WrestleMania boring compared to Rasslin’ at the Terrace

Ricky ‘Crusher’ Cortez, left, was a regular during wrestling nights at Kenwick Terrace.

Randy Evans

You just can’t make this stuff up.

In the 1950s and ‘60s Sarnia fans flocked to the downtown Kenwick Terrace to watch the heroes and villains of wrestling.

What’s not to like? The wrestlers themselves were worth the price of admission with names like Leapin’ Larry Chene, Crusher Cortez, Terrible Ted Priva and The Sheik.

Not to mention the 730-pound Happy Farmer Humphrey, the bald Nazi storm trooper Skull Nuremberg, and the unforgettable La Beastia “a child of nature they caught in the crotch of a tree in a remote hill in Sicily.”

Known to the faithful via the highly popular ‘Big Time Wrestling’ on Detroit television, the assailants brought their daring-dos of drop- kicks, head-scissors, backbreakers, turnbuckle head slams, “crotch-slams,” the feared paralyzing octopus hold and other assorted criminal techniques guaranteed to whip fans to a frenzy.

On occasion, however, the frenzy would boil over and became “Rasslin – Sarnia Style.”

Consider the May 28, 1958 bout between Bull Montana and Dr. John Gallagher. When Bull applied a low blow to the medical man’s unmentionables, the fans went wild and stormed the ring with fists, folding chairs and malice aforethought. A mutual slugfest ensued until Sarnia Police arrived to restore order.

Similarly, it’s doubtful Angelo Martinio would forget the 1950’s night when a “charging horde” of local fans smashed open the locked dressing room door and chased Martinio out a back window. The man of the ring fled the Terrace to a nearby fire hall where, reportedly, “he hid under a fire truck until the tumult died.”

Sarnians really didn’t like Martinio. In December, 1961 the now retired wrestler was managing the aforesaid La Beastia, when Martinio himself entered the ring. He and “the child of nature” together knocked out crowd favourite Leapin’ Larry Chene and Referee George Dobbie.

Once again the faithful “stormed the ring and Angelo and La Beastia made a hasty retreat,” The Observer reported.

Sometimes, the men of the hour got out of control. Once, while walking to the dressing room after a fight, Brute Bernard not only injured his opponent but also raised a chair and chased after the fans. The Brute even picked up and slammed the timer’s table to the floor, smashing it to pieces.

Referees also entered the fray. Officiate Steve Zold became so immersed in a 1960 Chene-Cortez bout that the mano-a-mano became a wild threesome brawl. Apparently, the crowd didn’t appreciate the trifecta and expressed its displeasure by once again storming the ring and attacking Zold as he left the field of battle.

Noting that the Referee was scheduled to return the next week, veteran Observer sports reporter Fred Wheeler wrote: “Zold will likely have to have a police escort to get to the ring…”

When it came to Rasslin’ at the Terrace, apparently a good time was had by all.