To mark the 15th year of Maple Leaf Wrestling.com we will take at look at 15 notable and great names to appear here in the long history of pro wrestling in Toronto.
Many of our big names already have a spot on the site so we will try to include those who made an impact here no matter how long or short their tenure was. In no particular order but we will count them down
unpacking in Toronto 1951
#8 Bobo Brazil Toronto Appearances 1951-1977* (to 1984 on the circuit)
Bobo Brazil was a popular wrestler in Toronto and around Southern Ontario from the moment he came in as a fresh faced youngster in Nov 1951 through the mid 1980's on Dave McKigney's circuit shows.
In his debut against Lou Sjoberg he was said to 'moider Lou (Sjoberg) with a flying headscissors.'
For those of us who saw him later in his career he was then a tall and slim athletic competitor billed at 6'6 249lbs. He was already using his ko-ko butt that would be a mainstay of his career.
It didn't take long for him to work up the cards to the mains against the likes of Hans Hermann (who had just put hometown hero Whipper Watson out of commission with a concussion), Lord Athol Layton, and in tags with Whipper when he returned.
Whipper took a shine to the young star, the two frequently photographed together in the lead ups to bouts.
He wouldn't challenge for the world title in Toronto but in 1953 he got a shot at NWA champ Lou Thesz in Niagara Falls and later in 1958 against new champ Dick Hutton in the same arena.
In 1952 he faced Roberto Pico in Oshawa for a grudge bout that included a side bet of $1000 ($500 each). Despite Pico's objections to the finish of the bout promoter Pat Milosh presented winner Bobo with a cheque in the middle of the ring.
In 1953 for a bout in Peterborough Bobo was teamed with arch enemy Hans Hermann to face Canadian Open Tag champs Dick Raines and Lou Plummer. The champs got the win when Bobo refused to tag in for his hated partner.
He would also team with most of the T.O. regulars, Pat Flanagan and Yukon Eric included.
He would leave for a time and return in the late '50s through 1960, then staying closer to home in Michigan through the 1960's challenging for the U.S. Title (Detroit).
He would also appear in Windsor in the early 1960's as Canadian Champ under the Big Time banner taking on the likes of Fritz Von Erich and Gene Kiniski.
With the emergence of The Sheik in Toronto Bobo would be back to settle in for the start of the 1970's.
The feud between the two carried over to many areas and Toronto was no exception.
The two would battle in main events at MLG over the next several years and while Bobo would beat the Sheik in Detroit for his US Title (different lineage from Toronto) quite a few times, he would't be able to lift it here until 1977.
That run didn't last long - Sheik won it back on the next MLG card 3 weeks later - and as Sheik bowed out of the MLG wars so did Bobo.
By 1980 he was back on Dave 'Wildman' McKigney's circuit, again battling The Sheik from town to town across the region.
He would be a regular on parts of the summer tours from 1982-1984 joining the other ageing veterans who could still put on a great show.
about to hit the floor vs Whipper 1956
#9 Dick Hutton Toronto Appearances 1956-1959
Dick Hutton is one of the bigger names we will feature on our 'Notables' list, a former NWA World champ - he won it here in Toronto in 1957.
The former amatuer standout debuted here in April 1956 and remained strong untill a count out loss vs then NWA champ Whipper Watson in July '56.
Shortly after he arrived Hutton offered a $1000 challenge to anyone who could beat him within 20 minutes.
He kept that $1000 through 3 count out losses to champ Whipper as both were past the 20 minute mark.
In a bout at the East York Arena in January 1957 Whipper (now ex NWA champ) would finally beat Hutton to win the cash, the first one in Toronto to do so.
Unfortunately Hutton's second for the match and Whippers arch enemy Gene Kiniski tore up the check before Whipper could invest it.
Hutton and Kiniski would form one of the more powerful tag teams in wrestling history and battle with Whip and partner Pat O'Connor.
Whipper a former NWA champ and the other 3 soon to hold the belt themselves.
