Where Wrestling's Regional History Lives!
- Andrew Calvert
This month we will look at some of the facts, fiction and reality as related to Maple Leaf Wrestling
Fiction: Frank Tunney never had to fight off invading Promotions
Fact: In 1976 Frank Tunney had his 40th Anniversary card (40 years promoting) planned well in advance of the June spectacular. Maple Leaf Gardens was booked with appearances by Gene Kiniski, The Sheik, Harley Race, and Andre The Giant.
Milt Avruskin and George Cannon of Contact Sports Inc were also making plans to promote a show in Toronto at the CNE Coliseum featuring stars from the Superstars Wrestling TV show they produced in Toronto. Avruskin had originally applied to the Ontario Athletic Commission for a June 30 date, but was told that date had been reserved for Tunney.
Avruskin was told that June 6 was available exclusively for his group. When word of the impending rival card got back to Tunney, he moved up his schedule and booked the Gardens for the same night. The longtime Toronto promoter would later inform the OAC that he was changing his card to run on June 6th as well. He would subsequently receive a request from the Commission to withdraw the date but replied that he intended to go through with the card as he had already placed advertisements in the newspapers.
Avruskin would take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court who decided "it would be injurious to the sport of wrestling and to the interest of the fans if competing matches were held on the same date in Toronto."
Even with this judgment, the application by Contact Sports to restrain Tunney (from promoting his card on the same day) was dismissed leading Avruskin to protest, "Market surveys indicate that Toronto is the third most popular wrestling center in North America. We, like Frank Tunney have a class 1 license and we intend to run shows in Toronto and other Ontario centers. We won't be able to use The Coliseum all the time but we have other area arenas in mind."
Tunney would "unbuckle the bankroll" as described in a newspaper report by Star reporter Jim Proudfoot, to secure the appearances of former NWA Champs Harley Race and Gene Kiniski "to ward off this invasion of territory he's come to regard as his own."
Not even a rare (at this time) appearance by former NWA Champ Lou Thesz could fill the seats at The Coliseum. The card would only draw 600 fans, while up at Maple Leaf Gardens, Tunney would gather 7,000 (MLG approx. half full) to see a host of stars battle for ring supremacy.
Despite the setback, Superstars would continue to flourish in the area due to the strength of their locally produced TV. Avruskin would later be involved with getting a TV deal for the WWF in Toronto and across Canada and may have had some bearing on Jack Tunney's decision to align himself with the WWF.
76/06/06 MLG, Frank Tunney Promoter, Attendance: 7,000
Mark Lewin/Gene Kiniski W The Sheik/Ox Baker in a steel cage match
International Tag Champs The Crusaders W Rip Hawk/Swede Hanson
Harley Race W Steve Bolus
Andre the Giant W Kelly Twins
Bobo Brazil/Randy Poffo W Don Kent/Lou Klein
Waldo Von Erich D Dominic Denucci
Pampero Firpo W Lanny Poffo
Lord Athol Layton WDQ Reginald Love
Vic Rossitani/Little Coco W Chris Colt/Cowboy LangMore...