Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Wilf Jennings

Continuing our look at some of the lesser known stars in Ontario we look at Wilf 'Wolf' Jennings.

Jennings is a somewhat forgotten star of the 1950's and up. He showed up on Red Garner's local Ontario circuit around 1955 and wrestled into the early 1960's on the smaller circuits.

He was often tagged with a 'brother', variously  billed as Wilf and Al , Wilf and Don, and mostly as Wilf and Frank. Frank was Frank Griffiths, the two were called the 'Sudbury Hard Rocks' described as 'as tough a pair as have ever come to these parts.'

I don't know anything abut Frank, he was mentioned in Wilf's obituary but I can't locate any other info on him or if he wrestled beyond Garner's circuit.

The weight range on the Garner cards was from 150-250lbs. Wilf looks to have be on the lighter end of that scale but wiry and tough looking, a middleweight type, as many of Red's wrestlers were. He had some tatoo's so assume he may have been in the navy or army near the end of WW11 or later.

On the CCWA circuit the Jennings Brothers would hold the Ontario Open Tag Championship represented by the 'Labatt Trophy' when they beat the team of  the 'Hamilton Hoods' Alex Jensen and Jack Diamond in Thornhill on Jun 10 1958. An additional sum of $100 was awarded to the brothers who had wrestled - and won - in 4 consecutive cards as part of a tournament to crown the next champs.

Wilf also wrestled solo and was sometimes billed as 'Wolf' Jennings,  said to be 'the #1 enemy of the fans.' Not sure if he wrestled after mid 1960's, he doesn't show up in the results of the province.

He would stay close to Dave McKigney who was also wrestling on Garner's shows at that time as Jacques DuBois. Wilf would later show up as the regular ref on Dave's circuit in the 1970's.

He also worked as a ref for Frank Tunney and had been working as a photographer for Tunney at the time of his sudden death at the age of 50 on March 24 1976. His obit listed him as a former Toronto Star employee.

Below the clips is a photo of Wilf reffing around 1973. Photo is by Rudy Iseli who used to publish the excellent Canadian Wrestling Revue, he has many other photos of Wilf and tons of other stuff from his time as a fan and photog at his awesome Big Bear Wrestling blog - linked at right

There is a history of the CCWA on the MLW site , if you know more about Wilf or Frank please comment or contact me








































Friday, May 12, 2017

Ed White aka 'Handsome Johnny Davis'

This is excerpted from a longer piece on the old site
When I first started posting some of my collection back around 2002 I spoke with Ed White, he wrestled up here under his own name as well as around Detroit and other areas as Handsome Johnny Davis'. Note same name as Ed 'Sailor' White but different guy.

Ed/Johnny also wrestled as a masked 'Spoiler' and worked from about 1974 -1979 after learning from Lou Klein who broke many into the business including Ed's pal and sometimes tag partner Denny Alberts.

Anyways he mailed me a couple of items to use, a handwritten lineup sheet from a Wildman show and a receipt from a TV taping he had done for Tunney. Very gracious and a very nice and humble guy.

Ed worked a couple of Wildman tours in '75 and on one of those he drove Andre The Giant around in his (Ed's) Dad's car. He remembered the Wildman Dave McKigney fondly, “Great guy, paid good, made one of my biggest mistakes not going to work for him full time when he asked me, I was fed up and wanted out, if I had gone with him I may have lasted a few years longer and had some fun.”

McKigney had trouble with the boxing/wrestling commission later on but in those days seemed to have an easier time of it all and according to Davis, “I always thought of Dave as the Canadian Lou Klein. He must have had the blessings of the Tunneys or they wouldn’t have used him on the MLG shows”.

The small towns made for interesting match-ups like Davis teaming with McKigney (The Wildman) against the mammoth Haystacks Calhoun in one of those handicap matches that seemed to be on every card. On the trips through Ontario, the familiar names pop up, Chris Tolos, Dewey Robertson, Red Lyons, Sweet Daddy Siki, and local favorite heel Waldo Von Erich, “He was funny and real nice to me. Taught me a few things about the biz too.”

One of the great attractions of the circuit was Dave's Wrestling Bear. “Never wrestled it” said Davis “Got in the ring with it one time just playing before a show.”

