While no one is likely to confuse Toronto with New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore, Chicago or Minneapolis when it comes to classic wrestling memories. But more has happened in the Great White North than most people would know.
Often called "Bizarro World" for its tendency to favor heels and nostalgia acts, Toronto was once a thriving territory under the promotion of the Tunney family. The city has hosted multiple World Title changes, record-setting events, once-in-a-lifetime matchups, and yes, even two WrestleManias.
Full disclosure: as a Toronto resident for 40+ years, there is going to be an obvious bias here. Several of these memories may not resonate for many wrestling fans, either because they're not classically-remembered events, or they just happened way too long ago.
In counting down the Top 50 Toronto Wrestling Memories, Wrestling Merchandise and Memories looked at the following criteria:
How unique was this memory to the city?
Is it likely to be replicated again?
How memorable are these memories, even years later?
If you'd like to be a part of this conversation, Tweet us at @canadianbulldog using the hashtag #Top50, or leave a comment below.
Ready? Here we go!
Canadian Bulldog injured
No, not me.... Harry Smith, the wrestler who briefly used (some would say stole) the Canadian Bulldog moniker. On Monday Night Raw from Toronto's Air Canada Centre on May 8, 2008, John Bradshaw Layfield injured the "Canadian Bulldog" (much to my delight)... and he was never seen in a WWE ring again.
Backlund vs. Flair
Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens was home to a rare interpromotional match on July 15, 1979, with WWWF World Champion Bob Backlund taking on Ric Flair, who was at the time the NWA's United States Champion. The battle between the future WWE Hall of Famers ended with Backlund winning the bout by countout.
One feud; three matches
NXT Champion Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano settled their long-running rivalry at the conclusion of 2019's NXT TakeOver: Toronto. Cole won the first match (single match); Gargano won the second (streetfight); and the third match, determined by GM William Regal, was a barbed wire cage match won by Cole.
Limousine ride to Hell
At SummerSlam 2004 at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, The Undertaker was determined to defeat John Bradshaw Layfield for the WWE Championship. The Dead Man was disqualified and, after a fan almost ruined the spot by jumping on top of it, Undertaker got revenge by chokeslamming JBL through his limousine.
Kane gets the girl
When Kane took on Matt Hardy at the 2004 edition of SummerSlam at Toronto's Air Canada Centre, there was an unusual stipulation. The winner of their "Death Do Us Part" match won the right to marry Hardy's girlfriend, WWE Hall of Famer Lita. Kane won the match, and a brief but unholy alliance was created.
Kidman & Mysterio strike gold
During the only episode of Monday Nitro to emanate from Toronto's Air Canada Centre on March 29, 1999, Billy Kidman and WCW Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio Jr. teamed up to battle WCW Tag Team Champions Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko. Kidman and Mysterio upset The Horsemen to win the tag titles.
RVD upsets Stone Cold
When WWE Hall of Famer Stone Cold Steve Austin barked orders to his Alliance members, everyone fell in line -- except for Hardcore Champion Rob Van Dam. To punish him, Austin battled RVD on a September 3, 2001 edition of SmackDown, and was shocked when The Whole F'N Show upset Stone Cold!
Miss Elizabeth returns
Miss Elizabeth had largely been absent from the WWF for roughly a year when she made an unadvertised appearance at WrestleMania VI. After giving an interview to gossip columnist Rona Barrett, Elizabeth was in the corner of Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire, who faced Macho King Randy Savage and Queen Sherri.
Although WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus retired in 2006 (more on that later), she had what she considered her final match in Toronto more than a decade later. At SummerSlam 2019, Stratus came out of retirement to battle Charlotte Flair. After she lost, Stratus confirmed it was her last match ever.
During its entire run as a promotion, the Paul Heyman-led ECW hosted only one event in the Toronto area - a television taping at the Hershey Centre in suburb of Mississauga, Ontario on September 9, 2000. Performers included Rob Van Dam, Justin Credible, Rhino, Jerry Lynn, Kid Kash, Balls Mahoney and The FBI.
Andre vs. Hogan?
