Billy Stack

Billy Stack (Stackaruck) from Smokey lake, Alberta settled in Bowmanville and was a farmer during his wrestling career that stretched from the 1940s into the late 1960s. In addition to working farms in the Oshawa area he also served as a licensed bailiff in the area while supplementing his day job with wrestling.

From his first appearances in the ring in the mid 1940s Stack was a typical clean wrestling babyface of the times. Tall and strong, with scientific skills and a big dropkick, he would form a close alliance with the main star of the Toronto scene Whipper Billy Watson.

Stack also benefited from the tutelage of Phil Lawson. Described as a mat coach for Stack, Lawson had earlier trained Whipper for the pro ranks and was at that time serving as Watson’s ring manager.

In those early days Stack set the tone for his career by staying close to his roots, appearing regularly on the weekly Oshawa shows as well as occasional turns at Maple Leaf Gardens and some smaller shows around Southeastern Ontario. He accompanied Watson and some of the other Toronto regulars for short trips out to Ottawa, Montreal, and upstate New York before returning home for extended stays.

The town of Bowmanville, a few miles east of Oshawa, had seen the pro style of wrestling since the 1930s, though it had been promoted under the guise of amateur competition. In 1949, the Bowmanville Memorial Arena was built and pro wrestling made its debut on September 6th of that year. With a main event of hometown boy Billy Stack taking on his friend and big MLG star Watson, the show attracted 800 fans (out of a population of roughly 4,500) and was deemed an unqualified success by Oshawa-based promoter Pat Milosh.

The second card in Bowmanville a week later brought in 700 fans to see Stack take on Tugboat Carlson, while Whipper main evented versus Red O’Malley. The third saw a similar turnout to see Stack back in the main and Milosh, who had taken over the Oshawa promotion in 1947, would rely on Stack for the next decade and beyond to help fill the area venues. In a cursory count of bouts wrestled under Milosh’s 40+ year run promoting in the area, Stack places third only behind Pat Flanagan and Fred Atkins, respectively, for appearances.


Stack was part of a local trio that included up and comer Sandor Kovacs. The Hungarian émigré was billed along with Stack as a local team as Kovacs was living in Oshawa at the time. He went on to a long career both as a wrestler and later as a promoter in Vancouver for All-Star Wrestling. Oshawa native Jimmy 'Ziggy' Szikszay completed the local threesome and help bring the fans in to see their favourites take on the heels.

As the 1940s turned into the 1950s Stack spent his local time both in openers and at the top of the cards. Memorable series versus The Red Demon (whom he unmasked as Red O’Malley in late 1949) and the MLG stars including Atkins and Nanjo Singh, and masked stars The Unknown and The Masked Marvel helped cement his reputation as a fine wrestler and hometown hero.

Earning his pay vs Fred Atkins Oshawa 1950

In a 1950s Oshawa program broadcaster and wrestling writer Barry Lloyd Penhale wrote 'In this writer’s opinion, Bill is one of the finest young men in the wrestling world, an opinion shared by all those who have had the pleasure of association with him. Bill is no slouch in the ring and has faced the best in the Toronto area.'

Fast forward 55 years later to a conversation with Mr. Penhale regarding the local scene in the 1950s and he would re-iterate that Stack was a fine wrestler and could have been a much bigger star had he been inclined to travel more. As for others who had shared that opinion as he had written in 1957, he recalled Lou Thesz observing Stack in action one night at Maple Leaf Gardens and remarking how impressed he was with Stack’s wrestling talent.

Bill’s career may have taken a different turn had he travelled the territories alongside the stars of the day. He stepped out of the area in 1950 for a short tour of Stampede Wrestling billed as Farmer Boy Stack, meeting Stu Hart himself in a couple of bouts as well as teaming with Canadian star Earl McCready. He also occasionally accompanied Watson on short trips to St. Louis and Buffalo over the early part of the decade but mostly stayed close to the Oshawa-Bowmanville corridor.

Within Ontario, Stack also made some stops on the Northern circuit for the Kasaboski Northland Wrestling promotion including a 1956 Sudbury bout versus Hard Boiled Haggerty that got a mention in the magazines of the day.

At that time the local east circuit included towns like Newmarket, Keswick, Stouffville, Peterborough, Cobourg and others along the north side of Lake Ontario. Toronto star Pat Flanagan would book out the Toronto stars to the towns for cards that covered most nights of the week. At its peak it was a vibrant scene which saw a huge upturn in popularity as the 1950s wore on and there were many like Stack who stayed busy on the local circuit while keeping their regular jobs at the same time.

His career as a licensed bailiff was spent mostly working with long-time area auctioneer Cliff Pethak and spanned the 1950s. Stack also supplemented his income working in auto sales alongside the farm work. One of his farms was near where the Deer Creek Golf course stands today, north of the town of Whitby.

For a time in 1950 he also served as a distributor for Whipper’s Beverages in the Bowmanville area. Whipper’s Beverages was a business foray by pal Watson featuring colorful wrestling themed bottles and caps that are highly collectable today.

In the mid 1950s Stack adds to his resume by occasionally serving as a referee for the local shows around Oshawa. In 1959 he referees his first bout at Maple Leaf Gardens and continues through the 1960s, serving alongside veterans Joe Gollob, Bunny Dunlop and Tiger Tasker, often working in pairs for the big tag bouts. He reffed his last bout in 1969.

He passed away in 1994 and was inducted into the Bowmanville Sports HOF in 2015. 

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