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Where Wrestling's Regional History Lives!
- Daren Gleason
MASKED MEN IN MONTREAL
the mask about to make a serious comeback in North American professional wrestling?
Quite possibly. With all of the recent WWE hype surrounding the UNmasking
of Kane, the success of Rey Mysterio and the arrival of Ultimo Dragon,
hope springs eternal for the resurgence of one of the major elements which
helped give wrestling it's (ahem) "identity" with fans
throughout the latter half of the
20th century. After all, you never saw any masked boxers, basketball
players or chess masters now did you?
end of the kayfabe era simultaneously ended the era of masked men as major
players on this continent for a very simple reason: nobody can keep a
secret anymore. With the proliferation of behind-the-scenes newsletters
and Internet sites posting angles
before they hit TV or even the arenas
I'm getting ahead of myself here.
is generally believed that the history of the masked wrestler can be traced
as far back as 1873 in Paris, France where a hooded man appeared in an
wrestling scene in Montreal was pretty much the same, eschewing gimmicks
in favour of no-nonsense mat work. That formula changed, at least
aesthetically, when Eddie Quinn took over the promotional reigns in the
late 1930's. In fact, Quinn tried an early experiment by not only reviving
the Masked Marvel character but actually having him win the AWA Montreal
title from Vic Christy in a June 9th, 1938 match in Toronto. He dropped it
a little over three months later (September 14th) to Yvon Robert back in
Montreal but the fan response was encouraging, especially for the
that initial dry run, the first really major influx of masks into the
Montreal scene coincided, not surprisingly, with the dawn of the
television era in the 1950's. Quinn, now armed with a weekly
French-language live television show from the Forum, found fantastic
success using a number of variations on the old Masked Marvel moniker. For
about a 10-year period, solid workers such as Tony Lanza and Omer
Marchessault performed under the Marvel hood. Later in the decade, the
Marvel even showed up with a manager sporting the clever in-joke nickname
"Boris K.Fabian". The last known Marvel was unmasked by Johnny
Rougeau at the Montreal Forum in 1959, revealing a young Domenic DeNucci
under the cowl.
cynic might observe that the utilization of masks was merely a cheap
promotional ruse to foist inferior talent on an unsuspecting public. That
was most certainly the case with many of the fly-by-night operators who
skulked in and out of the Quebec scene during the tumultuous late 1970's.
But it wasn't the case at all with a true professional like Eddie Quinn.
During the 1950's, Forum cards were so stacked with top-notch wrestlers
from all over the world that it was extremely difficult for promising
local workers (and there were plenty back then) to break into the upper
card. Donning the mask provided an up-and-comer like DeNucci with a
ready-made gimmick and an opportunity to audition against main event
talent to see if he could keep up.