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 World Wrestling Entertainment, New Japan Pro Wrestling or Total Nonstop Action Wrestling with several hundred smaller promotions, Australia only has approximately 30 smaller independent circuit promotions which exist in all but one of the states and territories, that being the Northern Territory. Tours from the North American product are regularly sold out in capital cities such as Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane.
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 Georg 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 World Wrestling Entertainment 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 PCW presented a show called Carnage, in which two wrestlers faced off in the first-ever barbed-wire match in Australia. The event was billed as a "Great Family Night Out", however before the bout an announcer warned parents to take their children from the Rowville arena if they were upset by blood.
The match saw real blood, fake glass and one contestant setting fire to a chair. The ring ropes were replaced with barbed wire and a bucket of thumb tacks was dumped on the ring floor. Much of the controversy surrounded rumours about the event, suggesting that the outpour of blood was so intense that it 'splattered' onto members of the crowd. Much of this can be attributed to people who had heard about the match giving their take of it on the Internet.
Despite the fact that this event was publicised as having a gory match and the preceding warning, people complained that the match in question was 'too much'. A concerned mother called Melbourne Talkback radio station 3AW, and a wrestler heard this call and also rang in. This resulted in the main media outlets covering the story. For the record, neither of the wrestlers were seriously injured. It also resulted in a police investigation. and a furore within the local Knox City Council.
Australian wrestlers overseas
Individual wrestlers originating in Australia have struggled for the most part to obtain any international recognition. Perhaps the two biggest names when one mentions Australia are the Fabulous Kangaroos - Roy Heffernan and Al Costello. They are 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) on three occasions, as well as being inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.
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. He appeared in several vignettes hyping his debut by showing Jack in the wilds of the Australian Outback, drinking beer with cows, and came down to the ring to the theme song by Rolf Harris, "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport". 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 and at Survivor Series 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.
In late 2011, 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 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 Sampson in a losing effort against The Ascension. In August 2014, Murphy began teaming with American Wesley Blake and in January 2015, Murphy and Blake 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.
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 who lost to Jerry Lynn, and Mark Mercedes at WWA: The Reckoning who lost to Rick Steiner.
Shows from North American promotions have been held in Australia as early as 1985 when WWE toured through Melbourne, Perth, Newcastle and through Melbourne and Brisbane again in 1986. That was the last Australia saw of a live North American product until WCW did a Nitro and Thunder taping in Melbourne, a Nitro taping in Brisbane and a Thunder taping and a house show in Sydney in 2000.
The next time WWE came to Australia was for the WWE Global Warning Tour in 2002 for what was the first WWE event in Australia in 16 years. The tour drew 56,734 people; it featured nine matches, where in the main event The Rock defeated Triple H and Brock Lesnar in a Triple Threat match to retain the WWE Undisputed Championship. Global Warning did not air on pay-per-view, but was released on home video.  WWE has visited Australia regularly since then by touring at least once a year since 2003, with the latest show by the Raw brand in July 2013 visiting Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne.
Australia also hosted shows presented by World Wrestling All-Stars and various smaller shows have featured overseas talent, but nothing of note.
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. In 2016, House of Hardcore presented House Of Hardcore 15 in Melbourne, Australia.
