Adrian Adonis Pat Kelly & Dave McKigney – The Night The Journey Ended

Over the years, many professional wrestlers have been injured in accidents during the constant traveling from city to city to ply their trade. Adrian Adonis, Pat Kelly, and Dave McKigney were among them. Whether it’s in an airplane or in a motor vehicle, the travel can take a mighty toll on both the mental aspect and the physical also.

The Highways and Byways in North America have taken some great stars both away from us and ended careers over the decades. Some have bounced back better than others, and a few have never returned to the ring. Unfortunately, the same have paid the dearest price of all, that is, with the loss of their lives, perishing in an automobile accident.

Some of the prominent and not-so-prominent wrestlers who have died in car crashes are Tennessee area wrestler and Manager Sam Bass, Old School star Danno Mahoney, the giant from Stone Mountain, Georgia Jerry Blackwell, Quebec stars Pierre Lefevre and Tarzan Tyler, and much earlier than their accident Vivian Vachon also.

Central states rising star D.J. Peterson, ’50s-’60s Star Ilio DePaulo, Florida star Brady Boone, one of the other Nature boys Buddy Landel, Superstar Junk Yard Dog, and the unforgettable Star Randy Savage. Unfortunately quite a list. And the perils of Road travel may haunt us all, thinking back to maybe a few close calls in our lives.

Adrian Adonis Pat Kelly & Dave McKigney – The Night The Journey Ended

This story marks the anniversary of the passing of three professionals who had outstanding and long careers. An accident on a highway in rural Newfoundland took three lives that day. Three lives were lost, and many lives were affected, as do all deaths.

The accident was ironically caused by a Moose that had wandered onto the highway, and the van they were traveling in swerved to miss the wild beast. The Bearman, having spent most of his career trying to tame the savage beast that was one of his gimmicks in the ring, wrestling Bears.

One of the victims was an identical twin who wrestled all over North America with a career spanning close to twenty years. Pat Kelly had teamed with his brother Mike for many promotions over that time.

They worked mostly smaller promotions but had made their mark in Central States, Stampede, Michigan, Quebec, and most famously, in their native Ontario. They had appeared on Dave Mckigney’s shows in Ontario for many years, Headlining against The Wildman and The Wolfman, the Love Brothers, and The Crusaders(Billy Red Lyons and Dewey Robertson).

World-famous star Adrian Adonis was on his way back from injury and his fall from grace with the WWE. While regaining his claim to fame, he signed with Big Bear Sports Promotion to rekindle his future in the ring and get back into shape to re-conquer the wrestling world. His career was that of stardom practically right from the start.

“We started in Labrador City Wed June 27th, and then again to another sold-out show on the 28th. Then a 27-hour train trip and car ride through the wilderness of Labrador to Goose Bay.

Worked there Friday night, July 1st, and then again in an Afternoon show on the second. Both shows sold out.

A 36-hour ferry ride was worth a book on its own as we were heading to the main island of Newfoundland. Most enjoyed by rookie Steve Ocean, Adrian Adonis, and myself.

Dave joined us for a few hours, and Steve ended up being placed under cabin arrest for 8 hours of that ride by the Captain.”

– Ricky Johnson

Adrian had it all and was on his way to getting it back again. In his relatively short 14-year career, he had hit the highest of highs in every territory he had worked. From Texas to the AWA and finally to the big time with the WWE.

He had recently returned from a tour in Japan and had donned the leather jacket again, which was one of his earlier trademarks. Adonis was a bonafide superstar who still had the talent and ring sense to headline again anywhere in the world. And he was on his way there.

The tour promoter that ended with the crash was also a savvy ring veteran with decades of experience in the ring, most famously with live Bear opponents and behind the scenes as an Indy Promoter. Dave Mckigney was the owner of Big Bear Sports Promotion and had been supplying cities and towns in Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland with wrestling action for over 20 years.

“When Dave was finished on the East Coast, he had himself, Joey War Eagle, me, and Ben booked to work the following Winter for Al Tomko; then he was going to take another shot at Ontario.”

– Doug Ramsey (Jet Star, The Dream Weaver)

Records show Dave, or The Wildman/Bearman as he was known, promoted over 1200 shows in his native Ontario from the mid 60’s to his passing.  Not that this event wasn’t tragic enough, but eerily just about to the day 10 years earlier in July 1978, one of his trained wrestling bears escaped from its cage and mauled to death his live-in girlfriend, Lynn Orser in their cabin in the woods, just north of Toronto.

As hard as that was to overcome, Dave kept going in the midst of Hulkamania and the upsurge in Wrestling. The Wildman and his promotion were a rag-tag troupe of veterans and local guys who brought wrestling action to thousands of fans over the years in summer resort towns and empty arenas where no other promotions would dared to bring their shows.

He rekindled the love of the sport in many locales that were starved for action. Thousands of fans saw the world-famous Sheik for the first time live in their arena, with the action always spilling out of the ring into the stands and ringside seats.

His promotion also had many famous stars appearing over the years in those halls, baseball diamonds, and any other facility that would rent it out. Andre the Giant, Mark Lewin, Bobo Brazil, Lord Layton, Stan Stasiak, Larry Zbysko, DeNucci, Poffo’s, and many more.

He persevered in a sport that swallows up the weak and the not-so-serious hangers-on. His life is chronicled in an interesting book called Drawing Heat by London, Ontario author Jim Freedman. The book talks of his hard life and upbringing, fighting against the odds and the big boys in the sport, and his not-so-hard outlook on his own life.

“Before We got off of the Ferry, but as we were coming down through all the icebergs and everything, I remember having Breakfast with Adrian Adonis at about 7 am in the morning; he actually bought me breakfast.

We were looking out at the icebergs, and I said,” Geez, we hit one of those, we’d be like the Titanic, eh?, Adrian said, “Yeah, my Wife would be rich,”

-Whipper Watson Jr. Phil Watson, son, of course, of Famed Canadian Former World Champion Whipper Watson.

He found a niche that needed to be filled, promoting in small cities and towns in every arena and hall in Ontario until his carney ways just couldn’t pay the bills for talent, insurance, and his running expenses.

Forced to re-start his “new” promotion in Newfoundland after a Spring of shows in small-town Ontario, Dave loaded his ring truck onto the train and made his way to Canada’s most easterly Province.

Would this change in scenery set the stage for a tour that would turn around his fortunes and maybe even relaunch his promotional skill? Would he create the much-needed funds on his return to finally get his product on TV and become one of the boys he always fought against? Would British Columbia be his rechristening with BC promoter Al Tomko who still had cross-country TV in Canada?

The questions will never be answered. Many questions never to be answered. Like, would Dave return and get back on his feet? Would Adrian rekindle his career and regain stardom? Was this the last hurrah for Whipper Watson Jr?

Why Didn’t Sweet Daddy Siki not go on the tour? Like many of life’s questions, there really isn’t an answer. There is only life or death. And in this case, the question stops here. Death. THE ROAD STOPS HERE!


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