Thursday, January 30, 2020

Mosca Jr, Sr, and Moscamania

Angelo Mosca Jr. gets a lot of heat online, most second-hand or based on the few YouTube bouts out there, not exactly reflective of his entire ring tenure.

Granted he was no Lou Thesz but he wasn't the worst wrestler ever. The bout vs Ivan Koloff in which Jr. won the Mid-Atlantic Title is particularly hard to watch (a nice dropkick one of the few highlights) but is hardly indicative of his entire wrestling career.

He grew up the son of one of the most famous CFL players in Canadian history. Sr. a hard nosed guy once known as the 'meanest man in Football' both on and off the field.

Jr. followed in his fathers footsteps playing football through his teen years. In June 1981 Jr. was trying out as a defensive guard at the BC Lions  camp. He was cut, effectively ending his pro football aspirations but went on to earn a degree from Concordia University.

His parents had separated when he was 4 years old but Jr. had seen a lot of his father while growing up and they remained close. By the time he was old enough to be aware of Sr's name his father's football playing days were over. Years later while planning a charity fundraiser (Still Mosca 2015) paying tribute to Sr. and raising funds for Alzheimer research Jr. would admit that he was learning more about his father talking to old friends and teammates in preparation for the event. Jr was helping Sr. film some of his memories including reflecting on friends passed on.

He would begin training in 1983 alongside Sr. for 6 months. Sr, was especially happy about Jr. coming into the profession and was immensely proud of his namesake.
Saving Pop from a beatdown at MLG 1984 
Jr. debuted that year at the age of 24 against veteran Ox Baker while Sr. was now 46 and winding down his wrestling career.

Jr. admitted that the constant travel was the hardest part. They would work out in the gym together, travel to their bouts, then fly back to Charlotte, NC where they were both living at the time, Jr. on his own and Sr. with his then 'very understanding wife' Gwen.

Greg Oliver wrote an excellent piece on Mosca back in 2008 which included some insight on Jr. and his wrestling career.

'My son's a good guy but he was never cut out for the business. He liked the money. I used to get him up early in the morning to go to the gym and stuff. He'd say, 'Dad, do we have to do this?' I'd say 'The good looking hooker makes the money.'  That's the way I took the business. We were whores. I was a big guy. I had a fair physique on me, and I took care of myself. My son, I don't know if he really wanted to pay that price."
* from
http://slam.canoe.com/Slam/Wrestling/2008/09/05/6675791.html
and original of the photo above at https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDMDC-TSPA_0069630F&R=DC-TSPA_0069630F

Despite that lack of interest Jr. received a big push from the start. He debuted at MLG as a late addition to the Canadian Title Tournament. It was to decide a new champion after Angelo Sr. was 'forced to vacate the title due to injury.' Jr. beat Terry Kay and then faced Kabuki in the quarter final. He would win the bout in just 38 seconds (always a couple really short bouts in those tourneys to fit all the matches)  but Kabuki would spray his green mist and Jr. would be out for the remainder, which Koloff eventually won.

Two weeks later he would get the main event teamed with Sr. against Koloff and Kabuki. They would appear together on the cover of the Stranglehold program and get the win. Prior to the bout Jr. told a reporter ' the best thing about wrestling is working with this guy right here,' thumping his father on the thigh. 'I just hope I can pass on a few things to him' replied Sr. The bout ends when Jr' finally tags into to save his Dad from a beat down and pins Kabuki. The villains throw him out of the ring and go to work on Sr with Koloff's chain. Jr. regains the ring and grabs the chain and chases the bad guys away to a huge roar from the crowd. The success would continue through the Carolina's with Jr. seeing success on the Southern circuit as well.
MLG 1984

The two would appear on the same cards leading into a June card at MLG which saw Jr. get the win over Koloff and collect the belt his father had previously worn. Only Sr. was present at the next card and Jr.'s championship glory was to be short lived as it was announced a few days later that Jack Tunney had gone with the WWF and the title was retired (forgotten) with nary a defense.

In the meantime Jr. stayed active on the Mid-Atlantic circuit (and may have involved our now defunct Canadian heavyweight Title - more on that another time) and would return to Toronto in Dec 1984. The cards were still being filled out with our regulars and many that appeared in the NWA days.

He would also appear on WWF TV briefly while Sr. worked as a short lived announcer for the Hamilton/Brantford TV tapings. Sr. would announce he was leaving the announcers table to manage Jr and Jesse Ventura would notably replace him . One more appearance here for WWF in Feb 1985 and that was it for Jr in the WWF.

Sr. & Moscamania

By then Sr was already planning to bring the NWA back to Ontario. In Feb 1986 he would run a show at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. It was a risky venture but he was the guy to do it. Hulkamania had taken over Toronto but there was still a lot of fans from the NWA days. 

Sr. with a long history in Hamilton announced the show to be dubbed 'Moscamania.' Jr. would also appear and figured prominently on the poster for the event, depicted just below Jimmy Valiant and Dusty Rhodes. The card did well drawing 12,000 fans with a gate of $140,000 to see a main of NWA champ Ric Flair vs Dusty Rhodes. Jr. teamed with Vic Rossitani against the Kelly Twins. 

At the time Mosca 50 years old, now mostly retired from the ring, was busy doing TV ads, and had several different business ventures around town. A few days after the show in Hamilton he was in Toronto doing a TV commercial for Lite beer and said he made 25k in what was his 14th or 15th commercial since he had done the Schick 'Tell it to my face' campaign some years before.

He was a guest star on the popular 'Night Heat' TV show, and in June of that year was elected to the CFL Hall Of Fame. In Nov 1986 Sr. was alongside Whipper Watson when Whip received an award from the Canadian Children's Foundation. 

