The Tunneys controlled wrestling in southern Ontario for over sixty years.
Frank Tunney was a secretary to Jack Corcoran, the promoter and founder of the Queensbury Athletic Club when the first MLG shows was promoted Nov. 19, 1931. At that show, Jimmy Londos wrestled Gino Garibaldi. A few years later, Frank Tunney bought out Corcoran and ran the show in Toronto right up until his death in May 1986. Besides countless wrestling shows, Frank Tunney also promoted the George Chuvalo – Muhammad Ali bout.
Jack Tunney — Frank’s nephew — and his cousin Eddy Tunney — Frank’s son — inherited the Queensbury Athletic Club when Frank died May 9, 1983. Jack moved into the spotlight his uncle loved, and Eddy was a silent partner.
Right up until July 1984, the Tunney’s Toronto promotion was a hotbed for all pro wrestling. It wasn’t unusual to have the NWA and AWA World titles defended on the same show. Or the WWF and NWA titles. The regulars at Maple Leaf Gardens read like a wrestling hall of fame: Whipper Watson, Athol Layton, Bulldog Brower, Tiger Tasker, The Shiek, Dewey Robertson, Ric Flair. Ask most of today’s older stars, and they will remember paying their dues at MLG in opening bouts.
Besides Toronto, the circuit included Kitchener, London, Buffalo, Hamilton and environs. Maple Leaf Gardens itself hosted up to 20 shows a year.
In July 1984, Jack Tunney switched allegiances and aligned himself his Vince McMahon’s WWF. It was a brilliant business move, signing up just as the WWF was about to hit it big. He had positioned himself as Canada’s WWF promoter, leading McMahon’s army as they destroyed promotion after promotion. Soon, wrestling promotions across Canada fell on hard times as Tunney took over their territories. All-Star Wrestling in Vancouver expired. The AWA stopped coming into Manitoba. Stu Hart’s Stampede promotion began eroding until he too was forced to sell to McMahon (and later starting up again for a few years). Grand Prix out of Montreal fought Tunney, but also eventually succumbed. Dave McKigney’s Big Time Wrestling couldn’t make a go of it due to Tunney’s pressuring of Ontario’s Boxing & Wrestling Commission to make insurance too expensive for the little guys.
So where Toronto had been a true melting pot of wrestling from around North America, it had begun just another stop on the WWF circuit. But it certainly was a successful stop.
For Tunney’s loyalty, and to show the WWF’s international success, he was made WWF President. There was no real power behind the position, but it put him on TV, and made him a known entity to wrestling fans everywhere.
The peak of Tunney’s WWF reign was WrestleMania VI at Toronto’s SkyDome on April 1, 1990. Still the only WrestleMania held outside of the U.S., the show drew over 67,000 for the main event of the Ultimate Warrior cleanly pinning Hulk Hogan to win the WWF World Title.
But all good runs come to an end. Tunney was forced out of the WWF in 1995, and has since disappeared from the wrestling scene. But his power is still felt — his family owns the rights to promoting wrestling in Maple Leaf Gardens — one of the true ‘meccas of professional wrestling’.
- Jan. 26, 2004: Jack Tunney dies
- Feb. 11, 1999: Wrestling made Maple Leaf Gardens great
- Feb. 2, 1999: Fans remember Maple Leaf Gardens
The most vivid memory I have of former WWF President Jack Tunney is the Saturday morning, on WWF Superstars Of Wrestling, when he announced he was stripping Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase of the WWF World Heavyweight Championship that was given to him by Andre The Giant. It was obvious he was reading a prepared statement, as he read the competitors scheduled for the tournament at WrestleMania IV. Another classic moment was the time, in late 1991, when he reinstated Macho Man Randy Savage and banned all reptiles from the WWF, due to Jake Roberts’ cobra biting Savage.
My fondest and funniest memory of former “WWF President” Jack Tunney was when he “fired” Rick Rude from the WWF for making fun of Big Boss Man’s mother
Cole – Cleveland, OH.
I thought he was a great president. Better than one we have now. now it’s only trash. They should rehire him to the WWF and bring back all the jobbers on superstars and bring back challenge on TV that was great. I also liked his rulings in the WWF.
I’ve been a wrestling fan since the late 80’s and Tunney is the best president the WWF has had. He made wrestling really exciting and cool to watch. It’s still good today but it’s all about trash talk. You can almost guess who will win each match now it’s like a TV soap.
PS. Tunney was better than Gorilla Monsoon and he was one of the greats.
I never new Frank. But Jack was the WWF President ever & could lay down the law whenever he could.
Why is Jack Tunney celebrated in your Canadian Hall of Fame, when according to the ‘citation’ article – he helped destroy Canada’s regional territories on behalf of Vince McMahon. O Canada. Can you have your nationalistic cake and eat it too.
For the same reason that Vince McMahon, Jim Crockett and Bill Watts are/will be honored – they made wrestling what it is today. Sure, they all destroyed smaller territories as they slowly built up to mega territories (to the point where Watts sold to Crockett, Crockett sold to Turner, and Turner sold to McMahon), but they brought an even greater prominence and media attention to the world of professional wrestling than their predecessors that they swallowed up.
— Kevin Fields
My Jack Tunney memory was in 1991 when he tried to prevent Jake “The Snake” Roberts from bringing reptile to the ringside area. Another one was when he couldn’t change the referees decision to take the WWF title from The Undertaker then stripped Hogan of the title for doing the same thing.
We need Tunney back!!!!! Jack Tunney = ratings!!!!!! He was by far the greatest corporate figure in the WWF. Tunney meant power in the federation. Tunney demanded respect out of the superstars and none of these circus acts would of went on as long as the name Jack Tunney was around. Please try to find away to bring Tunney back..