Red Garner: The Pride Of Langstaff

    Edwin 'Red' Garner certainly deserves his place in the history of professional wrestling in Canada for his tenure as an amateur, pro, and promoter for over 30 years in Southern Ontario.

    Red's story goes back to about 1932 when he started showing up on Toronto's busy local amateur boxing and wrestling scene. At 17 years old and 126 lbs Red learned the ropes out of the Premier Athletic Club, one of the many clubs in Toronto. The city was full of contests at all sorts of venues. Amateur mostly, some mit-mat (boxing & wrestling), and some that were a mix of the pro and amateur styles.

    Maple Leaf Gardens had been open for about a year with Jack Corcoran running pro cards there. Ivan Mickailoff, the man who started the regular weekly cards in the city was holding court at the Mutual St Arena.

    Around 1933 Garner began wrestling on shows for the West Toronto Wrestling Club out of Mavety Hall (later West End Theater) at Mavety and Dundas St. Now up to 150 lbs Red began moving up the ladder to main event bouts which lead into appearances on the cards at Mutual St. Amateur star Ted McKinley became one of Red's early allies. McKinley was a regular on the scene in the early 1930's earning a Silver medal in the 1934 Commonwealth Games in the Bantamweight division. McKinley was often billed as a Canadian Champion.

    In 1937 Red suffered a serious injury with dislocating a neck vertebrae and there was a benefit card held for him at the Mutual St Arena. The main event featured McKinley vs another regular Ernie Hughson. Others appearing included Sam Gotter who later worked with the Toronto (Tunney) office and refereed at MLG. 

   Garner recovered and joined the Army in 1940 to train soldiers in physical fitness and athletics. He appeared regularly on the weekly shows for the Crawford A.C. held at Foresters Hall at College and Yonge, and was busy organizing and wrestling on the many mit-mat shows around the area.

    In 1946 Red traveled to Mexico and spent nearly a year there, appearing in a Welterweight Tournament held at La Arena Coliseo. The following year he appeared on several cards in Oshawa for Pat Farrell who pre-dated Pat Milosh as head of the Oshawa scene. 

Turn to Promoting, Moto, Wally, & Dave    

    The promoting side for Garner began around 1948. Red started with shows near his home at the Richmond Hill Arena every Tuesday evening.
Oshawa 1947

    As the early 1950's began Red was also running cards at the Thornhill Market, Weston Arena, Lakeshore Arena, and Newmarket Arena. 

    Shows in Richmond Hill were billed as 'Professional Light-Heavyweight Wrestling - coolest spot in town - Wrestling On Ice.' Other wrestlers now appearing included The Black Knight, Juan Lopez, and Roy Hassan/Hassan Bey (Georgio Stefanides - later a referee at MLG). Garner also travelled a bit up the road to both Ottawa and Montreal and other towns in Quebec before coming up with a new angle to help himself get over.

    Friends had told him he looked Asian so he took up Sumo and studied the style and costumes of Japanese Wrestlers in order to turn into Mr. Moto, dreaded Japanese heel. In his new persona Red spoke in broken English and made up a phony story about his Japanese ancestry. The first appearance of Mr Moto was in Ottawa in 1952. As Mr Moto he faced a young Buddy Rogers in Montreal that same year.

    Red set up a gym in his garage in Richmond Hill and started to train wrestlers to use on his cards. Joe Greenfield, Norm Alexander, Bill Clubine, Harold Van Dyke, Stoney Brooks were all trainees that worked on the local scene. Al Korman who later refereed at MLG and Mike Scicluna aka Baron Scicluna were other early trainees. Most notable were Wally Seiber and Dave McKigney, two newcomers who would each make ta big impact on the Ontario Wrestling scene.

    Wally, from Holland Landing progressed first into Waldo Von Seiber, and then later teamed up with Fritz Von Erich as cousin Waldo Von Erich. He became Waldo away form Toronto but both Wally and Fritz had appeared on the same cards around Toronto in those early days. McKigney too created his own legacy by using a wrestling bear as early as 1957 and later becoming The Canadian Wildman. At this time McKigney was billed as Jean or Jacques Dubois -the Flying Frenchman. Along with McKigney and Seiber, others on the cards included soon to be Garner regulars, Ed Gori Mangotich, Ron 'Wildcat' Osborne, Tom Sullivan, Al Wallace, Ivan Klimenko, Jack Flicker 'The Aurora Madman', Billy Foster (Georgetown Lacrosse Star), and Les Lyman. Mangitoch made several trips across to the UK and became quite a star there in the 1960's.

