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Pro Wrestling in Oshawa, Ontario
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.
Genesis of a Feud: Whipper vs Kiniski
Kiniski, billed as a 'footballer of note' made an instant impact on the fans in Toronto. They hated him right away.
Publicity man Frank Ayerst remarked that Kiniski was 'sometimes referred to as Genial Gene, because he smiled once when an opponent was being carried out of the ring.' Adding that he 'is such a rugged ring operator that getting a match with him is gaily alluded to as The Point of No Return.'
Whipper Watson vs Buddy Rogers 1956
Rogers had actually challenged Watson during a card at MLG while he was NWA champ but Watson lost the title the very next day.
They would finally meet here with the title at stake in 1961 when Rogers was champ with Rogers winning via dq.
Rogers would manage 8 defenses here before losing to Thesz at MLG in 1963 while Watson as home town champ defended in Toronto 16 times in 1956 after he had won the belt here in March '56.
1982 was a busy year with 3 NWA Title bouts, 7 WWF Title bouts, and an AWA Title bout taking place at MLG. Frank Tunney saw one of the more successful years in the later era of MLW with strong attendance and a couple of 15,000+ cards for the first time in many years.
Along with our local stars we had the Mid-Atlantic and WWF stars here on a regular basis and even got a rare visit from the East-West Connection and the last appearances of AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel.
There were bloody Cage bouts, Indian Strap matches, Lumberjack bouts, and Texas Death matches filling up the cards not just at MLG but around the region. Kingston, Oshawa, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Brantford, Guelph, St Catherines, and a return to Buffalo and Ottawa filled out the circuit.
Early TV Wrestling in Ontario
Conn Smythe, owner of the Maple Leafs had been invited to take in a Football game at a theater in New York and while not dully impressed remarked 'It was like the old flickers, but remember the handicap of making these impressions outdoors and on a cloudy day.'
By 1943 they were showing fights from MSG in NYC and in 1944 televised a bout between Bobby Ruffin and Tippey Larkin to more than 20 Hospitals in the New York area.
Most of the patients were servicemen and this was said to be the first extensive television coverage ever given a fight to that time.
Classic Photo: Assassin vs Chief White Owl
The Masked Assassin would later be unmasked at MLG by The Sheik. Under the mask was Guy 'Stomper' Mitchell who was later known as Jerry Valiant. Real name John Hill.
Chief White Owl was popular around the Great Lakes cities. Pat Flanagan is the 3rd man in the ring for the bout. Thanks to Roger Baker !
Flashback Feature: Doug Hepburn - Worlds Strongest Man
In the mid 1950's Doug Hepburn would try his hand in the squared circle after taking the country by storm setting Weightlifting records and earning the title of 'World's Strongest Man.'
He had won medals, set records in many of the lifts, and won the prestigious Lou Marsh Trophy as Canada's top athlete in 1953. Some ads proclaimed him as 'the strongest man in history.'
He had overcome some serious physical issues to reach those heights and Wrestling was to be his next challenge.
A Jim Vipond column in early 1955 claimed that he had signed a 5 year contract with Frank Tunney before Christmas and that he was in training under Whipper Watson at the Queensbury Athletic Club basement gymnasium.
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! There is a grassroots campaign to have the city of Hamilton, Ontario create and erect a statue of Iron Mike Sharpe.
Jan 9 2017...Coming soon...An in-depth look at Gene Kiniski's time in Toronto, among other planned entries
Our latest Blog entry - Big Tag bout Jan 10 1957!
Over 160 entries covering over 70 years of Ontario and Canadian wrestling history
Our latest Pic of the Month features AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel in Apr 1982
It Happened in January!... 1949 NWA champ Lou Thesz makes first defense in Toronto... 1957 A ton of star power as Whipper Watson and Pat O'Connor team to take on Gene Kiniski and Buddy Rogers, good guys win by dq... 1958 NWA champ Dick Hutton meets Whipper Watson, Watson appears to have won but Hutton has his foot on the ropes... 1959 Terrible Ted the Wrestling Bear makes his MLG debut, as does one Wally Sieber aka WVE... 1961 Ilio DiPaolo and Billy Red Lyons beat Tiny MIlls and Krusher Kowalski to become the new-and final Canadian Open Tag champs... 1963 The big bout Lou Thesz takes the NWA Title from Buddy Rogers at MLG... 1964 Thesz returns to take on Gene Kiniski to a curfew draw... 1969 NWA champ Kiniski on his 3rd consecutive card, takes on Johnny Valentine... 1970 NWA champ Dory Funk Jr beats former champ Gene Kiniski in front of 15,000 fans... 1976 NWA champ Terry Funk debuts at MLG taking on Ed Carpentier.... 1980 WWF champ Bob Backlund faces The Destroyer (Beyer) at MLG...
Fun Facts ......just how many different types of 'gimmick matches were held at MLG during the NWA years? ...well there were Texas Death. Indian Strap, Canadian Lumberjack, Jungle Strap, Portuguese Death, Indian Survival, Indian Death, a plain old Death, Steel Cage, Dog Collar, Handicap, Bounty, Boot Camp, Salt Miners Glove, Russian Chain, Bunkhouse, plain old Strap, Taped Fist, Grudge, Mexican Death, South American Death, Arkansas Chain, Sicilian Death, and Judo Jacket, and one we never had ? A Battle Royal !
Jan 8 1978...AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel pinned Stan Stasiak... Verne & Greg Gagne beat Blackjack Lanza & Bob Duncum... Dusty Rhodes pinned Waldo Von Erich... Chief Jay Strongbow won by dq over Chris Tolos... Ken Patera defeated Jim Brunzell... Angelo Mosca and Chief Peter Maivia were both dq'd... Dewey Robertson pinned Duncan MacTavish... Billy Red Lyons drew The Wildman..
Classy auto from BRL!