Hutton remained a regular on the weekly cards as well as the southern Ontario circuit through 1957 before he beat Lou Thesz to capture the title at MLG on Nov 14 1957. For that match he put up $2000 with no time restriction
$1000 to Thesz if he won and $1000 to charity. Hutton kept his money and took the belt.
As mentioned in the Fred Atkins story Hutton had trained with Fred Atkins previous to the bout. One report said Hutton spent 8 weeks with Atkins.
It was said that Atkins got Hutton's weight down through his extreme conditioning regiments. Atkins claimed Hutton was an 'alcoholic for cake' so he 'ran him through the sand until he dropped, then insulted him till he got up and ran some more.'
He would defend the title 8 times in Toronto (including 4 vs Whip, 2 vs Thesz, and one vs Bill Longson) before losing it to O'Connor in St Louis in Jan 1959.
During his reign he would also defend in Niagara Falls against Bobo Brazil, Reggie Lisowski (later The Crusher), and Bill Miller.
Some of his title defences here were not reviewed too fondly.
One recap of a Hutton-Watson bout in Jan 1958 called it 'the first time in recorded history that a National Wrestling alliance titleholder has gone through a whole bout without wrestling' due to Hutton constantly using illegal tactics and stalling outside the ropes.
After a November title defence against Hombre Montana Steve York of the Globe wrote gDear Santa: Please ask Sam Muchnick, National Wrestling Alliance president, to make Lou Thesz champion again'.
Hutton also needed a stretcher a couple of times after battles with Whipper, not a great exit for the champ.
In Jan 1959 when new champ Pat O'Connor returned for a defence here York wrote gYes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. How else can you account for OfConnor replacing Dick Hutton as NWA champion?
OfConnor bounces around, has more colour and is more expressive than the phlegmatic, stolid Hutton, who does everything deliberately."
After losing the belt Hutton would return to Toronto for a re-match with O'Connor staying on through the summer before leaving the area by August '59.
I asked our resident expert MLG photog and writer Roger Baker of his memories of Hutton.
"I probably saw Hutton wrestle at MLG five or six times, and once at the Scarborough Arena.
He impressed me with his in ring stature, he was a solid built wrestler, and he would employ many holds, and counter holds as well.
The only ad-on that he displayed was a standing offer of a Thousand Dollars to any wrestler who to come in the ring and beat him, no other wrestler was able to accomplish this feat and take home that at the time was a lot of money."
Hutton's pro career is remembered somewhat overwhelmingly from the historian community. Perhaps as a pro he never measured up to his skills as an amateur wrestler.
Still a classic wrestler, not flashy but tough with real mat skills. His career in Toronto, though short, was noteworthy and likely led to him becoming NWA champ.
A deserving member of our notables list celebrating 15 years of mapleleafwrestling.com
against Carpentier 1966
#10 Stan Stasiak Toronto Appearances 1961-1978
In 1961 a youngster billed from Arvida, Quebec by the name of Stanley Stasiak made a successful debut at MLG winning his bout against Johnny Foti.
Right from the start the scribes made reference to the Stanley Stasiak of the early 1930's who had been a big star in Toronto before dying suddenly in 1931.
The earlier Stasiak had wrestled Ed Don George at Arena Gardens in Sept 1931 and suffered a broken arm during the bout. As he left Toronto for Montreal his arm became infected and he suffered blood poisoning.
He was admitted to hospital in Belleville, ON and he died there days later. He was remembered as a 'beloved villain' due to his ready wit and cheery manner outside the ring.
The original Stasiak had been such a force in Toronto under promoter Ivan Mickailloff that he was still remembered here some 30 years later when the new Stasiak appeared.
The youngster started fast and earned a bout with Whipper Watson for his British Empire Title just 4 bouts in.
Now going by just 'Stan' (though Joe Perlove would still refer to him as Stanley occasionally) he would get two straight against the champ before settling into a regular schedule at MLG and around the circuit.
He would team up with Man Mountain Campbell to win the International Tag Titles and continue to wrestle solo with a bit of a long running feud against another future WWWF star Gino Marella (Gorilla Monsoon).
