cards through 1951 including the ad at right vs Gori 'Ed' Mangotich. Gori was a Toronto native and big star overseas who worked on Garner cards for many years.

 In July 1951 they played up his 'debut as a pro wrestler' in his hometown. At 200lbs in the Arena in the town of Bradford (within the Holland Marsh) billed as Baron Von Sieber- hometown boy he would spend the next 6-7 years wrestling for the Richmond Hill, ON based Central Canadian Wrestling Association (CCWA).

Right from the start they would play to his family heritage with the Baron part but in write-ups often just 'Wally Sieber -Holland Marsh's gift to the wrestling fraternity.'

He would hold the CCWA's Canadian heavyweight  title for a time and hone his craft on the competitive and fast paced circuit before the big league came calling.

1954
In 1954 he was named as one of Canada's most promising wrestlers by Barry Lloyd Penhale in 'Wrestling As You Like It' magazine. He was named alongside Frank 'Scotty' Thompson, Ferenz (Jimmy) Sziksay, Bill Curry (Kasaboski star), Stan Holek (aka Stan Lisowski/Nielson), Tony Baillargeon, Sandy Scott, and Maurice 'Mad Dog' Vachon

In September 1957 he would appear on a Tunney associated card in Bradford (likely promoted by Tommy Nelson) in what was called his 'debut for the MLW troupe.' Now the 'German Oak' he would face tough Tiger Tasker and a month later he would walk the ramp at Maple Leaf Gardens to take on Dick Hutton. This was during Hutton's $1000 challenge and Seiber would fall, as many others had, to Hutton's abdominal stretch.

An added note to that 1957 Bradford card was that Fritz Von Erich was teamed with Dick Hutton vs The Fabulous Kangeroos. Fritz was a top heel here then and he and Wally would appear on many of the same cards over the next year.

Even at MLG his name continued to change, sometimes Baron Von Sieber, other times Waldo Von Sieber then sometimes just Wally or even Walter. The 'Von Erich' brotherhood would happen away from Toronto and when Wally returned in November 1964 as Waldo Von Erich, Fritz was long gone from here. The Von Erich 'brothers' would never team in this area though Waldo would remain Fritz's 'brother' in the stories in the mags up to the late 1970's and beyond.

Close up at MLG 



'This wrestling reporter can go all the way back to around 1955 when I first met Wally Sieber, it was the summer time, and the place was ''Sunny Side Beach'' we were both in our late teens, I recognized Wally as soon as saw him, he was tall, very muscular, and he may have had blond hair. 

Wally was with a buddy, and they were both having a great time by the huge swimming pool that was the hallmark of the beach area, we chatted for a while, and he told me that he appreciated when he was recognized out side of a wrestling ring, he was looking forward to his future as a wrestler  


Over the ensuing years we met on several more occasions, we met at a summer dance hall in Jacksons point, at a wrestling event in Detroit's Cobo Hall, as well an event at Buffalo's War Memorial Auditorium. As well Wally and The Fabulous Kangaroos Al Costello and Roy Saint Clair, and myself had a great dinning experience in a Lebanese restaurant in Detroit.


And there was the time when Wally literally got his hands on me, this happened in a dressing room at M.L.G. it was if memory serves me correct around 1964. I had popped in to see who was there, in the hopes of getting some dressing room candids. This can be tricky, as with anyone if you don't ask first it can result in a nasty incident, however Wally was in the room at the time and we got to talking about injuries from wrestling, as well as other sports.


There was a large adjustment table in the room, some of the other wrestlers who were there used the bench for abdominal crunches to warm up ahead of their up coming match. I mentioned to Wally that I had been in discomfort from a very stiff neck at the time. He offered to adjust my neck on the bench, so with some trepidation I got on the bench on my back and without the benefit of any pre-adjustment  loosening up, he applied what was best described as a full nelson on me, followed by a quite forceful backwards pull. I motioned to him that 'I give up' and he released me and told me I should feel better after a while.


While all this had been going on, little did I know that the boss himself, Frank Tunney, had come into the room while I was on the bench. Being some what embarrassed at the time I said hello to Tunney, who gave me a quizzical look. I got to be man handled by a 245lb. brute of a wrestler, and live to talk about it. '

-Roger

MLG 1965 vs Bruno 

Waldo would earn his first major title bout locally in 1964 against WWWF champ Bruno Sammartino. He would face Bruno twice in 1965 and again in 1976 at MLG. Those two would battle all over WWWF proper over the years, Waldo the perfect ethnic monster heel type they would match up against Bruno.

