Almanac 1979

The Toronto scene was heating up as 1979 began. The affiliation with Jim Crockett's Carolina's based promotion, generally known here as Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling was proving to be the right choice at the right time for Frank Tunney. The AWA affiliation which ran through mid 1977 to late 1978 had bridged the gap after the Sheik era but attendance was still floundering at Maple leaf Gardens. Enter the two hottest young stars on the scene. Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat. These two and the others from the Crockett group would help revitalize the promotion and move it into the 1980's on a high note.

The start to the 'M-A era' came in Oct 1978. Flair and Steamboat, along with Tony Atlas, Jay Youngblood, Dino Bravo, Ken Patera , Ole and Gene Anderson, Abe Jacobs, and Geoff Portz shared the bill with WWWF champ Bob Backlund vs Ivan Koloff. The paperwork wouldn't be finalized until 1980 but the agreement between the Tunneys (Frank & nephew Jack), Jim Crockett, and a former MLW star George Scott would pay dividends immediately. Flair and Steamboat would be in the main event by the next card battling over Flair's U.S. Title with Steamboat winning it, and they would never look back.

January - March

The first weekend in January kicked off with the Maple Leaf TV show showing the Dino Bravo - Gene Kiniski bout from MLG from Dec 17 1978.Bravo had beat Kiniski in the 'finals' of a tournament for the newly created Canadian Heavyweight Title. They had claimed they had held prelims prior but the tournament never happened.

The first card of the new year would see Bravo get a shot at AWA champion Nick Bockwinkel, making a return for the first time since the AWA affiliation ended.

While the Tunneys would use Crockett stars for the most part they would continue to book Bockwinkel, Backlund, and others outside the NWA proper as many territories did back then.

Bravo would meet Bockwinkel on the semi main of the night and win the bout by disqualification. Only the AWA title was at stake enabling Bockwinkel to keep his title while making our own champ stay strong. The night had originally been scheduled to also feature NWA champ defending against Steamboat but a huge snowstorm the day prior held Race from appearing. Instead, they had Ken Patera and John Studd toss a coin to see who would meet Steamboat with his U.S. Title at stake. Studd won the toss but fell to Steamboat.

If Race had appeared (our hockey Leafs were also grounded, unable to fly to Chicago for a scheduled game) it would have marked the first time both the NWA and AWA titles had been defended on the same card here. We had seen some AWA and WWWF together over the past couple of years but would have to wait for the NWA and AWA together until 1982 (Flair vs Race, Bockwinkel vs Angelo Mosca).

A recent returnee to the Toronto scene was Tiger Jeet Singh who had been a huge star here in the late 60's before leaving for worldwide fame. He defeated Flair on the same card. The openers, as they would throughout the year, were filled with long time Toronto regulars. Waldo Von Erich, Sweet Daddy Siki, The Wildman (McKigney), Steve Bolus, Johnny Yachetti/The Beast, Terry Yorkston, and some younger local guys including Joe Markus, Brian Macnee, and Nick DeCarlo.

Angelo Mosca was due to return to face Lord Alfred Hayes but was absent due to a 'shoulder injury the previous night in Atlanta.' He was wrestling in Georgia at the time but shows up again in results a few days later.

Steamboat would next defend against Flair's tag partner Greg Valentine. Flair would interfere getting Valentine disqualified by referee Wayne Cashman. Bockwinkel returned, this time facing Singh. Tiger Jeet would toss the champ over the ropes at the 20 minute mark getting himself dq'ed. Bravo would make his first title defense against Flair pinning the challenger and looking tough to beat.

It should be noted that the U.S. title bouts were taking the main event above the AWA title.

Some of the Mid-Atlantic stars would start to appear at the TV tapings held the day prior or the day after the MLG shows. This would continue through 1984 though not all of the stars that came up for the MLG show would do TV. Usually a few would stay on while a few would head back for another show on the busy M-A U.S. schedule.

The Feb 18 show was cancelled and re-scheduled for mar 4 and went on mainly as originally advertised. Steamboat and Bravo teaming against Flair and Valentine for the main and Bockwinkel defending against Billy Robinson for the semi. There was also AWA tag champs Pat Patterson and Ray Stevens (not advertised for the original date)  taking on the M-A team of Atlas with Johnny Weaver. The champs all won with Flair tossing Steamboat over the top rope in the main to take the loss for his team.

