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Pro Wrestling in Oshawa, Ontario
Flashback Feature: Thesz vs Rocca 1962
After bouts in Niagara Falls Rocca made his first appearance at Maple Leaf Gardens in February 1955. He would join a short list of stars post 1940's to make his Toronto debut in a main event, taking on Toronto's hero Whipper Watson.
Over 13,000 fans turned out to see Rocca and Watson go at it for over 40 minutes before curfew ended the bout. The inimitable Joe Perlove noted in the next day recap that they changed 'rassling to wrestling' and that the fans 'saw more wrestling in the 40 minutes and 48 seconds the match lasted than they've seen in the last 3,207 tag team matches combined'.
Classic Photo: Kiniski vs Eric 1957
Yukon Eric appeared here regularly from 1949 to 1964 and was one of the most beloved stars just behind Whipper Watson.
Kiniski was an athletic powerhouse with a lengthy ring career. His debut in Toronto in 1956 at the age of 27 was the start of a 26 year run in the city. Even in the late 1970's and early 1980's Big Gene could still put on a good bout against the new stars like Ric Flair, Dino Bravo and Angelo Mosca, and was a part of several important angles in the later days of Maple Leaf.
Jack Corcoran - The Queensbury King
Corcoran said to be a 'well-known west end sportsman' wanted a big attraction for his debut as a Boxing promoter and Toronto beat out Buffalo, and New York City for the bout.
It attracted 'the largest fight crowd of the season' to see Dundee beat Gooderich in 10 rounds..
In March 1923 Corcoran refereed at the Canadian Trials at Toronto's Gayety Theatre alongside Lou Marsh and would be picked to to go to Winnipeg to oversee the national bouts later in the month. Corcoran would also ref on his early cards, often with Marsh as a ref or judge.
Classic Photo: Destroyer vs Billy Red Lyons 1983
There were other 'Destroyers' in the interim. The 60's saw Joe Christie as the 'Masked Destroyer' before he was unmasked by Johnny Valentine in 1964. There were versions on the smaller circuits and in the late '70's we had the AWA Super Destroyers I (Don Jardine) and II (Sgt Slaughter) hence when Beyer returned he demanded to be called the 'Original Sensational...'.
Classic Photo: Fritz & Hans 1958
The fans hopped into the fun and the two heels hightailed it under the ring -as many before had done- to escape the fans wrath. Joe Perlove wrote the next day that they were 'actually trespassing on the property of such as Wild Bill Longson and Nanjo Singh', both of whom spent a considerable time there usually after bouts with Whipper.
Pages from the Scrapbook: The Fabulous Kangaroos
In their debut in August 1957 they took out the team of Hard Boiled Haggerty and Lee Henning, and in their next bout in September beat the team of Fred Atkins and Tiger Tasker. They were due for some stiffer competition and would face it in the team of Ivan and Karol Kalmikoff on the Sept 19th card.
Frank Ayerst in his weekly column proclaimed Australia as the origin of tag-team wrestling and noted that the 'Roo's' had gained the fans support in their short time here, but were due for a tough bout with the hated Kalmikoff brothers.
Classic Photo The Lisowski's
Stan was actually Stan Holek while Reggie Lisowski would later become the world famous 'The Crusher'
Walcott was a semi regular ref here from 1957 - 1962 coming in for big bouts and also worked in Ottawa and other spots. Al 'Bunny' Dunlop is also in the shot at far right, there were usually 2 refs for the tag bouts in this era.
Classic Photo Ivan Koloff
The re-styled 'Boogie Woogie' Valiant was huge here at this time, the fans crazy for him. The bouts were short but at high excitement from the moment he bounced down the ramp.
Koloff, more of a traditional star was as hated as Valiant was loved. The 'Russian Bear' had a long history here going back to 1968, had challenged for both the NWA (Funk Jr.) and WWWF (Backlund) Titles at MLG, and was a big part of the M-A years here.
The two would feud for a few months before Valiant beat him in June at MLG to win the title. The feud would start again in October with them trading it again although the lineage here is different than in the Carolinas.
Pages from the Scrapbook O'Connor vs Thesz
The following night in St Louis Pat O'Connor takes the title from Hutton and the main in Toronto gets changed to O'Connor vs Thesz.
O'Connor returns to Toronto less than a week after his win to take on the then 2 time NWA (Alliance) champ and former 3 time NWA (Association) champ Thesz. The papers hype it as a bout that will have 'sharp, scientific wrestling, highlighted by speed and agility'.
Classic Photo Layton vs Kalmikoff
Layton was a beloved local star both as a wrestler and TV personality and later in his role with Bacardi in the Toronto area. It was said that his change from heel to fan favorite was precipitated by his kids being razzed about their fathers dastardly deeds at school.
Ref Bert Maxwell, officiating here was also a long time area star. A former wrestler he worked bouts at MLG and around the area from the mid 1940's into the early 1960's and also served as Head Gateman at MLG for over 25 years.
