Hawaii: The Forgotten Wrestling Territory
November 22, 2006 by Cody Metcalf
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There have been pro wrestling promotions in Hawaii since 1935. Due to its central location and heritage; Hawaii wrestling promotions have all been a melting pot of Japanese, American and Hawaiian cultural dynamics. Therefore Hawaiian promotions have always been unique and different. These dynamics lead too many memorable moments in a territory that is alive today, but has long been forgotten bye the mainstream wrestling internet community. I believe it needs to be shared with the world wrestling community and not just kept in our local memories from our youth in Hawaii .
The cultural dynamics of the Hawaii wrestling territories is that the Japanese due to the bombings of World War II were always the evil heels. However a few mega stars from Japan would come in to Hawaii and were so popular with the Japanese Americans that they were cheered in Hawaii . Examples of this are Rikidozan the father of pro-wrestling in Japan , Antonio Inoki, and Giant Baba. Inoki and Baba later became so powerful they controlled the two largest promotions in Japan ; New Japan and All-Japan Wrestling. The Japanese also brought the martial art and stiff method of working matches. Also in the case of a young Keiji Muto a high flying style.
The Americans were similar to the Japanese, as the United States in fact invaded and took over Hawaii through Marine Core in the early 1800’s. Later the decedents of the original missionaries became greedy business men and exploited Hawaii and immigrant workers of all sorts of nationalities through the sugar cane and pineapple business. This made the white man, or “haoles” as locals and Hawaiians call Caucasians in a derogatory way the evil heel, that again unless some mega star from the mainland television came in to work such as Kerry Von Erich or Bruiser Brody, then they would be cheered. However for the most part the white wrestlers were always cocky, racist, and egotistic heels.
Hawaii has always been a land for warriors. Since the days of King Kamehameha there has been a warrior mentality. And the ultimate baby face in Hawaii is a strong, brave, and courageous man of Polynesian decent. Your popularity is determined bye your ability to defeat the “haole” or “Jap” as they came to conqueror and change your land and culture.
The first successful and prominent promoter in Hawaii was Al Karasick. He ran Hawaii from 1936 to 1962. During these years Oki Shikina, Lee Grable, Terry McGinnis, Tosh Togo and the next promoter Ed Francis were the best grapplers all holding the NWA Hawaii Heavyweight Championship. However the Golden Era of Hawaii wrestling was ready to begin with a change in promoter and the talented booking of “Lord” James Blears.
In 1962 and for the next 17 years, Ed Francis promoted wrestling in Hawaii on the highest rated TV program in Hawaii , “ 50th State Wrestling”. And through the creative booking and connections of James Blears and this TV program Hawaii had regular weekly sell-out of 5,000 people at the Honolulu Civic Auditorium. They also used the TV program to have a monthly loop around the neighbor islands, with stops in Hilo , Kona, Maui, and Kauai . The popular locals were Curtis “ The Bull” Iaukea, Neff Maiava, Sam Steamboat, a young Don Muraco whom was trained by Blears, and the next promoter and the Rock’s grandfather Peter Maivia.
The hated haole heels that held titles in Hawaii are all legends and many got there polishing their performance in Hawaii before going onto holding the World Title. Dusty Rhodes, Nick Bockwinkell, Dick The Bruiser, Killer Kowalski, Gene Kiniski, Billy Robinson, John Studd, Gene LaBelle the promoter of Los Angeles wrestling whom Hawaii had a connection with, Superstar Billy Graham, Buddy Rose, Freddie Blassie, Ripper Collins, Johnny Barend, Ray Stevens and The Sheik all main evented in Hawaii.
The Japanese that rounded out the talent were Toru Tanaka a later star of James Bond movies, and Harry Fujiwara whom become the WWF manager and Tag Team Champion Mr. Fuji. Therefore the 60’s and 70’s were an awesome time to be a wrestler in Hawaii . Many AWA and NWA title matches were held in Hawaii and the stars loved to get a quick vacation to Hawaii .
When Ed Francis sold his promotion to “High Chief” Peter Maivia in 1979, the business in Hawaii was already dropping off. Dynamite Kid said he once was paid $25 for a week tour of Hawaii in the early 1980’s on his way back from Japan . Don Muraco and Siva Afi were Maivia’s champions, while Bruce and Keith Hart held the tag title for awhile. In 1982 Peter Maivia passed away, and his wife Lia was left to run the promotion. She hired Lars Anderson a former AWA, Georgia and San Francisco wrestler to become her booker. Around this time the WWF lead bye the monopolizer Vince McMahon was killing off the territories, and from 1983-1988 Lia Maivia and Lars Anderson booked some of the most interesting but not entertaining wrestling with talent pieced together from all over the world.
