The Fascinating New Hobby of TV Picture-Taking

Roger's TV in 1957

 Roger Baker sent me this photo of his TV in 1957. He is watching Chicago Wrestling on the Dumont Network (here on CHCH) and villain Hans Schmidt is telling the fans what he is going to do to his next opponent. Now Roger was a globetrotting photog in the 1960s, heading out to all corners to cover wrestling with his trusty camera and notepad in hand. But this photo is from before that, when young Roger was just a rabid Toronto wrestling fan. 

The photo resonated with me as I once did that too and guessing other fans did as well. Things are a bit more advanced now, mostly!

As far as TV wrestling, Roger in his day, much like us in ours, spent a lot of time watching. We had a ton of wrestling on TV in the late 70s early 80s. Usually 4-5 different feds all day on a Saturday. In the 1950s there was almost as many options as TV's were starting to occupy many Canadian households. 

By the time Roger took that pic of his TV in 1957, in addition to the U.S. channels that were available here; locals CKVR Barrie, CHEX Peterboro, CKWS Kingston, CKCO Kitchener, CFCL Timmins, CKNY Wingham, and CHCH Hamilton were all running wrestling. 

Some, being CBC affiliated, twinned the Toronto CBLT show. Others showed tape from Winnipeg. In Kingston CKWS ran Texas Wrestling while Hamilton's CHCH (later to host the homegrown show for many years) and CKCO ran wrestling from Chicago and the 'Wrestling from Ringside' show out of Ohio

So back to Roger's photo of his TV. A while later I am looking through an early 60s issue of Wrestling Revue and there's a story titled 'The Fascinating New Hobby of TV Picture-Taking.' 

Each week, more and more people are discovering the pleasures of a new and fascinating hobby that is sweeping the country-the taking of photographs directly off the television screen. For wrestling fans, who are instinctive picture collectors, the new hobby provides even richer rewards. Just think of it, without leaving your own living room, and in a comparatively short space of time, you can own a collection of not only thrilling action pictures but delightful candid shots of your favorite mat stars. And since the chances of two people making exactly the same exposures are practically nil, every picture you take will be exclusive.'


And sure enough there's Hans Schmidt again! This time dressed smartly while discussing the latest holds and such. Also Eddie Graham & Ray Morgan, Buddy Rogers, and George Harris. On the top a Dickie Steinborn-Herb Larson bout. Taking photos of the TV, Roger ahead of the curve with that idea...

-AC


Gori Ed Mangotich


    He was called the Toronto Terror at times in the U.K. but around home he was known as the rugged boy from Ryding, his neighborhood to the NW side of Toronto. Best known as Gori/Ed Mangotich, his formative years came on the Southern Ontario CCWA circuit run by Red Garner. For a time, Ed from Ryding was the top heel on the middleweight cards run by Garner in the smaller towns around Toronto. 

Main pic: 1965 Richmond Hill. Mangotich left with Rockey Bowley

Edwin Reid debuted around 1947 as Ed Mangotich. If the dates are right he was 15 or so. The circuit was just getting started. Garner had parlayed a successful amateur career into a fledgling promotion. It was made up of lighter (and younger) wrestlers, some from the amateur scene and others trained by Red near his home in Richvale (Richmond Hill). 

1951 close to home
With a lot of local presence they adopted their locales into their names. The Brampton Bully's, the Hamilton Hood, the Stratford Streak, and the simple Newmarket Boys. Ed became the Ryding Roughneck and was occasionally joined by a brother Doni as the Roughnecks. Soon it was Gori Ed and he added Slavic Sensation to the growing list of nicknames. 

The Garner circuit was known for its fast and high flying action with Mangotich spending years challenging the up and comers. A lot of scientific wrestling, though they imitated the main circuit at times. Masks, blindfold bouts, and other stuff they did back then. Here and in Ottawa notably there had been various times that promoters played it as a New Deal or English Style. Wrestling straight up. Garner tried that too and his guys could keep up. 

The fans were mostly against Gori Ed but he built up a following, known as a tough, down to the gears type. There were a lot of those types in the smaller towns they ran. An undefeated streak was a recurring theme throughout his career and he would help the others climb the ranks. 

Success Overseas

In 1951 another local from Bradford known variously as Wally Sieber, the Pride of Holland Landing,  and Baron Von Sieber, met up with Mangotich and began years of teaming and feuding. Over time Sieber and others from the circuit (McKigney, Scicluna, etc) went on to bigger and better things. Mangotich and the other lighter wrestlers often went out of the country to find work in the off months. Garner had earlier in his career gone to Mexico, and in 1954 Mangotich went to the U.K. 

When Mangitoch returned for the 1955 season they mentioned his return from England and his claims of not losing a bout in over 100 matches. He played it up well with a strong season all around for Garner. In one bout Gori Ed faces Carl Banniman said to be the British Empire Middleweight champion.  

1952

The Great Mangotich

1959
For the 1956 season he becomes The Great Mangotich: 'Ed ‘Gori’ will give a demonstration of modern hypnotic methods as a special added attraction, at no extra charge...' People loved it. He held the Canadian Middleweight Title, the prize of the promotion. A year later he was fined 25$ and banned from the Thornhill Farmers Market for a month for causing a riot. Not as the Hypnotist, but the wrestler. When he came back to Thornhill he and Doni started a fight with Campbellford's Stoney Brooks at the back of the hall prior to their own bout. The other wrestlers had to break it up and they were lucky to not cause another riot. 

