TORONTO — The life of Sweet Daddy Siki was celebrated on Saturday night at the sixth Titans in Toronto fundraising dinner for the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. Far more than just being “Mr. Irresistible” in the ring, Siki also recorded country music records and hosts popular karaoke events around the city.
He brought his family out to share in the limelight, and even boxing legend George Chuvalo, a friend through the years who still packs a punch. Chuvalo presented Siki was a plaque of appreciation for all his successes in professional wrestling.
All those forces joined together at The Factory in Vaughan, in Toronto’s northwest corner, in an event that could truly be described as standing room only.
And I can vouch for that as the one who organized the dinner, along with Jian and Page Magen, and tried (in vain) to keep track of ticket sales.
But the night was not about me.
It was about the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, in Amsterdam, New York, and it was about Siki and it was about the rich history of professional wrestling in and around Toronto.
It was Rocky “Soulman” Johnson who introduced his mentor, Siki, and spoke passionately about what he meant to his career. Though his early years were in Nova Scotia, Johnson grew up in Toronto and Siki encouraged him to stick with wrestling when times were bleak. (For the record, it was Ricky Johnson, Rocky’s brother, who came up with the idea of putting the focus of the dinner on Siki, and he was in attendance as well.)
Despite the nickname and the flashy outfit, “The Oysterman” Rodney Clark is not a pro wrestler. Instead, he owns Rodney’s Oyster House in Toronto. But more importantly, he is a regular at Siki’s karaoke events, and has been a part of Siki’s fundraising efforts through the years to protect the environment. He also took to the stage to talk about his friend.
Siki’s manager in the Maritimes, “No Class” Bobby Bass also spoke.
Besides Rocky Johnson, other first-timers at the Titans in Toronto dinners were Angelo “King King” Mosca, “Silent” Brian Mackney, the original Dino Bravo, Jim “Hutch” Hutchison, Flying Bobby Marshall, the Silent Warrior, and Danny Littlewolf (who was also WWF referee Danny Marsh).
From a personal perspective, there is a huge reward in reuniting old friends. In particular, there was magic in the air as Dino Bravo, who lives in Windsor, Ontario, saw Dominic Denucci, who lives in Pittsburgh. They were tag team partners 40 years ago, and sitting beside each other, they were like little kids again, laughing and talking, like no time had passed at all. On the way out of the door, Bravo’s eyes lit up when I mentioned that there were plans in the works for a fan fest in Detroit, where he could see even more old friends.
Among the other names in attendance, who had been to previous Titans in Toronto events, were The Destroyer (Dick Beyer), Beverly Shade, Rachael Dubois, “The Wolfman” Willie Farkus, Ron Doner, Lord Zoltan, Bernie “The Cat” Livingston, Peppi Dipasquale, Big Mac, Tim Gerrard, Ricky Johnson, “Rotten” Reggie Love, former WWE referee Jim Korderas, Smith Hart, “Pretty Boy” Chuck Simms, Jet Star, and “Supermouth” Dave Drason. The Ontario indy scene was represented by “Go Time” Chris Laplante and “Hannibal” Devon Nicholson, and the Silent Warrior (Louis Long) is active in upstate New York.
The wrestling media was well represented too, from old-school writers such as Roger Baker, to Pro Wrestling Illustrated‘s Dan Murphy, as well as many of the staffers from SLAM! Wrestling. The tribute poster even had a vintage feel, copying the look and feel of the eye-catching posters of “Bearman” Dave McKigney; fittingly, McKigney’s step-son, Conrad Gargus, stepped up to print the posters — he was the one who designed those same posters all those years ago.
As everyone left the venue, many with arms full with winnings from the raffle, it was hard not to think ahead to what a seventh dinner might be like, who might be the focus of the event, and what the bigger venue would be.