Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Waldo Von Erich: Holland Marsh's gift to the wrestling fraternity

1965 Maple Leaf Gardens in front of 'the wall'

Over the course of his career Wally Sieber aka Waldo Von Erich used about 10 different names before making it big as 'Waldo Von Erich' wrestling brother of Fritz. His early career is mostly unknown or forgotten but he was a 'big star' on Red Garner's Toronto area circuit from 1950 through 1957 alongside other Garner regulars who went on to bigger things including early training partner Jacques Dubois (Dave McKigney), Mike Scicluna (later Baron Scicluna), Ron Doner, and Ron 'Bull' Johnson.

1951
He appeared on a Garner Weston Arena card in November 1950 described as a crowd pleaser from Stuttgart, Germany. He shows up on more Weston arena cards through 1951 including the ad at right vs Gori 'Ed' Mangotich. Gori was a Toronto native and big star overseas who worked on Garner cards for many years.

 In July 1951 they played up his 'debut as a pro wrestler' in his hometown. At 200lbs in the Arena in the town of Bradford (within the Holland Marsh) billed as Baron Von Sieber- hometown boy he would spend the next 6-7 years wrestling for the Richmond Hill, ON based Central Canadian Wrestling Association (CCWA).

Right from the start they would play to his family heritage with the Baron part but in write-ups often just 'Wally Sieber -Holland Marsh's gift to the wrestling fraternity.'

He would hold the CCWA's Canadian heavyweight  title for a time and hone his craft on the competitive and fast paced circuit before the big league came calling.

1954
In 1954 he was named as one of Canada's most promising wrestlers by Barry Lloyd Penhale in 'Wrestling As You Like It' magazine. He was named alongside Frank 'Scotty' Thompson, Ferenz (Jimmy) Sziksay, Bill Curry (Kasaboski star), Stan Holek (aka Stan Lisowski/Nielson), Tony Baillargeon, Sandy Scott, and Maurice 'Mad Dog' Vachon

In September 1957 he would appear on a Tunney associated card in Bradford (likely promoted by Tommy Nelson) in what was called his 'debut for the MLW troupe.' Now the 'German Oak' he would face tough Tiger Tasker and a month later he would walk the ramp at Maple Leaf Gardens to take on Dick Hutton. This was during Hutton's $1000 challenge and Seiber would fall, as many others had, to Hutton's abdominal stretch.

An added note to that 1957 Bradford card was that Fritz Von Erich was teamed with Dick Hutton vs The Fabulous Kangeroos. Fritz was a top heel here then and he and Wally would appear on many of the same cards over the next year.

Even at MLG his name continued to change, sometimes Baron Von Sieber, other times Waldo Von Sieber then sometimes just Wally or even Walter. The 'Von Erich' brotherhood would happen away from Toronto and when Wally returned in November 1964 as Waldo Von Erich, Fritz was long gone from here. The Von Erich 'brothers' would never team in this area though Waldo would remain Fritz's 'brother' in the stories in the mags up to the late 1970's and beyond.

Close up at MLG 

Roger Baker, whose photos are featured here remembers meeting Waldo during his time both as a fan in the early days and later as a wrestling photog and writer.

'This wrestling reporter can go all the way back to around 1955 when I first met Wally Sieber, it was the summer time, and the place was ''Sunny Side Beach'' we were both in our late teens, I recognized Wally as soon as saw him, he was tall, very muscular, and he may have had blond hair. 

Wally was with a buddy, and they were both having a great time by the huge swimming pool that was the hallmark of the beach area, we chatted for a while, and he told me that he appreciated when he was recognized out side of a wrestling ring, he was looking forward to his future as a wrestler  

Over the ensuing years we met on several more occasions, we met at a summer dance hall in Jacksons point, at a wrestling event in Detroit's Cobo Hall, as well an event at Buffalo's War Memorial Auditorium. As well Wally and The Fabulous Kangaroos Al Costello and Roy Saint Clair, and myself had a great dinning experience in a Lebanese restaurant in Detroit.

And there was the time when Wally literally got his hands on me, this happened in a dressing room at M.L.G. it was if memory serves me correct around 1964. I had popped in to see who was there, in the hopes of getting some dressing room candids. This can be tricky, as with anyone if you don't ask first it can result in a nasty incident, however Wally was in the room at the time and we got to talking about injuries from wrestling, as well as other sports.

There was a large adjustment table in the room, some of the other wrestlers who were there used the bench for abdominal crunches to warm up ahead of their up coming match. I mentioned to Wally that I had been in discomfort from a very stiff neck at the time. He offered to adjust my neck on the bench, so with some trepidation I got on the bench on my back and without the benefit of any pre-adjustment  loosening up, he applied what was best described as a full nelson on me, followed by a quite forceful backwards pull. I motioned to him that 'I give up' and he released me and told me I should feel better after a while.

While all this had been going on, little did I know that the boss himself, Frank Tunney, had come into the room while I was on the bench. Being some what embarrassed at the time I said hello to Tunney, who gave me a quizzical look. I got to be man handled by a 245lb. brute of a wrestler, and live to talk about it. '

MLG 1965 vs Bruno 

Waldo would earn his first major title bout locally in 1964 against WWWF champ Bruno Sammartino. He would face Bruno twice in 1965 and again in 1976 at MLG. Those two would battle all over WWWF proper over the years, Waldo the perfect ethnic monster heel type they would match up against Bruno.

In 1965 Waldo would team with Gene Kiniski. Big Gene had previously teamed with Fritz here in 1957 creating a monster tag that caused havoc all over the area. The new tag of Waldo and Gene would feud with Whipper Watson and Johnny Valentine.

He would take an extended absence through the early 1970's as he traveled the world before returning here to appear both at MLG and the outer circuit alongside the WWA/McKigney stars. As well in those days the 'Lake circuit' that included Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit, had a busy schedule for our local guys.

He stayed a regular here though Mar 4 1979 when he wrestled his last bout at the Gardens against Johnny Yachetti (The Beast)

I also met Waldo some years back and he was a very nice and gracious guy, not at all like his wrestling persona. The pic below by Roger taken in the Buffalo dressing room reflects that.

Photos- and thanks! - to Roger Baker

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