In between he returned to the U.K. where he carved out a considerable career alongside many of the star of the 50s and 60s. Following in Whipper's shoes and many others of the era, he appeared in the 1962 promotional documentary The Wrestling Game where he faced Judo Al Hayes, then a top ranked British star. 

In a 1963 British magazine Wrestling Review, it discusses the Toronto Terror and his controversial Claw hold which had already been banned for his frequent partner Dr Death. In the mid 60s they were in the middle of the battles on the fighting British scene. Other nicknames were used, both here and there, including Lumberjack the Rugged Yugoslav, Killer, and Mangler. 

With his success overseas we saw limited action from Mangotich with sporadic appearances into the late 60s. His last in England was in 1970. His death is listed as 1995. 

If you can add to Gori Ed's story here in Canada please do. For his British exploits lots of great stuff at the Heritage site listed below. 

-AC

The Canadian Heavyweight Title The Complete History 1978-1984


mapleleafwrestling.com presents with design and layout
by Dick Bourne of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

The Canadian Heavyweight Title The Complete History 1978-1984
Available now through the Mid Atlantic Gateway - Bookstore
Review at Slam Wrestling

'A trip down memory lane... a remarkable, compelling, and long-overdue tale about a championship belt that shared the stage with some of the most respected titles in professional wrestling history.'
 Marshall Ward for Slam Wrestling

'Toronto has a great history of wrestling drawing big names and huge crowds to Maple Leaf Gardens. This book is for those who remember and a great read for those that are keeping the sport alive today. Really enjoyed it.'
 Perry Gray On The Ropes Wrestling


  
The Canadian Heavyweight Title - The Complete History 1978-1984
  In 1978 as the Toronto territory was taking off with the young stars of Mid-Atlantic wrestling, promoter Frank Tunney introduced a local championship. That title, the first true local title in many years, was named the Canadian Heavyweight Title 
to be defended by the top star in Maple Leaf Wrestling.

  During those years locally known as ‘the Mid-Atlantic era’, the area was one of the most exciting and important territories in the wrestling world.  Join us as we revisit the big cards, the tournaments, the beautiful title belt, and many other memorable slices of Maple Leaf Wrestling from 1978-1984.

Thanks to all of the fans who said they enjoyed the book 
AC

Proud to be in the lineup! Check out all of the fabulous books at
http://www.midatlanticgateway.com/p/book-store.html



The Wrestling Boom of the 1950's - Beyond Tunney


  While there were few threats to Frank Tunney's promotion throughout the 40+ years he controlled Toronto and the outlying towns, it did happen a few times. As it was Frank enjoyed the jewel of the territory, Maple Leaf Gardens, of which he had the exclusive wrestling rights. He was seeing 200-300,000 fans a year through the turnstiles at MLG alone through much of the 1950's for the weekly cards.

    Amidst the wrestling boom of the 1950's Tunney and his affiliate promoters were also busy promoting the towns around southern Ontario. Cards in Niagara Falls, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Barrie, and Oshawa which all had regular seasons, and others that didn't. He had trusted partners in place to run these cities. Pat Milosh, Sammy Sobol, John Katan, and Tommy Nelson were some of the trusted few.

    Others like the Maich brothers (Joe and Don) in Brantford on a smaller scale and Larry Kasaboski in North Bay on a larger one, ran their own show but kept an amiable relationship with Tunney going back to their wrestling days. Kasaboski's TV Wrestling frequently featured Tunney stars 'Straight from MLG!' Dave McKigney (The Wildman) started promoting his brand of mayhem in the mid 1960's but at this time he was a young middleweight working on Red Garner shows.

   Garner and Kasaboski were both promoting shows in Tunney's backyard and we will look at them here.

Red Garner and the Middleweight Circuit

Garner (pictured) card 1951 
    Edwin 'Red' Garner, a former amateur standout was based in the small town of Richmond Hill just North of Toronto. He ran a small circuit using mostly trainees from his gym set up near his home in Richvale. He started promoting cards in the 1940's and was going strong by the 1950's.

    Using fast and exciting mostly middleweight wrestlers he had a strong fan base around Richmond, Hill, Thornhill, and Aurora.

    His wrestlers mostly had an amateur background but it was a pro style. The lighter grapplers didn't pose much of a threat to Tunney and his stars and Red started to create a regular fan base North of Toronto.

    1952 was an especially good year for Red and company. They were doing brisk business with youngsters including Baron Waldo Von Sieber (later Waldo Von Erich), Jacques Dubois (McKigney), and Toronto born Gori Ed 'Killer' Mangotich whom later found great success in the UK. Mike (aka Baron) Scicluna and Bull Johnston also spent their formative years on Garner's circuit.

New Action In Stoufville

    Despite Garner's success, in early 1953 Stoufville Arena announced a change for it's second Wrestling season -the arena opened in 1952- with a move to 'Southern States wrestlers.' Said to be the same stars from the Grapefruit states which were shown on Toronto's film TV shows. The wrestlers eventually featured were not household names. Irish Michael O'Toole, Steve Zaboski, Wes Glazier, a 'Red Demon.' Don Ireland of Oshawa, Ted Swift from Niagara Falls and others from the area.

    That outfit ran a few shows and one report claimed it to be the 'best wrestling show that has been offered here since it was introduced here over a year ago.' The only notable local name that appeared was Killer Jim Conroy as Bert Killer Conroy.

