Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bob Gregory and The Princess come to Toronto 1938

In Jan 1938 wrestler Bob Gregory arrived at New York with his new bride Valerie Brooke the former Princess Baba, said to  heading for their 'Hollywood honeymoon' with a plan to launch a film career for Gregory.

The whole story has similarities to the 'wrestling world' even if Gregory had not been a wrestler.

Gregory, an English light-heavyweight had married the daughter of Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, the white Rajah of Sarawak- of Borneo. The trip also marked the introduction of Gregory to his brides mother the Rani of Sarawak who claimed to be pleased of the nuptials although Gregory's manager said that it took 2 hours to persuade her to meet her new son-in-law.

Although her mother had previously expressed displeasure she now denied any problem on her part by proclaiming 'There was no opposition on my part, or my husbands to this marriage. Bob is so good looking he looks more like a boxer than one of these gorilla wrestlers. He should have taken up boxing.' 

The year previous when they had been married the Star covered it and quoted the princess's father as saying they wouldn't like him 'even if he was a good wrestler.'

Upon departure in New York, when the bride was asked about the then 26 year old Gregorys' wrestling career continuing, she replied with a quick 'No.'

On Feb 14 they arrived in Montreal via Boston and Gregory would wrestle Les Ryan in the semi-final of a card which had a main of Danno O'Mahoney vs Yvon Robert. Mrs Gregory was to present the championship belt to the winner (Robert) of the big bout.

Their next stop was Toronto for the Feb 17 MLG card with the main to be champ Robert vs Vic Christie with Gregory as special referee for the bout. Robert, who was the World Champ (Montreal) would win the bout and be awarded (again) a new championship belt by the young Mrs Gregory. This title became a Toronto World Title for a short time.

The day after the Toronto bout in the Star, Gregory wrote up his own take of the bout calling it the 'fastest bout I've ever seen.' The bout which had no time limit actually went 1 hr 15 min before Robert used a rolling short-arm scissor to force Christie to submit. 

Joe Perlove wrote the long form results recap and said Robert was presented with a $7,500 belt by the beautiful Princess. Perlove, in his usual manner said he was rather disappointed with Gregory. Not for his refereeing, but with all the stories of his athletic prowess he fully expected Gregory to separate the wrestlers by 'flinging them into the blue seats using only the thumb and index finger of each hand.'

Apart from all of this Gregory had another tie to the Toronto mat scene. He had appeared in a few movies in the UK and one of those the1937 film 'The Rat' also had one of Gregory's wrestling traveling partners. Our own Whipper Watson, who was doubling for star Anton Walbrook. Watson, of course was wrestling in the UK at the time where he would meet and marry his wife Eileen and bring her back to Canada with him. Our own 'Prince and Princess.'

Gregory would continue to wrestle a bit around the U.S at least up to about 1946 but would never set foot again in a Canadian ring as far as I can see. His pal Whipper would continue to ply his trade in the UK set to return to Toronto rings in 1940.Gregory had also teamed in England with Northland Wrestling stalwart Herb Parks.

They would continue to appear in the local press with one photo of the two lounging at at a California pool said to be planning to buy an island for Gregory to become Rajah. 'What with?' asked the mother of the princess. 

In July 1938 an item had the brides father formally declaring his three daughters were no longer Princesses. Another daughter married a Jazz musician. No wrestler but still...

If you google Gregory and his princess there are some very informative (and entertaining) articles on the two and her family.



















Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ontario Place shows 1972

In 1972 Frank Tunney ran a series of shows at the Ontario Place Forum between May and October.
There were 7 shows set for Thursday evenings over the course of the summer with the last coming a few days before Ontario Place was to close for the year.

Three of the first set in May and June filled out the 3,000 seat Forum with another 1,000 or so on the grass slopes surrounding the structure. The first show of the second set, held on Sept 6 drew 1,200 due to rain being forecast. It did rain keeping the spectators that did show up under the roof and off the grass.

Other shows were held Sept 14, 28, and Oct 5. Tunney was said to get expenses from Ontario Place, his bonus being the calling of attention to his Sunday night spectaculars at MLG.

