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From the archives: 20 years since Adonis, McKigney, Kelly killed
By B.J. DEL CONTE - Toronto Sun


"Canadian Wildman" Dave McKigney

It's been 20 years since an accident in Newfoundland claimed the lives of Adrian Adonis, Dave "Canadian Wildman" McKigney and Pat Kelly. From the Toronto Sun vault comes the story of their deaths on July 4, 1988.

The world of professional wrestling is reeling following the deaths of three internationally reknowed wrestlers in a Newfoundland highway crash.

Dead are Dave "Canadian Wildman" McKigney, 56, of Aurora; Keith "Adorable Adrian Adonis" Franke, 35, of Los Angeles; and Hamilton native Victor Arko, 40, one half of the Kelly Twins tag team.

Arko's brother William is in serious condition in a St. John's hospital with leg and other injuries.

Gander RCMP Sgt. John MacKinnon said their van crashed on the Trans Canada Highway at 9:30 Monday night while they were on a wrestling tour of Atlantic Canada.

"It's a shock. These guys were good tough competitors, good characters and good people," said former wrestler and CFL star Angelo Mosca.

Jim Freedman, whose recently published book Drawing Heat told of McKigney's hard life as a small-town wrestling promoter, said: "This is definitely the end of an era in small-time wrestling."

"He was an extraordinary character. The best I've ever seen," Freedman said.

The crash was witnessed by McKigney's son, Davey, Jr., 8, who was riding in another vehicle.

McKigney and the others may have been trying to avoid a moose, MacKinnon said.

McKigney was an animal lover who built his career by wrestling his pet bears around North America.

McKigney's life took a tragic turn in July 1978 when Lynn Orser, his fiancee, was mauled to death by his pet bear Smokey at an Aurora farm.


The Kelly Twins
Helen Arko, mother of the Kelly Twins, said her 250 lb. sons were "really popular -- not mean" despite their fearsome appearance.

"They have really good hearts," she said. "But I don't know how William is going to get along without his twin. They were close."

The Kelly Twins starred with another wrestler in a popular TV commercial for O'Henry chocolate bars.

A former WWF star, Franke split with the league months ago and was working minor wrestling circuits.

The wrestlers were scheduled to perform last night in Lewisporte, about 60 km (40 miles) west of Gander. The tour has been cancelled.

RELATED LINKS

  • More on Pat and Mike Kelly
  • More on Dave 'The Wildman' McKigney
  • CBC archives story on Dave McKigney

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This story appeared in the Wednesday, July 6, 1988 edition of the Toronto Sun.