  By 1954 though, Garner was back in to Stoufville kicking off the season at the beginning of April with Von Sieber against Mangotich. Garner's matchmaker, former amateur star Roy McMahon (yup), offered a money back guarantee if you weren't happy with the show

   Back in 1952 while Garner was filling out the arenas on his circuit Tunney was running Barrie -using famed sportsman Max Hurley as promoter- as well as Collingwood 60km away. With his regular stars and guests like Boxing great Jack Dempsey in as special referee, they were regularly drawing 1000 fans to the small arenas. Tunney's shows ran from 75c to $2.50 for ringside while Garner had lower prices of 65c to $1 for ringside.
*Note: an item said that the top stars had issue with the fact that Dempsey received a hefty $225 to appear in Barrie. A 'very expensive proposition for Tunney.'

Wrestling Returns to Barrie 1954 - with Northland Wrestling

   Wrestling was absent from the two towns through 1953. In 1954 Barrie announced a new summer wrestling season kicked off May 25, this time with shows promoted by Northland Wrestling Enterprises headed by Kasaboski. Northland was enjoying a huge upswing at the time due to its popular live TV Studio wrestling, one of the early studio shows in North America.

    Kasaboski ran Barrie on Tunney's former Tuesday night while Tunney countered in Collingwood on Wednesday's.  At the end of the month Kasaboski ran a card featuring the very popular little person stars as the main event and filled the arena. Tunney sent his biggest stars of the day alongside Whipper. The Mills Brothers, Fred Atkins, Yukon Eric. etc.

Kasaboski 1954 Tuesday Night Aug 10 

Tunney 1954 Wednesday Night Aug 11

    A July main in Barrie had upcoming former Olympic star Maurice Mad Dog Vachon vs Bobby Ford while Tunney followed with Whipper vs Sky Hi lee in Collingwood. Dory Funk and Don Evans also appeared that summer and many U.S. stars would come up over the years and enjoy the Ontario North. Kasaboski was regularly drawing 700-1200 to the shows. Tunney's attendance was not reported.

   At that time Kasaboski's circuit was vast. He was running shows in over 30 towns from La Sarre in Northern Quebec across to Wawa, Ontario, working his way down as far as Brockville on the Canada/U.S. border. He also ran Orillia, a few minutes East of Barrie.

1954 sharing the page, Tunney ad taking 2nd place

Tunney Fights Back 

    At the 1954 NWA convention Tunney, who had been elected as vice-president, complained about Kasaboski going into his towns and under-bidding him to promoters. Kasaboski was not a member of the NWA.

Tunney takes Stoufville 1957 
    In 1956 Tunney moved into Stoufville bumping Garner out with regular cards featuring Dick Hutton, Fritz Von Erich, Whipper, and the rest of the cast They also go into other towns that Garner ran including Newmarket and Bradford. Garner continued to run Thornhill and Richmond Hill on alternate days to the Tunney cards. Tunney would promote with 'Big Name Stars' prominent on the ads.

    In Sutton (across the Lake from Barrie) in July 1957 Tommy Nelson via Tunney drew 1,500 fans for a main of Whip vs Kiniski. It was said to be the largest draw at the Sutton Arena for any sport over the past several years.

  It's unclear if Tunney had any grievance with Garner who wasn't the same threat as Kasaboski was.

    Somewhere along the way Kasaboski and Tunney settled up as some of the names crossed over. One Kasaboski card in September 1958 was set to have a main of  Fred Atkins (billed from Frank Tunney's Toronto circuit) vs Bobo Brazil, who were both current stars for Tunney. Bobo no showed forcing Atkins to face Scotty Thompson. It said the 'incident will not go unaccounted. Northland promoter Larry K who brings in the Toronto men through his friendly connection with Frank Tunney, is sure to find out the reason why.'  The recap for that bout claimed Thompson made Atkins 'work, probably harder than he has in many bouts.'

    Somewhat related was that the Barrie Fair that same month had originally scheduled wrestling via Kasaboski. It was reported that the OAC had said it was illegal to put on wrestling at the fair so the card was cancelled. Have to wonder as many fairs in Ontario at the time had 'exhibition' wrestling, and if in fact Tunney had something to do with it. 


Northland Winning The Fight

    A column in the Barrie Examiner in Sept 1958 looked at the past season and determined the best wrestling was ....Northland.

   'While the Northland wrestlers were although a mite smaller, proved far more schooled in the science of the game. They were faster, and did more than hold their right arms up, claiming victory.'

   Added was 'Best Villain - Maurice Vachon' and best supporting cast of Bill Curry, Sandy Scott, Louis Papineau, and Frank 'Scotty' Thompson.
Tunney heads North 1958

   Tunney in turn headed North into Kasaboski's area promoting some shows at the Bracebridge Community Centre.  Bracebridge -100km North of Barrie, 200km north of Toronto - is the gateway to the North and further than Tunney had gone previously. For two successive shows they ran Yukon Eric vs Kiniski mains.

    In 1959 Ricky Starr missed a Tunney show in Barrie. In a column titled 'Bad Feelings' Barrie Sports Editor Steve Jonescu kicked off with 'Francois Tunney, wrestling promoter at Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto doesn't have too many friends among the wrestling crowd in the Barrie area.' He reminded readers of the Bobo no-show the previous year but said that Starr hadn't drawn very many anyways - as they weren't advised of the substitution until they entered the arena. Again it was said 'Northland Wrestling Enterprise was quite upset...'