|1985 Tour||WWF Australian Tour||Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth House Shows.|
|1986 Tour||WWF Australian Tour||Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide House Shows.|
|2000 Tour||World Championship Wrestling||WCW: Nitro & Thunder TV Tapings|
|2000 Tour||I-Generation Superstars of Wrestling||Rodman Down Under Pay Per View|
|2001 - 2003 Tour||World Wrestling All-Stars||Series of pay-per-view events such as Inception and Eruption.|
|2002 Tour||WWE Global Warning Tour: Melbourne||A live event later released on DVD and VHS.|
|2003 Tour||WWE Ruthless Aggression Tour/Passport to SmackDown (Perth)||Raw Superstars/Smackdown Superstars (Perth)|
|2004 Tour||WWE Return of the Deadman Tour||Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane House Shows.|
|2005 Tour||WWE WrestleMania Revenge Tour/Survivor Series Tour||Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Newcastle, Adelaide & Brisbane House Shows|
|2006 Tour||WWE Road to Wrestlemania 22 Tour||Sydney & Brisbane House Shows.|
|2006 Tour||WWE Summerslam Tour||Melbourne, Newcastle, Sydney & Brisbane House Shows.|
|2007 Tour||WWE Survivor Series Tour||Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane House Shows.|
|2008 Tour||WWE SmackDown & ECW Tour||Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide & Brisbane House Shows.|
|2009 Tour||WWE Raw & ECW Tour||Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide & Brisbane House Shows.|
|2009 Tour||Hulkamania: Let The Battle Begin||Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, & Brisbane shows.|
|2010 Tour||WWE Smackdown Tour||Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide & Brisbane House Shows.|
|2011 Tour||WWE Raw Tour||Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide & Brisbane House Shows.|
|2012 Tour||WWE Raw Tour||Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane House Shows.|
|2013 Tour||WWE Raw Tour||Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide & Brisbane House Shows.|
|2014 Tour||WWE Live Tour||Melbourne, Sydney & Perth House Shows.|
|2015 Tour||WWE Live Tour||Brisbane, Melbourne & Sydney House Shows.|
|2016 Tour||House of Hardcore 15||Melbourne Show.|
|2016 Tour||WWE Live Tour||Melbourne, Adelaide & Sydney House Shows.|
|2016 Tour||NXT Live Tour||Perth, Canberra, Melbourne, Newcastle, Gold Coast & Sydney Shows.|
Throughout the 1990s, both WCW Monday Nitro and RAW were broadcast pay television networks with WCW Monday Nitro on TNT and WWE Raw on Fox Sports. 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.
In September 2002 negotiations between FOX8 and WWE fell through and SmackDown! was cancelled. 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. 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 SmackDown! returned on Saturday nights as well as the pay-per-views, starting with SummerSlam. 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.
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 and the WWE Fanatic Series began airing in October 2006.
After just over 3 years, TNA made its return. 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. TNA Impact! began airing on 5 April 2008 on Fox8. TNA Impact 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.
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.
Pay-per-views in Australia are shown on Main Event, the only provider in Australia. 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 2006) and WCW pay-per-views from around the same time until they were bought out in March 2001. Main Event also began broadcasting TNA pay-per-views in May 2006, starting with Sacrifice. One year later, TNA pay per views were lifted from the 13-day tape delay format to a live format. This ceased after the transmission of Slammiversary on 29 June 2015.
- List of professional wrestling organisations in Australia
- Professional wrestling in Japan
- Professional wrestling in Mexico
- Professional wrestling in New Zealand
- Professional wrestling in the United Kingdom
Notes and references
- From the video of the event - now a collector's item.
- Television coverage by the Nine Network at the time.
- Melbourne Age newspaper 12 September 2002.
- Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper
- Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2006). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame listings
- Reynolds, R.D.; Blade Braxton (2007). The Wrestlecrap Book of Lists!. ECW Press. pp. 339–340. ISBN 1-55022-762-9.
- Reynolds, R.D. (2003). WrestleCrap: The Very Worst of Pro Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 34. ISBN 1-55022-584-7.
- "WWF Superstars of Wrestling". WWF Television. Tampa, Florida. 7 February 1987. Syndicated.
- 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.
- Survivor Series 2003 results
- WWA The Eruption results
- "NXT News: Next live special announced, full spoiler results from Thursday's NXT TV tapings". PWTorch.com. Retrieved 16 January 2015.
- WWA The Reckoning results
- "TV Nitro to hit town"
- "WWE Global Warning tour from Melbourne, Australia". Archived from the original on 5 November 2002.
- "WWE Fanatic Series Season 1 Episode 26".
- "WWE Raw goes Live on FOX8". tvtonight.com.au. 2014-01-23. Retrieved 2014-01-31.