This will be a look at the vibrant amateur wrestling scene in and around Toronto in the 1920's and '30's.
While this site's focus is the Pro scene, it is worth looking at the amatuer side as many of Frank Tunney's trusted inner circle came out of the amateur ranks here.
Some went on to be the stars of the 1940's and '50's while some became long time referee's or promoters and part of Tunney's 'inner circle' for many years.
This will be a compilation of new articles and existing ones from the Blog in order to obtain as much info as we can, notable or otherwise.
If you can contribute please contact me
A new entry on Ted McKinley starts it off, below is a post from the blog on the general scene and one 'Wild' Bill Potts as he turned from amateur to pro.
Wild Bill Potts and the Amateur scene in the 1930's
As an addition to the post on the vibrant Amateur scene in Toronto in the 1930's we will take a look at one Ted McKinley, a major presence in the amateur and pro ranks in the 1930's and 1940's.
Ted first shows up in 1931 wrestling as a Senior in the University of Toronto Inter-Faculty championships. He is listed as 'former intercollegiate wrestler, careful but quick to seize an advantage, good style at 125lbs.'
Over the next couple of years he is busy on the various cards held around Toronto, many that are run by Phil Lawson, noted amateur who later trained and managed Whipper Watson. Some of these touneys were held at the Mutual St Arena, where Ivan Mickailoff ran his pro cards.
On many of those cards was Cliff Worthy in the heavyweight division, he would go on to a long tenure as a pro ref for Jack Corcroan and later Frank Tunney.
In July 1934 trials were held in Montreal for the upcoming British Empire Games to be held in England.
Along with McKinley and Lawson as trainer for the wrestlers, they were accompanied by Ben Engbloom and Terry Evans
On July 20 they would all leave for England along with fellow wrestlers Pat Meehan, Joe Scleimer, Howard Thomas, Alex Watt, and Robert McNabb. A note in the Star mentions that as the families saw their loved ones off a '5 year old Arthur McKinley wept at the prospect of not seeing his uncle Ted, wrestling champion at 123 lbs.'
As of Aug 9 it was reported that the Canadians had won all 5 of their preliminary bouts at the Games.
All were said to be defending title won in Hamilton in 1930 though Ted would likely not have competed in those. Earl McCready had won Gold in the Heavyweight division in Hamilton, his last before turning pro.
It would prove to be a very successful games for the Canadians. Ted would win Silver in the Bantamweight division and the other 5 would all win medals as well. Final take was 3 Gold, 2 Silver, and 2 Bronze.
Upon return a card was held at the Central YMCA on Nov 7 featuring McKinley, Terry Evans, Joe Schleimer all receiving honor medals as Dominion champs. Another noted star Jimmy Allen would also appear though he doesn't show on the 1934 Games.
On May 3 1935 the Central Ontario Amateur Championships were held in Toronto, said to have a bearing on the 1936 Summer Olympics. McKinley at 123lbs won his first round bout.
At 174lbs Winnett Watson (later aka Pat Flanagan) won his bout as did Engbloom and Evans.Terry Evans actually won 3 championships, the Middle, Light, and Heavy (weight) divisions working above his weight. A week later Evans would win the 175lb YMCA International title in Pittsburgh against contestants from YMCA's around North America.
In Oct 1935 McKinley appeared on a card in Bowmanville vs The Red Devil. Lawson took on Dick Bishop while a young Bill Potts took on Soldier Crisp. Potts, of course would become Whipper Watson.
These cards appear to be in the pro style but technically 'amateur cards' perhaps to get around the licenses and such and also to present it as 'real' and with the lighter talent that were not able to go up against the heavyweight pros.
In March 1936 McKinley won at 123lbs in a 2 day City Championships. In the final at 174lbs Terry Evans won over Watson (Flanagan) and the heavyweight final was Cliff Worthy over Ken Tasker (pre 'Tiger' days and both future MLG refs)
In June 1936 they began an elimination process with 44 top grapplers to determine who will represent central Ontario at the final Olympic trials in Montreal. They opened it up to allow anyone from any corner of the province and irrelevant of experience to enter to make sure they had the top tier.
