January - March
The stage had been set for the first card of 1982. On the last card of 1981 Canadian champion John Studd had defeated Leroy Brown and it was announced former champ Angelo Mosca would be next to face Studd.
That first card on Jan 17 sets the tone for a great year in the Toronto area. Along with the Canadian Title bout we see a WWF Title bout between champ Bob Backlund and number one challenger Greg Valentine.
This was after the belt being held up angle (New York). After the U.S rematch which Backlund won, Greg protested the decision and they used the advance billing of 'being unable to garnish a rematch with Backlund in the United States, Valentine was more than happy to sign the contract when Promoter Frank Tunney said he would arrange the re-match.'
In reality they had met the night before in Philadelphia but they had another great bout here, their 2nd of the 3 bouts against each other at MLG.
Another bout had the East-West Connection tag team of Adrian Adonis and Jesse Ventura making a rare (and only) appearance as a tag in Toronto.
Adonis and Ventura were well-known to the Toronto fans from their AWA run. They were currently in the midst of moving over to the WWF, both under Fred Blassie but as single stars to challenge for Backlund's crown. They were matched up against Tony Parisi and Domenic Denucci, called the 'Italian Connection' for the bout. The fans were excited to see Ventura and Adonis and the two teams had a good bout ending when ref Terry Yorkston missed the cheat pin and awarded the bout to the heels.
There was a short intermission while they set up the cage for the first of 2 cage bouts. Johnny Weaver and Lord Alfred Hayes goes first. Both end up bloodied but Weaver got out of the cage first for the popular win.
The Canadian Title bout ended with Studd pinning Mosca, but ref Yorkston in a daze (again) awarded the victory to Mosca. The fans went wild when Mosca grabbed the belt to begin his 4th run with the title just before Studd attacked the new champ. Weaver (bandaged up) along with Bonello, returned to the cage to help Mosca but both take a beating before helping Mosca get the upper hand. A bloodied Studd emerged from the cage and took a whole lot of abuse from the fans on his way down the ramp
Title change: Jan 17 Angelo Mosca W John Studd to win the Canadian Title
The next card was announced as a Cadillac Tournament for Jan 31. They were having these in the Mid Atlantic towns where they match up in bouts with the eventual winner to receive a new Caddy. The day of the card Toronto was in the midst of a huge snowstorm that was crippling the East coast and the card was cancelled.
On the same day the Caddy tourney was scheduled they ran a full page story in the Star entitled 'Wrestling at the Gardens: It's a real scream'. It was a very comprehensive story - for the time- and included photos from the Jan 17 show including Mosca vs Studd on the ramp, a bloody Studd after the bout, Valentine with a chokehold on Backlund and Pat Patterson choking out Kurt Von Hess. The photog must have been standing right in front of me for a time as he got the same angle of Mosca and Studd on the ramp as I did in my photo from my ringside seat.
At the TV tapings in Guelph on Feb 1 the dark match was Roddy Piper vs Jay Youngblood. Piper had already faced John Bonello, Keith Larsen, and teamed with Chris Markoff against Larsen and Tony Anthony. Youngblood teamed with Weaver against Markoff and Mike Miller and Miller and Tim Gerrard. The two faced off in a good bout that ended in a double count-out. Youngblood, who had come into his own the previous year was set to begin a good feud with The Ninja and his manager Gene Anderson. Both were entered in the now re-scheduled Cadillac Tournament set for Mar 7.
First up though was another MLG card on Feb 21 1982. This card saw the debut of Blackjack Mulligan Jr. in Toronto. Jr. (later known as Barry Windham) was a crowd favorite from the start. He was set to take on Austin Idol who was also making his Toronto debut. It was a highly touted match-up as Idol with shades of Ric Flair made his way up the ramp in a Flair-like black robe. You could tell right away Jr. was going to be a good wrestler. He was thin but tall and fast and looked like his father with the cowboy style boots.
The two had a good bout with Jr. getting the win but Idol attacks him after the bout bringing Sr. out to chase him away. Jr. returns the favor later in the card when Sr. and John Studd went at it in a continuation of their long feud. Studd was disqualified but kept attacking a now bloody Sr. when Jr. made a mad dash to the ring to save his Pop. The crowd loved it.