Garner Still Going Strong

    All this time Red Garner wouldn't miss a beat, filling them in at the Thornhill Farmers Market summer shows and in his home base of Richmond Hill. One of Garner's stars Stoney Brooks was from Campbellford in the eastern part of Ontario and they ran occasional shows in the region including Cobourg and other towns. Kasaboski also occasionally dropped south of his usual circuit and ran Perth and Cornwall and other towns in the Eastern area.

No Hard Feelings

    Both Garner (as Great Kudo) and Kasaboski returned to wrestle at MLG in the early 1960's. Garner was slowing down and would retire soon after, but not before a WWWF title shot vs Bruno Sammartino. Larry K wrestled for Tunney in 1958 and again in 1960. He came in for a last time in 1964 to face newcomer The Sheik who spent the better part of the 15 minute bout 'chewing on his victims left ear.' Maybe Tunney got his revenge after all.

Epilogue

    Garner teamed up with Gus Marmon and The Olympic Wrestling Club in the early 1960's for a time and they had a short run TV show shown in Eastern Ontario. Red retired for good in 1964 and went on to drive the Bookmobile (library on wheels) in North York and was later the head of Woodview Library. He passed away in 1994.

    Kasaboski continued to promote the North through 1975 but wasn't down in the southern part of the province very often after his initial run in the 1950's. The great story of Northland Wrestling (if you can find it) as told by Gary Howard in  'The Rassler From Renfrew' is a great read - and my favorite wrestling book.

    Tunney celebrated the 50th Anniversary of MLW in 1981 and passed on in 1983 after 42 years at the helm. The rights passed to nephew Jack and son Eddy and as far as I know no one else ever had rights to promote at MLG before it closed in 1999.

-AC

For more on Red Garner and the CCWA see
Red Garner: The Pride of Langstaff
mapleleafwrestling.com: CCWA *Back soon



Toronto Programs: from Sonnenburg to Hogan


   Collecting Toronto Wrestling programs can be tough. There are huge gaps where it appears no programs were made, or have surfaced yet. Let's take a look at the programs issued over the years.

  The earliest one was issued in 1929, a generic program for Arena Gardens, where Mickailoff started the weekly cards. That style in 1930 -below. Full program 14 pages with a photo on near every page, rules listing, and a line up card. price 10c


  
  Next one is a 1935. This one has other sports content, hockey mostly but still has 6 pages of Wrestler bios, plus the event specific line up center spread. Cost 15c. Frank Ayerst who later worked with Tunney wrote many of the bios.



  There are others through the late 1930's and early 1940's that follow the same format as above. Not all of the Wrestling nights had wrestling on the cover either. There are examples with an elephant (Circus) or figure skaters (Ice Capades) for events that were coming up that were the focus rather than the Wrestling card. Still those had the lineup spread in the middle and some other pages devoted to wrestlers.

  The next change found is in the late 1940's. They went to a Maple Leaf Sports Magazine. Photo on the front with headliner or close for that night. About 50 pages covering all sports with several on the wrestlers and the 2 page center spread with the lineup sheet. cost 25c

1947 Example



1948




1949



  In the 1950's Star writer John Fitzgerald contributed alongside Ayerst who was now also penning a weekly wrestling column. They still used the generic MLG program with wrestling within it, and the lineup card in the center for wrestling. For other sports and events they did the same thing. Mostly it was Leafs on the covers. 

  This one 1955 16 pages with a center lineup spread for that nights event. Cost unknown. The papers often referred to the local stars as 'Tunney Thumpers.' Not sure how long these lasted, it's only one I have come across. 




 Next ones are the early 1960's. A shorter format but wrestling specific. A bi-fold with 2 pages of info, a lineup card and a blank page with a holder for an insert photo with one of the stars. Frank Ayerst wrote a cover piece and then the page inside had a tidbits type column similar to his newspaper pieces, often with inside info or personal type stuff about the wrestlers. Price 25c

This one from '63



 That type to at least 1965 and then a gap again.

 Then the 1970's, huge cards when the Sheik was on top here, full houses and a revival in wrestling in Toronto - but no programs?

 Other than lineups sheets the only 1970's program found so far is this 1977 glossy type (below) put together by Stan Obodiac, then Maple Leaf Gardens publicity head. Similar in feel to a Maple Leafs hockey program this one is 12 pages and while not event specific (no lineup card) it features the participants from the July 11 1977 card held at Exhibition Stadium. Also has a NWA title history  and a page on Whipper Watson and Lord Layton, both retired from the ring by this time but working on the announcing side. Contributors listed are Norm Kimber (Announcer and Frank's publicity guy at this time) son Eddie and nephew Jack. cost 1.50$.

  They did have lineup sheets up to the onset of the M-A affiliation but not for every card and they have been slow to surface so not sure how many were issued.

Summer 1977



  Then another gap, a bit of unrest between the Sheik era and the M-A era but nothing in the 78-79 years (beyond occasional lineup sheets) and the beginning of the association with the Crockett stars.

   Fan Griff who has hunted down MLW artifacts, still has not found anything previous to Oct 19 1980 which is in the Stranglehold format. The Oct issue is listed as number 5 but unable to locate the earlier ones. Put together by Gary Kamansack under the Arena Magazine and Mancuso Publishing name. They were responsible for the Detroit area programs, also the fabulous Wrestling Exchange magazine, as well as programs for George Cannon's Superstars. Slick feel with good (often) local photos and a card specific lineup sheet as part of it. 75c then1$

This one Nov 16 1980 




 A bit of a gap through the end of 1980 and then starting in early 1981 and regular to the end of the NWA era in mid 1984. Mancuso and Arena pulled out in 1981. The format stayed mostly the same though the look wasn't always as good, the colors and cutout photos like the one below from 1983. Still with card specific lineup. cost 1$.



