Two degrees of Mr. Irresistible | Ken Hill
Monday, March 15, 2021 @ 2:31 PM | By Ken Hill
For a while there was only one channel, so what else were we to do on a Saturday afternoon? We liked wrestling but we loved Sweet Daddy, the powerfully built black man with bleached blond hair and sideburns and trademark striped tight trunks. His swagger and braggadocio made him the most entertaining “bad guy” around. When we moved to Toronto we were thrilled to see that Sweet Daddy also wrestled here and what a surprise to find out that in these parts he wrestled as one of the good guys!
Back in those days we were impressed by the fact that our dad had gone to school with Gene Kiniski, one of Mr. Irresistible’s frequent opponents (along with such luminaries of the ring as Whipper Billy Watson, Lord Athol Layton, Dick (The Bulldog) Brower and Abdullah (The Butcher) Farouk).
Kiniski went by the ring name of Big Thunder but our dad said his nickname as a kid was Peanuts. That gave an ironic but humanizing insight into the world of wrestling and that connection of my dad put me in three degrees of separation of Sweet Daddy.
This week I discovered that I have in fact been within two degrees of him for years without even knowing.
The CBC Gem video streaming site is featuring a documentary titled Sweet Daddy Siki. I watched it and it was a revelation.
There was so much more to the man than step-over toeholds and punishing blows to the midsection. He rose from rural poverty in Texas to wrestling stardom in the States where he came to the attention of none other than Muhammad Ali when the latter was still going by his “slave name,” Cassius Clay.
Apparently, the young boxer modelled much of his entertaining, self-promoting style on the wrestler. Claims such as “I am the Greatest and the prettiest” may well have been inspired by Mr. Irresistible. Siki wrestled in Canada as well and married a Toronto girl, and that led to some difficulties when he tried to continue his career south of the border. You see, his wife was not only a Canadian, but also a Caucasian, which did not sit well with the promoters and others in the New York wrestling scene in those days. That led to his settling in Toronto, where, although he was paid less than other wrestlers of his calibre, the local brand of racism was more muted and subtle.
Now, here’s where the degrees of separation were reduced to two. One of my more colourful clients wrestled as The Canadian Wildman. His name was Dave McKigney and he lived outside Newmarket with his trained wrestling bear. He retained me to defend a civil claim brought against him by a roadside zoo operator who had a claim to ownership of the bear, Dave’s four-legged wrestling partner and meal-ticket. During examinations for discovery I noticed that the plaintiff zookeeper was missing a couple of fingers, which at least in my imagination must have been the result of a run-in with one of his captive exhibits.
I can’t remember how the case turned out but I did hear about Dave again when he died tragically in 1988. On a wrestling tour of Newfoundland his van swerved to avoid a moose and he and another wrestler were killed. This incident was referred to in the documentary because Sweet Daddy would have been in that very van were it not for a premonition of danger that caused him to cancel his plans to accompany McKigney on that tour. So now I find I am down to just two degrees of separation.
Siki also has had a career as a country singer and, now in his 80s, he sings and DJs at the Duke Tavern in Toronto, or would be if not for the current pandemic restrictions. The documentary has given me an “irresistible” urge to go down to the Duke once this pandemic is over, hopefully to shake his hand and bring those degrees of separation down to one — or does direct contact make it zero?
Ken Hill is happily retired from just about 40 years of litigation practice in Newmarket, Ont.
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