Part 3 in our series looking at 150 Canadian names in pro wrestling, in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Part 3 of the Canada 150, an alphabetical listing of Canadians’ impact on pro wrestling from the 1920’s to today.
Although originally born in Croatia, Paul Diamond emigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba. There he became a professional soccer player, playing for Calgary and Tampa Bay in the NASL. During his time in Tampa Bay, he trained to become a pro wrestler with the Malenkos, Boris and his sons, Joe and Dean. He started in the Texas territories in 1985, forming a tag team called American Breed with a very young Shawn Michaels. He travelled to the AWA and formed Badd Company with Pat Tanaka, feuding with his old tag partner Michaels and his new team, The Midnight Rockers. Diamond and Tanaka went to the WWF in 1990, but they were split up – Tanaka joined Akio Sato in The Orient Express and Diamond became an enhancement talent. When Sato left the Express, Diamond donned a mask and reunited with Tanaka, but this time went by the name of Kato. They once again feuded with the Rockers, before Tanaka left the WWF. Diamond went through a gimmick change again, taking over the role of Max Moon from Konnan. In 1993, he was released. He had a brief run in ECW after that, but he slowly drifted out of the scene. By the end of the 90’s, he would reunite with Shawn Michaels one more time, joining Michael’s Texas Wrestling Academy school as one of its trainers. When Michaels handed over the Academy and returned to the WWE, Diamond returned to Winnipeg where he runs his own school today.
One of pro wrestling’s all-time feel good stories. Over ten years in WWE developmental (and previously trained by Eric Young) before the former Gavin Spears of WWECW was transformed in NXT into Tye Dillinger and became a sensation, thanks in part to his 10 Movement and an outstanding match vs Bobby Roode at NXT Takeover: Toronto. He was rewarded with a guest spot in this year’s Royal Rumble (at #10), and was finally called up to the main roster as part of Smackdown Live. He’s a bit lost in the shuffle before, but Niagara Falls’ Tye Dillinger has shown before that he will beat just about any odds in front of him to become a star.
New Brunswick’s Emile Dupree entered professional wrestling in 1955, starting off primarily in the Boston territories, where he faced such legends as Killer Kowalski and Dusty Rhodes throughout his career in the NWA territories. In Canada, he was a frequent competitor in Stampede Wrestling, until he began his own promotion in his home province, Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling (AGPW) in 1977. For years it became a force in professional wrestling in Canada’s Maritimes. By 1991, he had sold the company to the WWF. In 2013, Emile, alongside his son, former WWE Superstar Rene Dupree, resurrected AGPW.
The son of Emile Dupree, Rene Dupree debuted with his father’s AGPW in 1997 when he was only 14. By the time he was 19, he was signed with the WWE. In 2003, Dupree made his WWE debut alongside Sylvain Grenier in La Resistance, winning the WWE World Tag Team titles shortly after their debut. A year later, he won the WWE Tag Team titles alongside NJPW great Kenzo Suzuki. He was drafted to Raw in the 2005 Draft Lottery and began a new gimmick as a singles wrestler and in the midst of a serious feud, suffered a severe hernia injury that kept him out of action for months. He was sent to OVW for conditioning and was reintroduced to the new WWECW, briefly reuniting La Resistance. A Wellness suspension was followed by his release in 2007. Since then, Dupree has remained a hot commodity on the indie circuit, primarily Japan, where he’s wrestled for AJPW, Hustle and Wrestle-1. He continues to work in the rejuvenated AGPW as well as other top Canadian promotions as well.
“The Wrestling Machine”, you won’t find a more respected Canadian wrestler in the independent scene. A 20-year veteran, he’s worked with WWE, WCW, Impact Wrestling and Ring of Honor throughout his run – he was even a competitor representing Canada at last year’s WWE Cruiserweight Classic. He’s now relocated to London, Ontario, but for over a decade he called Windsor, Ontario home where he was a trainer for the Can-Am Wrestling School with Scott D’Amore. He’s currently the Smash Champion for Smash Wrestling out of Toronto.
CHIEF DON EAGLE
One of pro wrestling’s earliest indigenous characters was Quebec Mohawk Chief Don Eagle. He began wrestling in 1945 and was renowned for his technical innovation – he was a regular opponent of such era stars as Lou Thesz, Buddy Rogers, Antonino Rocca and AWA Boston World Champion Frank Sexton – whom Eagle took the belt from. He also had a legendary feud with Gorgeous George that resulted in Eagle attacking a ref and getting suspended from the Illinois State Athletic Commission. A popular star wherever he went, injuries forced his retirement in 1963. In 1968, he was found dead from a gunshot wound. The police officially ruled it as suicide, but his former foe Lou Thesz always speculated he was actually killed, which many close associates seemed to agree on.
BC’s John Tenta originally entered the world of wrestling via legitimate sumo wrestling in Japan in 1985. Despite doing well in the sport, his tattoo proved to be his shortcoming – in Japan tattoos were unallowed and despite covering it up, he was not allowed to move up to higher divisions without a skin graft. In 1987, he joined AJPW and trained under Giant Baba. By the end of the 80’s, he was working back home in Canada with Vancouver’s ASW. In 1989, he joined the WWF as The Canadian Earthquake (quickly shortened to just Earthquake). Within a year, he was a main event heel, challenging Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship. In 1991 he became part of the Natural Disasters with Typhoon (aka Tugboat), capturing WWF World Tag Team gold. He left the WWF in 1993, heading to CMLL and back to Japan. He joined Hulk Hogan in WCW in 1994 and lasted three years in WCW, under such names as the Avalanche and The Shark, but despite some main event match-ups, failed to reach the level he had in the WWF prior. He briefly returned to the WWF in 1998, this time under a mask as the Cartman doll carrying creature known as Golga, part of The Oddities. He retired in 2004, passing away two years later from cancer.