Sept 6 results
Lord Layton defeated Joe 'Killer' Christie
The Love Brothers beat Nick DeCarlo & Tarzan Zorra
Tony Parisi over NIkita Kalmikoff
Lee Henning drew The Beast
Jeannie Baxter drew with Vivienne Lynn

I saw quite a few concerts at the old Forum starting about 1977 but never caught a wrestling show there. Thought they held more shows over the years but have yet to locate any.

The 1972 ones are the only ones I have found as of yet. The Forum opened in May 1971 but unsure if they held wrestling that first season..

Jun 29 below, below that is  May 25 both versions, the others are just small ads, no listings





































Friday, April 7, 2017

Paul DeMarco

Paul DeMarco had a long and successful career though much of it was away from his hometown of Hamilton. He did spend some time in the Toronto mat wars from 1964-1966 and again in 1970 and 1973.

According to the story, as a child growing up in Hamilton he was stricken with Polio. Long hours of therapy, swimming, and other sports brought him back to health.  He is quoted as saying he went to his first card at the Hamilton Forum and there was a bad guy wrestling as 'The Little Flower Of Italy' and it made him so mad he tried to intervene and got ejected. It turned him off Pro Wrestling but he went on to compete as an amateur for 3 years.

(The Little Flower of Italy would have been Benito Gardini who wrestled in the early 1950's. In the Toronto area we had our own 'Little Flower', the 'Little Flower of Uxbridge' Bert Maxwell. The not so little Maxwell got his name as he was a horticulturist, as MLW expert Roger Baker once told me.)

Later DeMarco was at a gym and observed several pro guys in the ring wrestling and challenged them to a 'real match.' He said one fellow obliged him and beat him up so bad he could hardly move for 3 days and he earned a respect for the professionals. That guy turned out to be Ron Logue who broke him into the pro game.

In a Slam! Wrestling story on Logue, he had this to say about DeMarco

"He was a natural. He had the gift of gab and the girls loved him. He was a real smooth character," Logue said of the future star.

When Paul's chance came to go to Detroit, he didn't have any wrestling boots, so he borrowed Ron's; "I never did get the boots back, because you know what the bugger did? He put his initials on the boots, white leather on top of black leather. P.D.," laughed Logue.

Read the rest of that article on Logue at Slam! - Ron Logue

I recently received a note regarding a short lived gimmick that Demarco took part in.
Back in 1966 as part of an ad campaign for the Workers Compensation Board (now WSIB) DeMarco, as 'Hatman' the 'Construction Safety Symbol', had a bout against Tiger Jeet Singh.

'Hatman' won the bout and a re-match was scheduled for the next weeks card but Demarco didn't appear. He didn't return to Toronto for four years in fact.

The character was created by Vickers and Benson agency, if anyone has any other info or photos of DeMarco as Hatman please drop me a line.

Roger Baker, former MLW photographer, and our never-ending source of wrestling knowledge, took some candid photos of Demarco in 1965 (pics below) for a mag story looking at  DeMarco's life and beginnings as a wrestler and gets the last word.

'He was working for Tunney back then and was a baby face, very good wrestler, and he kept himself in top shape by training at The Y.M.C.A. in Hamilton. He excelled in a lot of sports, and would hit the weight's, as well he played handball, and could jog on a gym track for miles.'

below Roger Baker's pics .. Hatman vs Singh May 15 1966, .rematch against Singh in Oshawa 1973, Demarco especially suffered the typical pro wrestling skewering of his name on many ads and writeups!


















Big Hans Schmidt getting the better of DeMarco






























































Thanks as always to Roger Baker
and also to Ryan O'Connor for the info on Hatman - www.ryanoconnor.ca

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Canadian Wrestling Newspaper 1972-1973

I have two editions of this professional well put together newspaper type pub,

It was published out of Thornhill and had photos and reports from both Tunney and Wildman shows and one report from the CHIN picnic show summer 1973. They had a bit of advertising including the high profile Molson Breweries so had some connections.

