Wrestling, Professional

Professional wrestling is perhaps the oldest professional sport competed in by man. In fact wrestling has been a livelihood of the rich and poor alike for centuries. Many great athletes have made their fame and fortune thanks to the appeal of this sport. Modern professional wrestling in Canada and the US, however, has taken a full turn towards entertainment. It is now acknowledged to be more a showy display of theatrics than a sport, with its primary audience on cable and pay-per-view television. Perhaps Gene Kiniski is the best-known Canadian professional wrestler of our time. On 7 January 1966 Kiniski defeated veteran champion Lou Thesz 2-falls-to-one to become the world professional heavyweight champion. Kiniski, an ex-Edmonton Eskimo football star, had already gained prominence by defeating the British Empire champion "Whipper Billy" Watson. Other Canadian world champions include Dan McLeod of Montréal who, fighting under the name of George Little, won a world championship in 1902. In 1908 Miss May Cullen of Toronto defeated the world women's champion winning a purse of $25. "Whipper Billy" Watson became the world light heavyweight champion in 1947, lost the title in 1948 and regained it in 1956. Other Canadian professional wrestlers popular in North America include Yukon Eric, who lost an ear in one of 15 grudge matches with "Killer Kowalski"; Edouard Carpentier, nephew of world boxing champion Georges Carpentier; and Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon. On 23 May 1999 Owen Hart, one of a family of wrestlers from Calgary, and brother of Bret "Hitman" Hart, fell to his death in Kansas City while performing a stunt.