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Professional wrestling in Australia

Professional wrestling in Australia makes up a small part of Australian culture. Unlike the North American or Japanese products which have large, globally renowned organisations such as WWE, AEW, New Japan Pro-Wrestling or Impact Wrestling with several hundred smaller promotions, Australia only has approximately 30 smaller independent circuit promotions which exist in all Australian states and territories. Tours from the North American product are regularly sold out in capital cities such as Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

History

Professional wrestling in Australia first gained distinction in the early 1900s, however there were very few shows promoted. Nonetheless, stars such as Clarence Weber, Jack Carkeek, Clarence Whistler and George Hackenschmidt toured the country. As time went on, the sport's popularity began to grow, particularly in the 1930s as people sought to find relief from The Great Depression.

Throughout the 1940s professional wrestling suffered due to World War II but in the 1950s it reached new highs as many stars from overseas were imported and created larger crowds and, in turn, a larger market. Established names such as Lou Thesz, Dr. Jerry Graham and Gorgeous George toured the country during the decade.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Australia established its only major promotion in WCW Australia. WCW had a television deal with the Nine Network, the first in Australia to do so and attracted crowds between 2,000 and 9,000 people on a weekly basis. International stars such as Killer Kowalski, Ray Stevens, Dominic Denucci, Mario Milano, Spiros Arion, Karl Gotch, Bruno Sammartino, Gorilla Monsoon and local stars Ron Miller and Larry O'Dea were all involved with the promotion which grew steadily through the 1960s and was a well known product in the 1970s. However, with the introduction of World Series Cricket, WCW was left with no television deal and was forced to close down in 1978. This sent the Australian market into a large decline. With no access to any product anywhere in the world, the Australian market was almost dead until the World Wrestling Federation became a prominent figure in professional wrestling in the mid-1980s.

Australia has depended on the North American product since 1985. Hosting tours in 1985 and 1986 kept a solid viewing in the sport through programmes such as Superstars of Wrestling and Saturday Night's Main Event. Small local promotions have tried to take advantage of the popularity of professional wrestling in more recent times, but there has been nothing of note since the demise of World Championship Wrestling in 1978.

However the local scene has been the subject of controversy.

In September 2002, a promotion called Professional Championship Wrestling presented a show at the Rowville Community Centre in which two wrestlers faced off in a contest that used thumbs tacks in a ring surrounded by barbed wire. Melbourne talk back radio received phone calls claiming that the audience was "showered with blood". Despite claims by a promotion spokesman that the event was theatrical, the Professional Boxing and Contact Sports Board investigated on the grounds that such a claim was not enough. Police also investigated and the Knox City Council reviewed the promotion's use of the venue after being led to believe the event was a "family event".[1]

Australian wrestlers overseas

Individual wrestlers originating in Australia struggled for a long time to obtain any international recognition. Perhaps the two biggest names when one mentioned Australia were The Fabulous KangaroosRoy Heffernan and Al Costello. They were the only Australian wrestlers to make it big in the United States and held the Florida and Texas versions of the NWA World Tag Team titles as well as the north east version of the NWA United States tag team titles in the Capitol Wrestling Corporation (later to become WWE)[2] on three occasions, as well as being inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.[3]

Australian wrestler Peter Stilsbury was brought into the WWF in the mid-1980s under the name Outback Jack in response to the mainstream popularity at the time of the Australian film Crocodile Dundee.[4] He appeared in several vignettes hyping his debut by showing Jack in the wilds of the Australian Outback, drinking beer with cows,[5] and came down to the ring to the theme song by Rolf Harris, "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport".[6] Outback Jack started his career touring in Canada with Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling.

In more recent times Nathan Jones made two WWE appearances in 2003 at WrestleMania XIX[7] and at Survivor Series[8] later that same year even though he only actually wrestled at the latter event, making him the first Australian wrestler to ever perform on a WWE pay-per-view event. Jones also performed on two World Wrestling All-Stars pay-per-views, losing to Jeff Jarrett at WWA: The Inception and to Scott Steiner at WWA: The Eruption.[9]

It would be in late 2011 that things started to change. WWE signed an Australian female wrestler Tenille Dashwood to its development territory NXT. She was originally from Melbourne. Dashwood debuted as a clumsy dancer Emma, and in early 2014 was elevated to the main roster. On 6 April 2014 she became only the second Australian wrestler to perform on a WWE pay per view and the first ever woman to do so when she was a part of the Diva's Title match at WrestleMania XXX. She later appeared at the 2014 Survivor Series in November. In 2017 she became the first Australian to perform at three WWE pay per view events when she was part of the fatal five way for the Raw Women's Championship at No Mercy. She made it four at TLC in opposition to Asuka.

