Published on January 28th, 2017 | by Josh Greenup0
The Story of “TERRIBLE TED” The Wrestling Bear
“I can still feel the beast’s coarse, wiry fur, smell its foul breath, and hear it snorting through its muzzle as it looked me dead in the eyes. Ted wasn’t a happy bear, and I wasn’t a happy wrestler.”
– Superstar Billy Graham, San Francisco 1971
At 7 feet tall and around 700 pounds, Terrible Ted was an impressive beast. Equally impressive was his near 20-year wrestling career that rivaled his human counterparts. Ted worked for Maple Leaf Wrestling, Georgia Championship Wrestling, World Wrestling Association, Roy Shire’s San Francisco Wrestling, Stampede Wrestling and even the WWWF. He won battle royals. He won 8-on-1 matches. He teamed with wrestlers such as Pepper Gomez and Rocky Johnson. He even held victories over stars such as Bobby Heenan, Baron Von Raschke, Superstar Billy Graham, Gypsy Joe, Jerry Lawler and Mad Dog Vachon.
Ted had been declawed, his teeth had been pulled out and he was only fed vegetables, so he wasn’t quite as dangerous as he first sounds. Ted traveled with a carnival in his early years and when the carnival went bankrupt in the early 1950’s, he was adopted and trained by Dave McKigney (aka Gene Dubois, Wildman, Canadian Wildman and Bearman).
On July 13, 1966, McKigney offered $3,000 to anyone who could pin Ted. The challenge was accepted and met by John Szigeti (a 36-year-old welder who wanted the money for truck repairs), who pinned Ted “for maybe 15 seconds” before McKigney pried him free. McKigney and promoter Howard Darvin, in true carny form, refused to pay the prize, so Szigeti sued them in May 1968.
In October 1970, Ted spent several days in the Lowndes County jail. That’s right, Ted went to jail. McKigney had offered a $1,500 prize to anyone who would wrestle Ted, which was accepted by a 350-pound construction worker named Ed Williams. Before the match, McKigney informed Williams that Ted had recently developed a poor disposition and could be dangerous, and so canceled the match. Williams accused him of skipping out on the deal and signed a writ of attachment. Ted was held as security and later released on $3,000 bail and a promise by McKigney to appear in court.
Briefly, while doing some shows in Stampede Wrestling, Ted lived under the back porch of Stu Hart.
BRET HART: “When I was five, my dad had a wrestling bear living in a cage under the back porch steps. I’d let my ice cream drip on my bare toes and dangle my feet between the wooden steps so the bear could lick it off. Us Hart kids thought that was pretty cool. I figured it was a good way to keep my feet clean and it kind of tickled, too.”