  When Jack Tunney switched to using the WWF stars they kept the Stranglehold format for a time as the one below shows. That's where I stop but they did switch to the WWF magazine some time after, a generic type with an inserted lineup sheet

1984



If you can supply a pic from any of the years that have gaps please send over. If you have programs for sale please contact me.

-AC 


Ivan Mickailoff: "The man who made wrestling in Toronto": Gary Will's TWH


Frank Tunney is remembered -- and rightly so -- as Toronto's greatest wrestling promoter, but the man who established Toronto as a wrestling city and paved the way for Tunney has been largely forgotten.

There was a lot of skepticism when Ivan Mickailoff announced in 1929 that he would be running weekly shows at Arena Gardens. While top-name pro wrestlers had made occasional stops in Toronto -- and there was even an effort made to stage the Gotch-Hackenschmidt rematch in the city (more about that another time), no one had ever run regularly-scheduled shows with top wrestling stars. "Wrestling has never been a popular sport in the Queen City," wrote the Globe (see separate story on the first show for the clipping).

Mickailoff -- called "Mike" in Toronto -- was a former wrestler who claimed to have been born in Siberia and spoke English with a thick accent. Many of the biographical details I've come across are suspect. He was said to have been an Olympic champion in 1908, which is false. He was also said to have worked as some kind of secret agent in WWI and to have served in the Russian Imperial Guard for nearly four years, attaining the rank of colonel. He was a tall man who ejoyed cigars and reportedly liked playing card games, particularly pinochle and hearts.

His name occasionally comes up in match results from the 1910s. For example, he opened the 1915 wrestling season in Montreal losing to John (Giovanni) Perelli on November 5 ("there was little excitement," said a report in the Toronto Star). Just over a year later, on November 27, 1916, Mickailoff lost in straight falls to Dr. B.F. Roller in Springfield, Mass.

I don't have any details for the years before he launched his Toronto shows -- he later claimed to have promoted wrestling in Miami -- but somewhere along the line he hooked up with Boston promoter Paul Bowser, who was one of the dominant forces behind pro wrestling at the time. He apparently also had some ties initially to Toots Mondt, who wrestled on four of Mickailoff's first five shows. Mondt would later be allied with Mickailoff's opposition in Toronto and would even own a piece of Jack Corcoran's office.

After a slow start, Mickailoff's shows grew from attracting hundreds to drawing thousands, leading to an appearance in October of Bowser's world champion, Gus Sonnenberg.

"Taking loss after loss without a murmur, he built the game up within a short space of time." -- GLOBE, October 31, 1929
"By staging bouts that were highly satisfactory, matchmaker Michailoff gained a large following for wrestling here." -- GLOBE, January 17, 1930

"When Ivan Mickailoff commenced promoting wrestling shows in Toronto the attendance figures were around the 200 mark. He has built the game to the stage where it is now numbered among Toronto's major sports." -- GLOBE, May 30, 1930

"He came to Toronto a year ago last spring, and astounded an amazed public when he announced that he would stage wrestling shows at Arena Gardens. Old-timers smiled. They had seen this venture tried before, and didn't think that Mickailoff would make headway. It did require considerable time to convince Toronto that here was a sport worth while supporting, and there were lean days, but Mickailoff and his associates shouldered their losses, and refused to be dismayed. The money eventually began to roll in, and now others would emulate Mickailoff." -- GLOBE, October 20, 1930


Mickailoff was soon popular enough to be used as a spokesman for Buckingham Cigarettes from Philip Morris & Co. Ltd. (see ad at right). The ad used a photo of what was said to be Mickailoff in his Russian Guard uniform.

After having the city to himself for a year-and-a-half, Mickailoff faced his first competiton when Jack Corcoran and his Queensbury Athletic Club were granted a wrestling license in 1930. They held their first show in November and it was a colossal flop, but Corcoran quickly learned the tricks of the trade and rebounded strongly. After about a year, Corcoran had taken over as the top promoter in town, and that position was cemented when he arranged to be the matchmaker for shows at the new Maple Leaf Gardens, which opened in November 1931.

After competing head-to-head with Corcoran for two years, Mickailoff was put out of business by the Ontario Athletic Commission, which decided not to renew his wrestling promoters license when it lapsed at the end of October 1932. Commission secretary James Fitzgerald told the Star that the decision was made "for the good of the sport." Instead, it granted a license to the Shamrock Athletic Club, which had previously promoted boxing.

Mickailoff immediately made plans to relocate to Winnipeg and booked what was billed as his farewell show for October 26, 1932. It was to feature Bowser's world champion, Henri Deglane defending his title against Bibber McCoy, another of Bowser's boys. The show drew 9,000 fans, but neither of the wrestlers booked in the main event appeared that night.

Deglane claimed that Bowser never told him that the show was on a Wednesday and not Thursday as was the custom in Toronto. McCoy was sent on his way to Toronto at a time that guaranteed that he wouldn't be able to make it for the official weigh-in, and he ended up not getting to town until the show had already started.

There was speculation at the time that Bowser -- for whatever reason -- had deliberately sabotaged Mickailoff's final show.

Mickailoff followed through on his plans to go west and in 1933 promoted shows in Winnipeg, Calgary, Regina, and probably other towns. He wasn't very successful. Mickailoff was said to have lived in the Ivan Apartments on River Ave. in Winnipeg where he shared his apartment with wrestlers who would drive in for shows.