In early 2013, WWE signed another Australian wrestler Buddy Murphy, known in Australia as Matt Silva to NXT. Murphy made his televised debut on NXT 15 May 2014, teaming with Elias Samson in a losing effort against The Ascension.[10] In August 2014, Murphy began teaming with American Wesley Blake and in January 2015, Blake and Murphy scored an upset victory over The Vaudevillains and the following week defeated the Lucha Dragons to win the NXT Tag Team Championship, making Murphy the first Australian to hold a championship within the WWE.[11] In early 2018 Murphy joined the Cruiserweight division and participated in the Cruiserweight title tournament losing to Mustafa Ali in the quarter finals.[12] He soon become a top contender to the new champion Cedric Alexander, and he managed to defeat Alexander at WWE Super Show-Down in his main roster pay-per-view debut in his home town Melbourne to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship.[13] On the 23 February 2022 episode of Dynamite, he made his debut for All Elite Wrestling as Buddy Matthews joining the "House of Black" faction with Malakai Black and Brody King.[14]

In April 2015, WWE signed both Billie Kay and Peyton Royce to NXT.[15] The pair later formed the team The IIconics under their original name of The Iconic Duo.[16] They were elevated to the main roster on the SmackDown brand just after WrestleMania 34[17] and made their main roster pay per view debut at WWE Super Show-Down with a victory over the team of Asuka and Naomi.[18] After appearances at WWE Evolution, the 2019 Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber, the IIconics won the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship at WrestleMania 35.[19] On 9 October 2021, The IIconics now using the name The IInspiration signed a contract with Impact Wrestling and will make their debut at Bound for Glory (2021).[20][21]

In 2017, Rhea Ripley joined WWE and participated in the Mae Young Classic.[22] The Adelaide-based wrestler known locally as Demi Bennett would go on to participate in the second Mae Young Classic in 2018, but at TV tapings in Birmingham, England, Ripley became the first Australian woman to win a WWE controlled title when she defeated fellow Australian Toni Storm in a tournament final to be the inaugural winner of the NXT UK Women's Championship.[23] Ripley consequently made her first pay per view appearance at the 2019 Royal Rumble as a participant of the Women's Royal Rumble match.[24] At Wrestlemania 37 Rhea defeated Asuka to win the Raw Women's Championship[25]

In 2018, Toni Storm signed a WWE NXT UK contract[26] and subsequently won the NXT UK Women's Championship.[27] On 23 July 2021, Toni Storm made her WWE SmackDown debut defeating Zelina Vega.[28][29]

In 2019, WWE signed Bronson Reed and Brendan Vink, both reporting to WWE NXT.[30] Bronson Reed won his first championship, the NXT North American Championship in May 2021, defeating Johnny Gargano.[31] Brendan made his first WWE Raw appearance in 2020 losing a tag team match against the Street Profits.[32]

On 25 June 2021, Robbie Eagles who currently competes for New Japan Pro Wrestling became the first Australian to win a championship in Japan, defeating El Desperado for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo Dome.[33]

Only two other Australian wrestlers have appeared on a worldwide pay-per-view event to date at all. They are Chuck E. Chaos at WWA: The Eruption[9] who lost to Jerry Lynn, and Mark Mercedes at WWA: The Reckoning[34] who lost to Rick Steiner.

Foreign tours

Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan face each other at Hulkamania: Let The Battle Begin in Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena.

Shows from North American promotions have been held in Australia as early as 1985 when the WWF toured three cities, they did a second tour in 1986 across five cities. That was the last Australia saw of a live North American product until WCW did a Nitro and Thunder taping in Melbourne,[35] a Nitro taping in Brisbane and a Thunder taping and a house show in Sydney in 2000.

