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More....Memories of Portland Wrestling

Paul Wolfe from Issaquah, WA writes

One Saturday in 1981 I happened across "Big Time Wrestling" and was hooked. I loved watching the team of Rocky Johnson and Hacksaw Sawyer. I have many fond memories of a time when wrestling was less glitzy than it is now. I remember seeing Dynamite Kid team with Rip Oliver, the "Army" of 'Playboy' Buddy Rose, Rip Oliver and Matt Borne.


The first live wrestling event I saw featured Hack and Buzz Sawyer vs Rip Oliver and the Assassin as well as 'Playboy' Buddy Rose vs Ric Flair.

 

I miss those days... Flair/Oliver vs Piper/Billy Jack Haynes... wrestling just isn't the same now.

 


 

Mike Navalinski from Kirland, WA says:

Portland Wrestling. Oh my, where to begin....

Don Owens grapplers were a major part of my DNA as a child growing up in Kelso Washington. In the early 60s Portland Wrestling  became a part of our every Friday/Saturday night television viewing culture. Early stars were Nick Bockwinkle, Billy Whitewolf, the Mad Russian (the nastiest SOB on the face of the earth-once Don Owens had to bring in Mad Dog Vachon just to slow down his reign of carnage.Their matches were blood fests that ended with both men trading blows from their knees. We had the Destroyer, Shag and Tony and, once or twice a year Haystack Calhoun came to town and what a show that was!

In the late 60s we were treated to an awesome locker room full of crazies. We had Dutch and his kneepad, Tex McKenzie and Cowboy Frankie Lane, Tony and Lonnie, Mr. Fuiji and the Von Stiegers who had a funny habit of spitting rather large goobers into the crowd every time their opponents laid a loud and nasty karate chop across their chests.

Unequivocally my favorite of all had to be Beaureguard. No one began to exude the cockiness and benevolent showmanship he accomplished. When Beau cocked that thumb (his patented lethal-weapon finishing blow), Ringside Rosie as well as every other old lady and frothed over pig farmers in overalls (thanks Ripper Collins) would leap to their feet and try to get the unassuming referee-either Shag or Sandy Barr-to see what was coming.

Many memorable duels took place throughout the Northwest between Lonnie and Tony vs. Beau and his mysterious cohort, the Claw. One memorable story to close with: One night following a match at the Armory, a friend and I located the locker room from where the wrestlers emerged following their matches. We decided that tonight we were going to stick around and learn the true identity of the Claw. We waited for over an hour following the match and then, at last, the Claw emerged. He was wearing a shirt, tie and suit coat and.....he still had his mask on!!!! I pity any street bum he may have come across on his way to his car!

WWE can't even hold the jock of these wrestling greats! It's so sad there are no video tapes available that capture the thrills and spills that the golden days of wrestling offered as these hard working gentlemen worked their asses off every time they stepped into the ring, sending us home quivering in anticipation waiting for next Saturday night to arrive.

 

Note from Ricky Riot: Thanks for the terrific memories, Mike. As far as available videos, I do have some extra quality DVDs available! ;)

 


 

C.W. from Medford, OR remembers:

I remember when Portland Wrestling would come to the Medford Armory every other Wednesday and I would help set the ring up. Barry Owens would let me in free for helping.

I got to know a lot of wrestlers personally. Then, I moved to Portland and I would help at the Portland Sports Arena and that was fun. I met with Billy Jack Haynes and then I would help him out in doing the same with his Oregon Wrestling Federation.

Many, many memories. I just wish that Portland Wrestling or O.W.F. were still going. It would be fun to see the guys again.

 


 

Jordon from Portland, OR writes:

I sure wish Portland Wrestling was still around.  I remember as a kid we would watch it religiously every Saturday night.  I think making fun of Tom Peterson was half the fun :) We went to the Portland Sports Arena a few times as kids and it was about the most fun we ever had in our lives!

The angles they would use for the wrestlers where top notch!  I think my favorite moment ever was the Buddy Rose face turn.  At the time Billy Jack was my favorite wrestler in the world.   Buddy was ALWAYS the bad guy so for him to help Billy Jack was a huge shocker.

