Would you hold a grudge for 48 years? At a 2011 Canadian Football League luncheon, things took a shocking turn between former linebacker and wrestler “King Kong” Angelo Mosca and quarterback Joe Kapp. It all stemmed from a controversial play in 1963. Sometimes old rivalries die hard, but nobody expected this!
The Outrageous Fight Between Angelo Mosca and Joe Kapp
Dick The Bruiser, Wahoo McDaniel, Ron Simmons, Big Van Vader, "The Big Cat" Ernie Ladd, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Goldberg, and Brock Lesnar are only but a few of the names on the comprehensive list of former football players who obtained success in professional wrestling.
Angelo Mosca, better known as Angelo "King Kong" Mosca to old-school wrestling fans, is another name on that list.
"Big Ang" became a fearsome defensive lineman in the Canadian Football League (CFL) and was synonymous with the cities he played in.
Born in Waltham, Massachusetts, from an early age, Mosca felt at ease with the physicality imparted on the gridiron, thanks in part to a demanding high school coach who wasn’t shy about roughing up his players to the point of drawing blood. Mosca soon had 60 schools offering him scholarships.
The top-tier Fighting Irish of Notre Dame football program landed him, and despite disciplinary problems plaguing his college years, he eventually graduated. Teams like the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Ti-Cats) of the CFL were undeterred from vying for the services of the intimidating defensive lineman.
Although Mosca knew very little about “The Great North,” he opted to play in Canada instead of the United States because it made more sense financially. He would beat out all the other American rookies battling for a spot on the team.
Mosca was a true terror on the field, embarking on a stellar 15-year career appearing in nine Grey Cup finals (Canada’s version of the NFL’s Super Bowl) and emerging victorious on five occasions.
The team he’s most associated with, the Hamilton Ti-Cats, went 98-51-5, with Mosca and John Barrow dominating on defense.
The 7-time All-Star gained a reputation as the meanest and most hated player in the CFL, and this reputation preceded him later in the squared circle.
Despite being overshadowed by ice hockey in popularity, American-style football in Canada has a rich history going back to the 1860s when it was a crude rough and tumble affair resembling more like rugby.
Much later, under the newly organized CFL, the Hamilton Ti-Cats established themselves as the dominant team from 1957-67, followed closely by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The latter won four titles of their own.
Hamilton was known as the "Steel Town," and Angelo Mosca fit right in with the city’s blue-collar sensibilities and toughness that characterized the team on the field.
The BC (British Columbia) Lions are based in Vancouver and are currently its oldest professional franchise. But in 1963, they were fairly new to the CFL.
Trouble at the 51st Grey Cup
At the 51st Grey Cup and in front of almost 37 thousand screaming fans inside Vancouver’s Empire Stadium, quarterback Joe Kapp and his Lions enjoyed a home-field advantage. Still, they had an almost impossible feat when facing Angelo Mosca and his dominant Ti-Cats.
"What I did to him was one of those bang-bang plays," Angelo Mosca described of the ‘late hit’ he had on Fleming. "He was coming up the sideline, and here I come. I went over the top of him, caught the back of his head and knocked him out cold."
That afternoon’s weather conditions were described as "ideal," but a storm loomed ahead unbeknownst to the BC Lions.
Quarterback Joe Kapp dug in his cleats and tightened his chinstrap. Angelo Mosca’s Ti-Cats were prepared for war, and Kapp had his troops expecting him to lead them into football battle. He valiantly kept his team close for most of the first half, but Angelo Mosca’s team had other plans.
The Ti-Cats scored points by striking first with a touchdown pass from Frank Cosentino to halfback Willie Bethea in the endzone. It was still anybody’s game at 7-0. Then in Ti-Cat territory and driving, BC tried to answer the call.
However, while already down, a seemingly late tackle by Angelo Mosca in the second quarter on the talented halfback Willie "The Wisp" Fleming snuffed out any chance BC may have had to stay in the game.
Fleming, who led the Western Conference in rushing, averaging an impressive 9.7 yards per carry and a total of 1,234 yards, was gingerly helped off the field and would not return.
Because personnel sent him to the hospital with severe neck pain, Fleming did not watch the whole game. This may have been a good thing because it spared him from witnessing the totality of the BC collapse.
The Lions never recovered from Fleming’s absence.