Another bout saw the first of many between the Mid Atlantic TV champ Ivan Koloff and the now 'Handsome' Jimmy Valiant. Valiant was another like Leroy Brown. The fans went mad for him despite (in this persona) not showing a lot of actual wrestling skills. Valiant had re-invented himself as 'The Boogie Woogie Man' along with his own theme song. Dino Bravo returned to a hero's welcome to face Frankie Laine after more than a year away from Toronto. Ninja and Gene Anderson team to face Youngblood and Weaver in the other big bout of the night. The card drew more than 10,000 fans most of which came to see the Studd-Mulligan bout. That also marked the last wrestling appearance for Gene Anderson.
Tunney ran Hamilton before the Cadillac Tourney with a main of Mulligan Jr. and Johnny Weaver against Studd and Koloff It was a light card star-wise (semi was Tony Parisi vs Brian Macnee) and only drew about 2,000.
The Tournament finally ran on Mar 7 and was pretty good. When they announced the lineup it was mostly the same as the cancelled one. Sgt. Slaughter and Mr Fuji were both listed for the first one but didn't attend. Blackjack Mulligan Jr, Austin Idol,The Destroyer (Beyer), Mike Rotundo, and the up-and-coming Jake Roberts were added to those previously listed.
Along with those listed above there was Ricky Steamboat, Piper, Weaver, Youngblood, Valiant, Ventura, Adonis, Studd, Bravo, Bonello, and Gerrard. Quite an impressive lineup and one of the attractions of these types of tournaments was the possibility of seeing some bouts that you wouldn't normally see. Heel vs heel or face vs face. Maybe a tag team matched against each other. May have been cool to see Adonis vs Ventura but we did get tag partners Weaver vs Youngblood as the first bout of the first round.
They had a great bout with close pins back and forth. With 30 seconds announced left in the bout Weaver trapped Youngblood in his sleeper but time ran out. Referee Tommy White (Young) gave a referee decision to Weaver and it was a great bout to kick off the night. Another good match-up was Adonis vs Steamboat, one that didn't happen too often, if at all anywhere else. There were no other surprises in terms of match-ups and in the final (13th bout of the night) Valiant beat Ventura to win the car.
Most of the stars stay on for a TV taping the next day in Brantford with the main being Studd vs Youngblood. Mike Rotundo was a rookie at this point having trained with The Destroyer who brought him in locally, Publicly Rotundo appeared in promo's with Mosca who played the veteran influence on the young star. We were lucky to see him along with Roberts and Mulligan Jr. (later Barry Windham) so early in their careers.
For the next MLG card Valiant put up his new Caddy against Koloff's TV title and win the bout- but 4 seconds past the 30 minute limit for TV Title defenses. Studd and Mulligan Sr. had another brutal battle as the main in a Bunkhouse Match. Youngblood took on Ninja and Mid Atlantic champ Piper vs Steamboat rounded out the big bouts.
April - June
In April the feud between Canadian champ Mosca and Studd starts up again with Studd announcing he was bringing a mystery opponent to 'permanently maim the champ.' Studd had hyped it for the two weeks previous to the show. Fans were talking and many names were being brought up as to who could be the mystery opponent set to meet Mosca on the Apr 4 card.
One of those names was Andre The Giant. Andre was still a few years away from his first heel turn in North America but at the time it seemed like a good idea. When the time came it wasn't such a big name. When Norm Kimber announced .....Tarzan Tyler...the crowd was mildly disappointed to say the least. Tyler was a ways past his prime by this point and of more importance, relatively unknown to the younger MLG crowd. He had appeared here sporadically from 1964-1978 and was a fine wrestler in his prime but... Special ref Sonny Fargo had been assigned to officiate and the bout was generally a letdown since it had been highly touted. Mosca didn't have much trouble defending his title.
Tyler stayed on for some bouts around the circuit before returning to Quebec. When Kimber announced the lineup for Tunney's next card, we knew it would more than make up for this one.
Meanwhile on the indy circuit Wildman Dave McKigney was starting to gear up for his summer tour. He ran a rare show in Toronto proper just up the street from MLG at the almost-as-famous Concert Hall (Masonic Temple) with The Sheik, Luis Martinez, a masked Killer Kowalski, and Domenic Dennuci. Chris Colt comes back for the summer portion and other Wildman regulars Whipper Jr, and The Wolfman join ladies Debbie Combs and Donna Day and the Midgets as the tour regulars.
