A Career In Australian Wrestling (Pt 1) – Ken Dunlop

By: Ken “Dazzler” Dunlop (Buy Ken’s Book HERE)

Hi everyone my name is Ken ‘Dazzler’ Dunlop l was a professional wrestler here in Australia from 1978-2000. I was blessed to come from another era to todays crazy world. When l was growing up in the 1960’s & 70’s life was so different, mostly in a good way. There were no computers, no mobile phones, life seemed easier. Professional Wrestling was massive back in those days World Championship Wrestling ran five shows a week all over Australia from the first week of February until the second week of December plus they had two one hour television programmes which always received great ratings. I was blessed that my Mum loved Wrestling and she and l would go to Festival Hall in Melbourne every Saturday night, we had permanent seats booked, 4 rows from the front on the aisle where the babyfaces would come out.

From where we lived it took us about an hour to get to Festival Hall which was great for us to share that time together. We liked to get there early so we could see the wrestlers arrive and hopefully get some autographs and chat with some of them. We got to know some of the local wrestlers well and would chat with them and got to know their wives and some of their children. After the show would finish Mum and l would get the tram home and at the stop where we would get out the local fish and chip , who would stay open for us as he was a mad wrestling fan and we would get some dim sims and give him a full blown account of the show. All three of us were happy. When l was 16 Sam Rossi and John Schneider asked me if l wanted to learn to become a wrestler and l jumped at the chance.

Ken Dunlop

There were 5 local wrestlers who ran the school, Sam Rossi, John Schneider, Casey Miller, Jim Dimeros and Fred Burger. Now training back in those days was so different to todays style. It was brutal. You would spend an hour doing break falls and 30 minutes doing bridging and then all the basic holds and counter holds, no crazy high spots like today, not at least until you had perfected all the basics and that is a skill which is sadly lacking today. Every hold , say like a hammerlock has 8 different ways of getting out of and today l think most would struggle with 2 or 3. Again training was tough especially with one of the teachers , he would yell and scream at us when we made mistakes, he would slap us around the back of the head or boot us up the backside really hard, so you had to learn to toughen up real fast.

Looking back on a lot of my early shows it was a different era, the guys would sit around smoking and drinking and a lot would be playing cards. It was all very kayfabe still back then, if someone from outside the business would walk into the dressing room someone would yell out kayfabe and no one would talk to each other or even look at each other until the person left the room. Only a few would exercise to warm up. I hardly ever heard anyone talk about their finishes and once the booker gave you the finish that was it, you never argued or complained otherwise you would be off the show. Even back then most of the local wrestlers who worked for WCW and ran their own local shows still had to work full time jobs.

To me the saddest part of WCW was that the promoter Jim Barnett who l think was a genius mostly used the local talent to put over the overseas talent. He didn’t believe that an Aussie could draw money. He at times pushed a local guy with a gimmick for a very short time, Rock Romero comes to mind when talking about this, he received a huge push for maybe 3-6 months and then nothing. It was only after Larry O’Dea and Ron Miller took over in 1975 that the local guys seemed to get a better push, guys like Johnny Gray, Kevin Martin and Johnny Doyle all received good pushes. We have always had so many great workers here but sadly not all got to shine.

WCW Australia promoter Jim Barnett

During my career I had the opportunity to wrestle with, as tag team partners, or wrestle against many former WCW wrestlers, like John Schneider, Casey Miller, Sam Rossi, Tony Marino ( referee legend), Mario Milano, Andy Harpas, Bobby Regan, Ken Medlin, Harold Kaliveros, El Greco, Steve Rackman, Kid Hardy, Kevin Martin, George Barnes, Jack Clayborn, Ron Miller, John and Con Tolios, Fred Burger and I am sure there’s a few l have temporarily forgotten. It was a great experience as each one had such different styles, some worked soft and some really stiff .

When l first started wrestling as part of the job l would have to help put the ring up before the show, then l would wrestle in the first or second match and on several occasions l would referee a match or two and then help pull the ring down, sometimes in the pouring rain or in the blistering heat. The local Melbourne scene was pretty good back in the late 1980’s, lot’s of small clubs and some Town Halls and lot’s of shopping centres. The biggest problem in Melbourne then was that different promoters would try to undercut each other to get the same club instead of trying to get new venues. Even though l was only 17 years old l thought that was crazy and l said several times why can’t you all work together. Something which is sadly still relevant today. Part 2 coming soon…

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