The Ti-Cats’ swarming and aggressive defense, led by Mosca, was too much for Kapp’s offense. More injuries hindered BC, and with their defense debilitated, the Ti-Cats steamrolled them 21-10 and became the 1963 Grey Cup Champions. The BC Lions, now with their tail between their legs, would have to wait for next season.
If you go back and watch Mosca’s tackle (see video below), you can see Fleming was already down, but the whistle had not blown.
Depending on the source you read, it is said that Fleming was also out of bounds. Sprinting from about 20 yards away, Mosca came crashing down with his knee onto the back of Fleming’s neck.
Even in slow motion, the evidence is inconclusive. It all happens so fast or, as Mosca says: "a bang-bang play."
It is also said that in the fourth quarter, Mosca hit Kapp late after the QB had already released a pass. Then, Mosca buried Kapp’s head into the turf with a forearm.
Kapp, who had many players around him backing him up, tried to confront the defender unsuccessfully. If this happened, it is not seen in the footage available and was just off-camera.
What is for sure, neither quarterback Joe Kapp nor defensive back Byron Bailey shook Angelo Mosca’s hand after the contest.
This late hit was mythologized thanks to a Vancouver newspaper that ran the headline: "Dirtiest Player Sidelines Star," Others also sensationalized the collision rather than focusing on the game itself, where, in all fairness, the Lions were outclassed in all phases.
All of this lifted Mosca to legendary status. Forever onward, he would be known as the villain to many BC fans and throughout the CFL. But he gave it no mind. His endearing personality made him a spokesperson for Mazda, Chevrolet, Yamaha, Kraft, and countless other companies. Mosca was arguably only second to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in popularity.
Angelo Mosca, the Wrestler
From 1960, Angelo Mosca wrestled part-time during the offseason to make extra money and stay in football shape.
Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn had suggested he give wrestling a shot. He later learned the ropes in promotions like Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, Alberta, and Roy Shire’s Big Time Wrestling in San Francisco, California.
Once retiring from football in 1972, his wrestling career boomed. Transitioning from the gridiron to the squared circle was a natural fit; many considered him a stiff worker and sometimes a bully.
Knowing Mosca personally, this is what long-time wrestling journalist Bill Apter had to say: "[Mosca is] one of the meanest, most-rotten, toughest human beings in the world… with the heart of a teddy bear. One of the nicest guys I ever met."
Mosca had successful runs in Toronto, working for Jack Tunney’s Maple Leaf Wrestling, and drew well until 1984.
The giant wrestler was versatile because he was very adept on the mic and worked well with more prominent men. But he was also agile enough to have superb matches with smaller opponents.
Angelo "King Kong" Mosca also challenged Bob Backlund in 1981 for the WWWF Championship.
Backlund, in his book, Backlund: From All-American Boy to Professional Wrestling’s World Champion, claimed that Mosca had a penchant for taking advantage of underneath guys and tried the same with him until he put a stop to it "by hitting him so hard across the face with a forearm shiver that it lifted his 319 lbs right off the mat and into the air!"
According to Backlund, much later at wrestling conventions, the two talked about the situation and even joked about it.
Mosca retired in 1986, but not before being involved in an infamous feud with Pat Paterson while managed by Lou Albano.
Watch Angelo Mosca smash Pat Patterson with a water pitcher:
"I greeted Joe Kapp with, ‘Hey Joe baby, I haven’t seen you in 48 years!’ And he said, ‘Go f*** yourself!’"
– Angelo Mosca on The Dr. Phil Show
The Incident Between Angelo Mosca and Joe Kapp in 2011
At a 2011 CFL alumni luncheon held at the Beatty Street Armoury in Vancouver, BC, everybody in attendance witnessed a shocking display of unrestrained passion with a healthy dose of absurdity when two septuagenarians decided to rekindle an almost 50-year feud. Sometimes old rivalries die hard, but nobody expected this!
The incident began after both were on stage and introduced. The master of ceremonies praised Joe Kapp and hailed him as the only QB in history to play in the Rose Bowl, Grey Cup, and Super Bowl.
The small yet lively crowd enthusiastically clapped and waited for Mosca to take his seat. Without any frills bestowed upon Kapp, the MC simply introduced him as an icon of the game.
As Kapp waited off to the side, he seemed to be in a joyous mood. And why not? After all these years, he was being remembered and honored.