The highlight of Polynesian Pacific Wrestling as it was called during this time was the Hot Summer Night Super Show held at Aloha Stadium on August 3rd, 1985 before 12,553 but reported as 19,955 fans. NWA World Champion Ric Flair went to a DQ with Siva Afi, Antonio Inoki and Bruiser Brody were both counted out, Rocky Johnson (The Rock’s dad) and Ricky Johnson won the Polynesian Tag Title from The Dirty White Boys, Lars Anderson beat Bad News Allen for the Polynesian Title, Andre The Giant, King Kong Bundy, and Kevin Sullivan were participants in a 6-man tag, Dusty Rhodes and Magnum TA beat Nikita Koloff, and Krusher Krushev, and Jimmy Snuka and Tatsumi Fujinami were also on the card. Polynessian wrestling continued on for 3 more years. The Von Erichs, Bruiser Brody, Ric Flair, Michael Hayes, and The Missing Link came in for bigger shows with there popularity from World Class TV. Jerry Lawler had a run with the title fighting Lars Anderson on a vacation from Memphis . They had a second Hot Summers Nights in a super empty Aloha Stadium. Later during the dying days you could watch the program on KITV Channel 4 at 10:30 on Saturday Nights, and you would see the emptiest Blaisedell Arena, with some of the most quite crowds, sloppy slow paced matches. It was a shame what the promotion turned into. In the dying days Super Fly Tui, The Samoan Connection Farmer Boy Ipo and Leroy Brown, Adrian Street and a young Terry Brunk aka Sabu where seen in dwindling promotion. It has been rumored Lia Maivia stiffed all the fly in talent for the second Hot Summer Night show, and this was the nail in the coffin for Polynesian Pacific Wrestling. Today on E-Bay you can order a bootlegged 12 hour DVD set of this promotion; it is worth it just for the curiosity and strange booking.
In 1996 Lars Anderson resurfaced to form World League Wrestling. This however was nothing more than an independent promotion with wrestlers from his school, and super has beens from the dying days of Polynesian Pacific Wrestling. Once in awhile Don Muraco would come in to help draw a crowd.
In 2000 another independent IXWF with a connection to the National Wrestling Alliance was formed. This group was turned into NWA Hawaii, and was lead bye journeyman east coaster JT Wolfen, whom held the NWA North American Title for two years. In 2003 Don Muraco with the financial and television production abilities of Linda Bade started Hawaii Championship Wrestling. They have done well for an independent holding cards on military bases and drawing 200 regularly. They also have had good spots on bigger cable stations in Hawaii . There best local produced talent is a wrestler named Kaimana. He has wrestled Samoa Joe, Jushin Liger, Kensuke Sasaki, and Teddy Hart in his brief career. They have had Kensuke Sasaki and Masahiro Chono as champions. Taiyo Kea and Umaga have held the tag titles. They also have had a super card at the Blaisedell with Sting, Great Muta, DDP and others among fly in talent. Today there are three groups in Hawaii . NWA Hawaii, HCW and Action Zone Wrestling, whom has had AJ Styles come in. If they could all work together they could hold some great shows.
In 2004 a local promoter name Cody Metcalf with the help of booker Brian “Crush” Adams and agent David Penzer held the 4 show WPCW “Superstars, Legends and Locals” tour. On it was special guest Bret Hart, Samu, Jamal, Buff Bagwell, Perry Saturn, Sabu, AJ Styles, Teddy Hart, Jimmy Snuka, The Barbarian, Prince Iaukea, Don Muraco, Kaimana, and JT Wolfen. It drew 400 fans in Hilo . The AJ Styles vs Teddy Hart match was the first ever and was popular with the internet community and Bret Hart. The brutal series of Sabu vs Saturn matches were also great.
For seventy years Hawaii has been a hotbed for wrestling. The isolation and warrior spirit of its fans will always help it have loud and exciting nights of wrestling action. While its outsider influence and occasional appearances will help the locals aspire to greatness. Hawaii wrestling is full of “mana” and will live forever.
by Cody Metcalf ..
Robert E wrote:
Interesting article Cody. I agree that the Hawaiian style of wrestling is a unique and eclectic mix of styles. I live on the right coast (that's east) of the US and I do not get to see much action as I have seen in the promotional video on the Action Zone Wrestling . com wesite. They have some amaizing arial moves that some of the high flyers else where could learn from. Good luck in further writings & I hope to see the Hawaiian influence show up here in the city of brotherly love some day.
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