In those days there were frequent heel vs heel bouts and in Oct 1961 Stasiak became another victim of the unstoppable force Bulldog Brower in what would be Stasiak's last main event at MLG for some years to come.
He would frequently head the card in the outlying cities though, main-eventing in Hamilton, Oshawa, London, and other spots during that era.
A bout in early 1963 saw Stasiak coming up with the short end of the stick in a bout against then local star Bruno Sammartino.
Their paths of course would cross later and make history when Bruno beat Stasiak (who had beat Pedro Morales) in NYC to regain the WWWF Title in 1973.
In Toronto Stasiak would remain a fixture for most of the next 15 years while branching out to other territories but returning here frequently and appearing as a regular throughout.
He would get a NWA shot against Jack Brisco in early 1975 and due to a feud with Johnny Valentine and a couple of shots at local kingpin The Sheik was turned into a fan favourite here.
A year later he would meet new NWA champ Terry Funk and later team with an old WWWF nemesis Chief Jay Strongbow. In 1977 he met then WWWF champ Superstar Graham at MLG and in Jan 1978 got a shot at AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel.
Stasiak is on the very short list for having challenged for all 3 major titles in Toronto, the NWA, WWWF, and AWA. Tiger Jeet Singh was the other.
He would also see time on Dave McKigney's small town circuit battling Tony Parisi over the North American Title (which he would hold for a short time) but remain a fan favourite at MLG.
His last bout in Toronto was in Feb 1978 when he pinned the Wolfman (Farkus).
working the ring 1982
#11 Norm Kimber Toronto 0ffice 1951'52-1986
For fans of the M-A era and into the last years of the NWA days here, memories of Norm Kimber would rate high when recalling wrestling in the city.
He was the 'voice' at MLG, usually very serious and business-like but often looking to be holding back a smile while surrounded by the crazyness of the ring.
Always well dressed in a suit or occasionally a sportscoat with sweater underneath he brought an air of sophistication to the proceedings, introducing the wrestlers and promoting the next big show at MLG, and manning the ring bell at the little table beside the ring.
By the time we knew him as Norm Kimber the ring announcer, he head already put in many years in the office, first as a 'man-friday' type, then taking over the publicity chores before taking over the ringside duties.
He was in the office as of Jan 1953 working alongside publicist Frank Ayerst and looks to have started 1951-1952 in the height of the 1950's revival of pro wrestling.
At that time the office was busy with boxing people, reporters, and the wrestlers that were part of the inner circle that worked with Tunney through those years.
Along with Ayerst and Kimber there were 'Deacon' Allen, Phil Lisner, Tommy Nelson, and the various scribes who frequented the office as well as Frank's nephew Jack who came in soon after.
He took over the ring announcing duties in 1973 replacing long-time announcer Jerry Hiff. He would stay in that capacity through 1986 until he left for Angelo Mosca's short lived NWA promotion based out of Hamilton.
Occasionally he would be replaced by Jack Tunney but for the most part he didn't miss many cards through that 13 year period
He looks to have been the office liasion with the papers as far as the ads and results for the shows went. From the 1930's through the 1950's the wrestling coverage in the papers was plentiful.
That tailed off in the 1960's after Frank Ayerst moved on and Tunney's office was considerably smaller than in those early days.
By the time of our era you were hard pressed to find more than the ad and results placed around the by-then twice monthly shows.
Some listings in the dying days of the promotion said 'by Norm Kimber' but otherwise there wasn't much in the publicity side by the early 1980's.
If you went to Tunney's office, by then across from the Gardens, it was down to Frank and Jack mostly, Kimber and others who worked for Tunney seemed to be somewhat 'game night' types only.
Not as much known about Norm as should be, if you can add to the story of Norm Kimber please contact me.
joining forces 1942 with Phil Lawson
#12 Earl McCready Toronto Appearances 1931-1954
In the early 1930's Earl McCready was coming off a successful amateur career and was wrestling on pro cards at Arena Gardens and later at Maple Leaf Gardens under the banner of Canadian Heavyweight champion.