Kapp smiled and chatted with the audience, who enjoyed the exchange. You’d think he was the MC! Now, as both men were only a few feet away from each other and once Mosca was comfortably seated, Kapp made a beeline towards him and offered him some flowers as a peace offering.
Mosca, unsure if the microphone in his hand was even on, gruffly spoke into it and told him to "Stick it up your a**!"
The crowd loved it! Claps and laughter followed. It was as if the two men were kayfabing the audience, remaining in character. It felt so real.
The tension in the room seemed to transport the audience back to 1963. And it was all a good show, right?
Well, Kapp wouldn’t be denied. After a slight pause, he approached Mosca again. He taunted him by now thrusting the flowers into his face. This annoyed and angered the big man.
After refusing his peace offering again, the confrontational Kapp slapped Mosca across the arm with the now bent flowers and began to backstep.
Since Mosca couldn’t tackle the QB like he used to, he instead answered from afar by recklessly swiping his cane and just missing Kapp’s face by a few inches. He only knocked off his glasses, but the audience now understood that things had just gotten real.
Joe Kapp: "I got a cane shot to the side of my head."
Angelo Mosca: "I was intending on hitting Joe. Why should I lie about it?"
– Dr. Phil Show
Mosca willfully aimed with his cane again, but his reflexes weren’t as quick as they once were. Instead of being reasonable, Kapp decided that closing in like a boxer was what he needed to do to neutralize the situation. He then landed as hard a right as a 70-plus-year-old could possibly land, flush onto Mosca’s chin.
As the stunned former wrestler began to buckle, Kapp landed a flurry of blows just for insurance and then kicked Mosca in the behind.
You wouldn’t have believed it happened if there weren’t video footage of the incident. We only needed a limping Willie Fleming, still not recovered from Mosca’s "late hit," to burst onto the scene and help Kapp double-team Mosca. Then the angle would’ve been complete! But alas, it didn’t go down like that.
A flustered Joe Kapp, now with broken glasses in hand, yelled out, "Sportsmanship! That’s what it’s all about."
Still visibly stunned by the whole affair, Mosca was now helped to his feet by two men, former BC linebacker and Kapp teammate Norm Fieldgate. Then an embarrassed Kapp picked up the flowers off the floor and said, "I brought him a nice peace, but he didn’t want to do it," and flung them away.
Then barely discernable, an audience member told him to "let it go, Joe."
A still animated Kapp, who initially understood what they were saying as "let him go," answered by motioning his arms and emphasizing, "I’m trying to let it go!"
Kapp publicly apologized for his actions in front of a now sparser crowd.
Mosca seemed to seethe in his seat. The ex-quarterback tried lightening the mood by telling some football stories, but the tension was unwavering. Both tried containing the adrenaline rushing through them as in their old football days.
In the end, both were allowed final words. A calmer Mosca mainly urged people to help the "dire straits" fund (now called CFLAA Support Fund) that financially helps retired players that have fallen on hard times. This is similar to the Cauliflower Alley Club for wrestling.
In closing, Mosca emphasized that he didn’t care about Joe Kapp and stepped off the stage.
When it was the disgruntled ex- quarterback’s turn to speak, the person surrendering the microphone had a pained expression, and for a good reason.
Kapp proceeded to bluntly admit that he had held a grudge for a long time and brought up the Willie Fleming incident once more because (coincidently?) the luncheon organizers had shown the footage in question.
He then went all out heel by saying that he’d spoken to Fleming, who now lived in Las Vegas. When Kapp asked Fleming what to tell the people in attendance, he claims that Fleming told him to tell everybody that he had a dog named Angelo that he "kicks the s*** out of every day!"
Needless to say, Joe Kapp was not invited to the alumni luncheon the following year, but Angelo Mosca was. And the cane he’d used against his former rival was auctioned off for $7,700, with the money raised going towards the alumni association’s "dire straits" fund (now called CFLAA Support Fund).
Just in case you were feeling bad for Joe Kapp’s BC Lions for losing the 51st Grey Cup against Angelo Mosca’s Ti-Cats, the BC Lions got their revenge the following season and won the 52nd Grey Cup against the Ti-Cats 34-24.
Perhaps they can settle their differences in a no-holds-barred steel cage match next time. What do you think? Who do you have? Joe Kapp or Angelo Mosca?
Watch the full unedited video of the Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca incident here:
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