I don't recognize any of the names, one of the stories is by 'Eddie Haskell' so  thought maybe Rudy of the CWR had something to do with it as the photos and content are similar to what they were covering but he said he didn't so ...

Unsure how many issues they put out but the Fall 73 issue has an ad for the first issue. That's the other one I have Fall 72 so may just be the two. If you you have any others or any info please drop me a line.































Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Verne Gagne in Ontario

Verne Gagne didn't wrestle much in Toronto but holds a place in our wrestling history both locally and across Ontario.

In his prime he was one of the most respected of the 'real' wrestlers, held in high regard alongside peer Lou Thesz. While Thesz came to Toronto regularly Verne made considerably less appearances at MLG.

Verne had appeared up in Fort William Ontario (later Thunder Bay) as well as in Ottawa  through 1958 but first came to MLG in October 1958 to face Karl Kulaski and returned 2 cards later to face Al Alberto.

In a write up a week prior to his first appearance it had him set to meet Gene Kiniski which would have been a big bout had it happened.

In the results recap for the second bout vs Alberto Verne was described as 'Balding Verne Gagne.' Ouch. It also said he had the whole hearted approval of the multitude (of fans) before making Alberto submit to his claw hold (arm scissors type finisher).

His next appearance in Toronto would be almost 20 years later in November 1977.

In the meantime he had started the AWA and stayed mostly around Minnesota although they (AWA) did make a few stops in Kenora and Thunder Bay in Northern Ontario due to the proximity to AWA territory.

Frank Tunney stopped using The Sheik in summer 1977 and switched to using the top tier guys of the AWA to fill out the cards here. Verne returned to Toronto on the second card to feature the AWA stars to face El Santos (local masked heel, likely MacTavish or Yorkston).

He would appear four more times through 1978 when Tunney switched to the Mid-Atlantic stars.

For a time Verne tried promoting in Ottawa in 1980 using Dino Bravo on top not long after Dino had been Tunney's top man here. They didn't draw very well but must have made enough of an impression that Tunney returned to Ottawa not long after.

pic below clip has Verne on the MLG ramp after being attacked by Super Destroyer  in Aug 1978 with son Greg and Jim Brunzell coming to his rescue.













































Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wrestling Schools

A few ads of the local wrestling 'schools' from the 70's.

Whipper Jr was the most active , he also ran shows around Ontario, if you search the blog there are some items. He had a few trainees that were active, Mario Ferriera from our era and later Bloody Bill Skullion 2 of the more notable. Pic below the ad is Jr' in the ring demonstrating some moves.

Dewey Robertson also had a 'school' in Burlington. Tim Gerrard described wrestling on a mat on the ground, no ring, and learning 'how to sell.' Tim trained along with Rick Bolton, Big John Orlick, and others.

Back in the early days of MLW in the 1950's they kept the ring in the MLG basement and Whipper Sr, Fred Atkins , Pat Flanagan, and others would teach the new guys the ropes.  Atkins of course was a notable teacher and fitness trainer back in the day.

If you have an ad for Dewey's 'school' please send it over !












































this one isn't local but was Johnny Powers
































this one is from 1956, just up the street from MLG , not sure who 'Mr Ontario' was



Friday, March 3, 2017

Titles in Toronto 1922 - 1984

Pro Wrestling is a game of titles, most every wrestler in the classic era held a title of some sort somewhere sometime. Below is a list of Title's that were defended in Toronto

Many wrestlers used old or fictitious title claims for billing purposes. Fred Atkins in his early days here was Australian champ, Carlos Rocha was the Portuguese champ, Emile Dupree billed as Maritimes champ and many, many more. For the purpose of this list I just listed those titles that were defended and officially recognized.

First batch is Toronto's own , second the rest , I included Dave McKigney's North American Title and Tag Titles as they were a presence in and around Toronto for many years.

