January 12, 2008
Don Leo Jonathan
6'6", 285-340 pounds
BORN: April 29, 1931 in Hurricane, Utah
Jonathan was a true giant inside the ring. From the 40s to the 70s, he towered over wrestlers across the globe.
Because of his size, he often was an opponent of Andre The Giant.
Jonathan made his home near Vancouver for a while, and was a regular on the local circuit.
Had great success in the AWA, including two AWA title reigns (Omaha version) and the AWA tag team titles with Verne Gagne in 1967.
On May 31, 1972, Le Géant Jean Ferré and Don Leo Jonathan appeared at Montreal's Forum in what promoters billed as the wrestling match of the century. Jonathan was awarded the victory when legendary referee Omer Marchessault disqualifies Ferré.
The giant is a landed immigrant in Canada, and has lived in the country since the 1960s.
Don Leo was one of my favorite men. That big man at 330 pounds could do a backflip and somersault and nip-ups like a cat. I'd hate to get mad at him at 330 pounds. He worked out a lot with this Luther Lindsay who was one of the top submission wrestlers at that time. Lindsay worked out a lot with Don Leo. Don Leo in Lindsay's words, he didn't know enough people who could get close enough to Don Leo Jonathon to even take him down. That at 330 pounds, 6'6", one of the best big built men in the industry.
Stu Hart from a Nov. 1997 interview with SLAM! Wrestling
I remember watching Don Leo in Montreal in the early 70's when he had great feuds with the giant Jean Ferre(Andre the giant) and Mad Dog Vachon, Paul 'The Butcher' Vachon, Gilles 'The Fish' Poisson, Killer Kowalski etc...
He made himself look a little like Elvis in those days and always provided a strong character to vent your emotions against particularly when he was beating up Eduard Carpentier in the Montreal Forum ...
One of the away from the ring encounters of a GIANT kind.
It was in the early 1970's and in Toronto at Toronto International Airport, one summer evening I recognized an individual who stood out and above the crowded Terminal 1. None other than Don Leo Jonathan -- a mountain of a man. I made my way over to this gentleman and he loomed larger as I got closer. We shook hands and I looked up -- way up -- as I stood 6' in my uniform and boots of the R.C.M.P. We chatted on the level for a while and all the while I was glad that at this time, I was not put in the position of enforcement because I knew I would never be able to arrest this man by myself. But never fear, a gentleman all the way. It was an honor and a thrill to speak with Mr. Jonathan -- if that was his real name and not his stage name. He was a great ambassador to the Wrestling Community. At that point in time, the wrestling world had not achieved the status which it now enjoys. The Gentle Giant disappeared in to the crowd.
After almost 2 years at T.I.A I had seen many celebrities come and go but none had the impact that the physical presence of this man commanded.
I often wonder what happened to Don Leo?? If you have an update it would be appreciated.
George Nugent, firstname.lastname@example.org, Toronto Ontario
What a wrestler! The feuds he had with Carpentier in the early 70's! then he turned face and went up against Killer Kowalski - another great one. I remember a championship match at the Montreal Forum where Don Leo literally kicked Killer's but around the ring, and did Killer ever sell it! It was one of the bast matches I ever saw.
Mark Nixon, Un montrealais living in Denmark
One vivid TV bout comes to mind involving Dean Ho. Dean clamped an armlock on Don Leo. After a few minutes, Don Leo simply hoisted Dean up in the air and sat him down on the corner turnbuckle like a child. Then he promptly drop kicked him into the audience. It was astounding.
A few weeks later I watched him get pinned by Bruno. It was my first clue that the game was rigged. A man with Don Leo's ability would have flattened Bruno!
Don Leo was one of the few guys from the golden era who would fit right in with today's stars, both in size and agility. Of course, he'd have some kind of goofy theme music now, but wouldn't you love to see him tangle with Rocky Maivia or The Undertaker?
I had the pleasure to see Don Leo on several occassions in the arena in Blacks Harbour N.B. in 1973 and 1974 he had many unforgetable matches with Chuck O'Connor, (later to become big John Studd) they fought all over the arena, in the ring, in the crowd, and smashing each others heads on the chairs and into the anouncing table and the bell that was on the table was thrown around like a frisbee, I have seen many matches before and since that time but that was the first time I was truly scared at a wresling event, these men were both massive individules and they both moved like light weights and not like two men that both weight in at over 300 lbs. also I recall the night Don Leo had the pleasure to fight the wresling bear this black bear had traveled the circuit fight formidable opponents and this night it was his turn, this bear had a muzzle on and could not bite but it was able to trip, and maul Don Leo for about 20 minutes or so until Don Leo had had enough, and he got the bear in of all thing the "bear hug" and the trainer for the bear through in the towel. Don must have made a lasting impression on me because after 25 years I think of him often and was glad to read about him on the web that he still with us and is making an appearance on "wrestling with the past" on the Comedy chanel. though it was 25 years ago I can still recall the introduction in to the ring "and now weighting in at 327 pounds from Salt Lake City Utah, DON LEO JOHNATAN" and after hearing that I would go home on Friday night and check out the atlas to see where it was located. Thanks for the memories Don Leo and thanks to you I passed my geography class as well.