One of the most decorated champions in all of WWE history, Edge emerged as a tag team specialist in the Attitude Era into one of the greatest singles competitors of the 2000’s. A popular face and an unscrupulous heel, “The Ultimate Opportunist”, from Orangeville, Ontario, was forced to retire in 2011 due to injury, following a lengthy career that saw him pick up 11 World titles (4x WWE Champion, 7x World Heavyweight), 5x Intercontinental, and 14x Tag Team Champion. He entered the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012, one year after his career-ending injury.
Toronto’s “Big Mike” has been making a name for himself for years on the indies and his star just gets bigger and bigger. After years on the Canadian indies, he made his debut with Ring of Honor in 2010 and for six years became a dominating force in ROH, capturing the ROH World Championship from Adam Cole in 2014. He made his debut with PWG in 2012 as part of that year’s Battle of Los Angeles, later collecting PWG Tag Team gold alongside Brian Cage as part of the Unf**king Breakable Machines. Through his ROH time, he began wrestling in Japan with NJPW, but in 2016 he left ROH to wrestle full time with New Japan, where he’s already won the IWGP Intercontinental title and the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag titles (alongside Hiroshi Tanahashi & Yoshitatsu). He continues to wrestle for NJPW (he just had a cracker of a match against Kenny Omega at the G1 US Special), as well as many top independents in North America, including PWG and Smash. He recently started his own promotion in Illinois, Glory Pro.
Calgary’s Rhonda Singh became a wrestler at a young age, moving to California to train with Mildred Burke in 1979 at the age of 18. She was quickly recruited for Japan, where she competed for All Japan Women (AJPW). In 1987, she returned home and joined Stampede Wrestling, becoming their inaugural Women’s Champion, and by the early 90’s began working in Puerto Rico with WWC, where she became a 5x Women’s Champion, as Monster Ripper (see photo below). She joined the WWF in 1995 as Bertha Faye, winning the WWF Women’s Championship from Alundra Blayze. A planned feud with Bull Nakano fell through when Nakano was released on drug offences. With women’s wrestling in a decline in North America, she left in 1996. She returned to Japan and had sporadic appearances with WCW by the end of the 90’s, but she sadly died of a heart attack in 2000 at the age of 40.
FRANKY THE MOBSTER
A beast of a physical specimen, Montreal’s Franky TM debuted in 1997 with various Montreal independents. He made the jump to national US promotions in 2005, debuting with CZW, where he won the CZW Ironman Championship, as well as PWG in 2007 and Ring of Honor in 2009. He continues to work with Montreal’s Northern Championship Wrestling (nCw) and Smash Wrestling.
Originally from Montreal, Quebec and trained by WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson, Ronnie Garvin was part of a kayfabe group of brothers, the Garvins, alongside Terry Garvin, in the 1960’s and 1970’s. A third brother was added as their manager, Jimmy Garvin (who was actually Ronnie’s stepson), prior to Jimmy’s involvement with the Fabulous Freebirds. By the late 70’s, Garvin struck out on his own, known as “The Man With Hands of Stone”. In 1987, he defeated Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship to solidify a solid 20+ year career. He left the NWA in 1988, heading to Puerto Rico, where he feuded with Carlos Colon over the WWC Universal Heavyweight title (which he won twice). Shortly after, he made the jump to the WWF, where he became “Rugged” Ronnie Garvin. He left the company in 1990, but continued to make sporadic appearances on the indies up until around 2005.
Another one from the great wrestling hotbed of Winnipeg, Manitoba, George Gordienko debuted in 1946 and immediately made an impact. He would face Lou Thesz for the NWA World Heavyweight title several times in the 1950’s (all defeats), but Thesz himself regarded Gordienko as one of the best legitimate fighters in the world at the time. He was often paired in tag team situations with one of his mentors, Stu Hart, and ended up spending most of his time wrestling in Western Canada (he won the Pacific Coast Heavyweight Championship in ASW as Flash Gordon in 1974). A badly broken ankle forced his retirement in 1976, after 30 years in the industry.
“THE STOMPER” ARCHIE GOULDIE
An absolute Canadian icon, Alberta’s “The Stomper” Archie Gouldie debuted in 1962 working with various NWA territories (most notably Central States and Alabama) as the vicious “Mongolian Stomper” – he would amass over 30 different NWA titles during his career. In 1968, he returned home to Alberta and joined Stampede Wrestling (dropping the Mongolian angle) where he would win a record 14 North American Heavyweight Championships (Stampede’s top title) during his 20+ years with the company. In 1992, he joined Smokey Mountain Wrestling, but by 1995, Gouldie retired from the business. This Canadian legend passed away just last year, at the age of 79.
Quebec City’s Rene Goulet debuted in 1957 in Montreal independents, but he soon made a name for himself in the territories, most notably in AWA. During his early time with AWA, Rene Goulet picked up a distinct record – he was the first man to pin Ric Flair in a wrestling match (granted it was Flair’s 2nd match). During the late 70’s and 80’s, Goulet worked for the WWWF and WWF, winning Tag Team gold alongside Karl Gotch. During his time with the WWF (which became more enhancement by the early 80’s), Rene Goulet got another wrestling first – he was in the first match ever by the WWF on the USA Network, facing Tito Santana. He retired in 1987, but continued as a road agent/producer with the WWF right up until his retirement from the industry in 1997.