Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The First Weekly Show: May 4, 1929: Gary Will's TWH

Professional wrestling existed in Toronto long before 1929. Frank Gotch, George Hackenschmidt, William Muldoon, Stanislaus Zbyszko, Yousouf the Terrible Turk, and B.F. Roller were among the big-name wrestlers who had previously appeared in the city. Local talent included Bob Harrison and Artie Edmunds.

But it wasn't until 1929 that a promoter was successful in bringing top-ranked professional wrestlers to town on a regular basis. The promoter was Ivan Mickailoff, a former wrestler (his name was spelled many ways, but he used this spelling in his own ads).



Others had tried before Mickailoff and failed. Toronto wasn't known as a wrestling town -- "wrestling has never been a popular sport in the Queen City," said the Globe -- and there was skepticism when he announced his plans to run weekly shows at the Arena Gardens on Mutual Street, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But Mickailoff made it work and started Toronto on the path to becoming one of the world's dominant pro wrestling cities.

He ran his first show in front of a small crowd of 500 on Saturday May 4, 1929.



Headlining the show was Canadian champion Jack Taylor, who would wrestle on most of Mickailoff's shows until suffering what was reported to be a broken leg in a match in August.

Also appearing on the first show were former world title claimant Wladek Zbyszko -- the less-heralded younger brother of Stanislaus Zbyszko -- and Henri Deglane, who would claim the world title himself in another couple of years. Taylor, Zbyszko, and Deglane all won their bouts.


Lou Marsh of the Star -- who occasionally worked as a referee for wrestling matches -- found the show to be entertaining, but made sure his readers knew that these bouts were not legitimate contests.



After four shows, the Globe reported that Mickailoff was drawing bigger crowds every week and at the end of the month, it said wrestling was becoming increasingly popular in Toronto.

-by Gary Will