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Wrestling News! ....RIP George Steele...He was a regular on the Wildman's circuit in 1981-82 and was a great addition to the shows.
His debut at MLG came late, at the second WWF show in 1984 though he was a regular in Detroit for many years....obit on Slam at George Steele RIP
Classic Photo: Dick Hutton 1958
Hutton will be forever linked to Toronto after winning the title here in Nov 1957 by beating Lou Thesz. He debuted here in April 1956 and soon started his $1000 challenge to anyone who could pin him in under 20 minutes.
This bout, 2 months after Hutton had won the title ended when Watson appeared to pin Hutton but the champ had his foot on the ropes.
We continue the Almanac, this time looking at the year in Maple Leaf Wrestling 1981. It was a landmark year for the promotion with more overall shows around the region and increased attendance over the previous years.
One of the biggest shows of the era was held in recognition of Toronto's 50th Anniversary of Wrestling at Maple Leaf Gardens and saw the triumphant return of favorite Ric Flair as the new NWA World champ.
Angelo Mosca would continue his success as the new local hero and holder of our Canadian heavyweight title. He would see challenges from Jimmy Snuka and Roddy Piper as well as earning a title shot vs NWA champ Harley Race, and would also find time to lose the Canadian belt twice.
Piper would become one of the most popular (hated) regulars, and we would see the only Canadian NWA Title defense of Dusty Rhodes in a bout here in September in a busy year for the local fans.
Gene Kiniski in Toronto: Have no fear Kiniski is here
When he came into Toronto in 1956, it was with a thunderous entrance and the storm stuck around for a long time. On and off for 27 years in fact, much of those in the midst of the action at the top of the cards here.
His first appearance here came in the opening bout on the November 8 1956 card which saw a main event of then NWA champ Whipper Watson vs Mr Moto. Kiniski beat Ken Kenneth in the curtain raiser and the Whip beat Moto in the main.
Classic Photo: Ric Flair vs Harley Race
They would trade off those slow hold-in-the-air suplexes on the canvas and on the hard wooden ramp. It was always 110% when these two met.
Flair had his figure-four and Race had those falling head butts which would leave Flair a bloody mess. While Race was slow and methodical where every move counted, Flair who could do no wrong here was fast and hyper.
Johnny & Greg: The Valentines
There were a few that worked here in different eras, Warren and Nick Bockwinkel, Brother and Don Leo Jonathon, Bruno Sr and Bruno Jr (later David) Sammartino, and Bob Sr. and Bob Jr. Orton.
Others overlapped and worked on the same card at least once include Angelo Sr. and Angelo Jr. Mosca, Whipper and Whipper (Phil) Jr., Blackjack Sr. and Blackjack Jr. (later Barry Windham) Mulligan, Gene and Kelly (and Nick different era) Kiniski, Angelo and Randy and Lanny Poffo, and Johnny and Greg Valentine.
Over the course of their careers in Toronto the most successful of these father-son combo's as far as both careers standing on their own would have to be Johnny and Greg.
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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Fun Facts ......Frank Tunney had a similar career as Jim Crockett Sr who ran the Carolinas and area for many years...And their promotions were somewhat aligned long before they actually worked together in 1978... They were born 3 years apart...Jim started in 1935 while Frank officially took over in 1939...neither was a pro wrestler...Both promoted other sports...Both were close to Sam Muchnick and served in official capacities for the NWA... Both had sons named after them...Both had family in the office, Jim eventually turned it over to son Jim Jr. while Frank let nephew Jack take control and Frank's son Eddie was also involved....Both were associated with tag wrestling being a big part of the promotion... Both later had a Tag Tournament held in their honor... Long time Crockett booker George Scott got his start in Toronto and area and later partnered up with Tunney and Jim Jr....