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  October 26, 2014



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SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Merv Unger


Merv Unger was a sports writer for the Winnipeg Free Press in the late 1950s when wrestling was very strong in Winnipeg, under the Alex Turk regime. He covered wrestling as a junior reporter 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 before returning to Saskatoon in 1968.

In 1971, he moved to his home town of Winnipeg where he began refereeing for the AWA. After a time he was called on to referee in various other AWA cities on special assignment - Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Omaha and Toronto. In those assignments he was billed as AWA Referee in chief for Canada.

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, but with the grit, determination and ambition to make it.

In 1975, Unger took over as promoter in Winnipeg, but continued to referee as well in other AWA cities.

Business opportunities lured him to British Columbia, and Unger turned the promotion over to Bob Holliday in 1982, 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 in Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, working as a business newspaper publisher. Six years ago he was appointed to the Nanaimo Athletic Commission, and was recently reappointed to his second three-year term as chairman of the commission. In December, 2005 he was elected to City Council in Nanaimo, a city of 80,000, on Vancouver Island. You can reach him at merv.unger@shaw.ca. Unger offers the following memories of his years in the business:

"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, of course Roddy Piper and "Piledriver" Bob Sweetan. Co-incidentally, Sweetan moved to Nanaimo in his retirement.