    Scarborough's Les Lyman, often billed as a Canadian champ, was promoting around Toronto at the Scarborough & Lakeshore Arenas and the two were sharing talent and resources. One of Red's trainees 'Jumping' Joe Greenfield also emerges on the scene and becomes family when he marries Ed's daughter Phyllis in 1953.
Fighting from the knees 1952

    In the late summer of 1953 Red along with Ed Mangotich described as 'the biggest Toronto villains' were invited to Quebec to wrestle on shows for Promoter Sylvio Samson. Samson, similar to Garner, was promoting shows in competition with the big players in Quebec, Eddie Quinn and others. Garner saw action alongside Dr Jerry Graham, the Lortie's Bob, Donald, and Ray, as well as the Quebec version of the Wrestling Bear, Gorgeous Gus (handled by Billy Fox).

    Waldo Von Seiber also made some of those shows with partner Kurt Von Seiber as would another prominent Ontario name, Joe Maich. Maich was another notable amateur turned pro who promoted for many years in Brantford and area along with his boxer brother  Don. Red showed up on their shows from time to time in Simcoe, Delhi, and the other spots they were running.

    Back in Ontario under the banner of Central Canadian Wrestling Alliance (CCWA) Red expanded out into the smaller towns across the Southern part of the province. Stoufville, Georgetown, Port Perry , Cobourg, Peterborough, and Lindsay were all popular stops. Former wrestler Toar Morgan who had settled in Lindsay also promoted some shows in that area in a partnership of sorts. Locally the troupe filled Lakeshore Arena for weekly shows in the mid 1950's and other spots, East York Arena, Scarborough Arena. In 1955 they started in Aurora on Monday evenings at the Aurora Arena for a season lasting usually 4-5 months.

Family Affair

    It truly was a family affair for Red. Along with son-in-law Joe Greenfield who wrestled and refereed,  Joe's brother Pal and Ed's son Ed Jr trucked the ring and bear trailer around to the different venues. Ed Jr billed as 'Red Jr' also wrestled a bit on his Dad's shows. Red's daughter Phyllis (Joe's wife) helped man the box office. One night Red got into it with a fan and Phyllis hit the guy over the head with the moneybag and it split open sending cash all over the Arena floor. Another daughter Betty was married to wrestler Stoney Brooks, a regular on the circuit for many years. Joe's son ( Red's grandson) Edwin remembers that when he was a kid that the ring was set up in Garner's backyard for the wrestlers to work out and train for the upcoming shows.

    In the summer of 1955 Red promoted a series of cards at the Port Perry Arena. Baron Von Seiber headlined most of them with other names such as 'Langstaff Jumping Jack' Tommy White, Irish Jack Phelan, Sylvain Richard, Calvin Cosburn, and Joe Greenfield, billed 'Langstaff Scissors King'.
Garner also featured the fabulous midget wrestlers who were very popular in those days. A two card series in Stoufville in 1957 featuring the midget stars drew 3,000 people over the two cards. Red also ran weekly shows in the winters at the Thornhill Farmers Market between 1955-1958.

Tied in the ropes circa 1952

    In the mid 1950's Red was also visible in his local area as Manager of the Langstaff Bantam minor hockey team. His son-in law Joe servde as coach. Red (and Joe) continued that involvement through the 1960's and when mentioned in the hockey news section was usually preceded with 'Well known Wrestler Red Garner...'.

The Big Circuit  

  In 1956 Red made it to Maple Leaf Gardens using his Mr Moto persona. He teamed up with a Mr Hito (Mamoru Noguchi), both using a sleeper hold as a finisher, and proved very successful in taking on the teams of the day. Bouts against the Lewin Brothers Mark and Donn, Pat Flanagan and Billy Stack, and the Brunetti Brothers Guy and Joe ensued. On Oct 4 1956 Moto and Hito interfered in then NWA champion Whipper Watson's bout vs Mighty Ursus to earn the wrath of the new champ. Hito was up first the following week only to lose via dq, then both Moto and Hito were to take on Watson in a handicap bout. Both ended up disqualified but they had earned their success at the top. Moto got his shot at Watson alone also only to lose by dq after both Hito and Whipper's pal Tim Geohagen interfered in the bout.

As Moto (right) 1956

    On the Oct 25 card they beat the Brunetti's by dq and appeared to take the Canadian Open Tag Team Titles. The brothers argued that they can't lose the belts via dq (many belts were lost by dq in those days) leaving both teams claiming the titles. They met in a re-match a few weeks later which ended in a draw. It appears the earlier dq win was discarded as the Brunetti's kept the titles until losing to the Miller Brothers (Dan & Bill) in Feb 1957.