Six years before their legendary WrestleMania III encounter, WWE Hall of Famers Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan took their rivalry to Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, this time on Sunday, March 29 1981 in a Texas Death Match. Andre won the encounter with the then-heel Hulkster, paving the way for future wars.
Steamboat vs. Flair?
WWE Hall of Famers Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair had a classic match that happened years before their 1989 Match Of The Year series, at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens on November 22 , 1978. Flair, the NWA's United States Champion at the time, retained his belt when he defeated The Dragon via disqualification.
Edge's legend begins
On July 24, 1999, WWE Hall of Famer Edge was simply a substitute for Ken Shamrock when he faced Intercontinental Champion Jeff Jarrett at a house show in Toronto's SkyDome. It wasn't until he got into the ring that Edge was told he was winning what would be his first championship belt of many in his career.
Booker T wins the big one
At the outset of Monday Night Raw on February 24, 2003, Raw General Manager Eric Bischoff announced that the winner of a 20-man battle royal would get a World Championship match at WrestleMania XIX. Booker T ousted The Rock (with a little help from Stone Cold Steve Austin) to win the important match.
Watson vs. Thesz
Whipper Billy Watson was a top draw in Toronto, but how would we fare against the world's best wrestlers? Fans found out on March 15, 1956 at Maple Leaf Gardens, when Watson challenged NWA World Champion Lou Thesz. The bout - a return match from two weeks earlier - saw Watson win the title... by countout.
Return of The Beast Slayer
Seth Rollins made short work of Universal Champion Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XXXV, though The Beast Incarnate soon regained the title. At SummerSlam 2019 in Toronto, Rollins received a return match against Lesnar and for the second time that year, overcame the odds to defeat Lesnar and win the Universal title.
The Dead Man is 10-0
The first time that The Undertaker publicly acknowledged his WrestleMania streak was at the conclusion of his match against WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair at WrestleMania XVIII in Toronto's SkyDome. After his win over Flair, The Dead Man lifted all 10 fingers in victory - he was now 10 and 0 at WrestleMania.
Andre goes out a hero
At WrestleMania VI in Toronto's SkyDome, Demolition defeated the tag team of Andre and Haku for the WWF World Tag Team Championships. After the match, Andre's manager Bobby Heenan berated and slapped him, prompting Andre to retaliate and exit as a babyface in his final WrestleMania match.
Race vs. Funk
WWE Hall of Famers Harley Race and Terry Funk battled in a grudge match in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens on February 6, 1977, with Funk's NWA World Champion at stake. After 14 minutes of action, Race trapped Funk in his Indian Deathlock and got the Texas to submit, capturing his second NWA World Title.
Bockwinkel vs. Backlund
One of the biggest title unifcation matches to ever take place was held at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens on March 25, 1979. AWA World Champion Nick Bockwinkel was pitted against WWWF World Champion Bob Backlund. After nearly forty minutes, both WWE Hall of Famers were counted out of the ring.
Triple H had been out of action for nearly a year due to a torn quad at the hands of Chris Jericho, so it was fitting that The Game faced Y2J in the main event of WrestleMania XVIII in Toronto's SkyDome. With his ex-wife Stephanie in Jericho's corner, Triple H triumphed and captured WWF's Undisputed Title.
George a little less Gorgeous
A March 12, 1959 match in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens between local hero Whipper Billy Watson and WWE Hall of Famer Gorgeous George had quite the stakes attached to it. If Watson lost, he would have to retire. If George lost, his head would be shaved. Gorgeous George lost the match and shaved his hair.
The match that created the WWWF
On January 24, 1963, Lou Thesz defeated Buddy Rogers to capture the NWA World Champion in a match that is well known for its political ramifications. Northeast promoters including Vince McMahon Sr. were upset by the decision to go with Thesz, leading to the formation of the World Wide Wrestling Federation.
End of the (Sheik's) Streak
It's a streak that doesn't get talked about a lot in wrestling, but The Sheik was undefeated in Toronto from 1969 to 1974, competing in more than 120 matches! The streak came to an end on August 11, 1974 after The Sheik lost to fellow WWE Hall of Famer Andre The Giant at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens.