The inimitable Earl McRae who had often covered Sr. named an article  'Mean Angelo Mosca means to keep raking in big bucks on TV.'  The Toronto Globe & Mail even ran a 2 pager titled 'Mosca Mania: The face that roared in football and wrestling masks the crafty brain that employs his charisma to turn Angelo's meant streak into an asset in advertising.'

A month prior to the first Moscamania card, he had met with CFL commissioner Doug Mitchell to discuss becoming a goodwill ambassador. The reporters later said  that the CFL missed the boat by not using him as he was a born promoter and 'mouthpiece.'

Sr. teamed with former teammate Len Chandler to promote the show with corporate sponsor Amstel Brewery on Feb 2 1986. It was a huge success with over 12,000 fans and a gate of $140,000. A dollar from each ticket went to the Spinal Cord Society and the fans were treated to a great show.

The main event brought Toronto favorite Ric Flair back for the first time since May 1984 to defend his NWA Title against Dusty Rhodes. At that time Flair was a NWA heel while Rhodes was fan favorite but the fans would have none of it. 

Flair had been long beloved here and during the Flair-Rhodes bout started cheering Flair. They reversed roles with Rhodes 'second' Baby Doll Roberts interfering. Flair took the win to a huge ovation and the card which also featured the Road Warriors, Jimmy Valiant (always hugely popular here), Abdullah The Butcher, Sgt. Slaughter and a host of local guys including Mosca Jr. was declared a huge success.

Longtime MLG ring announcer Norm Kimber, recently let go by the Toronto office, did the introductions for the night.

At the time Mosca had declared that he was seeking to become the exclusive promoter at Copps, similar to how the Tunney's had exclusive use of MLG. He also owned the syndicated TV rights for the TV show Pro Wrestling Canada which was produced by Milt Avruskin. They showed NWA bouts which were sometimes up to a year old and did voice-overs on the bouts. PWC ran from May 1986 to Oct 1986 was on the CTV Kitchener affiliate channel 13 locally but that channel wasn't available to all in the Toronto area.

Mosca later told a reporter that he couldn't get the show on in Toronto and that's what killed it. Doug Bassett, head of the CTV told him 'it wasn't family oriented television.' At that time they had WWF Championship , International Wrestling from Montreal, and the Maple Leaf WWF shows on TV in Toronto. While the WWF was tame, the International show was a harder style, a throwback to the 70's style with bloody bouts and great brawls.

If Mosca had been able to last, the Montreal based stars would likely have appeared here. Bravo, Abdullah, etc.but he had to run Toronto. MLG was still exclusive so it was limited outside of summer months.

Milt Dunnell wrote in his column "He (Mosca) is president and promoter of Pro Wrestling Canada, with shows on 10 TV stations in the east and two in the west. He stages live shows in Kitchener, Ottawa and Toronto (Varsity Arena), when he is not busy lifting trucks in Chevy commercials.'

He never promoted any shows at Varsity Arena or Ottawa as far as I know. Outside of the Hamilton shows and the one in Kitchener (more on those below) the only other one of record was in Peterborough on Feb 17 with Tully Blanchard vs Barry Windham as the main.

The TV how later appeared for a time on TSN and as well as CTV and is a good show to seek out. Mosca not the greatest announcer (whole other article) but Avruskin one of the best. 

Sr. would present another card in Kitchener on Nov 23rd 1986 with a main of Nikita Koloff vs Wahoo McDaniel as Moscamania II. This one was a reverse of the first one, several no shows and most of the cast filled out with locals. Only 1.500 showed up, 
most of whom went to see the Road Warriors. Hawk never showed and was replaced by manager Paul Ellering. Jr. took on Siki and it was back to the circuit for both Jr. and Siki. Despite the setback it was not to deter Mosca from staging another Hamilton show in Feb 1987.

Unfortunately he ran it on the same night as big WWF show at MLG featuring Roddy Piper vs Adrian Adonis in a 'retirement bout and Savage/Steamboat. Mosca in turn had  Flair vs Nikita Koloff but only drew 3,000 compared to the 17,000 at a packed MLG. On Mosca's show Blanchard battled Rhodes and they reversed roles too with the fans booing Dusty. 

A fan told me he had 'stickered' the MLG bathrooms prior with notice of the upcoming Hamilton card but it didn't seem to help much.There were rumors of bad payouts on shows (heard years later) and that was the end of Mosca's promotional tenure.

Both father and son would be featured on the popular CTV show Lifetime which ran the same night as a big WWF show at MLG. Sr. would continue to show up in  TV commercials, appear on shows like Night Heat, and was part of several business ventures capitalizing on his name.

Jr. and McKigney circuit

Finally posing with the Cdn Title
photo Griff Henderson
The two would even see some action together on Dave McKigney's Big Time circuit in and around Toronto. They would team up to take on Sweet Daddy Siki and Killer Karl Krupp in a small show at the St Lawrence Market in Toronto in March 1986. A short distance but a long way from the bright lights at Maple Leaf Gardens.

Jr. would stay on for some of the summer shows and return for Moscamania II in Kitchener in November.

The general consensus for those who saw him on the smaller circuit was that he was much improved, smoother in the ring and better adjusted to the pro style.

In the final Hamilton card for Sr. in Feb 1987 Jr. took on Shaska/Pistol Pez Whatley in the opener and soon thereafter wrapped up his ring career.

In recent years both Jr. & Sr. appeared at some meet and greets and Jr was very receptive and engaging with fans.

Moscamania memorabilia came from Eric Peddle
Jr. 2015 shot from Griff
Other stuff collection

-AC

Erin, ON 1986