His impressive career is well noted and he would spend a lot of time around our area and be a part of the new Toronto title that was introduced some years later.
His debut at Arena Gardens in May 1931 for promoter Jack Corcoran was highly touted given his credentials and he quickly rose to star status, popular as 'Canada's own' billed from Regina.
Through the 1930's he would be a good draw in Toronto with many big bouts against the likes of Strangler Lewis, Dick Shikat, Henri DeGlane, Bill Longson, and Yvon Robert, and in his travels out West would beat Canadian champ Jack Taylor for the Canadian and British Empire titles.
On returns to Toronto he was called 'Canada's Best Wrestler.'
In the mid 40's McCready owned a farm on 2nd Concession in Whitchurch Township (Vandorf) near what is now Aurora. He would be gone for 6 months at a time traveling around the world and was known for a time as 'The Whitchurch Farmer. In a 1944 Stoufville paper it proclaimed Frank Tunney as the second most well known local name in pro wrestling - next to McCready.
When he was home he would teach a Sunday School class and was said to not care much for publicity and lead a quiet life.
In 1942 he almost lost his life when his car was hit by a train near his farm. He and a passenger escaped unhurt.
In June 1941 rookie promoter Tunney introduced a new title belt 'emblematic of the dominion wrestling championship' in order to give more credence to Canadian wrestlers. McCready was still billed across the nation as champ and Tunney deemed local star Whipper Watson to be a claimant so the two were set to meet at MLG.
The initial meeting was inconclusive but in the re-match McCready pinned Watson in the 5th round of an 8 round bout to become undisputed champ.
Both were said to be competing for the chance at the World title so it helped to establish Watson as a worthy challenger. The new British Empire title would then become the centrepiece for the next decade and provide a platform for Whipper to eventually attain the World Title.
McCready would lost the title to Nanjo Singh who then lost it to Whipper for his first run in Apr 1942,
McCready would regain it from new champ John Katan late in the year and by 1943 Whipper would regain it and hold it on and off through the 1960's before it was retired in 1967.
McCready and Watson would also find time to team up as a formidable tag in 1942 in a bout billed as the 'first time four men in the ring at the same time.' Our era's Texas tornado bout.
The two would beat John Katan and Al 'Bunny' Dunlop in a wild bout.
McCready would continue to appear often through the 1940's while still maintaining a busy schedule throughout the wrestling world and would wrestle his last area appearances here in 1954 before finishing his career out West.
vs Stevens 1982
#13 Tony Parisi Toronto Appearances 1963-1986* (major feds)
Tony Parisi spent a lot of time in Toronto and area working both as a wrestler and promoter from his base in Niagara Falls.
His spot in the early days was mostly that of undercard or midcard in singles and tags getting the occasional win and making his opponent look good.
He was a big fan favorite and did get up to the main event a few times at MLG, 2 bouts vs The Sheik in 1972 and an NWA title shot vs Jack Brisco in 1974.
Also a long time fixture on the small town shows Tunney held and later as a regular on Dave McKigney's circuit holding his North American Title in 1975.
Parisi would also promote some shows around Niagara Falls through the 70's and later at the annual Chin Picnic's in Toronto and at the CNE Exhibition.
In 1973 he ran a show at the famous Skylon Tower in the Falls (tower modeled after Seattle's Space Needle) drawing 2,700 with a main of Parisi vs Waldo Von Erich. His protege Nick DeCarlo was also on the show.
In 1976 he would appear on George Cannon's show at the CNE Coliseum that went head to head with Tunney.
While others bowed out (notably Gino Brito, Parisi's tag partner) Parisi worked the show but still returned to work MLG. He found success elsewhere, notably in the WWWF but would always return
During the Mid-Atlantic years he was good as a 'set the tone' wrestler, frequently wrestling other 'good guys' or good veteran types like Frankie Laine and DeCarlo to start the show and give it some momentum.
Says a lot that much of the prelims here during that time were veterans who for the most part resided and started here.