Icon vs. Icon
One of the biggest "dream matches" in modern wrestling history happened at Toronto's SkyDome for WrestleMania XVIII. WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan, who was portrayed as a villian, battled The Rock. Although Rock won the match, the Toronto crowd wildly cheered Hogan, turning The Hulkster face and reinvigorating his career.
Sammartino & Watson team up
Whipper Billy Watson is a name that will be repeated several times on this list; a local wrestler who routinely sold out Maple Leaf Gardens. On September 27, 1962, Watson teamed with all-time great Bruno Sammartino in Toronto to win the NWA International Tag Team Titles, which they would hold for five months.
Bravo to the new champ
The NWA Canadian Heavyweight Championship was defended almost exclusively in Toronto for its first six years of existence. A match to determine the first Canadian champion was held at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens on December 17, 1978, with Dino Bravo defeating Gene Kiniski to capture the honor (honour?).
The Cadillac Tournament
Toronto has hosted a handful of tournaments over the years, but an event at Maple Leaf Gardens on March 7, 1982 awarded the winner a new Cadillac. A who's who including Jesse Ventura, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Big John Studd and Ricky Steamboat competed, but Jimmy Valiant ended up winning it.
LAX win in YYZ
One of the highest-rated matches at Slammiversary XVI saw Impact World Tag Team Champions The Latin American Exchange (Santana and Ortiz) against The OGz (Original LAX members Hernandez and Homicide). The current LAX retained their tag team titles in a bloody 5150 Street Fight in Toronto.
The Brain is outsmarted
In anattempt to prove Andre The Giant was one of The Machines, Bobby The Brain Heenan challenged The Machines to a six-man tag team match at The Big Event on August 28, 1986. Heenan was joined by King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd, while two other Machines teamed with Captain Lou Albano.
Stone Cold vs. Scott Hall
Stone Cold Steve Austin had revenge on his mind when he battled the new World order's Scott Hall at WrestleMania XVIII at Toronto's SkyDome. Despite interference from Hall's nWo running buddy Kevin Nash, Austin prevailed in what - surprisingly - would be Stone Cold's final victory at a WrestleMania.
Ambrose vs. The Game
Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum hosted the first-ever Roadblock WWE Network event this year. The main event saw Triple H making his only defense of the WWE World Championship (he would lose the title to Roman Reigns a few weeks later) against Dean Ambrose. While Ambrose lost, it was a fresh, unique matchup.
So long (for now), Curt
In 1999, WWE Hall of Famer Curt Hennig was facing Buff Bagwell in a retirement match at the WCW Mayhem PPV at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. Toronto fans, remembering Hennig as Mr. Perfect, gave him a standing ovation as he was forced to retire.... albeit only until Hennig un-retired the next night!
Rogers vs. Samartino
A year before fighting for the WWWF World Championship, WWE Hall of Famers Bruno Sammartino and Buddy Rogers (then NWA World Champion) had three matches at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens in 1962. Sammartino lost the first match and won the next two, though the NWA title never changed hands.
Frank Tunney Memorial Tag Team Tournament
As written about here, the WWF held a one-night tag team tournament just days before WrestleMania III in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens on March 15, 1987. With a field that included The British Bulldogs, Demolition, Kamala and Sika and other top tag teams, it was The Killer Bees who were victorious that night.
Trish regains the gold
One of WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus' more unusual title victories happened in Toronto's Air Canada Centre during Monday Night Raw on May 13, 2002. Stratus and partner Bubba Ray Dudley took on Womens Champion Jazz and Hardcore Champion Steven Richards - both belts were up for grabs here.
No Chance In Hell In A Cell
WWE Chairman Vince McMahon entered his only Hell In A Cell match at the Unforgiven PPV on September 17, 2006 from Toronto's Air Canada Centre. Along with his son Shane McMahon and ECW Champion The Big Show, the trio lost to DX's Triple H and Shawn Michaels, and in a most embarassing fashion to boot.
One long Hardcore match!
