SLAM! Sports SLAM! Wrestling
   September 21, 2014



News & Rumours
Bios
Obits
Canadian Hall of Fame
WrestleMania 30
WrestleMania 30 photos
Video
Movie Database
Minority Mat Report
Columnists
Features
Results Archive
PPV Reviews
SLAM! Wrestling store
On Facebook
On Twitter
Send Feedback




Photo Galleries

Heroes & Legends IV fan fest


NXT Takeover: Fatal 4 Way


ROH All Star Extravaganza VI


PWG Battle of L.A.: Night 2


PWG Battle of L.A.: Night 1


SummerSlam


Kevin Steen







SCOREBOARD
PHOTO GALLERY
VIDEO GALLERY
COMMENT




RECENT PHOTO GALLERIES: Heroes & Legends IV
NXT Takeover: Fatal 4 Way | ROH All Star Extravaganza
PWG Battle of L.A.: Night 1 | Night 2 | SummerSlam | Kevin Steen

THE SCOOP: Visit our News & Rumours page.


SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Dave 'Wildman' McKigney

REAL NAME: Dave McKigney
BORN: Toronto, 1932
DIED: July 5, 1988
ALIASES/ NICKNAMES: Bearman, Wildman, Canadian Wildman, Gene Dubois

 The tale of the Wildman is a tragic one. He was never a superstar in the ring, and as a small-time promoter, never made his millions out of wrestling. But he give it everything he had, including ultimately, his life.

 His gimmick was a wrestling bear, and to match his opponent, McKigney grew his beard and lets his hair grow wild. He became the Canadian Wildman. And with his bear, he travelled North America. Down south he was an oddity, people came to see a bear, a foreigner in their parts. Up in Northern Ontario, people knew their bears, and came to see just who might be crazy enough to get into the ring with one.

 Terrible Ted was his first bear, picked up after a carnival show went bankrupt, but the best known bear, for tragic reasons, was Smokey. In July 1978, McKigney left the bear's cage door open as he went to answer the phone. Smokey entered the house, went upstairs, and mauled McKigney's girlfriend Lynn Orser to death. The incident made headlines, and the bears were taken away by the Ontario Humane Society. For years he battled the Frank and Jack Tunney, the promoters out of Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, who had a monopoly on the province's big arenas and the boxing and wrestling commissioner as a friend. They tried to force McKigney out of business, and eventually drove him to tour Newfoundland, when in July 1988, he met his death when the van he was driving crashed on the Trans Canada Highway when he tried to avoid a moose. Killed were McKigney, Keith 'Adorable Adrian Adonis' Franke, and Victor Arko (Pat Kelly of the Kelly twins). Also in the car was William Arko (Mike Kelly), who suffered leg injuries.

 There aren't many books about wrestling out there, let alone books that tell a truthful, behind-the-scenes account of life as a wrestler. One of the best is certainly Drawing Heat by London Ontario's Jim Freedman (1988, Black Moss Press, distributed by Firefly Books). Much of the book details life on the road with McKigney and his Big Bear Promotions. Below is an excerpt from Drawing Heat:
 
  "He's been around for twenty years, and more years than not he has made good money. In Tunney's territory. He has no contract with big city coliseums, no offices, no picture on the Garden walls. What he has is stamina, the art of never slowing down, moving constantly from one town to the next, his office is his truck, his phone, the pay phone in arena offices. He rarely sleeps. Two weeks before a show he plots the ads for newspapers, delivers and pays for them himself, lays out the posters for the show, has them printed, tacks them on to empty construction boards and highway poles and store front windows like campaign throwaways and all the frenzied while he runs his shows like a juggler on a unicycle tossing pots and pans and frying eggs and bacon at a banquet if his fans. He keeps a precious chest of beer in the front seat of his truck so as not to get too dry, to chase away the hum of his truck and the drum of his rapid body's regimen late at night after counting up the till."


