Big Anthony's in Niagara Falls Ontario was a popular spot for many years. Owned by Tony Parisi and family, the restaurant was filled with great photos and nostalgia from Parisi's career, There was even a sitting area roped off like a ring.
|I took that in 2006. Quite a poster!|
Parisi had a strong presence in the area since he had moved there in the early 1960s and later opened the Tony Parisi Sports Lounge. He first appeared at Maple Leaf Gardens back in June 1963 and put in a good showing vs Killer Kowalski despite getting the loss. His second bout was against Gene Kiniski before he soon teamed up with Lorenzo Parente in a popular Italian team. Parisi remained a regular on the weekly cards and the busy circuit to 1965, though in other areas he was mostly Antonio Pugliese, Bruno Sammartino's cousin.
The Italian Connection remained strong as he partnered with Domenic Denucci & Gino Brito in Toronto. When Parisi came back in 1968 teamed with Brito, he was billed as Pugliese (only time as Pugliese here) but didn't stay around long. He was scheduled to be on Dave McKigney's Varsity Arena show in 1971 that went head to head with Tunney but didn't appear. A couple of weeks later he was back in the MLG ring.
In 1976 he did appear for a rival promotion. George Cannon and his Superstars of wrestling ran at the CNE Coliseum while Tunney moved his 45th Anniversary show up to go head to head. Again no grudges held as Tony was back on the Tunney cards soon thereafter.
Throughout the 1970s Parisi promoted in and around Niagara Falls. Cards at Memorial Arena as well as the Skylon Tower, and at Oakes Park. One card at the Skylon brought in 2,700 fans for a main of Tony vs Waldo Von Erich. Of course in Niagara Tony always won. He also ran the popular wrestling shows at the annual CHIN Picnics in Toronto for many years.
In late 1977 he took some time off but returned for the exciting Mid Atlantic era. He was still very popular and exciting in the ring. Quick and light on his feet. He would get up on the top rope and lay down like he's sleeping (his opponent was boring him) and other fun stuff. By this time he was mostly in the openers alongside Frankie Laine, The Destroyer (Beyer), Billy Red Lyons, and other skilled veteran types. We were lucky to have some good prelim bouts through this era. He did team with Flair and other stars too, able to keep up with anyone.
With the onset of the M-A affiliation the promotion went back to a circuit, with Parisi handling the Niagara Falls cards. Mostly held on the Monday after the big Sunday MLG card with Flair, Youngblood etc hitting the circuit towns for a couple of dates before heading back south.
Let the match begin...Apr 1982 MLG -one of my best pics (content anyways)
At MLG in April 1982 he took on Ray Stevens, now a good guy after years as 'The Crippler.' They shook hands at the beginning of the bout and had an all scientific type match, one of the best bouts of the era for me. It was a good way to kick off the evening which was also the last time two major titles were defended on the same card. NWA Title (Flair vs Race) and AWA Title (Bockwinkel vs Mosca).
Parisi passed on in 2000 and the family continued for a time before selling the business. Last time I was by there it was an Indian restaurant. Tony was deservedly inducted into the Niagara Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
-AC and photos by ...