Mickailoff was again turned down for a licence by the Ontario Athletic Commission in 1933, but the following year he reappeared in Toronto as the matchmaker for the Metropolitan Racing Association -- the horse racing people -- which decided that its federal charter enabled it to run wrestling shows without a license from the province (a long story, and one that had significant repercussions, that will have to wait for another time).

The MRA quickly found out that pro wrestling was a dirty business. Unable to book the wrestlers they wanted, they made their first show a free event at the Exhibition Coliseum on December 13, 1934. It drew a reported 10,000 people (see ad at right -- featuring a photo of Mickailoff), but it was the only show they ran. The president of the MRA later said that he learned through this experience not to mess around in other people's areas of business.

Mickailoff did make a comeback in 1935 as the matchmaker for the Arena Athletic Club -- one of three groups awarded a license that year, and the only one that didn't operate out of Maple Leaf Gardens. They ran their first show at the Mutual Street Arena on November 22 with names that were well below the standards being delivered at the Gardens.

It was pretty slow going for Mickailoff until May when he booked the Toronto debut of world title claimant Ali Baba, which drew an impressive 5,000 fans. A similar crowd came to see Baba's next match in June, and Mickailoff was suddenly outdrawing Corcoran's Gardens shows. A main event in October between Baba and new world champion Everett Marshall drew 5,100 to the Mutual Street Arena. It was right around that time that Mickailoff learned that his license was again being threatened.

According to figures provided by Corcoran, the gate receipts from pro wrestling through the 1935-36 season were almost half of that from the previous year: $75,374 vs $144,585. The number of shows declined from 42 to 29 (there were actually more than that, but these are the numbers he provided). He blamed that outcome on the existence of three wrestling promoters in the city.

The OAC decided to renew all three licenses in 1936, but Corcoran threatened to appeal the decision to Ontario premier Mitch Hepburn. Hepburn said he had no interest in hearing an appeal, and Corcoran dropped his complaint. Mickailoff told the Star that the wrestling interests controlled in the U.S. were putting on the pressure to try to force him out of business.

He remembered the times years earlier when he had helped Corcoran. "I telephoned Boston for permission to let the men work for Corcoran. Now he doesn't want me to have a license."

The 1936-37 season got off to a very slow start, and in December, Mickailoff and Corcoran both only attracted 1,300 fans for their shows.

Corcoran bounced back to become the clear winner in the promotional battles in 1937, but Mickailoff would occasionally draw some stong gates himself, including a reported 8,000 who turned up to see the Masked Marvel take on Strangler Wagner in March 1938, with 6,500 returning to see Marvel wrestle Lou Plummer in April and 6,000 on hand for Marvel against Ed Don George on May 12 (see ad at right).

But that would turn out to be Mickailoff's last show in Toronto. He received a license to operate in 1938, but decided not to run any more shows and asked for the return of his $5,000 license fee from the OAC.

"I'm sorry to see Mike go," said Corcoran to the Globe. "I like competition. While he and I had our differences some years ago I have found him quite ready to cooperate during the past two years."

He was reported to be moving to Florida, but almost ten years later, there was a report in the Globe that Mickailoff was promoting shows in Providence, Rhode Island.

-by Gary Will



Whipper and Kiniski: The Feud


     By the time Gene Kiniski burst onto the Toronto scene in November 1956 Whipper Watson was well into his 16th year as the reigning king of the ring at Maple Leaf Gardens. Kiniski, billed as a 'footballer of note' made an instant impact on the fans in Toronto. They hated him right away.

Publicity man Frank Ayerst remarked that Kiniski was 'sometimes referred to as Genial Gene, because he smiled once when an opponent was being carried out of the ring.' Adding that he 'is such a rugged ring operator that getting a match with him is gaily alluded to as The Point of No Return.'

Main pic: Wilf Long cartoon 1957

He rampaged over a few of the smaller types early in the cards before suffering his first loss against Shaq Thomas. He actually beat Thomas in a mere 54 seconds but was disqualified when he wouldn't stop assaulting his opponent. He finished out the year beating another newcomer Billy Red Lyons in December and returned in January 1957.

This time Kiniski trounced local favorite Pat Flanagan with his Prairie Paralyzer and returned to the ring for the main event between Whipper and Buddy Rogers. Kiniski, already not known for his quiet demeanor, stepped into the ring before the introductions and challenged Whipper. Rogers backed him up declaring 'Kiniski will pick up the pieces after I've finished with you.'

Kiniski left but returned to the ring when Whipper captured Rogers in his Canuck Commando and the future looked bleak for the Nature Boy. Kiniski attacked Watson and special ref Jersey Joe Walcott took at swing at big Gene. Pat O'Connor, who had wrestled earlier in the card came to Whipper's rescue but Walcott wasn't sure and took a couple of swings at Pat before going at Kiniski again and then disqualifying Rogers for outside interference.

That set up a tag bout for the next card with Whipper and O'Connor to face Kiniski and Rogers with Walcott and Bunny Dunlop as referees. The heroes won by dq in front of 14,000 fans when Kiniski took off under the ring a'la Wild Bill Longson and Nanjo Singh before him.

Joe Perlove in his recap the next day opined that 'he (Kiniski) had heard that Nanjo Singh had those nether regions (under the ring) fitted up with a bar and chintzy furniture.'