Ontario was the home away from home for The Sheik in those days and he would appear on many cards throughout the circuit. “Scary at first,” Davis says of the feared Arab wildman, “but I got along great with him, even though his payoffs sucked.”

He also made it to MLG a couple of times, vs Mark Lewin in Sept 1975 and again vs Waldo Von Erich. “I loved going to MLG” said Davis, “wish I could have worked there more, big building, clean, great crowds, big ring and I loved the ramp”. And what about Frank Tunney? “Nice guy, used to pick up his Export A butts for him at the border” adds Davis.

A TV Taping for the Tunneys' at the Hamilton Studios would also be part of the tour, and Davis would pick up a cool 50 bucks for an afternoon of taking bumps. As a mid carder Davis would see his share of losses, and when asked about his biggest win, replied, “Win? Not many of them so I should remember, but I don’t”.

Some of those losses would come from heroes like Bobo Brazil,” worked with him a lot and every one was a dream,” while one would come from legendary tough guy and long time Toronto stalwart Johnny Valentine. “ He beat the hell out of me,” remembers Davis, “Wasn’t long after this that he had his plane crash so I never worked with him again."

"He came back to do some booking for Sheik from a wheelchair. I got to know him a little during that time. Got along good and he got a good laugh when I reminded him about the ass kicking he gave me. I wasn’t the only rookie to get this from him.”

Below are the items, he mentioned that 50$ payout (well 42$ after tax) was every penny earned the hard way ! If you look around on youtube there is a clip of Ed on Match Game from 1978, he won 6800$. Host Gene Rayburn in his most annoying style asked Ed about wrestling. One question was ' is it was real?', Ed responded by saying "as real as this show." touche !






Monday, May 8, 2017

Tiger Tasker

Kenneth 'Tiger' Tasker was a long time Maple Leaf presence both as a wrestler and then a referee.
as well as one of the inner circle that stayed around Tunney for many years.

We have looked at 'Tiger' before in doing some of the longer pieces on the site but there isn't much about him in the recorded history of the area.

Of course he was one of the troupe along with Whipper Watson and Tommy Nelson that famously went to England in 1936. While in the U.K he wrestled Whipper in a movie starring George Fornby, likely 1937's boxing themed Keep Fit.

Not sure exactly when he had acquired the 'Tiger' name. Along with many others of the era UK travel mate Tommy Nelson also used 'Tiger' as in 'Tiger Tommy', while Tasker was billed as both as 'Tiger' and as 'Alaskan Tasker' on those tours.

As far as the origin of the name I asked MLW photog and super-fan Roger Baker for his memory of Tasker.

"I saw Tiger wrestling a number of times at the MLG back in the mid fifties. He wrestled as a heel, with a mug like he had there was no other choice. He would work the 2nd or 3rd match on the card, and Tiger the rascal that he, was would lose to no one's surprise. Tasker got the handle of ''Tiger'' as a result of his habit of raking his finger nails on his opponents back and shoulders, the only other wrestler that appeared in the Gardens that did that nasty maneuver was ''Leering Lee Henning''

There's not much to find on his pre-pro wrestling days. An item in 1933 has a 'Private Tasker' taking part in the wrestling portion of a mit-mat (boxing and wrestling) show at the University Ave Armories, it was more than likely the then 20-21 year old Ken Tasker.

As far as that first U.K trip, supposedly he and Whipper and pals were spotted by a promoter at the amateur shows being held at Consols Stadium in the summers of 1935 and 1936 but only Potts (Watson) is mentioned out of the group in reports of those shows.

He wasn't a full time guy in the early days and may have had a day job. He had wrestled in Ontario but only returned to wrestle in Toronto around 1948 and would appear sporadically until becoming more of a regular in the 1950's. He would wrestle right up to 1960 before going full time as one of the regular MLG refs.

He was the third man in the ring for the historic Lou Thesz- Buddy Rogers title bout in 1963 and was involved in many of the big bouts right up to the mid 1970's

Roger Baker reflects on Tiger as a referee

"Tasker was the number one referee during the sixties, and early seventies . he was very capable to handle the toughest bouts, as a result he would officiate almost all of the main events, the wrestlers respected him, he was allways even handed in the ring."

In 1975 there was note about a thoroughbred horse 'named Tiger Tasker for the well-known wrestling referee' collecting it's first victory in a Detroit race. Not sure if he was involved but many of the Toronto wrestling fraternity were heavy into the horse racing game so there may have been a connection past the name.