 

The Santa Rip Oliver was another great moment.  I don't think anyone expected that! He was out in the crowd all night giving out candy then whoops on Billy Jack "during a commercial" with a tire iron. I later heard Don Owen didn't want to show Santa beating up Billy Jack on TV.

I also remember seeing Dutch Savage at the Lombard Fred Myers buying groceries.  I was about 4 at the time and I still remember how friendly AND big the guy was!  I also loved how Roddy Piper would pop in from time to time.

I think you could make a strong argument that Portland Wrestling was the greatest professional wrestling promotion of all time.

 


 

Randy Schroeder from Olympia, WA shares:

One of my favorite memories of Portland Wrestling was a night that Lord Jonathon Boyd ripped the shirt off Shag Thomas and, on the way back to the dressing room, threw it out to the crowd. Me and another kid were playing tug-o-war with it. A security guard stopped us and flipped a coin. I won. I took that sweaty  t-shirt back and threw it in my mom's lap. She sewed it back together the next day and I wore it to school. I kept that shirt for many, many years.

One day, my friend came over. He was doing community service at the Veteran's Hospital in Vancouver, WA. Shag Thomas was there on his death bed and was telling my friend that out of the thousands of those Shags Arena shirts he had, he no longer owned one. I dug out that old shirt and gave it to my friend to give back to him. My friend told me that the shirt brought tears to Shag's eyes as he put it on.

Sad to say, Shag died 2 days later, wearing one of his Shag's Arena shirts.

 


 

Mike Summers from Durham, CA:

I never had the honor of attending a Portland Wrestling event at the old Sports Arena, but I did watch it on TV a couple of times at my (now-deceased) step-grandpa's house in Klamath Falls.  I remember watching a program that featured Brian Adams, better known as Demolition Crush, and Steve Doll challenge Ron & Don Harris, the Bruise Brothers, for the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championships.  I remember a young up-and-comer by the name of "Pretty Boy" Doug Masters face two wrestlers in one night, Mike Winner and C.W. Bergstrom.  I remember Doug was awesome on the microphone.  Damn!  I wonder where he is now!

Adrian AdonisI remember the late, great Portland legend Don Owen as not only a great promoter, but a fun ring announcer.  It's too bad we don't have anyone like him anymore.  From what I heard and read, NOBODY had a bad thing to say about Don or his son Barry.  I wish I would've met both now that I'm in the business.

I watched Don Coss call the matches with fire and vigor.  He brought a unique style to wrestling that I always admired.  He was one of the guys I looked up to when I was hoping to announce anything sports whether it be wrestling, football, basketball, etc.  He taught me a lot by me just watching him and listening to him.  I hope to meet him someday.

Though many have imitated, no one could duplicate the success of the original Portland Wrestling.  It's just a shame that the most recent incarnation had to close.  I hope that Don Coss can bring Portland Wrestling back to respectability.

There are a lot more things to say, but it would take me a while.  But I can say that if it weren't for Don Owen and Portland Wrestling, who would fans cheer for or root against.  Portland Wrestling is iconic and deserves a lot of respect for the contributions they made.  Let's bring back tradition!

 


 

Steve Markkanen from Monterey, CA writes:

Growing up in Portland, I'd always watch Portland Wrestling on TV. It was back to back with Roller Derby on Saturday night...lots of fun! Occasionally I'd go to a match in person...first in the old armory, then at the Sports Arena. One thing I always enjoyed about Portland Wrestling was that many of the stars changed roles...like from bad guy to good guy and sometimes back again. When I started following wrestling in the mid 1960s Tony Borne and Lonnie Mayne were tag team partners...as bad guys... but as the years went by they argued more and more during interviews (in Frank Bonnema's Crow's Nest after moving from the armory to the Sports Arena). Finally one night they had a big fight in the crows nest and broke up. Borne became a good guy and Lonnie's archrival.

After that, they had several grudge matches...not at the arena but at the Memorial Coliseum. I went to one of those, which was sold out...over 10 thousand wrestling fans...and Tony beat Lonnie in a long, vicious bout. A great show!

Naturally, after awhile they reconciled and became a tag team again...this time as good guys. It was great entertainment over the years, and Don Owen was a really imaginative promoter. They don't make 'em like him anymore.

 

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Dutch Savage, Jimmy Snuka and Sandy Barr

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