Perlove went on to describe that 'several hundred customers wanted to make his (Kiniski) crew cut a little shorter. By maybe a foot.' When Kiniski failed to return, Walcott gave the win to Watson and O'Connor. Kiniski still had to make his way to the safety of the dressing room having earned the fans full hatred previously shown to Nanjo and other enemies of the state - State Whipper.

Wire Fence Jan 1957 with Jersey Joe, and Hutton on the floor

That set the feud in motion with the two going to battle on the next card at MLG and later a wire fence bout, an early cage match. Dick Hutton would side with Kiniski and draw himself into the bouts and team with Kiniski against Whipper and Yukon Eric on a subsequent card as well as interfere in each others bouts.

The fence match on Jan 24 ended in a wild finish with Kiniski and Hutton going after Whip and ref Jersey Joe who was again part of the action.

A bout at East York Arena between Watson and Hutton the following week led to another incident involving Kiniski. Watson beat Hutton to win the $1000 check that Hutton had been offering to anyone who could beat him within 20 minutes. Whipper was the first in Toronto to beat Hutton, but after the bout Kiniski jumped in and tore up the check while he and Hutton attacked ref Bunny Dunlop.

This led to Kiniski being given a $500 fine, said to be the steepest penalty handed down at the time. He was additionally given a 4 week suspension from OAC Commissioner Merv McKenzie, who also curtailed the license of Tunney to promote at the Arena for 6 months. MLG was not included!

Kiniski orating after his suspension 1957
It may have been legit as Tunney didn't return to East York until Oct 1957, though they only used it when the Gardens was not available. Les Lyman and others ran the smaller Arena in that era.

Genial Gene meanwhile offered this to the fans in response to the outrage over how he treated our fan-favorites. 'Tell them from me to go to hell too ! I'll fight in Maple Leaf Gardens whenever I like. Let those chicken bums stay home if they don't like me.'

This was around the same time that Ontario MPP Arthur Child had leveled criticism at the antics of Wrestlers pushing the referee's around and called it a farce. It started a heated battle with debates over the OAC being associated with pro rasslin and involved Whipper and others around the scene. Ref Joe Gollob, no stranger to the rough stuff replied back that 'we don't need a Commission.' Whipper used his diplomacy to smooth things over in the end.

Kiniski meanwhile showed up at MLG in March and takes to the ring before the main of The Miller Brothers vs Hard Boiled Haggerty and Hutton. In his usual quiet manner Gene announced/bellowed that his suspension was over and he was back to destroy the Whipper.

They continued through the year both in singles and tag bouts, Whipper with various partners and Kiniski with Hutton. Kiniski went on to beat O'Connor for our British Empire Title and he earned a bout against NWA champ Lou Thesz at the Gardens.

Kiniski & Watson did big business here with averages of 10,000 a card. With them on top for most of the year, Tunney drew over 320,000 over 48 cards at MLG in 1957.

The feud travelled around the circuit here with some big bouts from Hamilton to London to Buffalo. They then moved across the country with stops in Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver with the fans following the feud on the CBC TV show.

Gene soon teamed with Fritz Von Erich to form a formidable tag and continued to battle Whipper and his partners through 1958 while the two battled in singles bouts and traded the B-E Title. The feud periodically started up again and continued into the mid 60's.


"Their matches will forever be a bench mark for both the length of time and many dozens of encounters that took place between these two great Canadian wrestlers. 

The only other feud that Watson had that could compare in number of years and brutality, would have been The Whipper's many grudge encounters with Nanjo Singh.

Kiniski was a very brash, in your face competitor, and he kept himself in excellent physical condition at all times. He belonged to be the headliner that he was, only the top wrestlers of his era could stay with him long enough to make for a good match, and at the same time walk out on their own two feet.

Whipper always gave Kiniski a battle whenever they met. Watson probably body slammed Kiniski at least eight to ten times in every encounter. To see Watson apply this slam was a thing of beauty. He would crotch Kiniski and lift him with his right arm and actually be able to raise him up to where Kiniski was a good foot above the Whipper's head, then Kiniski was slammed to the mat, or the wooden ramp with all of Watson's strength. This move always got the crowd excited, and had Kiniski crawling on his knees in a lot of pain.'

Kiniski employed many wrestling holds to his opponents that were at times crippling. An example was his knee drop to his opponents upper chest, and sometimes to the exposed throat as well. He often delivered his big boots to their rib cage, this could result in a wrestler having many a recovery for bruised ribs."


Kiniski had his run with the NWA Title and defended here a total of 17 times including a 1966 bout against Whipper (17 in Toronto only, Gene very busy on the circuit too). Their last bout at MLG came in June 1967 with Kiniski taking on both Whipper and Bulldog Brower in a handicap bout. The NWA title was not at stake as Whipper and Brower, working in tag rules, beat Kiniski in front of 6,200.

Whipper's career ended in 1971 but that wasn't to be the end of the feud. In 1978 Kiniski was set to battle Dino Bravo for the newly created Canadian Heavyweight Title. The night was also deemed 'Whipper Watson Appreciation Night.' Frank Tunney was to honor Whipper by donating 1$ from each ticket to the Easter Seals Timmy Scholarship Fund and to acknowledge all he had done for the sport and the charities. Watson was also set to award the new championship belt to the winner of the bout.

Still not a quiet guy by any means, Kiniski started an argument with Whipper and the fans booed him mercilessly as he lost to the new champ Bravo. At that point Whipper and Kiniski were at the 22 year mark of the feud.