McKinley would make it and go to Montreal where he placed in the final four.
At the Olympics held in Berlin only Joe Schleimer won a medal, a bronze in Welterweight.
Terry Evans was defeated and unsure at this point if McKinley made the trip and lost in his division.
In the months after the Olympics he would be called the 'Canadian Lightweight Champ' though it's hard to decipher as there were many different regional 'Canadian Titles' and many tourneys held across the country through these years.
In October 1937 Ted wrestled on a benefit card held at Mutual St Arena in support of Red Garner who had suffered a dislocation of a neck vertebrae in a previous bout. The main event that night was McKinley vs Ernie Hughson with others appearing included Sam Gotter, Eric Lake, Tim Timoskym and Earl Grant. Gotter would also go on to be a long time MLG ref while Red Garner would promote his own shows North of the city for many years. Red was a lighter guy himself and would feature many of the former amateur stars on his pro cards in the '40's and '50's under the 'middleweight' banner.
Red got his own story on the main site at Red Garner: The Pride Of Langstaff
Meanwhile Ted would continue to wrestle on the Coronation Club cards at Mutual St which featured a mix of talent and were promoted under the auspices of amateur style.
In the summer of 1939 Ted would travel to Montreal earning a win and a draw in a big amateur tournament.
He would leave the scene for some years at this point when he joined the Army as part of the war effort, as several of the other wrestlers did.
He re-appeared on the scene in May 1947 in Oshawa, ON where he appears to have been promoting alongside Pat Farrell and Jimmy 'Ziggy' Szizksay. Jim Allen, Ernie Hughson, Red Garner, Harvey Stanfield were all there helping out. This is just prior to Pat Milosh taking over in August '47.
That story and many more can be found at the other MLW site Oshawa Wrestling History.com
Ted would also show up on Al 'Bunny' Dunlop's pro cards held at Oakwood Stadium in the summer of '47. Dunlop, who had Tunney's blessings (Dunlop ran Tuesday while Tunney's cards were on Thursdays) would try his hand at promoting but it wouldn't pan out and he was soon back working on the Tunney shows. Alongside McKinley on these cards were pros Billy Stack, Sandor Kovacs, and Szikszay, as well as several other lightweight types that Ted would wrestle or team with.
He would wrestle less in the next few years, the last I note is 1954 on a Red Garner show at Lakeshore Arena taking on 'Tall' Tom Sullivan, one of Red's trainees
Lots of gaps in Ted's story , if you can add please contact me
'Wild Bill' Potts ! 1936 and the Amateur scene
Young Bill Potts had been wrestling around the area, starting on trainer Phil Lawson's frequent amateur meets and tournaments in Toronto and across Southern Ontario.
By 1935 Bill would start to move into the pro side of the sport. At that time there appears to be some grey area between the amateur and pro ranks.
In addition to the strictly amateur contests some of the pro cards had the amateurs who would 'wrestle' but add some of the 'entertainment' aspects to the show.
We have featured Edwin 'Red' Garner on the site and here on the blog and his long running promotion around the north of Toronto.
He was a standout amateur and would feature many of the amateur stars of that era on his shows, usually promoted as lightweights.
Many of the amateurs of the 1920's and 30s would go on to long careers both as wrestlers and referees. Jack Forbes, Cliff Worthy, Bert 'The Little Flower of Uxbridge' Maxwell, Al 'Krusher' Korman, Sam Gotter, Winnett (Pat Flanagan) Watson, and Ken 'Tiger' Tasker were all notable amateurs on the Toronto scene first.
Some others that would go pro but were too light for the most part to work on the MLG cards would work on the many cards in around Toronto that featured the lightweights or pegged as middleweights. Jim Allen, Ernie Hughson, Harvey Stanfield, and Ted McKinley were some of those that were very successful in the amateur circles.
Which takes us back to "Wild Bill' Potts. The Wild Bill moniker went back many years and quite a few pro wrestlers used it, most notably Bill Longson, whom in 1947 (the then) Whipper Watson would beat for the NWA (Association) World Title.
Bert Maxwell, pre horticulturist days, is at that time 'Mighty' Maxwell and 'Krusher' is still just 'Al.'
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