That would mark the last of the AWA association as far as others beside the champ coming in to wrestle. Only Bockwinkel would return in the final few years of the NWA days but we would continue to see the Winnipeg TV show on Global TV.

At this bout it was announced that Bockwinkel would be back on March 25 to defend his AWA title against WWWF champ Bob Backlund in a rare title vs title match.

Bravo and Steamboat, as popular a team as there ever was, would also team in Savannah, GA the night before the MLG card on the 24th losing to Flair and Paul Jones.

Continuing with the theme, Backlund and Bockwinkel would go on as the fifth of the seven bout card. Prior to the title vs title we had the NWA tag champs Jimmy Snuka and Paul Orndorff (Snuka still a face at this point) beating Patera and Studd.

In the historic bout the match would be decided on the floor after both men were counted out. Bockwinkel had declined to shake hands prior to the bout but pictures surfaced showing them shaking hands backstage as well as with Frank Tunney earlier in the evening.

Bockwinkel started out with the upper hand before Backlund fought back with a big slam. At one point Bockwinkel had a figure four armlock and almost pinned Backlund before the WWWF champ picked him up with the hold still on and deposited Bockwinkel on the top turnbuckle and gave him a quick slap to the face. Bockwinkel was enraged and charged Backlund getting flipped over in the process.

Bockwinkel got the advantage and went to work on Backlund trying to clamp his figure four leglock on him. Backlund kicked out on the first attempt but on the second try Bockwinkel got it locked in. Backlund used his strength to reverse it and escape and then go for a cradle pin. Bockwinkel barely escaped having his shoulders counted down and went to try for another figure four, this time in the middle of the ring. Backlund refused to give up and managed to reverse it again forcing Bockwinkel to drag himself over to the ropes for a break.

When Bockwinkel went for an atomic drop Backlund slipped behind him and applied on of his own, lifting Bockwinkel high in the air before slamming him down on his knee. After another close pin Backlund lifted Bockwinkel up for an airplane spin which sent both men through the ropes to be counted out. Bockwinkel left for the dressing room leaving his AWA belt on the table while Backlund climbed back in and hoisted his WWWF title in the air while the fans cheered the popular champ.

Canadian champ Bravo would be disqualified by referee John Laing after he threw Valentine over the top rope. The two would have some great battles here, very evenly matched and giving it all for the fans. The bout was bloody on both sides with both hammering each other out on the the ramp.

Steamboat would again turn back Flair in the main of the night getting the pin on his rival. Flair probably got pinned here more at this time than he had over the same time span elsewhere throughout his career.

In one of the openers Terry Yorkston took on John Yachetti (The Beast) wearing boots that had 'R' on them (?)

It was announced that the next card would feature Steamboat finally getting his shot at NWA champ Harley Race.

April - July

On April 8th Valentine would get a re-match against Bravo and pin the champ in another bloody battle to take the Canadian Title. Race and Steamboat headed to a draw after 26 minutes when curfew halted the bout.

Title change: April 8 Greg Valentine W Dino Bravo to win the Canadian Title

The next night in Kitchener Steamboat took on Patera while an unusual tag of Johnny Weaver and Tiger Jeet Singh took on Moose Morowski and Brute Bernard. Atlas vs Studd rounded out the mains.

Bravo was back in action that night down South taking on Flair in Greenville, SC and again on the 10th in Raleigh, NC. The two would battle all over the Carolina's for a time with Flair's U.S. Title on the line in some contests. On the 17th in Raleigh they took the main event while Ricky Steamboat got a shot at Bockwinkel who was travelling a bit with his title.

The new Canadian champ Greg Valentine was busy too, working a regular schedule in the WWWF proper with The Grand Wizard as his manager. He didn't officially defend the Canadian title there but was photographed wearing it backstage with Wizard by his side.  In some articles it calls him the number one contender to Backlund's title. He had already been battling Backlund in the Northeast for the first few months of the year.

Billy Red Lyons would also appear on some WWWF shows, mostly around Pittsburgh and on TV Tapings while some of our other local guys would stay busy on the Mid Atlantic circuit. Nick DeCarlo, Bob Marcus, and others would travel the southern towns in between the MLG cards.

In May Flair and Steamboat resumed, this time Flair as U.S. champ having won the title April 1 in Greensboro, NC. They would put on another great bout, this time as the semi main ceding to a Backlund WWWF title defense against Moose Morowski. Flair would pull the trunks to get the pin leaving the fans fuming but even at this point Flair was a popular heel getting his share of fan support.