In 1977 there was a small mention of him in a story about a jockey at Woodbine winning the lotto.
Tasker was mentioned as working security at the track in Toronto.

The last bouts he seemed to appear in were the end of the Sheik era and the onset of the AWA partnership in late 1977-1978

Roger relates a couple of personal notes regarding Tasker

"I can remember an occasion when my wife and myself were invited to a very pleasant get together at the late Dave Mckigney's house many years back, Tiger was there with his wife, as were three or four other wrestlers, Tiger at the time was also handling some of the officiating for The Bearmans  wresting shows.

Tiger had the look of an older ex fighter, he was built close to the ground, like a fire plug, he sported a smashed nose, facial scares, and two tin ears.


I last saw Tasker and his wife back around 1991, I was out doing some grocery shopping at a supermarket in Scarborough. I happened to look up and there was Tasker with his wife. I shouted out 'Tiger!' not having seen him for perhaps twenty years and we had a wonderful chat. At this point in his life he was far removed from being a wrestling referee , but he remembered me from all the times that I shot pictures of him at MLG, as well as some of the many other towns that we both had a purpose to be at."


Tasker told me that he still kept in touch with the Toronto wrestling office via his long relationship with Jack Tunney, by now the WWF had taken over Toronto, "

Kenneth A Tasker passed away on in September 30 1991 at the Providence Villa in Scarborough. It was just over a year after old pal Whipper had died.

As always thanks to Roger Baker ! and if you can add to the story of Tiger Tasker please comment or contact me

Pic below believe is circa late 1930's
below that is a another of Roger's incredible photos from 1964 featuring Tiger between WWWF champ Bruno and our own Waldo Von Erich. What a pic ! ! !



































Sunday, April 30, 2017

May 7 1967 Dewey debuts at MLG

May 7 2017 will mark the 50th Anniversary of Dewey Robertson's MLG debut.
He had trained in Hamilton but was touted as latest protege of Whipper Watson's due to become the next big star in Toronto.

That first bout at the Gardens saw him teamed with Sweet Daddy Siki to defeat Fred Atkins and The Beast (Yachetti). A week later he flew solo against Dutch Momberg in the opener earning a draw.

He lingered in the openers or near the middle of the cards until his first high profile bout in 1970. He was matched against The Sheik on the under-card of a Dory Funk Jr vs Gene Kiniski NWA Title bout but the stardom predicted didn't pan out as predicted by Watson a few years prior.

He would find a niche as a tag team wrestler in the early 1970's teamed with a variety of opponents before donning a mask as The Crusader. He would get a main event vs The Sheik in 1974 to be unmasked as Dewey and after a re-match as Crusader Dewey Robertson he would team with veteran Billy Red Lyons. They would go on to form The Crusaders both masked and unmasked for the next few years.

His Canadian Title run in 1979-1980 would bring him back to the top in Toronto and he would prove to be both popular and successful with great bouts against AWA champ Nick Bockwinkel, NWA champ Harley Race, and the regular contenders for our title including Greg Valentine, Hossein The Arab/Iron Sheik, and Jimmy Snuka.

His last MLG bout was in Aug 1981 teamed with Tony Parisi against Chris Markoff and Nikolai Volkoff, and a bout in Hamilton in September vs Lord Alfred Hayes was it for Dewey here during the NWA days

Of course he went on to a second career as The Missing Link. In fact on his Wikipedia page it lists him as ...
"The Missing Link (Wrestler)....Byron James John "Dewey" Robertson (February 28, 1939 - August 16, 2007) was a professional wrestler, known best by his ring name The Missing Link."

Not for this fan , he will always will be Dewey Robertson Canadian Champ!

I compiled a career record for Dewey some years back and presented it to him , he signed a copy of it for me and it remains one of my favorite pieces in the collection.

It's also coming up on 10 years since Dewey passed on. RIP champ.

67/05/07 MLG
NWA TITLE: Gene Kiniski WCOR Mighty Igor
BRITISH EMPIRE TITLE: Whipper Billy Watson W Johnny Rougeau
Sweet Daddy Siki/Dewey Robertson W Fred Atkins/The Beast (2-1)
Seaman Art Thomas D Hans Schmidt
Mohan Singh D Ivan Kalmikoff