Featured External Link: 1961 NWA Convention in Toronto

Next up is an excellent report of the NWA convention that was held in Toronto Aug 24-27 1961 at Legacy of Wrestling

The NWA conventions seem fascinating, especially Frank Tunney's place in them. In 1961 in Toronto, Frank is leaving as President to be replaced by Fred Kohler.

You are likely familiar with the Legacy site but if not, spend a few days or months! kicking around there. Tim Hornbaker not only writes very thorough books, but the site is extensive with great info around the history of pro wrestling.

Tunney held a card on his regular Thursday night, the first day of the convention. Stu Hart was scheduled to make what was by then a rare wrestling appearance (last at MLG 1955) but didn't appear and never returned. You can see in Tim's notation from the article

*As of September 28, 1961, Stu Hart was not listed on the membership roster of the NWA. Haft, Quinn, Light, and Luttrall paid their dues right before the 1961 convention in Toronto. Hart may not have paid his dues, and was considered not an active member

There were a few things in the Toronto papers below. A lineup in the Globe, and below that the Program lineup with the sub for Stu. 

See also 1961 NWA Convention Photo


Gentleman Joe Gollob

    Long time referee Joe Gollob is an interesting name from the classic days of pro-wrestling in Ontario. After a boxing career he had become a wrestling referee and handled many big bouts at Maple Leaf Gardens and across the busy Ontario circuit.

 The Montreal native  turned pro in 1934 and boxed throughout the U.S., Mexico, South America, and parts of Europe claiming several titles in his travels as a welterweight.

 At the onset of WWII he worked as a physical training instructor with the Kent District Air Training Corps in England and in 1943 returned to Montreal in a similar role. Many wrestlers of the day either joined the forces or helped with training soldiers. Edwin 'Red' Garner, Pat Flanagan, and Whipper Watson all filled similar roles here in Toronto.

 With his boxing background he was able to take bumps. Not only from the wrestlers or co-referees (like Jersey Joe Walcott or Joe Louis) but on occasion the fans.

Riots and a heel ref 

Gollob also didn't hesitate to get involved in the action. He was often blocking angry sorts like the immovable object Bulldog Brower out on another rampage. Amid the riots and general mayhem of the era Joe also did the heel ref angle. Quickly counting the fan favorites down or failing to see the heels indiscretions.

 Ultimately they would bring in another referee to even it up and Joe would get thumped again by a combination of the ref and/or wrestlers. In 1952 at the Oshawa Arena he was lucky to make it out alive after some 500 fans took issue with his decision (see clip above).

They also run the heel ref in Kingston and Niagara Falls. One report from the Falls after an unpopular decision proclaims  'Joe Gollob is wrong as often as he is right.' 

 In those days they had 2 referees for the tag bouts to keep a handle on the action. Sometimes they teamed up one of the regular refs with a former boxing champ. In addition to Walcott and Louis, Rocky Marciano, Jack Dempsey, and Max Baer were others who were brought in to help maintain order.

 Unfortunately for Gollob that meant occasionally taking a good punch from one of the boxers after the two refs had a difference in opinion. While he may not have been a championship boxer in his day Gollob still ends up taking his share of the worlds greatest punches.

With Fuzzy Cupid, Sky Low Low, Little Beaver, Brown Panther MLG 1962 

 In 1957 after the Ontario government got involved in pro wrestling* Joe backed up promoter Tunney with an impassioned plea to the Ontario legislature.

'Referee Joe Gollob said wrestling referees don't need any help from the Ontario Athletic Commission to maintain order during bouts. He admitted that in the heat of battle a referee is occasionally pushed or shoved by a wrestler but he added: 'We learn to accept this and to make allowances for it. In such a contest the wrestlers are bound to be in high spirits from time to time.' 

 In August 1959 Gene Kiniski had helped Don Leo Jonathon beat down Whipper Watson when the angry fans lofted the ringside chairs in the air. Poor Joe took one flush to the face and needed 15 stitches to close the wound.  

Despite all the bumps he was fairly prolific as a ref, working several nights a week on the busy circuit here for years. He was involved in too-many-to-list big bouts at MLG including the 1959 Gorgeous George loses his hair bout.. He finally hung up the refs shirt in 1969 and passed on at the age of 89 in 2005.