Of all the wrestlers Flair was also one of the friendliest to fans as he arrived at the Wood St entrance of MLG. Even as a heel, he would strut from the hotel or the cab and was easily the most anticipated arrival any time he wrestled here. Valentine gave Bravo a re-match, leaving the ring with his belt and getting counted out, officially called a dq and keeping the title.

Morowski was an unusual choice to meet Backlund. He had mostly appeared here on the openers but a TV taping prior to this card had him teaming with Valentine to trounce Weaver and Yorkston.

A newcomer to TV was Leo Burke who would appear often on TV but didn't make the Gardens until 1982. One TV bout had Burke and Macnee losing to Flair in a handicap bout with Flair using his figure four on Macnee for the win.

Another re-match for Bravo would be successful when he pinned Valentine after a backdrop in a Lumberjack bout to regain the Canadian Title. Backlund returned to pin Ernie Ladd while Steamboat pinned Studd was trying to collect on the $5000 bounty Flair had offered in a bid to injure his arch-rival.

Title change: June 3 Dino Bravo W Greg Valentine to win the Canadian Title

Ladd was the subject of a feature column in the Star by Milt Dunnell. He came off articulate and knowledgeable as it focused on his football career, a bit of politics, and mentioned he that he almost played for he Toronto Argonauts at one point.

On June 24 Bravo would defend his Canadian title against Flair winning by dq while Backlund would face Valentine in an exciting bout. These two were very well matched also and would alternately brawl and show some scientific stuff during the bout. Backlund pinned Valentine in what was their first of 3 battles here between 1979-1982.

The annual summer tour of 'Wildman' Dave McKigney's Big Bear Wrestling was in full swing with shows all over the southern part of the province. A show on July 1 held at Centre Island off the shore of downtown Toronto saw some McKigney regulars The Wolfman (Farkus), Luis Martinez, and Tony Parisi joined by some crossover from George Cannon's Superstars of Wrestling including Gino Brito, Sailor White, and Otto Van Heller. Others on the summer tour included Billy Red Lyons, Chris Tolos (who were also appearing on the MLW cards) alongside The Sheik, Mighty Igor, and lady wrestlers Kat Larue and Tracy Richards.

In July in another somewhat historic bout WWWF champ Backlund would defend against Flair. Backlund would show off his great conditioning yet again outdoing Flair in several showdowns and at one point doing his impressive bridge pushing out of a pin attempt with Flair on top of him. Backlund got the win by count-out after a fast paced 23 minute bout. At the time it was said that a return bout was to be expected but it never happened.

Bravo would face a tough contest with Ken Patera and his swinging neckbreaker. Patera would look good enough to earn a shot at Backlund in August losing by dq.
The day after the Backlund-Flair Backlund would stay on for a rare non-Toronto appearance in Oshawa, ON. In a dream team of sorts he would team with Canadian champ Bravo to take on Valentine and Patera.

August - December

On Aug 18 during the CNE Toronto was a stop on a tour with mostly Indian stars. Called 'The World Cup' it was booked at Varsity Arena in Toronto, a venue that had previously been promoted by Tunney and McKigney (when he famously went up against Tunney in 1971). The headline was Dara Singh along with local Tiger Jeet and Jacques (Rene) Goulet, Brute Bernard, Bob Marcus, and others rounding it out. It was promoted in partnership with Tunney

After the card several fights broke out outside the stadium with rival factions bearing machetes, knives, hockey sticks, an auto jack, and a tire iron. One man had his arm nearly severed and nine people were charged with various weapons and assault charges.

The following day MLG was back in action with a Bravo-Patera re-match scheduled, Bravo didn't appear and Tunney was able to get Backlund on short notice to defend against Patera.
Rounding out the card was Steamboat defending his NWA TV Title against Paul Jones, and Andre the Giant taking on John Studd.

It was later  announced that Bravo had suffered an injury and thus was unable to appear. A couple of weeks later a tidbit said the injury would sideline him for a year and they would need to hold a tournament to decide a new champ.

Another Oshawa card the following day saw a co-main of Steamboat vs Studd and Andre vs Patera

In September Tunney announced a one-night tournament to decide a new Canadian champion. In a lineup including Pedro Morales, Mad Dog Vachon Angelo Mosca, Jimmy Snuka, Ken Patera, Gene Kiniski, and former champ Greg Valentine, Steamboat would beat Brute Bernard in the first round and Snuka in the second round, setting up a bout with Valentine.