In 1965 Waldo would team with Gene Kiniski. Big Gene had previously teamed with Fritz here in 1957 creating a monster tag that caused havoc all over the area. The new tag of Waldo and Gene would feud with Whipper Watson and Johnny Valentine.

He would take an extended absence through the early 1970's as he traveled the world before returning here to appear both at MLG and the outer circuit alongside the WWA/McKigney stars. As well in those days the 'Lake circuit' that included Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit, had a busy schedule for our local guys.

He stayed a regular here though Mar 4 1979 when he wrestled his last bout at the Gardens against Johnny Yachetti (The Beast)

I also met Waldo some years back and he was a very nice and gracious guy, not at all like his wrestling persona. The pic below by Roger taken in the Buffalo dressing room reflects that.

Photos- and thanks! - to Roger Baker

For more on the CCWA do a search at right or click on tags including Red Garner, CCWA, etc

Pensive in Buffalo 

Ted McKinley Lightweight Champ



     As an addition to the post on the vibrant amateur scene in Toronto in the 1930's we will take a look at one Ted McKinley, a major presence in the amateur and pro ranks in the 1930's and 1940's.

Ted first shows up in 1931 wrestling as a Senior in the University of Toronto Inter-Faculty championships. He is listed as 'former intercollegiate wrestler, careful but quick to seize an advantage, good style at 125lbs.'

Over the next couple of years he is busy on the various cards held around Toronto, many that are run by Phil Lawson, noted amateur who later trained and managed Whipper Watson. Some of these tourneys were held at the Mutual St Arena, where Ivan Mickailoff ran his pro cards. Cliff Worthy was notable in the heavyweight division, he later went on to a long tenure as a pro ref for Jack Corcoran and Frank Tunney.

In July 1934 trials were held in Montreal for the upcoming British Empire Games to be held in England. Along with McKinley and Lawson as trainer for the wrestlers, they were accompanied by Ben Engbloom and Terry Evans

On July 20 they all left for England along with fellow wrestlers Pat Meehan, Joe Scleimer, Howard Thomas, Alex Watt, and Robert McNabb. A note in the Star mentions that as the families saw their loved ones off a '5 year old Arthur McKinley wept at the prospect of not seeing his uncle Ted, wrestling champion at 123 lbs.'

As of Aug 9 it was reported that the Canadians had won all 5 of their preliminary bouts at the Games.

All were said to be defending title won in Hamilton in 1930 though Ted would likely not have competed in those. Earl McCready had won Gold in the Heavyweight division in Hamilton, his last before turning pro. It proved to be a very successful games for the Canadians. Ted won Silver in the Bantamweight division and the other 5 all won medals as well. Final take was 3 Gold, 2 Silver, and 2 Bronze.

Upon return a card was held at the Central YMCA on Nov 7 featuring McKinley, Terry Evans, Joe Schleimer all receiving honor medals as Dominion champs. Another noted star Jimmy Allen also appeared though he doesn't show on the 1934 Games.

On May 3 1935 the Central Ontario Amateur Championships were held in Toronto, said to have a bearing on the 1936 Summer Olympics. McKinley at 123lbs won his first round bout.

At 174lbs Winnett Watson (later Pat Flanagan) won his bout as did Engbloom and Evans.Terry Evans actually won 3 championships, the Middle, Light, and Heavy (weight) divisions working above his weight. A week later Evans won the 175lb YMCA International title in Pittsburgh against contestants from YMCA's around North America.

In Oct 1935 McKinley appeared on a card in Bowmanville vs The Red Devil. Lawson took on Dick Bishop while a young Bill Potts took on Soldier Crisp. Potts, of course became Whipper Watson. These cards appear to be in the pro style but technically 'amateur cards' mostly to get around the licenses and such, featuring the lighter talent that were not able to go up against the heavyweight pros.

In March 1936 McKinley won at 123lbs in a 2 day City Championships. In the final at 174lbs Terry Evans won over Watson (Flanagan) and the heavyweight final was Cliff Worthy over Ken Tasker (both Worthy and Tasker later served as refs)

In June 1936 they began an elimination process with 44 top grapplers to determine who will represent central Ontario at the final Olympic trials in Montreal. They opened it up to allow anyone from any corner of the province and irrelevant of experience to enter to make sure they had the top tier. McKinley made it and went to Montreal where he placed in the final four.