*We covered that episode in a bit for Slam at 1957 Childs goes after wrestling- on Slam Wrestling 
External Link - opens in a new window

Nostalgia .com collection 

Whitby Free Press 1997

Wrestlers and Football Toronto 1933

Over on the MLW FB Gary Will was talking about Mayes McLain and the other wrestlers that were in the first professional Football team in Toronto back in 1933. The Crosse & Blackwell Chefs. This pic was in the Toronto Globe October 9 1933.

Led by multi-sportsman (including wrestling) Lionel Conacher and his hockey playing brother Charlie, it also featured wrestlers McLain, Joe Savoldi, Alex Kasaboski, Ernie Zeller, and in practice Al Getzewich (a former Masked Marvel), and Wilbur Smith.

Gary reported that  in October 1933 Toronto lost the first game against Rochester but won the second one with Lionel Conacher leading the way. They drew 13,000 to Maple Leaf Stadium for the inaugural game.

Maple Leaf Stadium was later used by Tunney for outdoor cards in the 1960s. Clips below are from the Toronto papers in the days before the games.


We looked at Lionel Conacher's brief wrestling career for a bit on Slam
Lionel Conacher Big Train on the mat - back soon?
There is more info and pics at Collectingcanadianfootball.blogspot.com

Thanks to Gary Will
Gary Will's Toronto Wrestling History

October 5 1933 

George Richards

    George Richards 'Mr. Big & Tall' was famous for his clothing shops which catered to athletes and big men, including many of the Toronto wrestlers including Whipper Watson, Pat Flanagan, and Athol Layton.

   Before opening his chain of stores Richards was a pro wrestler here in the 1930's-40's. Born in 1914 he had taken up wrestling to help support his family after his father died. When Maple Leaf Gardens opened in Nov 1931 the teenage Richards was selling programs at the arena he would later wrestle in. 

Main pic: 1936   

He went pro in the early 1930's and in addition to the local scene he traveled a bit working around New York and Ohio (as Benny Stein) alongside fellow Toronto stalwart Jerry Monahan. Here he was mostly a prelim type guy wrestling on the openers. One listing in NJ has him (if he is Benny Stein) wrestling Gino Garibaldi.

   In 1936 he tried his hand at boxing and entered into the Jack Dempsey 'White Hope' tournament under the tutelage of Ed Kellar who had competed in the 1930 British Empire games in Hamilton.

   During World War II he enlisted in the Air Force and helped to train troops on the ships going from Halifax to London. On the return trip he'd be in charge of German prisoners of war coming to Canada.

   After the war he opened his first store and noticed he was seeing a lot of his athletic colleagues so started catering to men taller than 6'1 (sized 38-60) and to stout men 200-450lbs (sizes 42-66), It was in an instant hit for football players and of course the wrestlers who were now able to get quality suits in their sizes.

   Athol Layton who was 6'6 265 wore a size 52 tall and appreciated the bright colors, shirts in pink, lilac, and chartreuse. He was one of the snappiest dressers among any athlete both on TV as a commentator and at the many charity functions he appeared at. .

   It wasn't exclusive to athletes, some of the city's more famous 'stout' men were customers including former police chief Harold Adamson (6.2 210lbs) and Sam Shopsowitz of Shopsys -the hot dog king (5'10 270lbs). Shopsowitz once said about Richards suits 'The fact that I'm fat doesn't mean that I don't like to follow fashion trends. I object to elephant pants but I like patch pockets on my suits,' indeed!


   In 1954 after the Toronto Tag Trophy (sponsored by Calvert Distillery dubbed the Calvert trophy) was destroyed by the Mills Brothers,  Richards donated a new trophy to be awarded to the Tag champs - the George Richards Trophy which was awarded through the balance of the 1950's.

   By 1980 under the banner George Richards Kingsize Clothes  it had grown to 16 locations around the country and while George still remained active his son Michael was running the day to day operations. The Grafton-Fraser company who had bought 50% share in 1977 purchased the balance of the company in 1981

   George was still leading exercise classes for seniors into his mid 80's and at 87 (2002) was still working out 4 times a week. He passed on in November 2010 at the age of 96. 

Note: some info from the book I Know that Name!: The People Behind Canada's Best-known Brand Names from ...By Mark Kearney, Randy Ray
Thanks also to Renata G 


1957 with Whipper and Pat