Monday, February 19, 2018

Whipper, Tunney, & McCready 1941

A notable date in MLW history featuring Whipper Watson vs Earl McCready for the undisputed Canadian Heavyweight Championship on June 12 1941

This was the beginnings of the Birtish Empire Title which became the main title here for close to 30 years. McCready had come in to Toronto as holder of both the B-E Title and the Candadian Championship and had faced Whipper the week before this bout.

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.

In June of 1941 rookie promoter Tunney introduced the 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 another 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 (mainly on) 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.

*note in the photo above with all three, McCready who was billed at 5'11 looks to tower over Whipper (billed 5'10) (and Tunney -5'9?) , there is an entry on the web that claims Watson was 5'7 but photos show him to be about 5'10. Another photo shows them to be about an inch apart, must be the angle of this one.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Gene Kiniski at Make Believe Gardens

Another fine figure from our friend Barry Hatchet in our continuing look at the heels and heroes of Make Believe Gardens.

Kiniski has been the subject of several features both on the main site and here on the blog. He was an integral part of the wrestling scene here spanning some 4 decades from his debut in 1956 to his last appearance here in 1982.

He caused a lot of mayhem in and out of the ring for all of those years and he never met a mic he didn't like. One of the most important and notable of the many stars that spent a considerable time in our area. Thanks to Barry again, great job !

Make Believe Gardens
More from Make Believe Gardens

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Whipper & Politics 1965

Whipper Watson won a lot of battles over his lifetime. For a big star he lost more than his share of bouts in the ring, but usually won the battle.

In 1965 at the age of 48 Whipper would try his hand at politics to run on his home turf for the '65 Federal Election.

At the time Whipper was  25 years into his pro wrestling career and while getting up in age - and with limited mobility - he was still a huge star on the weekly cards at  Maple Leaf Gardens.

He was still the British Empire champ though working in tag teams most of the time. His bouts generally stayed under 15 minutes and he was travelling less, preferring to stay close to the farm he owned on the South shores of Lake Simcoe.

Frank Tunney had planned a 'Silver Aniversary' contest for Whip in October but then Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson announced a federal election for Nov 8 1965 and Whipper decided to turn from the wrestling ring to the political ring.

For the Sept 9 1965 card he was matched against Professor Hiro (managed by Whip's long time adversary Fred Atkins) and it was called a 'farewell - for present at least.'

Whipper was not new to the political forum, at least in concept. He was frequently appearing at events around Toronto covering both the business and charity worlds and was constantly hob-knobbing with Mayors, Commissioners, Sports Figures, Actors, and other stars of their respective fields.

He had ran several business, and had a hand in promoting wrestling and parts of the office both here and in the U.S. He had also been at the forefront of several battles with both the city and the Sports Commission over Pro Wrestling. More on that in another column.

Whip was known as 'The Pride of East York' so it was a natural to try to win his home riding known as York East. He would have to overcome Steve Otto, a Lawyer who had held the seat since 1962. Otto, for the Liberals was billed at 162lbs vs Whipper for the Conservatives at 245. They would face a challenge from NDP incumbent William Smith (no weight given),

Otto had fallen out of favor in his own party, expecting to have to pay all his own expenses and saying 'I don't think the Liberal party  would cry at all if I lost.'

Whipper, meanwhile had the whole of the Conservative party rooting hard for him, providing him with all of the assistance and encouragement it could muster. Prior to Otto taking the seat in 1962 the Conservatives had held the riding for the previous 37 years with the same guy -Robert McGregor 1935-1962.

Whipper didn't claim to know all the answers. He readily admitted that when it comes to economics and other political platforms he would be 'just kidding you' to claim to know the solutions but would find the experts who did. He would confine his campaign to a portfolio of physical fitness, programs for all Canadians and sponsorship of Canadian athletes, and scholarships at universities.

He promised to end his wrestling career to grapple full time with the problems of government if elected.

During his campaign which was centered in a large hall in East york and staffed with many volunteers, he would came back to the wrestling ring on Oct 3 to team with Johnny Powers against Hiro and Gene Kiniski before taking a break.

On Nov 8  when the numbers were counted Whipper lost, but not by much. Otto had 18,840 votes against Whipper's 15,312. Smith got 13,045 and outsider Bea Beacock with 194 making Whippers share about 32% of the vote, not bad for a first showing.

In the Federal spectrum Pearson remained Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker placed second, and Tommy Douglas with the NDP placed third. Douglas, whose daughter actor Shirley Douglas married actor Donald Sutherland, is the grandfather of Keifer Sutherland, Interestingly Keifer later resided in East York.

That would be the end of Whipper's political aspirations and a couple of weeks later he would be back at MLG revitalized to defend his title against Kiniski, the 3 fall bout going to almost an hour.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Barry Penhale Column WAYLI 1953 Year in Review

Another of Barry Penhale's fine Canadian Column, this time a review of 1953.

thanks to Roger Baker