Stories

  • July 4, 2013: "The Bearman" Dave McKigney: 25 years later
  • July 4, 2008: From the archives: 20 years since Adonis, McKigney, Kelly killed
  • Aug. 4, 2002: The Wildman lives on in book
  • July 6, 1988: From the archives: 20 years since Adonis, McKigney, Kelly killed
    Memories

      My first ever wrestling card that I attended was a Indy show put on by the Wildman. Strangely enough it is still the one that I still vividly remember most, he did not have any name wrestlers a few past their prime and even more that would never become an impact in the business, however they all worked hard and put on the best shows I have ever seen. I can still remember meeting Dave in the parking lot and how receptive he was towards me and my numerous questions.
      The double main event booked that evening was Bobo Brazil Vs. The Sheik, which was a slow paced match only saved by the hatchet job The Sheik performed on both himself and Bobo. I was honestly afraid during that match figuring The Sheik may have gone completely nuts. Keep in mind I was only ten years old!
      The match that I think I will always remember was Johnny Valiant against Crazy Chris Colt. These guys brawled like you would not believe! They were all over the arena, with chairs, chains you name it they had it! It was the only match I have seen was whenever Johnny made a comeback they would place his theme music "The Boy From New York City" it seemed to get the crowd even more hyped up.
      I think Dave McKigney would one of the people in the wrestling business I would have liked to have sat down with and had a few beers with, sadly that will never happen. He did not always have the steak, but he sure sold the sizzle.
     Terry Harris
      I recall going to shows at both the London Arena and the Ontario Arena at the Western Fair grounds. There was Dave,the bear and at various times the likes of Tiger Jeet Singh,Louis Martinez and others. One night at the Ontario Arena Dave singlehandedly escorted four "unruly fans" out of the building as Tiger and one of the other wrestlers chased each other through the stands. I have an original poster from the Ontario Arena that I picked up for $2 at a lawn sale; priceless to me! I have also read and own a copy of the book "Drawing Heat", an excellant read. Remember ,if it hadn't been for the likes of Dave McKigney, the big boys wouldn't be profiting. The past shapes the future. Thanks for the great memories Dave and everytime we hear thunder it must surely be you and Andre and Dino and Whipper and Yukon and all of the others putting on a show. I miss those simpler more innocent times.
      Tony, London, Ontario
      My memory of Dave was going to his home outside of Newmarket, Ont. as a child. He lived on top of a mountain I use to think, anyway. It was a log cabin, with the huge cage in the front for his bear. It was beautiful. I remember, Dave, as the first person who gave me a peanut from the ground, I guess he grew them. It was awful being fresh, no salt! Anyway, I remember him as a nice person, and his daughter, Rachel as someone very kind too.
      Marcie Brower
     I remember meeting Dave Mckigney when my brother Mike was traveling with the wrestling show Dave had, he was a really nice guy. On the numerous cards that appeared at the London Gardens were names like Dewey Robertson, The Sheik, The Love Brothers, John Quinn, Sweet Daddy Siki, Whipper Watson Jr. and yes I even got to see "Terrible Ted". Dave also had midgets and The Lady wrestlers his daughter Rachel Dubois amongst them. We also had the pleasure of meeting Andre The Giant! Dave in my brothers words was a fair and honest man and he worked hard to compete with both Jack and then later Eddie Tunney! All I know is that when I met Dave back in 1970 he was really a gentleman in the true sense of the word despite how he looked(and he scared the hell out of me the first time I met him right up until I talked to him)!!!!!!
     Debbie Steiss
     My dad started working for Dave in 1961, I was only 5 years old. Little did I know the the next 15 years of my life would be involved with Dave and his bears. I remember being frightened more of that "Wildman" than his bears. I knew his children Rachael and Conrad and wish them the best (wherever they are today). My sister Carole met her husband "Little Bruiser" thru Dave (although he too has passed on). Dave allowed my dad to take us kids on the road with him, I got to sell pictures of the wrestlers and as I got older got to date a couple of them.
     In closing I would just like to say Thanks Dave for making my childhood a little more interesting than most kids
      Kim Prain (nee.Rosenberg)