Lists: Fathers & Sons you may not…

There were quite a few father and son wrestlers that had both appeared in Toronto. Some at the same time, others in different eras. Some stayed around long enough to star with their sons at MLG. 

Of the more well-known you can include Whipper Sr. & Jr. (Phil) Watson, Johnny & Greg Valentine, and Angelo Sr. & Jr. Mosca. Even the territory was a family business. Run by the Tunney's including John & Frank Tunney (brothers), Jack (John's son), and Eddie (Frank's son) and the scene was full of wrestling families, some real others not.

This time on Toronto Lists we look at...


1. WARREN & NICK BOCKWINKEL - Different eras
   Warren was highly touted upon his debut in Aug 1945, billed from St Louis and second only to World champ Wild Bill Longson. Said to be Longson's policeman (to protect the champ, head off rivals etc) Bockwinkel fared well with a win over respected star John Katan with an abundance of 'zest and twists.'  It was a good enough showing to earn a main vs Whipper Watson the following week. Whipper's mouthpiece and manager Phil Lawson accused Frank Tunney of protecting Longson calling Bockwinkel a kinky haired copper, and offered to let Whipper take a fall to lure Longson in. Whipper ended up tossing his foe out of the ring after 30 minutes and won by count out after Bockwinkel landed hard on the wooden floor. He continued to appear here up to 1952 and faced most of the regulars including Fred Atkins, Sandor Kovacs, and Sky Hi Lee. 

  Nick wrestled in Buffalo and other nearby cities in the late 1950's but did not make it to Toronto until 1977. Post Sheik era, Frank had arranged to use some of the top tier stars of the AWA. As AWA World champion Nick defended his title 16 times between 1977-1982 including the big double title challenge vs Backlund, and defenses vs some rarer challengers including Edouard Carpentier, Stan Stasiak, Tiger Jeet Singh, and Dewey Robertson. Of course with the AWA we also saw.......

2. VERNE & GREG GAGNE - Different eras and Same era for a time
 Both appeared 1977-1978 but Verne had been here before. His first Ontario appearances were in Fort William (later Thunder Bay) in the early 1950's and he finally made it to Toronto in 1958. He was holding the prestigious U.S. (NWA Illinois) Title and faced Karl Kulaski and later Al Alberto in his only area bouts for the era. In Oct 1977 Verne joined Frank at MLG, not to wrestle but to watch some of his stars in the first AWA affiliated card of the short lived partnership. Son Greg and partner Jim Brunzell defended their AWA Tag Titles against Blackjack Lanza & Bobby Duncum and made for fast fan-favorites in the city. For the second card a month later Verne returned, this time in ring taking on a masked El Santos (local gimmick, Duncan MacTavish, Terry Yorkston, and others did it). He continued to appear here sporadically over the next year including teaming with son Greg against Lanza & Duncum. 

  Greg stayed busy in tags and on his own with a title shot vs Bockwinkel. Partner Brunzell also faced Bockwinkel and appeared to have won the AWA title and was leaving down the ramp with the belt -only to have it reversed. Both Greg & Brunzell helped Verne off the ramp on a couple of occasions after tough bouts. Once the Mid-Atlantic partnership started in Oct 1978 both Verne & Greg (and the other AWA stars) were mostly absent other than Bockwinkel. As a footnote the AWA also ran in Ottawa (in tandem with Ray Boucher, not Tunney) in 1980 and did fairly well with our former Canadian champ Dino Bravo. It was a short run though and a year later Frank went back to the nation's capital for the first time in 35 years or so. The AWA tried Ontario one more time in Dec 1989 with a card at the CNE Coliseum. Battle of the Belts (AWA champ Zybysko vs Slaughter) didn't do well, a few hundred in attendance was reported.

Verne, Greg, and Jim Brunzell on the ramp 1978

3. BRUNO & BRUNO JR/DAVID - Different and same eras -kind of
  Toronto is frequently paired to Bruno who enjoyed wrestling here over three decades but is most notably remembered for his initial run in 1962. He had flattened the immovable object Bulldog Brower and several others in the months before being matched up with World champ Buddy Rogers. Rogers wins the first bout when Bruno can't beat the ten count after both were knocked to the canvas. The rematch sees the same finish. This time with Bruno winning after Rogers had attempted to leap over Bruno and got a low blow as they used to say. Sammartino refused to accept the title on those grounds telling the crowd (in Italian) 'I know I can beat the man and will under more favorable conditions.' He would but not here. A big bout vs Lou Thesz after Thesz had taken the title from Rogers (also here) saw the end of Bruno's run before he moved on to the WWWF Title. In all Bruno defended the title 27 times in Toronto alone (more on the circuit) over his two runs , his last coming in Apr 1976 vs then Toronto regular Brute Bernard. 

  David, who wrestled up here as Bruno Jr. in 1981-82 didn't make quite the impact of his father but did well both on the Tunney and McKigney circuits.  On the Maple Leaf scene he teamed with Bruno's wrestling cousin and local star Tony Parisi both at MLG and on the TV show. On McKigney's cards he was often teamed with Domenic Denucci, another of Bruno's Italian Connection pals. David returned in 1984 with the WWF as..David Sammartino while Bruno was working in the booth. A few years later in 1987 (during a brief comeback) Bruno subbed for Ken Patera and get a win over Butch Reed almost exactly 25 years since that first bout with Rogers. Bookend Buddy Rogers-Butch Reed.

Bruno Jr and Denucci Cornwall, ON 1981

Brother Jonathon. He's the father. And Don Leo Jonathon - different eras
Blackjack Mulligan & Blackjack Jr. -same eras -also later as Barry Windham
Bob Orton Sr & Bob Orton Jr - different eras
The Wolfman  & Mark Greer -same eras -Wildman circuit

Not a father son but a worthy addition
Wildman/Dubois/McKigney & Rachel Dubois (stepdaughter) -same eras


Photos .com collection, Chris Swisher collection