At the end of May another feature story hit the Sports pages in the Star. This time looking at the resurgence of pro-wrestling in Toronto. Frank Tunney was quoted as saying 'In the last couple of years it's been going pretty good. We've got a lot of attractions now and TV has certainly helped. Channel 11 has the biggest ratings.' The author goes on to talk to Ric Flair in the dressing room who says he would 'be disappointed if he didn't make 500k this year.' He goes on to say 'There's really a new upsurge for wrestling in Toronto, they're really rocking and rolling here.' The story is accompanied by a photo of Flair in the midst of a cross body block on Race from their Nov 15 1981 bout.
Besides CHCH 11 for the local Toronto show we also had Wrestling on Global - Cannon's Superstars, WUTV - WWF, CKVR - Tomko's All-Star, WIVB - Mid-Atlantic Championship, and occasionally other variations depending on the rabbit ears. Was a busy Saturday for this fan who didn't have a VCR yet.
After the Mosca-Tyler card Tunney set up a show to rival any in this era - here or anywhere. For the first time ever in Toronto both the NWA and AWA World Titles were to be defended on the same card. There had been a handful of WWWF/AWA double title cards and one WWWF/NWA but never a NWA and AWA on the same card. The previous try was in 1979 but Harley Race NWA champ failed to make the show.
This one was set to see NWA champ Ric Flair face number one challenger Race while AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel was to take on our own Canadian champ Mosca. To round out the card we had Youngblood vs Ninja in an Indian Strap Match and Koloff and Don Kernodle to face Jimmy Valiant and Porkchop Cash as the other big bouts. Youngblood won the strap match when he was able to drag Ninja to all 4 corners and touch the turnbuckles but lost the war when Ninja sprayed his green mist in his face at the conclusion. Johnny Weaver ran out to chase Ninja and Anderson back to the dressing room and helped his partner from the ring.
Even the openers were good. In one of the best opening bouts you could see anywhere, veterans Tony Parisi and Ray 'Crippler' Stevens (now a good guy) put on a wrestling clinic going to a draw in front of the appreciative crowd. John Studd flattening Ron Ritchie and Johnny Weaver beating Private Jim Nelson were the other bouts.
A crowd of over 16,000 filled MLG to see the two champs successfully defend their titles. Flair and Race put on another bloody bout that saw action inside and outside the ring, and on the ramp. They fought to a double dq and the other wrestlers on the card had to come out and break it up. Bockwinkel was making his first appearance since 1979 and had a good bout with Mosca. Big Ange battered the champ and looked to be on the verge of winning when Studd charged the ring and attacked Mosca. He and Bockwinkel laid a beating on Mosca until he was able to fight back and chase them from the ring. Official decision was a dq win for Mosca.
The card stands to be one of the best of the year but there were more to come.
AWA champ Bockwinkel stays on for the Ottawa show the following day taking on Jay Youngblood in what was likely his only AWA title shot.
Bockwinkel returns for the next MLG card to team with Studd against Mosca and Jake Roberts. Blackjack Mulligan Jr. was scheduled to team with Mosca but didn't appear. Roberts, who was fast becoming a favorite with his kneelift and cool DDT finisher did double duty with a big dq win over U.S. champ Sgt. Slaughter earlier on the card.
A card in Niagara Falls later that month had a main of Canadian champ Mosca teaming with the local favorite Tony Parisi against Slaughter's proteges 'Privates' Kernodle and Nelson.
Another long time Toronto name returns in June to become Mosca's next challenger for the Canadian Title. Gene Kiniski, former NWA champ and long time arch-enemy of Whipper Watson appears on the scene with with his trademark growl and still a bit of gas left in the tank.
Next to Whipper, Kiniski was the only man to main event MLG in four different decades. He completes that distinction by facing Mosca in the main on June 6. Unlike Tyler, Kiniski still had some name value here. He had been involved in the re-launch of the Canadian Title in 1978 and his son Kelly had arrived a month earlier wrestling in the openers. This card saw both father and son in action with Kelly teaming with Weaver to take on the The Privates. The Kiniski-Mosca bout was a tough affair with Mosca bloody by the end
Father Gene could still go, he still had a decent look and came off as a still-tough guy. His battles with Mosca and subsequent matches here and around the circuit and on TV were top notch and re-introduced him to the younger fans. Was hard to believe he had starred here 25 years earlier. Gene pushed the fact that he was still 'Canada's greatest athlete' (the original - this was before Mike Sharpe started using that) and was back in Toronto to regain his glory. In all, this makes over 250 appearances around Toronto since 1957, many of which were main events. He wouldn't succeed in taking Mosca's crown but put up some good bouts trying.