Karl Mitchell -email@example.com
I remember as a youngster, watching Don Leo on t.v wrestling the likes of Gene Kiniski Bulldog Brown, Dutch Savage,and John Tolos. I always admired how a man of his size could move. Whenever I saw him on t.v. I always thought how great it would be to see him live. I maneged to do this only once,in Winnipeg. He was in a tag match against Kobiyashi and Big K. I can't remember who his partner was, but I do remember Don Leo standing on the outside of the ring ,and doing a sommersault over the top rope and landing on his feet. The crowd just gasped. He was a true phenomen.Actually, when I watch the Underetaker wrestle I reminds me of Don Leo, in the way he walks the ropes,and does a backflip over the top rope and lands on his feet. Anyway. Don was my favorite as kid and still is my favorite.
Don Leo Jonathan wrestled the night that Bruno took the belt from Stan Stasiak. Don had a bout with a much smaller hispanic wrestler. he was a little quicker than Don Leo however there was no doubt who was going to win the match. Bruno winning the belt was a huge treat but, seeing Don Leo in his beautiful garb was a close second.
I remember seeing Don Leo fight "Whipper" Billy Watson in Vancouver in 1959/60.
It was a great fight and anything went.
I don't remember how the fight finished, but I do remember an irate woman in the audience throwing a cup of scalding hot coffee over Don Leo as he left the ring.
He was a huge man and superbly fit and agile.
I have good memories.
Don Leo Johnathan WAS a wrestler. At his age today he is STILL a wrestler compared to the seek and geek disfunctionals of today. Watson, Flanigan, O'Connor, Currie, Rougeau,Kiniski,Kowalski,Carpentier, Gagne, Johnathan....A Wrestling Hall Of Fame Unto Themselves. With even greater memories
When you're young and don't know better, pro wrestling was the best. Don Leo Jonathon -- how he never got the belt amazes me. A 6 f t 8 man doing a dropkick plus I beleive he once had the greatest manager ever THE GRAND WIZARD
"A good big man can always beat a good little man" he would say.
I remember after he lost a match in Vancouver, Don Leo romped in anger around the ring .
I was at ringside and as an impressionable teenager, was afraid of the giant.... He was " huge" for a wrestler at that time.
The Undertaker reminds me of the way Don Leo looked and moved.
I recently saw Don Leo Johnathon in an early match against Lou Thesz. I have seen him on Japanese wrestling against Dick Beyer "the Destroyer" and Anton Gesek. He was a bit older and heavier but was still astonishing. At his size he was cartwheeling, and kipping up. It was fantastic. Don Leo even made the other wrestlers stop and applaud or stand with their mouths open. The older match with Don Leo versus The legend Lou Thesz was fantastic. It was cut off before the ending but Don Leo's shear natural strength size and agility could be described in one word "AWESOME!!!"
John Mozuke grouchoM@peoplepc.com
I can remember back in 72-73 when I was approximately six years old in living in Shediac,N.B. I had met another young boy of the same age who was living next door to me for the summer. One day we went to the beach to play and his Dad caught up to us and played at the beach that morning during this time he picked up a cement cinder block and put it on two two rocks and wad able to smash it into thousands of pieces with his bare hands in a single blow. This was a memory that would last a lifetime. And as far as I could remember Don Leo was more than a Giant in Wrestling but a Giant Dad as well, as I remember how proud this boy was to have a dad like Don Leo Jonathan.
Kevin Levy - firstname.lastname@example.org
I remember as a lad in the 70's at the Sudbury Arena, my dad had taken me to see wrestling -- DON LEO JONATHAN vs JEAN FERRE (The Giant). It was amazing, the last match of the night, they put on a spectacular show, the Giant beating him in the corner. DON determinedly working at the turnbuckle trying to let it loose. Jean punishing him and yet he kept going for the corner buckle. Finally he releases the buckle, the ropes give way and he uses it to bash Jean in the head (fake blood) but it got the crowd going . I can't recall who won the fight, but its one for the memory book regardless. Only bad thing of the night was someone broke into the car in the parking lot and stole my dad's spare tire ROFL! The good old days!
He was briefly teamed with Rocky Johnson ( Rock's father) and I believe they were undefeated. A GREAT tag team . They would rock the Halifax Forum. W
I remember Chicago wrestling and Don Leo against Argentina Rocca ( the bare foot wrestler) .
Also, I remember Don Leo vs Yukon Eric, they were great matches.
Would like to know , if you remember Little Beaver and SKY LOW LOW, midget wrestlers that played on Chicago Wrestling on TV.
I lived in Montreal in the 60's and I think it was on TV on Saturday nites.
I think the greatest wrestler that I saw in person was YVON ROBERT, a french Canadian from Montreal.
His bouts with Whipper Watson are a legend.. RIGHT.