He was still doing his ring ropes stuff (laying on the rope) and working in some high flying moves and would continue as a tag team specialist working alongside fellow veterans Johnny Weaver and Billy Red Lyons which was a treat for the fans.
A bout vs the newly reformed Ray Stevens in 1982 was a wrestling clinic and he was a steady presence on the TV show teaming with partners as diverse as Ric Flair and Bruno Sammartino Jr (David), a throwback to his early days as Antonio Pugliese 'Bruno's cousin.'
When Jack Tunney switched to using WWF wrestlers Parisi stayed on along with some of our other local guys and wrestled right into the 90's on indy cards around the area.
Posing for a pic 1982
#14 Jay Youngblood: Toronto appearances 1978-1984
Earned his spot in Toronto wrestling history teaming with Ricky Steamboat in some big bouts here but Jay Youngblood would also prove himself in solo bouts at MLG and around the region.
He appeared on that first card in Oct 1978 that featured the M-A stars and with his exciting style would forge a connection with the fans here over the next few years.
First teamed with Tony Atlas and then with Johnny Weaver in a good teacher/student type team. He and Weaver would actually face off in a rare partner vs partner bout in our Cadillac Tournament in Mar 1982.
They were matched up as a result of the 'tourny seeding' with Weaver getting the decision in a good bout.
When taking on the big stars at MLG in the main event Youngblood would seldom win but put up a good fight, bouts vs Slaughter and Valentine stand out.
He would shine a bit on the outside circuit in St Catherines, Kitchener, Hamilton etc where he would get a better bout and create some excitement in the smaller arenas.
His feud in 1982 vs Ninja and manager Gene Anderson was memorable, culminating in an Indian Strap Match where he touched all 4 corners for a big win.
In Ottawa he got a shot at AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel and shortly thereafter won the Canadian Title beating the Destroyer (Beyer) in the final of a mini-tourny in June 1982.
They shelved that run when he came back with Steamboat to battle the Privates and Sgt Slaughter.
That feud which ended with Youngblood and Steamboat winning the NWA tag titles in a cage remains one of the most remembered angles of the era here.
His last bout here was again in a Canadian title tourney in Apr 1984 where he bowed out to the Grappler.
In 1982 he was peeking out of the curtain and fans called to him and he came out and stood for a moment while a
bunch of us took a photo, seemed a bit embarrassed by all the attention.
Longson 1947 with Frank Tunney
#15 Bill Longson: Toronto appearances 1939-1958
The Wrestling business in Toronto was in a tough spot at the end of the 1930's.
Crowds were down and in 1939 promoter Jack Corcoran was about to pass the reigns to matchmaker John Tunney and his brother Frank to take the town into the 1940's.
'Wild Bill' Longson would debut in Nov 1939 coming in with a nasty reputation and the skills to back it up.
He would face Tommy Nilan on the undercard of a Bronko Nagurski-Danno O'Mahoney World Title bout which also featured a Yvon Robert-Frank Sexton bout but as was the times, only drew 4,000 fans.
Longson would batter Nilan who had to be carried out on a stretcher (said to have suffered a dislocated vertebra) while Longson had to make a mad dash to the dressing room with the fans pelting him with 'everything but the 'ushers.'
In subsequent bouts Longson would frequently feel the wrath of the fans who would try to attack him every chance they got.
After John Tunney passed away suddenly in Jan 1940 and Frank took over Longson would prove to be a steady force for the young promoter, appearing regularly and keeping the fans interested.
Whipper Watson would come into the picture in late 1940 working his way up to be the main good guy, subsequently revitalising the city, and eventually he and Longson would have some big battles here over the World Title.
Longson would cede his title to Whipper in 1947 in a St Louis bout and they would battle here again, this time with Longson as challenger.
'Wild Bill' would continue the long feud with Watson once he regained the title from Thesz and would appear here into the 1950's.
Late in his career Toronto would see Longson challenge for the NWA (Alliance) Title in 1956 vs Watson and again in 1958 vs Dick Hutton
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