History of the CCWA
From his home turf in Langstaff, part of Richmond Hill, Red would put on weekly shows year round at the Richmond Hill Arena, Thornhill Farmers Market, Weston Arena, Lakeshore Arena, and across the region including Aurora, Newmarket, Stoufville, Guelph, and other towns.
Garner would train young amateur wrestlers to learn and work the pro circuit. He maintained a 'Middleweight' division with many of the stars in the under 180lb range. There were heavyweights too and many of the stars of the CWWA went on to long careers in other regions as well.
Some of Red's trainees or regulars such as Ed/Gori Mangotich found success in England wrestling the tough British style while others, most notably Baron Von Sieber (Waldo Von Erich, Jacques Dubois (Dave McKigney/The Canadian Wildman), and Mike Scicluna (Baron Mikel Scicluna) would go on to pave long careers across North America and abroad.
The NWA Title in Toronto
The AWA Title, though dating from 1960 only started appearing here in the late 1970's through 1982 (total of 16 appearances), while the WWWF Title made its first appearance in 1964 and would be a frequent visitor through 1983 with over 50 appearances.
With the possible exception of the very popular in Toronto Bruno Sammartino (28 total defenses in Toronto) a visit by a NWA champ was the prized must-see bout out of all the feds.
The NWA Title would make over 130 appearances here between 1949 -1984 including 4 title changes.
THANKS TO ROGER BAKER for contributions to the MLWP. Many of the Classic photos come from Roger's collections from his many years as a fan and then Professional Photog shooting Wrestling & Boxing bouts at MLG and around Ontario. We are fortunate to have his contributions to the articles as he shares his memories from the classic days of Ontario Pro Wrestling. Roger wrote many great stories for the Wrestling mags of the day that featured his photos and time spent with many of the biggest stars ever to appear at Maple Leaf Gardens. Thank you Roger!
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Wrestling News! Great Masked Superstar-Sweet Ebony Diamond recap over at the fine M-A Gateway site (external link opens in new window. They had a great bout here too and the next night in a tag in Niagara Falls. ...Happy to have been a part of getting Billy Stack recognized for his contributions to Wrestling. On Oct 1 2106 Stack was inducted to the Clarington Sports Hall Of Fame- congrats to Billy's family and friends for this well-deserved honor
October 2016...Trying a new look for our 13th year online, hope you like it ! Will have some new stuff coming soon, an in depth look at Tommy Nelson with help from his family! a look at the WWWF/WWF Title in Toronto among other planned entries
Our latest Blog entry is a look at 1952 Camp Borden shows
The Blog now has over 150 entries covering over 70 years of Ontario and Canadian wrestling history
Our latest Pic of the Month features Johnny Weaver and Lord Alfred Hayes waiting to do battle in the cage from January 1982
It Happened in October!... 1940 Whipper Watson debuts at MLG... 1942 John Katan beats Whip for the British Empire Title... 1949 Yukon Eric makes Toronto debut... 1957 Gene Kiniski & Fritz Von Erich beat Whipper & Pat O'Connor to capture the Canadian Open Tag Title... 1963 The Beast (Yachetti) beats Johnny Valentine for the U.S. Title... 1964 Valentine beats Professor Hiro for the U.S. Title, loses it back , then beats him again to regain it, all in October! ... 1966 New NWA champ Kiniski faces both Whipper and Edouard Carpentier during October... 1971 Andre The Giant (as Jean Ferre) makes first Toronto appearance as does his opponent Ricky Steamboat... 1978 Wooooo Ric Flair makes Toronto debut... 1980 Frank Tunney, Jim Crockett, and George Scott create Frank Tunney Sports Promotions to seal the deal on the M-A partnership... 1981 Wahoo McDaniel teams with Dusty Rhodes to take on arch rival Abdullah The Butcher and partner Roddy Piper (this was after the infamous 'carving' of Wahoo on M-A TV)
Fun Facts There were quite a few 'Bill's' that appeared at MLG over the years Bill BROOKS, Bill HOWARD, Bill LONGSON, Bill MCDANIEL, Bill MELBY, Bill MILLER, Bill MORGAN, Bill PALMER, Bill STACK, Bill WHITE, Bill EAGLE, Billy HANSEN, Billy RED LYONS, Billy ROBINSON, Billy STARR, Billy THE KID, Billy WATSON, and maybe more... also quite a few 'Don's' Don BEITLEMAN, Don EAGLE, Don EVANS, Don JARDINE, Don KENT, Don KERNODLE, Don KOLOV, Don LEE, Don LEO JONATHON, Don(n) LEWIN, Don MCCLARITY, Don MCINTYRE, Don MURACO, Don SERRANO, and maybe more... but only one Wilbur... Wilbur SNYDER
1979 Oct 15: Backlund vs Patterson was cancelled, said no time left but neither was present... AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel drew with Canadian champ Dewey Robertson at the curfew... U.S. champ Jimmy Snuka beat Ric Flair... Jay Youngblood & Johnny Weaver beat Brute Bernard & Scorpion... The Destroyer pinned Klondike Bill... Joe Marcus over Frank Marconi
1982: Johnny Valiant introduces Chris Colt
to the detached cage door in Cornwall, Ontario