In 2000, I-Generation Superstars of Wrestling held a pay-per-view in Sydney headlined "Rodman Down Under" where Dennis Rodman would lose to Curt Hennig with the i-Generation Championship being contested. Australia also hosted shows presented by World Wrestling All-Stars, including two pay per views events, The Inception in 2001 from Sydney and The Eruption in 2002 from Melbourne.

After a 16-year hiatus, WWE (previously known at the WWF) returned to Australia for the 2002 WWE Global Warning Tour taped event from Colonial Stadium in Melbourne.[36][37][38] Since then, WWE has returned to tour Australia at least once a year with House shows events. In 2016 WWE's developmental brand WWE NXT toured Australia for the first time including a taping a NXT TV episode which aired on WWE Network about one month later. In 2018 WWE held their first Australian live pay-per-view WWE Super Show-Down from the Melbourne Cricket Ground.[39]

2009 saw the first international tour other than WWE since 2002 when Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff held the Hulkamania: Let The Battle Begin tour throughout Australia in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, and Sydney.[40] Wrestlers included Hulk Hogan (wrestling in Australia for the first time), Ric Flair (who came out of retirement), Spartan-3000, Heidenreich, Eugene, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake and Orlando Jordan. Despite having ONE HD television cameras present, this event has never been released on DVD.[41]

In 2016, House of Hardcore presented House of Hardcore 15 in Melbourne, before returning in 2017 for a tour of Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, and Brisbane. They returned in 2018 for a tour of Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, and Sunshine Coast, the 2018 tour also saw the NWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis made four championship defences against Mark Cometti, Jonah Rock, Robbie Eagles and Jack Bonza.

On 9 January 2018, New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) announced their first Tour of Australia, "New Japan Fallout Down Under" tour in which they would visit Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth. The events took place between "The New Beginning in Osaka" and "Honor Rising: Japan 2018" on the NJPW calendar. Announced for the tour was Kenny Omega, Kazuchika Okada, Minoru Suzuki, Cody, Matt and Nick Jackson, Yuji Nagata, Tomohiro Ishii, Kushida, Evil, Bad Luck Fale, Sanada, Will Ospreay^, Tanga Loa, Juice Robinson, Tama Tonga, Lance Archer, Chase Owens, Rocky Romero, and Toa Henare. Will Ospreay only appeared on the Sydney and Perth legs, while Hiroshi Tanahashi missed the tour due to an injury. All the events were taped and were uploaded to NJPW World on delay without any commentary.[42][43][44][45] In June 2019, NJPW returned to Australia for their Southern Showdown tour in Melbourne and Sydney, with the Melbourne show broadcast live on Pay Per View through Fite TV.[46]

On 26 January 2018 Progress Wrestling announced an Australian tour for April 2018, which would see them partner up with local promotion.[citation needed]

Various Australian wrestling shows like World Series Wrestling have featured overseas talent not signed to a major North American promotion.

In late 2022, NJPW announced NJPW Tamashii, a series of events that would be held in Australia and New Zealand.[47] The Tamashii brand was officially launched in September, with the first Australian show taking place on 13 November in Sydney.[48]