He would not continue however after injuring himself during the Snuka bout. Valentine would advance by forfeit and face eventual winner Dewey Robertson in the final. Dewey had beaten Patera and Kiniski to earn his spot in the final. He pinned Valentine to become the new champ.

Dewey had been a mid level star here for many years since his debut in 1967 and had last enjoyed a good run in the last half of the 1970's teamed with Billy Red as The Crusaders. Since the M-A affiliation Dewey had been filling out the openers but was still a popular star here.

Two weeks later Dewey would hit the big time again facing AWA champ Bockwinkel with only Dewey's title at stake. It certainly elevated the status of our championship when Dewey made Bockwinkel submit to his figure four. The bout was covered in The Wrestler with the headline 'Nick Bockwinkel's last hurrah?'

New U.S. champ Jimmy Snuka was in to face Steamboat in an exciting bout.

Another double title card was announced for Oct 15 with Backlund to defend against Pat Patterson and Bockwinkel back, this time ot defend his title against Dewey.

The Backlund bout was cancelled at the last minute with Bockwinkel and Robertson taking the main. This time it went to a curfew draw with Dewey close to beating the AWA champ again. A U.S. Title bout between Snuka and Flair rounded out the semi.

Backlund was re-booked vs Patterson and the WWWF champ would appear on all four of the final MLG cards of the year. Patterson again was unable to appear so they subbed Baron Von Raschke, He faced Rashke again and then Patterson on the final two shows in December. it would make for the busiest year here ever for the WWWF/WWF title between 1964-1982.

Snuka beat Flair two cards in a row then faced Robertson with just the  Canadian title at stake. Dewey stayed strong pinning the high flying Snuka. They booked a re-match with both titles at stake with Ray Stevens interfering on behalf of Snuka., Stevens had fallen to Flair in the previous bout. That set up a tag of Flair and Robertson against Snuka and Stevens on the final card of the year.

Andre would return for the Dec 30 card taking on The Destroyer and Brute Bernard in a handicap bout. John Forsythe, who was TV fodder would also make a rare appearance at MLG in the opener losing to Sweet Daddy Siki who was making his second to last MLG bout.


In 1979 there were 17 MLG shows. Attendance was rarely reported. The biggest show reported was 12/30 Robertson/Flair vs Snuka/Stevens at 14,000. There were at least 25 circuit shows and TV Tapings reported to date.

Recognized Champions 1979

NWA World : Harley Race
AWA World : Nick Bockwinkel
WWWF : Bob Backlund
Canadian Heavyweight : Dino Bravo, Greg Valentine, Dewey Robertson
U.S. : Ricky Steamboat, Ric Flair, Jimmy Snuka
NWA Tag Titles: Jimmy Snuka and Paul Orndorff
AWA Tag Titles: Pat Patterson and Ray Stevens
NWA TV : Ricky Steamboat

World Title

NWA World
79/04/08 NWA Title: Harley Race D Ricky Steamboat

AWA World
79/01/14 AWA TITLE: Nick Bockwinkel LDQ Dino Bravo
79/02/04 AWA TITLE: Nick Bockwinkel WDQ Tiger Jeet Singh
79/03/04 AWA TITLE: Nick Bockwinkel WP Billy Robinson
79/03/25 AWA TITLE/WWWF TITLE: Nick Bockwinkel DCOR Bob Backlund
79/09/23 AWA TITLE: Nick Bockwinkel D Dewey Robertson

WWWF Title
79/05/13 WWWF TITLE: Bob Backlund WP Moose Morowski
79/06/03 WWWF TITLE: Bob Backlund WP Ernie Ladd
79/06/24 WWWF TITLE: Bob Backlund WP Greg Valentine
79/07/15 WWWF TITLE: Bob Backlund WCOR Ric Flair
79/08/19 WWWF TITLE: Bob Backlund WDQ Ken Patera
79/11/04 WWWF TITLE: Bob Backlund DCOR Baron Von Raschke
79/11/18 WWWF TITLE: Bob Backlund WP Baron Von Raschke
79/12/09 WWWF TITLE: Bob Backlund LCOR Pat Patterson
79/12/30 WWWF TITLE: Bob Backlund WP Pat Patterson

Notable MLG debuts

Len Denton (The Grappler)
Paul Orndorff
Moose Morowski
Sgt. Jacques Goulet
Pedro Morales
John Bonello