Until the 1960’s, wrestling in Australia was all over the place. Mostly single matches on shows also containing boxing contests.
There was one promotion in Melbourne at the beginning of the 1960's that made
the first serious - albeit unsuccessful bid for numbers. It was called
International Wrestling - and came to the attention of the mainstream media when
Collingwood captain Murray Weideman announced that he would be wrestling in the
promotion. Crowd numbers did jump, thanks to the support of Collingwood fans who
wanted to see their skipper fight in the squared circle. The club was on the
verge of sacking Weideman as skipper, until they found out that wrestling was
fake! Weideman worked for two months between August and October of 1962
(Collingwood didn't make the finals that year) usually as a tag team partner to
Salvatore Savoldi - a largely unknown face in wrestling - against Butcher Vachon
(adoptive father of Luna Vachon and the brother of Mad Dog Vachon) and either
George Bollas - who was the first wrestler in the late 1940's to use the moniker
The Zebra Kid (and it could be that this was Bollas' last series of matches
before retiring) - or another unknown in Pierre La Chappelle. In Melbourne these
matches were held at Melbourne's Festival Hall, and were refereed by infamous
heel Dirty Dick Raines.
In 1964, Jim Barnett and John Doyle created the original World Championship Wrestling. Broadcast on Channel 9, Barnett and Doyle brought to Australia a number of
better known American wrestlers, and enjoyed great success on television and at Festival Hall. Barnett continued alone when Doyle died in 1969, before finally selling up in 1974 and returning to the United States. The new owner, Tony
Kolonie, then sold the promotion to Ron Miller and Larry O’Dea, who cut back the overseas talent in favour of the limited number of local wrestlers. That – along with the passing of promoter Jack Little and Channel 9's switch to World Series Cricket – killed the fed in 1978.
The next couple of decades were hard for the local scene. In New South Wales wrestling was hamstrung by legislation in 1986 that placed it under the regulation of boxing and martial arts. It is believed that this stopped the naming of feds in
Sydney into the 90's. However it was in Sydney as well as WCW’s home in Melbourne that fared better than the others. In Sydney the business was maintained in a way by Roy
Heffernan, who – along with Al Costello – remain the only true Australians to really make it big on the scene in America. He trained two wrestlers in Ken Dunlop and Wayne
Pickford, and the knowledge line was expanded to other wrestlers.
In Melbourne it was more spasmodic with no clear direction until the mid to late 1990’s as the influence of George Julio became more apparent. A Sydney based promoter, Andi Black, attempted to start a televised promotion in 1993 called Future Wave Wrestling – but that fell apart when wrestlers and others were conned out of money and other items by Miss Black.
Meanwhile, TV interest was resurrected in 1985 when Channel 10 brought the World Wrestling Federation to Australia in the form of the very first
Wrestlemania. This was followed by late night presentations of the WWF’s flagship show at the time – Superstars of Wrestling. This was hardly pleasing for fans, even though Wrestlemania 2 and Wrestlemania 3 were shown in the plum slot of 8.30pm (I somehow missed Mania 2 on April 18, 1986). Occasional showings of Saturday Night’s Main Event were also made.
The first sign of trouble for Channel 10 came in 1988 when presentations of the Superstars of Wrestling became very spasmodic. The result of this was that the first Summerslam was never shown in Australia. When it returned Channel 10 started showing repeats twice a week in an attempt to clear the backlog. The result of this was that the 1989 Royal Rumble was also missed. However things were back on track by Wrestlemania 5. This enabled Channel 10 to show Summerslam in 1989 and the 1990 Royal Rumble. But 1990 saw the end of the run, as Channel 10 could not afford to renew the contract thanks to the excessive amount of the money they had spent on game shows and the like.
Channel 10 tried again in 1998 and the result was a resurrection in interest – coupled with the introduction of pay TV in Australia, enabling the presentation of the pay per views of both the WWF and
WCW. This also flowed into the local scene, fuelling a move away from the generic big men, and backyard wrestling forced the hands of the old school wrestlers to bring them into the fold for safety reasons.
Promotions appeared in Adelaide, and later Brisbane and Perth but they were localised with only the odd wrestler
travelling – mostly between Melbourne and Sydney. An attempt was made to change this by a boxing promoter and commentator, and wrestling fan Andy Raymond. What resulted was the Australian Wrestling
Supershow. Raymond tried to garner the interest of his employer, Fox Sports (which at the time was showing
Monday Night Raw), but the quality of the first show in 2002 mitigated against this. It was an opportunity missed as this was at a time when Australia had lost the WWE pay per views for an eight-month period on pay TV. Raymond persisted with the annual show, but gave it up after the fourth – and arguably best show in 2005.
The other attempt to change this was by an Adelaide based wrestling fan named James Brock, who formed NWA Australia and affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance in the
US - something that Jim Barnett had also done with the old WCW. Brock however was restricted by his own lack of knowledge and experience, and having the wrong people around him, and the fed collapsed.
remains in pieces with no real leadership, too many egos and too many non
wrestlers who think they know better than the experienced wrestlers and the
resulting splinters keeping the scene fractured. Above are
the links to Wrestling Planet - the sub section that covers Australian wrestling
currently, except for the Banned Feds which are also linked - along with a list
of Upcoming Shows and an article about a wannabe "wrestler" calling
himself "The Legendary One" who tried
to promote himself on Wikipedia.