    On Thursday Nov 8 1956 Red as Moto again faced Watson with Wee Willie Davis appointed as special referee. Watson wins the bout clean and Red earns another spot in history as being Whippers last opponent as NWA champ. The next day Watson loses his belt to Lou Thesz in St Louis ending his reign.

    The success at MLG that year and into 1957 leads Moto and Hito to travel. In Winnipeg they faced other heel teams, Fritz Von Erich and Karl Von Schoberg and the Kalmikoff's. One bout in Montreal pitted the two against the star pairing of Edouard Carpentier and Verne Gagne while another put them up against Dick The Bruiser and Killer Kowalski. Red made his last appearance as Moto at MLG in Jan 1957 but continued to show up elsewhere through 1958, solo and with Hito. The Moto character, sometimes as the Great Moto continued into the late 1950's on Red's shows around the area.

    I asked Roger Baker if he had ever attended any of Red's shows.
'I did see one of his shows in Toronto back around 1957-1958, he had it staged in an old Toronto movie theater called 'The Runnymede' this was down on Runnymede Street near the intersection of Runnymede and College. It was the first time that I got a to see how a small 'Indy' promotion was staged. Garner wore many hats that evening, including being the announcer, as well as the referee, and wrestling with the mask on as well. He was very adept in all his roles that evening. 

Can remember only the name of one wrestler who worked on that show, his name was Killer Joe Conroy. Several years prior I was invited to second some wrestlers who appeared on a show in Scarborough, one of those wrestlers was Killer'Joe, and I can recall him telling me that he was going to live up to his moniker that night. Being a young guy at the time and not having been clued in, this big brawler had me on edge.'


    The intimidating Killer Conroy returned on Red's shows under several aliases including Mr X, The Masked Marvel, and bearded 'Russian' Ivan Volkoff. Conroy, who retired around 1970, later was the doorman at Kelly's bar at Shuter and Dundas and had quite a reputation. 
Kudo on the mat 1960

    Another promoter coming on the scene by the name of Gus Marmon, another former amateur star,  put on shows under the name Olympic Wrestling Club. Marmon had a partnership of sorts with Garner, hitting many of the same towns with many of the same wrestlers as was appearing on Red's shows as well as Red himself. Red at this time had taken a job with the Toronto Library and started to wrestle under a mask to avoid being recognized.

    A 1960 Cobourg ad has  'Channel 11 in Kingston for a new ‘Live Wrestling Show starting June 11 Featuring International TV Stars, Ali Pasha, Cowboy Carlson, Danny Shayne, The Blonde Bomber, Kudo'. Unsure if that ever got off the ground but the promotion continued. Along with the smaller towns in Ontario Marmon held some shows at the Lansdowne Theater in Toronto in 1961. Along with Killer Conroy, others on these cards included the Jennings Brothers (including Wilf the Wolf Jennings who later worked for McKigney and and Tunney) Tony Manousos, and Garner regulars Orlando and Osborne. Headlining these shows was The Great Kudo.

The Great Kudo   

 This was the new masked persona for Red - The Great Kudo - and he wrestled barefoot. Kudo made his debut around 1960 on the circuit shows before showing up at MLG in February 1962.

    After a few bouts Kudo was matched up against the newest Toronto star Bruno Sammartino and the two got embroiled in a lively feud. During one bout Kudo's manager Sam Sullivan (Gus Marmon?) got involved with Bruno outside the ring, and a near riot ensued.
As Kudo vs Bruno MLG 1962

    Roger Baker was at ringside and taking photos on that night.
'As I recall it was a very rough match and both wrestlers got involved with some rowdy ringsiders who tried to beat up Garner's manager for this appearance'.

    Bruno went on to win the WWWF title and when he made his first Toronto appearance as champion, his opponent again was Kudo.

    Red hung up the boots soon thereafter as the ring was taking its toll on both his body and his family life. In an 1981 article he remarks 'I was too old, too tired, and it was too hard to keep in shape' and how he 'wanted to spend more time with Dorothy and the kids.' He worked up to be a Chief Librarian in Toronto before retiring in 1980. In 1981 he became restless and took on a job driving the kids favorite, the Bookmobile.

    Red passed away in 1994 and while most remembered in the wrestling community as the trainer of Waldo and Dave among others, he certainly had a major impact on the local scene. He also likely inspired McKigney to branch out on his own as Dave started promoting around 1964, filling in where Red once filled the smaller arenas.

-AC

Thanks to E Greenfield for his help and photos 
Thanks to Roger Baker
Some info on Ted McKinley here Ted McKinley

Enjoying retirement with Dorothy