1 9 6 4 – 1 9 7 8 (Australia)
The Australian Channel 9 show World Championship Wrestling featured unlikely looking (and oddly named) stars such as Killer Karl Kox, Mario Milano (the original Italian Stallion – real name Mario Bulfone), Spiros Arion and Abdullah The Butcher.
For thousands of families around Australia, no Sunday lunch was complete without tuning in to Gentleman Jack Little and the boys.
In those days of black and white TV, the wrestling was about the most colourful stuff on air and EVERYONE was talking about it at school and at the factory or office the next day and during the week.
Television changed professional wrestling, making it more of a spectacle – more visual. It introduced gimmicks and the persona of wrestlers became exaggerated, so you could tell just by looking who were the bad guys and who were the good guys.
Waldo von Erich – all seven feet of him! – for example, played the part of a Nazi storm trooper, which was in especially bad taste when he wrestled the Jewish wrestler from New York, Mark Lewin – but you could certainly tell the ‘good guy’ from the ‘bad guy’.
But everyone had a gimmick; Czaya Nandor was “the Hungarian Freedom Fighter”; Dale Lewis was a clean-cut, patriotic, ex-Marine who often referred to his Korean War experience; and Roy Heffernan, one of the great ‘good guys’ of World Championship Wrestling, wore a slouch hat into the ring like he was the fair dinkum Aussie digger.
Brute Bernard – who was billed as “the wild man from the wilds of Canada” and communicated via a series of Neanderthal grunts – was the genuinely crazed article. Jack Little often said that Brute – who liked to hide a tap handle down his trunks in the ring – was the only wrestler who really scared him.
Many Australians at the height of World Championship Wrestling’s popularity were immigrants – predominantly Greek, Italian and Lebanese – so it was no accident that some of the biggest heroes in WCW were wrestlers like Spiros Arion, Mario Milano and Sheik Wadi Ayoub. The multi-cultural “Aussie” viewing public identified with their kinfolk.
The TV matches were basically scripted promotions for the live wrestling matches on the weekends at Festival Hall (Melbourne) and similar venues. Jack Little admitted that the television matches were “mismatched”;
“We had to mismatch, because we had to have five commercial breaks in the show. So we had to have one guy better than the other, so he could beat the other one whenever we wanted”.
So the studio audience wouldn’t suspect, Jack had a secret signal for winding up the match. He would wiggle his glasses. This meant the potential victor had five minutes to wrap up the match. And they did so using moves with names like the Brain Buster, the Abdominal Stretch, the Atomic Drop, Flying Head Scissors, the Sleeper Hold, Indian Death Lock, Japanese Chop and the Butcher’s Axe.
It may have been showbiz thinly disguised as sport, but they don’t make wrestlers like they used to.
During the Cold War period, one of the most hated wrestlers on World Championship Wrestling was rule-breaking “Russian” Nikita Kalmikoff. He was in fact, American!
Mario Milano died in December 2016 at age 81.
Killer Karl Kox
Waldo von Erich
Sheik Wadi Ayoub
Big Bad John
Playboy Gary Hart
Abdullah The Butcher
The Von Steiger Brothers
Czaya Nandor, the Hungarian Freedom Fighter
This page is dedicated to my late grandfather, Harold Dodgson – quite possibly
the world’s biggest fan of World Championship Wrestling