If I missed any let me know

Canadian Title : 1922-1941
World Title (Toronto) : 1938-1939
British Empire Title (Toronto) : 1941-1967
U.S. Title (Toronto) : 1962-1973
Canadian Open Tag Team Titles (Toronto) : 1952-1961
International Tag Titles (Toronto) : 1961-1977
North American Title (Toronto) 1973
U.S. Title (Toronto) : 1974-1977
Canadian Heavyweight Title (Toronto) : 1978-1984
Canadian TV Title (Toronto) : 1982-1984
North American Title (Toronto) : 1982-1984

World Title : 1929- 1947
NWA (Alliance) World Title : 1949-1984
WWWF/WWF Title : 1964-1982
NWA Junior Heavyweight Ttitle : 1972
North American Title (Big Bear) : 1974-1983
AWA (Minn. Gagne) World Title : 1977-1982
AWA Tag Titles : 1977-1979
U.S. Title (Mid Atlantic) : 1978-1983
Womens World Title :1971-1983
British Empire Heavyweight Title (AWA) : 1978
NWA Tag Titles : 1979-1983
NWA/MID ATLANTIC TV Title : 1979-1983
International Tag Titles (Japan Tour) : 1980
Mid Atlantic Heavyweight Title : 1981-1983
Mid Atlantic Tag Titles :1981-1982
North American Tag Titles (Big Bear) 1983
Intercontinental Title (WWF) : 1983


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

1939 Tournament

With attendance waning and troubles from all sides promoter Jack Corcoran put on a series of Tournaments  in early 1939 to try to kick-start things in Toronto.

This was the first Tournament on Jan 19 with 'Jumping' Joe Savoldi the eventual winner in front of 5,000 (another report had 5,500+).

The following week saw another one with Vic Christie winning in front of 6,000.

Yet another one on Feb 9 saw Savoldi win again in front of 4,500, this time he won $1,000 and a shot at World champ Jim Londos on Feb 16, then a re-match a week later.

Despite his efforts, attendance stayed around those numbers and a few short months later Corcoran would pass the reins to John and younger brother Frank: The Tunneys

For more on Jack Corcoran see MLWP: Jack Corcoran - The Queensbury King




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

1964 First Sunday night card

In 1964 Frank Tunney tried out regular Sunday night wrestling after running Thursday nights since the 1930's.

The first Sunday card on Dec 27 1964 did well and he would run again just 4 days later on the Thursday Dec 31 and then again on the following Sunday Jan 3. Three cards in a span of 8 days drawing 20,500 fans.

Through the balance of Jan 1965 he ran 4 more Sunday shows before moving back to Thursdays in February. Over the rest of the year he would split between Sundays and Thursdays and in 1966 Sunday would become the regular night for Wrestling in Toronto.

The writeup and results would also be among the last by the inimitable Joe Perlove who soon stopped covering the wrestling and then passed on in 1966













































Sunday, January 22, 2017

Wrestling at the Car Dealership 1978

Pro wrestling would sometimes turn up at unusual spots. Drive-ins, stores, camps etc

This one from 1978 has Phil 'Whipper Jr.' Watson and his crew of trainees appearing at a car dealership in Richmond Hill, ON. Phil had put on shows in the early 1970's around the small towns, sometimes in partnership with Dave McKigney. This one came at a pivotal point for the smaller guys like McKigney as the Tunney's (Jack mostly) had started to oppose the circuit in Ontario.

Jr. may have been trying to drum up interest or test the market before putting on some shows.

The Ad itself is similar to ones used by the Maich brothers in Brantford and area in the 1950's and the dealership or where it once stood - is now a condo development.




Monday, January 9, 2017

Jan 10 1957 Champions Abound

Looking through scrapbooks of original clippings from the 1950's there is no doubt Toronto was indeed a major city in the world of Pro-Wrestling ! !

Thesz, Hutton, Rogers, Watson, Kiniski, Rocca, Yukon Eric and many other big names made their way here or stayed around for years. It made for some interesting tag bouts too

This bout from 60 years ago tomorrow features a former World champ in Watson and 3 future World champs in Rogers, O'Connor, and Kiniski.

This bout was the first meeting of Watson and Kiniski coming after Kiniski initiated their long feud by interfering in a bout between Whipper and Rogers at MLG one week earlier.
That feud is the subject of a look at  Genesis of a Feud - Whipper vs Kiniski on the main site

Thanks to Roger Baker !