Events list

WWE Raw-branded event WWE SmackDown-branded event WWE NXT-branded event
Year Promotion Tour Location(s) Event type
1985 WWF WWF Australian Tour Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth House shows
1986 WWF WWF Australian Tour Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide House shows
2000 WCW WCW Australian Tour (Nitro & Thunder TV Tapings) Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne Taped events (WWE Network)
2000 i-Gen. Superstars of Wrestling: Rodman Down Under Sydney Taped event
2001 WWA WWA The Inception Sydney Pay-Per-View event (Main Event)
2002 WWA WWA The Eruption Melbourne Pay-Per-View event (Main Event)
2002 WWE WWE Global Warning Tour: Melbourne Melbourne Taped event (WWE Network)
2003 WWE WWE Raw Ruthless Aggression Sydney, Melbourne House shows
2003 WWE WWE Passport to SmackDown Perth House show
2004 WWE WWE SmackDown Superstars Return of the Deadman Tour Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne House shows
2005 WWE WWE Raw WrestleMania Revenge Tour Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney House shows
2005 WWE WWE SmackDown WrestleMania Revenge Tour Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide House shows
2005 WWE WWE Raw Survivor Series Tour Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne House shows
2006 WWE WWE Smackdown Road to Wrestlemania 22 Tour Sydney, Brisbane House shows
2006 WWE WWE Raw SummerSlam Tour Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney, Brisbane House shows
2007 WWE WWE Raw Survivor Series Tour Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane House shows
2008 WWE WWE Smackdown ECW Tour Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide, Brisbane House shows
2009 WWE WWE Raw Live Tour Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane House shows
2009 - Hulkamania: Let The Battle Begin Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane Taped events (Never Released)
2010 WWE WWE Smackdown Live 2010 Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane House shows
2011 WWE WWE World Tour Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane House shows
2012 WWE WWE Raw World Tour Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane House shows
2013 WWE WWE Raw World Tour Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane House shows
2014 WWE WWE Live Melbourne, Sydney, Perth House shows
2015 WWE WWE Live Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney House shows
2016 HOH House of Hardcore 15 Melbourne Taped event (HOH on Twitch)
2016 WWE WWE Live: Australia Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney House shows
2016 WWE WWE NXT Live (NXT TV Taping) Melbourne Taped event (WWE Network)
2016 WWE WWE NXT Live Perth, Canberra, Newcastle, Gold Coast, Sydney House shows
2017 HOH House of Hardcore Australia Tour 2017 Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane Taped events (HOH on Twitch)
2017 WWE WWE Live: Australia Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane House shows
2018 NJPW Fallout Down Under Tour Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Perth Taped events (NJPW World)
2018 PW Progress x Australia Tour
Perth, Melbourne, Sydney Taped events (Demand Progress)
2018 HOH House of Hardcore Australian Tour 2018 Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Sunshine Coast Taped events (HOH on Twitch)
2018 WWE WWE Super Show-Down Melbourne Pay-Per-View event (WWE Network)
2019 NJPW Southern Showdown Melbourne, Sydney Pay-Per-View event (NJPW World)
2019 WWE WWE Live: Australia Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane House shows
2022 NJPW NJPW Tamashii Sydney Taped events (NJPW World)
2023 NWA The World is a Vampire: NWA vs. WAOA
2023 Impact Wrestling Impact Down Under Tour Wagga Wagga
2023 NJPW NJPW Tamashii Sydney Taped events (NJPW World)[49]
2024 WWE Elimination Chamber: Perth Perth Pay-Per-View event (WWE Network)

Television programming

History

Throughout the 1990s, both WCW Monday Nitro and WWE Raw were broadcast pay television networks with WCW Monday Nitro on TNT and WWE Raw on Fox Sports.

In September 2002 negotiations between FOX8 and WWE fell through and SmackDown! was cancelled. This situation (that also affected WWE pay per views) continued until August 2003 when SmackDown! returned on Saturday nights. RAW was moved from Fox Sports to FOX8 and was shown on Friday nights. In order to prevent spoiler hunting on the internet, FOX8 moved WWE programming to timeslots closer to their United States air date. Finally it start airing RAW live on 4 February 2014[50]

In February 2005, WWE Heat, WWE Velocity and The WWE Experience were added to Fox8 and set up a large wrestling program on Saturdays and Sundays. Despite Heat, Velocity and Experience all being cancelled in the United States the shows continued to be shown in Australia to fulfill contractual obligations. When SmackDown! was moved to Friday nights in the United States, in Australia it remained on Friday afternoons. ECW on Sci Fi began broadcasting in Australia from 2 September 2006 in the place of WWE Velocity on Saturdays.

TNA Impact! began airing on 5 April 2008 on Fox8. It had been airing on Saturday nights on Fuel TV at 8.30pm AEST from June 2011, but this ceased in November 2014 when Fuel was absorbed by Fox Sports. For the remainder of 2014 and into 2015 it was shown on Main Event free of the usual charges, until 27 June 2015.[51]

Free to air wrestling programming has been scarce on Australian television in recent times. However, with the conversion to Digital Television, several wrestling programs were purchased. In June 2008, WWE After Burn aired on Channel 9 on Sunday afternoon. However, it later aired at 1am on Tuesday mornings. TNA Xplosion began airing on One HD in prime time at 8:30pm on Thursday but by late 2010 it had been replaced in effect by the WWE Experience.

