Terry Dart attended his first professional wrestling show at the London Arena in London, Ontario in September, 1957. He has submitted articles and reports to several fan-based publications over the years and is a regular contributor to the wrestlinglegends Yahoo Group. He has refereed on independent shows and managed as both Will E. Beatum and The Don. In 2002, he received a legends award from I.W.A. Wrestling in Norwich, Ontario, along with fellow legends Big Mac, Willie "The Wolfman" Farkas, and Ricky Johnson (The Rock's uncle).
To me, one of the best promoters was Frank Tunney, who promoted Toronto. When I was a teenager, I phoned him collect from a payphone. Frank even listed his phone number in the phone book. Being a kind man, Frank accepted the charges and we talked for a long time about wrestling. One time, a fan was down on his luck and couldn't pay his rent. Frank gave him money to cover it.
Bruno Sammartino was talking to Ray Gordon at a concession stand one afternoon. Bruno said that Frank Tunney was the most honest man he had ever met.
The late Dave McKigney (The Canadian Wildman ) was just as well liked when he promoted here in Ontario. One time, I saw Dave pay all the wrestlers. Due to the small crowd, there was no money left after paying the rental on the arena.
Both of those men have passed away now. God bless you both, Frank and Dave. We'll never forget your kindness.
When Dick the Bruiser started running opposition to the Sheik in Detroit, a friend and I went to Detroit. When we arrived at Olympia Stadium, someone was handing out flyers for the Sheik's "Tournament of Champions" show at Cobo Hall. We didn't know which show to attend, so we flipped a coin. Since I won, I chose the NWA show at Cobo. Two weeks later, we went to Detroit again and attended Bruiser's show. Here are the results:
Detroit, Michigan: October 23, 1971
Detroit, Michigan: October 23, 1971
One night, I took a Greyhound bus to Detroit and sat with Sailor Art Thomas for the entire trip. Art was a real gentleman. He even stood up in the aisle of the bus and posed for a picture. One night in Detroit, Art turned heel and started to team with the Beast (John Yachetti) and had Martino Angelo as his manager. Art wore a sequined cape to the ring that looked like a cheap shower curtain from the YMCA. (I stole that one from Bobby Heenan) The last I heard, Art Thomas had retired from a job at Oscar Meyer.
A masked wrestler who went by the name of The Masked Terror was wrestling in Detroit and the Midwest in 1963. Tough Tony Angelo was his manager. Lou Thesz finally pinned the Terror and pulled the mask off, revealing his identity as Jay (The Alaskan) York. Another masked wrestler around Ontario in 1962 was called the Destroyer. He caused a lot of riots. He wore a black mask, shirt, and long black tights. His gimmick was to pull a foreign object out of his tights and use it on his opponent. Johnny Valentine finally beat him in Toronto with a brainbuster and revealed him as Joe (Killer) Christie. Johnny Valentine also unmasked the Mighty Hercules in Toronto. Hercules turned out to be Bobby Graham. Bobby put the mask back on the next night in London, Ontario, but Gentleman Jim Hady tied him into the ring ropes and ripped it off again. Another masked wrestler was the Black Terror, who was unmasked by Whipper Billy Watson in 1961 in Toronto, revealing veteran Laverne Baxter.
I also remember the Great Bolo. One night, after Bolo and partner-in-crime Gene Kiniski had done some evil deeds to our heroes, Whipper Billy Watson and Bernard (Frenchy) Vignal (a protege of Edouard Carpentier), I asked Bolo who he was. He told me that he was Prime Minister John Diefenbaker. I was a young mark then. I believed him. The Great Bolo was eventually unmasked in Toronto and he turned out to be Al Lovelock. Al didn't want to take the mask off that night, so promoter Frank Tunney came to the ring to help with the unmasking.
The team called the Masked Yankee, who wrestled around Ontario in 1965 and 1966, were unmasked by Whipper Watson and Bulldog Brower in Toronto, Ontario. They turned out to be Big Bob Stanlee and Moose Evans.
One night, I saw Tony Marino wrestle Krusher Stan Kowalski here in London. Kowalski hid a metal plate in his knee pad and kept kneeing Marino in the head until Marino was a bloody mess. The young girls were screaming and everything was total chaos. The next night, I went to wrestling in Woodstock, Ontario. Marino was totally healed up and wrestled Kowalski again. Being the mark that I was, I walked up to Tony and told him that I had been in London the night before. When I asked him about his injuries, he said, "Oh, I heal quick, that's all." I told him that it was a miracle.
Here are a few of the funny moments I remember while attending wrestling matches were:
I was taking pictures at the London Arena one night. While Waldo von Erich was stomping the daylights out of Billy Red Lyons,a little old lady named Ma Pickles grabbed Waldo's foot. Waldo looked at Ma and said, "That's it, Ma. I'll kick him with one boot while you shine the other boot."
Another night, Gene Kiniski angered a fan so much that the fan ran out into the corridor and grabbed a fire house. As Kiniski walked down the wooden ramp after the match, the fan turned the hose on and squired Gene right off the ramp onto the floor.
One time at a small TV studio in Hamilton, Ontario, I called Ken Patera, "Ken Petunia." Then I had all the front row fans flex their muscles when Patera came to the ring. Even my 10-year-old son did it. When Ken spotted us, he said, "Hey, you bums. The boy's got more muscles than all of you."
Patera used the full nelson for a submission hold and said that nobody could break out of it. Between bouts, I got a long strip of toilet paper and wrote on it, "I Killer Diller challenge Ken Petunia to put the full nelson on me," then I draped it over the ring ropes. When Patera saw it, he got furious and told me he would make my neck go "snap, crackle, and pop". After that matches, I told Ken that I was sorry for cutting up. He said that he liked me doing it because it helped build the crowd heat.
One time at another studio match, after Mark Lewin put jobber Chico Garcia to sleep, the fans sang a lullaby for poor, old Chico. "Chico Garcia, Chico Garcia, Chico Garcia, you lost again." We sang it to the tune of "Santa Lucia." Lewin really cracked up.
I miss those small studio bouts. In those days, the admission was free. We were all one big, happy family. I met a lot of great friends during those years. Since I was always an instigator, the fans always saved a front row seat for me when I was late getting to the studio.
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