Portland Wrestling TV History

Portland Wrestling TV History...


Yesterday's KPTV Website design and content ©2003-2004 by Ronald L. Dunevant..Credit due for Picture(ABOVE)LONNIE MAYNE AND FRANK BONNEMA..PORTLAND WRESTLING. Before there was The WWF..there was Portland Wrestling…a tv staple for 38 years has produced and introduced a giant list of names and future stars all from Portland Wrestling.. Many big league promoters would send their new talent to Don in Portland to learn the ropes and to refine their TV character in front of Kptv’s live cameras. Don Owens’s Portland Wrestling helped start the careers of some of the most famous names in the industry. Gorgeous George Gorilla monsoon Mil Mascaras Jimmy Sneak Jesse Ventura Roddy Piper Playboy Buddy Rose Super Star Billy Gram Jay Youngblood Steve Regal Curt Henning Pedro Morales Stan Stasiak Mad Dog Vachon Jonathan Boyd Killer Brooks, Dr. Ota, Johnny Eagles, Ricky Hunter, Sal Martino, Frank Dusek, Gino Hernandez,Jessie Barr,Clay Sugarman,The Gentile Mormon, Cowboy Frankie Laine, Sergeant Slaughter got his start there, Lou Thesz, , the Funks, Briscos, Rick Martel (twice PNW champion), Billy Jack,Al Madril, Even future actor Nick Nolte,Shag Thomas,The Teeenage Idol “Sandy Barr”,Von Steigers,Haru Sasaki,Lonnie Mayne,The Austrailans,Dutch Savage,John Rambo, ART BARR, STEVE DOLL,The Grappler,Col.DeBeers,Luke Brown, Ed Wiskwoski,Rip Oliver, Ed Francis, Royal Kangaroos, Sam Oliver (Ron) Bass, Iron Sheik, The Sheepherders, Don Leo Jonathan , Dory Funk, And many more who passed through the doors..and “Ringside Rosie”who always sat ringside to help out the ref and boo the bad guys..who passed on at the age of 80 and loved the wreslters.. To name a few, got their start on Kit’s Portland Wrestling. Don Owens’s focus was to build strong TV characters using Kit’s cameras. Don understood the power of comic chaos during the live TV interviews. Portland turned out some of the best witted TV wrestling characters in the industry. A long-running staple in Portland television, wrestling had exposure on other Portland stations, including KOIN (6), but found its greatest success, for nearly 25 years, on KPTV. Herb Freeman was the first host..I think for Koin..then Frank,Don and even the producer Chuck Grendall..filled in when Don was not available..that is what I understood..The remotes were sent via microwave link at 100 mw…with a reach of 25 miles(line of sight).along with two remote trucks…and lots of cable.. Don and his brother Elton would run the NW with Talent…Elton would have the matches in Salem and was shown on KVDO-3… Portland Wrestling returned to TV on KPTV in February 1967 with Frank Bonnema. It ran on Friday nights at 9:30 until wrestling was moved from the Armory to Portland Sports Arena in 1968. At that time, it moved to Saturday at 9:30. In 1970, it moved to 8:30. In 1979, KPTV started tape delaying the show until 11:00. Bonnema was the announcer (and a great one) until his death in October 1982. At that time, Don Coss & Dutch Savage took over. Savage was later replaced by Stan Stasiak. It wasn't until about 1972 that KPTV started broadcasting Portland Wrestling in color. Even for a few years after that, if KPTV broadcast another sporting event (Blazers, Ducks or Beavers) on a Saturday night, Portland Wrestling would be in wonderful black & white. They must have only had one color broadcast truck. It was on KOIN for many years and was broadcasted from The Portland Armory…here is some history Heidelberg Wrestling BROADCAST HISTORY JUL 1953-???eidelberg Wrestling BROADCAST HISTORY - : FRI 10:00PM-11:00PM It ran until..I believe when KOIN took over and was on KOIN from the 50’s to 1967.. FEB 1967 - : FRI 9:30PM-11:00PM [LIVE] JUN 1969 - NOV 1969: SAT 9:30PM-11:00PM [LIVE] OCT 1970 - SEP 1979: SAT 8:30PM-10:00PM [LIVE] SEP 1979 - DEC 1991: SAT 11:00PM-12:30AM Don.. ran wrestling in the Pacific Northwest, out of the Portland office, with the help of his son Barry Meanwhile, Dutch Savage ran the NWA office in Washington State, with main event wrestlers working out of both offices. Until PNW's closing in 1992, it was one of the longest-running family owned sports promotions in the country. Pacific Northwest Wrestling federation, grandfather, Herb Owen, was a boxing and wrestling promoter. The legendary Jack Dempsey even boxed in his federation! Later, he became strictly a wrestling promoter. And before George became Gorgeous, he wrestled for the Owens’s promotion. George was wrestling for PNW and married a girl in the area. She started sewing his outfits and spent a lot of money and time on them. George didn't want to just throw them over the ropes, he wanted to fold them properly to protect the outcome of his wife's labor. The crowd got annoyed with his fussiness and began badgering George to hurry and start the match. This became his gimmick. He took longer and longer, and the outfits got gaudier and gaudier. Then came the hair. Before long he'd acquired the nickname 'Gorgeous.'" He was not to be the only wrestler who gained fame during or after their time in PNW.. Don, and his brother, Elton, used to wrestle and referee for PNW. Both of them promoted in the '50s. Together, they ran a big territory in Oregon, Washington, Vancouver and even Hawaii. Elton retired in 1982. There were about 10 towns in PNW's federation area that were covered weekly, Sports Center in Portland was a converted bowling