The WWF Hardcore Championship changed hands five times during the WrestleMania XVIII show from Toronto's SkyDome. Maven lost the title belt to Spike Dudley, who lost to The Hurricane, who lost to Mighty Molly, who lost to local boy Christian, who lost it to Maven... all in the course of three hours!
McMahon gets the last laugh
An iconic moment in the Vince McMahon-Stone Cold Steve Austin feud happened on Monday Night Raw February 8, 1999 from Toronto's SkyDome. Austin dispatched heels Ken Shamrock, Test, Kane, Chyna and Big Bossman before being pinned by McMahon, who then tied Austin up in the ropes and taunted him.
Bundy breaks Andre's ribs
The mid-1980s saw Bobby Heenan's Family target Andre The Giant. On March 10, 1985 at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, at the conclusion of a match between Big John Studd and Andre, King Kong Bundy splashed Andre repeatedly, breaking his ribs and furthering the Andre vs. Heenan Family feud.
Cena and Edge go to war
Unforgiven in 2006 was the conclusion to the year-long rivalry between WWE Hall of Famer Edge and John Cena. Before Edge's hometown fans in Toronto's Air Canada Centre, Cena defeated the Rated R Superstar in an absolutely brutal Tables, Ladder & Chairs match to regain the WWE Championship.
Night Of The Champions
Toronto's Exhibition Stadium (later the home of the WWF's Big Event show) played host to Night Of The Champions on July 10, 1983. Among the champions: The Fabulous Moolah, Angelo Mosca, Greg Valentine and in the main event, NWA World Champion Ric Flair defeated Harley Race.
Christian backstabs Edge
On the September 3, 2001 edition of Monday Night Raw from the Air Canada Centre, hometown hero Edge defended his Intercontinental Title against Lance Storm. Afterwards, Edge's "brother" Christian entered the ring and backstabbed his longtime partner, delivering a Conchairto to the head!
Trish Stratus retires
Although entry # 34 on this list proves that wrestling retirements aren't permanent, WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus finished at least her full-time career in her hometown of Toronto. At the Unforgiven PPV at the Air Canada Centre, Stratus forced Lita to submit to the Sharpshooter, retiring and winning the WWE Womens Title for an unprecedented seventh time.
Hitman outsmarts Goldberg
On March 29, 1999, Bret Hart appeared on WCW Nitro to challenge fellow WWE Hall of Famer Bill Goldberg. With the fans in Toronto's Air Canada Centre booing Goldberg, Da Man charged at The Hitman with his patented spear, only to discover that Hart was wearing a steel plate on his chest, to lessen the blow.
The Age of Orton begins
In the main event of SummerSlam 2004 from Toronto's Air Canada Centre, Randy Orton challenged Chris Benoit for the World Championship. Orton won the title, becoming the youngest World Champion in history, and the often heel-favoring Toronto crowd embraced Orton over the homegrown star Benoit.
Bret wins the WCW Championship
For WWE Hall of Famer Bret Hart, his role at WCW's Mayhem PPV on November 21, 1999 was about redemption in front of his home country fans after last being there at the infamous 1997 Survivor Series. Hart defeated both Sting and Chris Benoit in a tournament to become WCW World Champion.
Brock is NEXT!
The 2016 Survivor Series from Toronto's Air Canada Centre was headlined by Brock Lesnar against WWE Hall of Famer Bill Goldberg, who hadn't competed in a WWE ring in over 12 years. To everyone's shock, Goldberg destroyed the formerly unstoppable Lesnar in less than 90 seconds, surprising fans everywhere.
The Big Event's main event
An outdoor supercard at Toronto's Exhibition Stadium on August 28, 1986 (the first live wrestling show yours truly attended) attracted a reported 74,000 fans - though the number is largely disputed. The main event saw WWE Hall of Famer Hulk Hogan defend his WWF Title against his former ally Paul Orndorff.
The Ultimate Challenge
One of the most iconic moments in professional wrestling history took place on April 1, 1990 at Toronto's SkyDome. In the main event of WrestleMania VI, WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan took on Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior, with both titles on the line. With the crowd of 67,678 split between the two popular WWE Hall of Famers, Warrior managed to cleanly pin Hogan, ushering in a new era for the WWF.