On that same card Jimmy Valiant wins the M-A TV Title (also billed as NWA TV Title) from Koloff only to lose it back later in October in the same ring
Title change: Jun 6 Jimmy Valiant W Ivan Koloff to win the Mid Atlantic/NWA TV Title
The next day in Buffalo Mosca defends against Studd while Kiniski faces Jake Roberts.
The year was barely half over and we had another NWA Title bout booked. Flair returns to face former champ Jack Brisco. Brisco was a rare sight in Toronto. He had defended the NWA title here 9 times between 1973-1975 but had not been back since. He impressed the local fans with a great bout against Flair and returned to face Roddy Piper, and later with brother Jerry as NWA Tag champs in 1983 for his last bout here.
Mosca faced Kiniski again in a Texas Death Match on the same card while there was also a mini tournament for a newly created TV Title. Always found it strange to see a TV Title defended at live shows and a tournament for same was just as unusual. It ended up being pretty good with 6 bouts total. The Destroyer (Beyer) beat Weaver in a good veterans type bout and Youngblood beat David Patterson on the way to the final where he finally defeated The Destroyer to claim the new title.
U.S. champ Sgt Slaughter faced Wahoo McDaniel in a non-title bout and Wahoo gets the big pin to set up a re-match with the title on the line.
The next night in Kingston newly crowned Youngblood lost a non-title bout vs Gene Kiniski before starring on the TV taping in St Catharines the following day. At the TV taping Youngblood is matched again against partner Johnny Weaver. Don Kernodle interferes in the match to set up an upcoming feud.
July - September
WWF Champ Bob Backlund returns In July to face Greg Valentine for the second time in two years and they put on another great bout. On the same card the Slaughter - Wahoo re-match with the title on the line saw Slaughter successfully defend his U.S. Title. The other big bout with Brisco vs Piper was billed with Brisco as M-A champ but Piper was actually champ - his title win in the U.S. a few days prior wasn't acknowledged here, and Brisco got the win to 'keep the title.'
Backlund returns again for the last card of the month to face Jimmy Snuka as part of their on-going feud in the WWF. Snuka gets the win when Backlund was unable to make it back in the ring. Another loaded card saw Andre the Giant return to face John Studd and the Steamboat-Youngblood team taking on the Privates. The other big bout saw Mosca and Kiniski go again in a Lumberjack match.
The following night in Kingston, ON Kiniski teamed with Studd to defeat Mosca and partner Youngblood while Steamboat went solo and took on The Ninja.
A July 27 card in Ottawa has a Flair - Steamboat NWA Title bout! Why did they not have this here. The fans more likely to boo Steamboat before our hero Flair. Cheer for both?
The Backlund-Snuka feud returned for the first card of August and the same result sees Backlund counted out of the ring. On the same card Canadian champ Mosca gets a shot at Sgt. Slaughter and his U.S. Title with only the U.S. belt at stake. Sonny Fargo was again brought in as a special ref and ends up disqualifying Slaughter and he kept his belt.
On August 22 the newly created tag of Youngblood and Ricky Steamboat make their debut at MLG to face the Mid-Atlantic Tag champs The Privates. In front of over 15,000 the crowd favorites earn the win and the title belts. It was to be a big night. Next up was an Andre The Giant vs John Studd battle that shook the Gardens. To top off the night WWF champ Backlund returned for a re-match against Snuka in a cage bout. They copy the MSG bout when Snuka climbed to the top of the cage and performed his 'Superfly' leap only to have Backlund roll out of the way and escape the cage for the win.
Title change: Aug 22 Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood W Private Kernodle & Private Nelson to win the Mid Atlantic Tag Titles
The day after the Backlund-Snuka cage bout Backlund was the full feature of a Jim Proudfoot column in the Star. It looked at his career and mentioned 'he chalks up 20,000 miles a week as champion' (???). Still it was good to see wrestling getting a now-rare spotlight in the daily.