alley. Prices were usually $8.00 for ringside, $7.00 for the floor and $5.00 general admission. The early '90s saw an end to PNW. There was a new executive director of the Boxing and Wrestling Commission of Oregon, Bruce Anderson. And Billy Jack Haynes had come back to town trying to start up a new federation in 1988. Haynes got the necessary licensing and then attempted to woo away PNW's main talent (Brian Adams, Moondog Moretti, Rip Oliver and Mike Miller were among those who defected. All of this added to PNW losing the TV show had for over 40 years. Some of the sponsors (particularly long time sponsor Tom Peterson) went bankrupt and the station wouldn't keep producing the show (despite 'Portland Wrestling' drawing consistently good ratings in its time slot from the time when TV was invented). they sold the Sports Arena to a neighboring church."..some early roots go back to tv in 1948.Other sponsors Friendly Chevrolet..and so on…A 'typical' work week for the 15 or so stable of wrestlers in PNW.. They were all anxious to work, and we worked them long and hard hours. Some would work 5-6 nights a week, others 4-5. Don Passed away in 2002 at the age of 88…Dutch works in Real Estate..and Shag was the owner of The Ringside Restaurant. Frank did a report on KYXI Radio of the highlights… Big time wrestling was seen in Montana,Yakima,Seattle and other markets. On May 30, 1992, Don Owen said good bye to the fans. During his 10-year stint as ring announcer, Don Coss saw it all. From bad interviews to good matches, from flubbed intros to fabulous athletes, from connecting punches to undone heroes - Coss was there in the middle of it all - in the Pacific Northwest Wrestling Federation. Coss worked full-time in radio and at Portland's KPTV, Channel 12 on the weekends. In 1972 he began filling in several times a year as announcer/interviewer for "Portland Wrestling" when main announcer, Frank Bonnena, was out or ill. In 1982, Bonnena died and Coss became the full-time announcer for the show which aired on Saturday nights until its closure in 1992. “Frank had worked with the (PNW owners Don and Barry) Owens for 15 years, so I was stepping into some big shoes. I remember Frank was there in the black and white days of PNW but the night of the first color broadcast, he became ill and I stepped in.” When I worked for Coss at KWBY in Woodburn Ooregon…Don had told me that when Frank was ill in the hospital…Tony Borne and Bonnema would go over the notes for the matches.. Most of the wrestlers started out living at the Bomber Motel. Many of them moved out when they saw that PNW was going to be a long gig for them, but some lived there during their stay with the fed. A lot of the guys gathered there for parties and the fans followed them. A typical Saturday evening for Don Coss consisted of arriving at the Portland Sports Arena around 7:45pm. He would head to Don Owens’s office and get the lineup for that night’s taping. Owen would tell Coss some things he would want promoted in the course of the interviews or ring announcements and that was it. According to Coss” Then I’d head to the 'crow’s nest' and make out my cue boards (a list of special things about that night or upcoming matches) for reference. When I started, everything was live, but in the late 70s, they went to a ‘live to tape’ format which allowed for some editing, if there was an injury or something. But almost all of what the TV audience saw was the way it happened. Channel 12 never went out of their way producing the show. There was no third camera at ringside, just the two from the 'crow’s nest' that caught the action in the ring, then swung around for the interview segments where I was.” Those interviews were always on the fly. I knew who was up next, but sometimes another guy would try to horn in or the interview went badly. One time I was filling in for Tom Peterson (the local sponsor) and doing his commercials. He got me the script and told me not to let anything happen to his products (some TV sets). Jimmy “Superfly” Sneak and Bull Ramos, a mountain of a man, came to the interview segment and started out talking. That turned into yelling, then shoving and Sneak fell backward into some chicken wire. He jumped up and shoved Ramos. Pretty soon one punch led to another and Sneak went down. I was backing off, trying not to be involved, when Sneak got up and headed for one of the sets on the desk. He hit Ramos with it. The set bounced off his shoulder, and hit the floor and broke. We got some police to end it and went to a commercial! Funny thing about it all - that set sold for way more than it was worth because it had been used in a fight! You just never knew what would happen during an interview.” Don Owen had booked some of the top, and most expensive, names in the nation to come to the Portland Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday May 21, 1985. But three days prior to the arrival of the NWA and AWA world champions, the WWF's top heel, and the AWA World tag team champions, only 5,000 tickets had been sold to the 13,000 seat Coliseum. Often, as a feud got hot, one of the participants would call Don up to the Crow's Nest and would beg for a certain, Cage, Chain, Coal Miner's Glove,Apache Strap,Street match,loser leaves town or cut the hair match. Don would listen. As Lonnie Mayne would say, "There's excitement in the air!"I hoped to be accurate and do my best..MORE TO COME!!