At the Olympics held in Berlin only Joe Schleimer won a medal, a bronze in Welterweight. Terry Evans was defeated and unsure at this point if McKinley made the trip and lost in his division.

In the months after the Olympics he was called the 'Canadian Lightweight Champ' though it's hard to decipher as there were many different regional Canadian Titles and many tourneys held across the country through these years.

In October 1937 Ted wrestled on a benefit card held at Mutual St Arena in support of Red Garner who had suffered a dislocation of a neck vertebrae in a previous bout. The main event that night was McKinley vs Ernie Hughson with others appearing included Sam Gotter, Eric Lake, Tim Timoskym and Earl Grant.

Gotter also went on to be a long time MLG ref, while Red Garner promoted his own shows around Toronto for many years. Red was a lighter guy himself and featured many of the former amateur stars on his pro cards in the '40's and '50's under the 'middleweight' banner.

Meanwhile Ted continued to wrestle on the Coronation Club cards at Mutual St which featured a mix of talent and were promoted under the auspices of amateur style. 

In the summer of 1939 Ted travelled to Montreal earning a win and a draw in a big amateur tournament. He would leave the scene for some years at this point when he joined the Army as part of the war effort, as several of the other wrestlers did.

1947 Oshawa 

He re-appeared on the scene in May 1947 in Oshawa, ON where he appears to have been part of the Oshawa Wrestling Club, promoting alongside Pat Farrell and Jimmy 'Ziggy' Szizksay. Jim Allen, Ernie Hughson, Red Garner, Harvey Stanfield were all there helping out. This is just prior to Pat Milosh taking over in August '47.

Ted also showed up on Al 'Bunny' Dunlop's pro cards held at Oakwood Stadium in the summer of '47. Dunlop, who had Tunney's blessings (Dunlop ran Tuesday while Tunney's cards were on Thursdays) tried his hand at promoting but it didn't pan out and he was soon back working on the Tunney shows. Alongside McKinley on these cards were pros Billy Stack, Sandor Kovacs, and Szikszay, as well as several other lightweight types that Ted wrestled or teamed with.

He wrestled less in the next few years, the last I note is 1954 on a Red Garner show at Lakeshore Arena taking on 'Tall' Tom Sullivan, one of Red's trainees

Lots of gaps in Ted's story , if you can add please contact me

-AC

Raphael Halpern: The Wrestling Rabbi



  It's December 1961 and top villain Bulldog Brower is destroying everything in his path- literally. Both wrestlers and whatever happens to be in his way at the time. Promoter Frank Tunney was feeding Brower a steady diet of matmen and Brower was disposing of them all, Whipper, Yukon Eric, Kiniski, Stasiak, and on.

  Coming into the area was the 'Wrestling Rabbi' Raphael Halpern. This was no gimmick, Halpern, originally from Austria was an ordained Rabbi with a full background in amateur wrestling and ran several bodybuilding clubs at the time he first appeared at Maple Leaf Gardens.


  He ran up numerous wins before Tunney decided to feed him to the Bulldog in March 1962. Brower had lost his first bout 2 weeks prior to Bill 'Brute' Soloweyko (later aka Klondike Bill) by dq and after beating the Brute in a re-match was again frothing at the mouth for the highly touted challenge by Halpern. The Rabbi was said to be un-defeated not only here, but in his entire pro career.

  The bout sees Halpern using an array of high flying moves and his speed keepS Brower on his toes and unable to mount his usual destructive offense. The bout went on late due to a long tag bout between Whipper and The Brute vs the Tolos Brothers and was called in the 11th minute due to curfew. The crowd roared its applause when ref Joe Gollob raised Halpern's arm as the winner by decision.

  Bulldog celebrated his 2nd loss in 27 bouts at MLG by 'kicking a bald headed man when the crowd surged about the ramp as he (Brower) departed the ring.'



  While he was in town Halpern appeared at several synagogues for lectures and was photographed giving Toronto mayor Nathan Phillips a prayer book brought over from Israel.

  The re-match with Brower a week later saw Brower get the win when Halpern hit the floor and couldn't return. Halpern continued to appear both in Toronto and in Hamilton and on Mar 22 1962 the MLG card was held with some proceeds going to about 120 organizations under a banner of 'The Israeli Group.'

  Halpern beats Brower by dq in the main event but loses the re-match the following week by count-out again.


  That was the last bout here for Halpern who soon returned to Israel and was said to
popularize the pro sport there before retiring in 1973. He passed on in 2011 at the age of 87

  Very interesting guy, google him for more info

Thanks to Roger Baker

-AC