October - December
Backlund returns in October to face Bob Orton Jr. in a very entertaining WWF Title bout while Koloff (now TV champ again) barely hangs on to his title when Valiant beat him - but again a few seconds over the 30 minute mark - in a Russian Chain Match.
It was a very WWF loaded card. We also see the Toronto debuts of 'Playboy' Buddy Rose and other then-WWF regulars Tony Garea, and Jose Estrada. Another WWF'er Sal Bellomo also there, he had actually been here once before, way back in 1976.
Private Nelson was now being billed as the Canadian TV champ though he never beat Youngblood for it. The title mostly remained on the back-burner but did show up where it belonged - on the TV show.
Another card, another Title bout two weeks later when Flair returned to face another former champ Dory Funk Jr. Funk, like Brisco, had defended here during his title reign. Between 1969-1973 he defended the NWA title at MLG a total of five times. He had only appeared here once in the interim, for the big Japanese themed card in 1980.
The Flair Funk bout was another good match-up billed as the others with a possibility of the former champ regaining the title. This bout made the Apter mags and on the same card Valiant beat Koloff to regain the (now called) NWA TV Title in a New York Street Fight bout.
Title change: Oct 17 Jimmy Valiant W Ivan Koloff to win the NWA TV Title
Leo Burke also returned to the area regularly around this time along with his real life brothers wrestling as Terry Kay and Rudy Kay. Leo is billed as North American champ wearing the title belt he brought in form his run in Stampede Wrestling and starts a long feud with Johnny Weaver.
Another regular in the mid 1970's returns in the form of 'No-Class' Bobby Bass. Bass and the Burke/Kay brothers were all a big part of the Toronto scene going into 1983 and beyond.
WWF champ Backlund and Buddy Rose go again in December in a Texas Death Match which proves to be Backlund's last appearance here during the NWA era. On the same card Private Nelson defended his Canadian TV Title - but had no belt with him.
The last card of the year, a Boxing Day affair on Dec 26 sees Andre The Giant team with Bellomo against WWF team Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito. Not a great one in the Boxing Day card history. Mosca ended the year by defending against the now heel - Leroy Brown. Terry Kay beats Nelson to claim the TV Title and most of the regulars do a last TV Taping in Brantford the next day.
Title change: Dec 26 Terry Kay W Private Nelson to win the Canadian TV Title
In 1982 there were 18 MLG Cards with estimated attendance of 150,000.
Includes reported totals and estimated on the cards that weren't.
Biggest crowd of the year was the Apr 25 double World Title card with 16,000.
Second was Aug 22 Backlund-Snuka Cage bout with 15,119.
There were at least 22 Circuit shows and TV Tapings over the year- from recorded results to date.
Recognized Champions 1982
NWA World : Ric Flair
AWA World : Nick Bockwinkel
WWF : Bob Backlund
Canadian Heavyweight : Angelo Mosca
U.S. : Sgt. Slaughter
Mid Atlantic : Jack Brisco* (had lost title 4 days previous to Piper but not acknowledged here)
Mid Atlantic Tag : The Privates Kernodle & Nelson, Ricky Steamboat & Jay Youngblood
Mid Atlantic TV/NWA TV : Ivan Koloff, Jimmy Valiant
Canadian TV : Jay Youngblood, Private Nelson, Terry Kay
*based on actual Toronto and area appearances with title at stake
Playboy Buddy Rose
Blackjack Mulligan Jr
Alec/Alex Girard/Gerrard (had previously done TV)
Leo Burke (had previously done TV)
Tito Senza (had previously done TV)
82/06/27 NWA TITLE: Ric Flair W Jack Brisco
82/10/17 NWA TITLE: Ric Flair W Dory Funk Jr.
82/04/25 AWA TITLE: Nick Bockwinkel LDQ Angelo Mosca
82/01/17 WWF TITLE: Bob Backlund WP Greg Valentine
82/07/11 WWF TITLE: Bob Backlund W Greg Valentine
82/08/08 WWF TITLE: Bob Backlund LCOR Jimmy Snuka
82/08/22 WWF TITLE: Bob Backlund W Jimmy Snuka
82/10/03 WWF TITLE: Bob Backlund W Cowboy Bob Orton
82/10/31 WWF TITLE: Bob Backlund W Playboy Buddy Rose
82/12/12 WWF TITLE: Bob Backlund W Playboy Buddy Rose
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