The Referees of Maple Leaf

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. 
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.

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

-Special referees are noted by SR and the dates beside their names denoting when they were active. 
-The from-to dates could probably be updated on some, compiled early on
-The referees weren't regularly noted in the recaps or results so the info is what is readily available and will not be complete, or be entirely accurate. I also wanted to get to Kasaboski's referees....AC
*Note links are being re-ordered, some are currently inactive

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's 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(gal) Engbloom, and Ted McKinley. Tournaments were held in Toronto in the early 1930's 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: Refereed 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 boat 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 Toronto.

Jack Sharkey takes a swing at Nanjo Singh Maple Leaf Gardens May 1945

Jack Sharkey: SR 1943-1972. Former Boxing champ refereed 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/Crusher Korman.' As per Roger: '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. Tunney was one of the small group of promoters who weren't former wrestlers and though he did have a bit of 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 not 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.' 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 occasionally still wrestled on the undercards through the 1950's mostly in the smaller towns. Refereed many big bouts including Dick Hutton's NWA Title win over Lou Thesz in Nov 1957. He held the position of Head Gateman at MLG for over 25 years and was a first day employee of the Gardens (1931).

As per Roger: '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.' 

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 across the circuit.

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 area referee 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 refereed 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: -1930s

Cliff Chilcott: - 1930s

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 Mazurki: SR 1953. appointed special referee for a Whipper/Hombre Montana vs Mills Brothers bout.

Pat Flanagan orders Lou Thesz to break vs John Paul Henning MLG June 1963

Pat Flanagan: The former star became a regular referee at MLG in the early 1960's and continued until 1978. He was also a 'special referee' at various points in the 1950's and refereed (and commentated) on TV and all over the circuit. 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 finally 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. At the end of his pro 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 referees at MLG working bouts from the early 1950's to the late '60s. He was often paired with another ref as the tag bouts in the 1950's were served with 2 officials. 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 refereeing 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's favorite ref 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 (l) & Joe Gollob (r)with Sweet Daddy Siki & Bulldog Brower Maple Leaf Gardens 1962

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 received a beating himself from Sheik.

Merv Unger: 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.

Terry Yorkston counting two! two more! Indian Strap match MLG April 1982

Terry YorkstonStarted as a ref in the late 1970's while still wrestling on the undercards and circuit shows. One of the main refs in the early 1980's. In the later years a bit of the buffoon type ref persona, slow counts and counting to 5 occasionally, all part of the act. He stayed on after the WWF came in and was working into the late 1980's till he had some back issues in 1988 and was out shortly after.

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 refereeing in the early 1970's and 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 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. Refereed 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.

Wilf Jennings: Circuit 1970s & ? Former wrestler Wilf  'The Wolf' or The Sudbury Wolf, Jennings was a regular referee on McKigney's Big Bear circuit in the early/mid 70s. He also worked for Tunney as a photographer and I assume refereed a time or two on the circuit. If you know....

'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. They were good guys at that time and kept the peace. 

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. Prior to becoming 'Baron Mikel Scicluna' Valentino was a regular on the Toronto and area scene from 1957 to 1965, in the early days billed as Mike Scicluna.

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. A good answer to the question of who wrestled AND refereed in Toronto under TWO different names? In 1961 appointed as special referee for a bout in the very heated feud between Bulldog Brower and Whipper Watson. Under his real name Marella appeared in Toronto regularly from 1960 to 1963. In 1978 back as Gorilla he was appointed special referee for a Dusty Rhodes vs Superstar Graham bout. 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 collide 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 mainstay refereed here at the onset (and a few times in the dying days) of the Mid Atlantic era that ended when Jack Tunney went with WWF in 1984.

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

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 circuit 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.

Wilf Long cartoon Toronto 1957

'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 several tag bouts over the Canadian Open Tag Titles including a Whipper Watson/Yvon Robert vs Mills Brothers bout. 

John Laing: Worked late 1970's into the early 1980's before going to Florida, was an associate of Dewey Robertson, said to have come out of Deweys 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 Gollob & Stack, Flanagan
Nostalgia collection