A cut down, one-hour version of WWE Raw and SmackDown Live aired from 2017 until 2020 on Nine Network's 9Go!.[52] From January 2020, Kayo Sports began airing WWE Smackdown, WWE Raw and WWE NXT.[53]

Pay-per-view

Pay-per-views in Australia are shown on Main Event, the only provider in Australia. WWE's major pay-per-views Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, King of the Ring, SummerSlam and Survivor Series began to be shown on pay-per-view by the late 1990s. Main Event has been broadcasting pay-per-views for both WWE starting from the late 1990s until the present time (including the Fanatic Series from October 2006 for a time) and WCW pay-per-views from around the same time until they were bought out in March 2001.

At the beginning of 2003 WWE pay-per-views were also lost to Main Event in the same deal that cost Australian fans SmackDown. Village Cinemas showed them for a few months until August 2003 when they returned to Main Event, starting with SummerSlam. A special NWA-TNA package replaced it in early 2003 but only lasted a year. NWA-TNA pay-per-views were shown once a month throughout 2003 during a time when they were being presented weekly in the United States.

After just over 3 years, NWA-TNA made its return—now just TNA. Beginning with TNA Sacrifice 2006 on 27 May 2006 on tape delay, this continued for 12 months before events started being broadcast live in May 2007. This ceased after the transmission of Slammiversary on 29 June 2015.[51]

Three World Wrestling All-Stars pay per views also aired live in Australia—WWA The Inception, WWA The Eruption and WWA The Reckoning.

References

  1. ^ "'Scary' wrestling could be illegal". The Age. Melbourne. 12 September 2002. Retrieved 8 May 2021.
  2. ^ Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2006). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  3. ^ "Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame". www.pwi-online.com. Archived from the original on 14 July 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
  4. ^ Reynolds, R.D.; Blade Braxton (2007). The Wrestlecrap Book of Lists!. ECW Press. pp. 339–340. ISBN 978-1-55022-762-8.
  5. ^ Reynolds, R.D. (2003). WrestleCrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 34. ISBN 1-55022-584-7.
  6. ^ "WWF Superstars of Wrestling". WWF Television. Tampa, Florida. 7 February 1987. Syndicated.
  7. ^ Jones was originally meant to team with The Undertaker but was (kayfabe) beaten down by their opponents before the match. Jones appeared later in the match.
  8. ^ "Home".
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  10. ^ "WWE NXT: May 15, 2014".
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  13. ^ "Buddy Murphy lays claim to the WWE Cruiserweight Championship".
  14. ^ "Buddy Matthews Makes AEW Debut On 2/23 AEW Dynamite | Fightful News". www.fightful.com. Retrieved 18 March 2022.
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  16. ^ "The Iconic Duo hit the campaign trail in search of NXT Year-End Award votes".
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  20. ^ "The IInspiration sign with Impact Wrestling, set for Bound for Glory". WON/F4W - WWE news, Pro Wrestling News, WWE Results, UFC News, UFC results. 9 October 2021. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
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  22. ^ "Meet Australia's next WWE star".
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  31. ^ "Q&A: Australia's Bronson Reed Fulfills His Dream of WWE Success | Sports Illustrated". www.si.com. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  32. ^ "WWE Raw 3/23/20 Results | Fightful News". www.fightful.com. Retrieved 1 August 2021.
  33. ^ "NJPW WRESTLE GRAND SLAM IN TOKYO DOME LIVE RESULTS: IWGP TITLE MATCH". Wrestling Observer/Figure Four Online. 24 July 2021. Retrieved 7 August 2021.
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  45. ^ "非対応端末エラー:Uliza".
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  51. ^ a b "TNA final episode airs on MAIN EVENT - 27 June 2015 - MAIN EVENT". Archived from the original on 5 March 2019. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  52. ^ "WWE, Nine Network reach broadcast agreement".
  53. ^ Chris Stead (7 January 2020). "Kayo Sports adds WWE SmackDown, RAW and NXT". Finder. Retrieved 29 July 2021.
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