Kiniski, in later years talked very highly of Watson and all of the money they made with each other, and was present at Whipper's funeral in 1990. The feud was finally over.

-AC

Photos from .com collection and original clips and memories thanks to Roger Baker

For more on the MP's vs Wrestling incident see  1957: The year the Ontario government questioned pro wrestling's validity 
 External Link on Slam Wrestling- opens in new window.

Toronto Lists; Fathers & Sons

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...

3 FATHER & SONS THAT (YOU MAY NOT KNOW HAD) BOTH WRESTLED IN TORONTO

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 - 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 would defend the title 27 times in Toronto 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

A FEW OTHERS THAT MAYBE AREN'T AS WELL KNOWN......
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

-AC

Photos .com collection, Chris Swisher collection 


Toronto Lists; Notable Guest Referees

 There were many guest referees over the years brought in mostly for big bouts or to settle heated feuds. Often a special referee was inserted to create a new feud or to cause an unjust or incomplete ending to a bout. 

 Most special refs were wrestlers themselves or pro boxers, occasionally office or non wrestlers. It was still all serious business. The Ontario Athletic Commission licensed the referees just as they did the wrestlers, usually about 6 at a time, and the special refs were no exception. 

This time on Toronto Lists we look at..

5 NOTABLE GUEST REFEREES IN TORONTO

1. JACK DEMPSEY
 Former Boxing champ who had a long association with Toronto dating back to his early days and his boxing Tournaments. He first refereed here in the late 1930s and was often brought in for the big feuds including Whipper Watson-Fred Atkins, and Whipper-Nanjo Singh. After Whipper had defeated The Zebra in 1951 Dempsey helped him unmask Zebra as George Bollas. Perhaps his biggest bout was as ref of the 1956 title change of Lou Thesz to Watson after a disputed finish in their previous Toronto bout (that one with fellow boxing champ Jack Sharkey as ref). Dempsey also hit the Tunney circuit towns working in Niagara Falls, Hamilton, Oshawa, Barrie, and Newmarket, among others. In Newmarket in 1952 a low drawing card caused some issues with the big stars when Dempsey received a costly 225$ to appear, leaving little for the others. He also worked a bit up North for Kasaboski in North Bay and other stops on that circuit.

Dempsey visits Oshawa, ON in 1952 at The Casino Restaurant, owned by Promoter Pat Milosh - at right
Oshawa's own wrestling star Jimmy Szikszay is getting a light from Dempsey, not sure of far left.
Milosh family photo


2. THE FABULOUS KANGAROOS COSTELLO/HEFFERNAN
 At that time a world class tag team, the Kangaroos were appointed for a 1958 bout between NWA world champ Dick Hutton and Watson. Costello & Heffernan were undefeated since coming to the city in late 1957 and were big fan favorites. Sports writer Jim Proudfoot in the following days Daily Star recap remarked  'while they looked more dashing and efficient than the regular portly officials, weren't able to forestall any of Hutton's illegal tactics.' On Hutton's performance Proudfoot wasn't as kind summing it up with 'It’s the first time in recorded history that a National Wrestling Alliance titleholder has gone through a whole bout without wrestling.' This one looks to be the only time that a tag team served as special referees in Toronto.

1957 Kangaroos vs the Kalmikoffs. 


3. JIMMY ORLANDO
 Orlando was a former Detroit Red Wing player notable for a stick swinging incident in 1942 against the Maple Leafs, and a fight with the US government over draft status. He was appointed for a big Watson-Yvon Robert bout in 1950 after having previously reffed in Ottawa licensed under the OAC. Dubbed 'the former Detroit Slasher' he earned the Toronto fans wrath -again- in not only siding with Robert, but attacking Watson as well. Whipper preserved though and won the bout but Orlando was said to have added 8,000 more people to the 'We hate Orlando' club. That was the only time a NHL player refereed here but two star Leafs players once battled in the 1930s. 



4. JERSEY JOE WALCOTT
 Jersey Joe was one of the more prolific special referees out of former boxing champs to referee in Toronto. Jack Sharkey could make the list too with a part in some big bouts while others including Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, and Max Baer all reffed at the Gardens. Frank Tunney also ran the Boxing side for years and the office was teeming with ex boxers, matchmakers, and the like, making the visits by the ex champs big news around town. When the Watson/Kiniski feud blew up in 1957 Walcott was frequently in to keep peace within the various tag combos and such. At that time all tag bouts were two refs so they often had one of our regulars along with a guest. In many of his bouts Jersey Joe ended up trading blows with the various combatants. One notable square up came against a young Reggie Crusher Lisowski. A few years later in 1962 Walcott came back to officiate in 2 bouts between NWA champ Buddy Rogers and our #1 bad guy at the time Bulldog Brower.
Jersey Joe faces off against Reggie (and Stan) Lisowski MLG 1958


5. FRANK TUNNEY
Yes the king of Toronto wrestling once (at least) stepped in as a referee. Though Tunney did have a bit of an athletic background he was one of the small group of promoters who weren't former wrestlers themselves. In 1945 they held a Boxing-Wrestling card for the Armed Service personnel at the Coliseum and Tunney worked as a referee. If he did it any other time I haven't found it yet. Not sure if his brother John ever did either. Jack Tunney refereed a bit on the circuit shows but not at MLG as far as I know..

Frank & the French Angel Toronto 1942

-AC

Nostalgia .com collection, Jersey Joe Alexandra Studio, Milosh family archives
The hockey story at Gary Will's TWH: Two Leafs wrestle, rival promoters combine for charity: 1932