Merv Unger was a newspaper reporter for one of the Winnipeg daily papers in the late 1950s when wrestling was very strong in Winnipeg. Unger covered the events religiously for several years.
He moved to Saskatchewan in 1960 and in 1965 started refereeing for Stampede in Saskatoon. In 1967, he moved to Calgary and refereed there. And in 1968 he went ‘running back to Saskatoon’.
In 1971, Unger moved to Winnipeg where he began refereeing for the AWA. After a time in this role he was called on to referee in various other AWA cities on special assignment – Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Omaha and even Toronto. Unger was billed in those assignments as “AWA Referee in chief for Canada” whatever that may have meant.
During this time Unger also did the TV play-by-play and on-camera interviews of a local television show in Brandon, Man. This was a rural Manitoba circuit where a lot of new talent attempted to break in. One of those newcomers was Rowdy Roddy Piper, then all of 135 pounds soaking wet, but with enough drive and ambition to make it.
In 1975, with Al Tomko switching from the AWA to the NWA, Unger took over as promoter. A short time later, Tomko picked up and moved to Vancouver. Unger continued to act as referee as well as promoter for the group.
Due to other business opportunities in British Columbia, Unger turned the promotion over to Bob Holliday in 1980, and moved to Vancouver Island. He promoted a number of Stampede matches in Victoria and Nanaimo, but the crowds never responded.
He is now living on Vancouver Island, working as a magazine publisher.
Unger offered the following memory for SlamWrestling.net:
“When I look back, I remember many of the great stars of yesterday and today. Most notably, the Hart family stands out along with the Cormier family of New Brunswick – The Beast, Rudy Kay, Leo Burke and Norton Jackson. Others, and some of the epic battles, included Verne Gagne, Mad Dog Vachon, Nick Bockwinkel, Sgt. Slaughter (then Super Destroyer Mark II) Bobby Heenan and Ray Stevens.”
— with files from Vern May