A real dandy
By RICK BELL -- Calgary Sun
Remembering the voice of Stampede Wrestling
He loses his son. He loses his grandson. He loses his wife.
Now, his friend Ed Whalen is dead.
Others will pen those well-deserved plaudits to Ed's decades of sportscasting, his tireless commitment to charitable causes, his secure place in the history of this growing city.
They will use grand words like legend and icon and giant.
And they will be right.
But Ed always said he was no star. He just got a break. And, for Stu Hart, Ed Whalen is still a college kid from Saskatoon who filled in at ringside for one of Stu's wrestling shows when the scheduled announcer came down sick.
A good guy and a nice guy and a guy with brains and heart who became a big part of Stampede Wrestling -- who, for many, WAS Stampede Wrestling.
He was the unmistakable voice who told us when there was a "malfunction at the junction" and when things were "ring a ding dong dandy."
"Ed was a man for all occasions," says Stu, sitting in his big house, with the fireplace smoking, the cats crawling, the cars parked out back and a kid fresh from Israel shovelling the front steps, hoping to be the next star of the squared circle.
"He was loved. He was respected. Always willing to help. If you needed to be rescued, Ed would be there. He always took the first step for you. He was a pretty sincere guy. There is nothing bad I can say about Ed Whalen."
What higher praise can be sung?
Stu says Ed had a finesse all his own, one of a kind. He could sell the wrestling game, the world of villainous heels and virtuous baby faces, the world of midgets and monsters.
But Ed would not lower himself, he would not indulge in slime or sleaze or turn grappling into what it is today, something Ed often dismissed as a "sexual soap opera."
"He had a gift, a knack. That's hard to deny. Ed was smart. He could dress wrestling up, but he was no phoney. He was not a carnival type," says Stu. "He had a great sense of humour. If things were a little slow, it was a ring a ding dong dandy. But he did call a spade a spade."
And Ed was in control. Stampede Wrestling was his show.
"If you had a catastrophe he could ride things out. Ed was a limber announcer. He didn't panic. I didn't have to draw a picture or pound him on the head and tell him to be careful when I had an Italian pretending to be an Indian chief.
"But Ed was one guy you didn't fool around with, you didn't take liberties with him or try to jeopardize his integrity. If you went after him, that was it."
Abdullah the Butcher found that out.
"Ab was coming at Ed," laughs Stu. "He was wild, like a vulture coming down on a little bird. Ed was frightened to death, but he was ready to defend his life. He swung the mike with everything he had and split Ab's head right open. Ab was bleeding like a stuffed pig but he loved it. Sixteen stitches. He was happy to be cut like that."
Yes, Ed and Stu are forever linked in a weird and woolly world with many men of the mat, such as Archie (The Stomper) Gouldie, Andre the Giant, Gene Kiniski, Tor Kamata, Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith, Chris Benoit and Stu's sons, Bret and Owen. And now Ed is gone.
Stu laughs again, seeing, with his mind's eye, Ed introducing Sweet Daddy Siki, the wrestler decked out with sequined cape and gloves, knee-high monogrammed boots, shades and a cigarette holder with a pink cigarette.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please do not adjust your sets. Prepare now to meet the women's pet, the men's regret, Mr. Irresistible ..."
Stu sees Ed travelling once again to the island of Antigua, with 20,000 fanatical fans at the airport, mobbing Ed as much, if not more, than the wrestlers. He goes back, way back to Ed's first time at ringside.
"I'd still like to have Ed Whalen on my team today," says Stu.
So would we all. And, in that moment, somewhere there is the signature signoff.
"In the meantime and in between time, that's it," says Ed.