Many years ago, Australia was one of the top seasonal territories in the World of professional wrestling with weekly tv tapings and record live gates especially in Sydney and Melbourne. Fast forward to the 80s and Australian wrestling was surviving on running shows in RSL and Leagues clubs, not quite the glamour of yesteryear but they were still running up to 4-5 times a week giving the wrestlers a healthy payday and fans some quality wrestling to watch every weekend. However, these shows dwindled in numbers and eventually there were only a handful of promoters running certain venues, especially in NSW.
I grew up in Dubbo in the 80s and there was never any live wrestling to go and see. Infact the first live wrestling I ever saw was in Wollongong in 1990 at Warrawong Westfield dubbed Westsfield Tag Team Challenge. This occurred over the period of the school holidays on Thursday night and Sunday afternoons. It featured Australian stars such as Ken Dunlop, Wayne Pickford, Ace Fenton and Animal Harpas. When Mark Mercedes, Tyrone Townsend and Greg Bownds came up with IWA, their main aim was to give the Australian wrestling fans a platform for live “weekly” wrestling shows in Sydney again. Their introduction to the NSW market was no ordinary adventure either, a 14 night nightly run at the first ever Easter Show outside Moore Park at the new Sydney Showground in Olympic Park. These shows were held in the Woodchopping Arena and drew daily crowds of up to 2000 fans (both casual and hardcore).
IWA even flew in Rasta the Voodoo Man (Lester Speight) who later gained recognition as Terry Tate: Office Linebacker in the Reebok ads during Superbowl XXXVII. They coronated their first heavyweight champion during this tour and announced they would be running Bankstown Trotting Club and Central Coast Leagues Club on a monthly basis. They would trial the Trotting club every 2nd Wednesday as well but it didn’t end up working due to the new trend of people staying at home and watching TV during the week. IWA used established wrestlers such as Mercedes and TNT themselves along with Greg Stekker, AJ Freeley, Sgt Bianco and Bill Condolan. With their wrestling school they were also blooding young wrestlers to the market such as Stephen Swann, Billy Cole, Mehdi Basiri and Rob Matrix.
Eventually IWA would introduce other clubs under their promotional banner such as Burwood RSL, Merrylands RSL, Dee Why RSL and regular trips to Dubbo, Batemans Bay, Coffs Harbour and Forster. At their peak IWA would be running 8-10 shows each month with at least one wrestling in Sydney each weekend. On two separate occasions IWA ran 2 week tours at Australia’s Wonderland where it would have brought back memories to fans from the early 90s when the US promotion IWA ran a 2 week show there with Paul Orndorff, Kamala, Larry Cameron and the like. IWA even caught the attention of mainstream media with Triple M favourite Stuart Cranney coming to many shows and featured stars on his radio broadcasts. Another IWA fancier was Channel V’s Jabba which culminated in the first live wrestling match on Australia TV since the WCW days when Phil Picasso won a Battle Royal for the IWA Heavyweight Title.
IWA introduced mixed wrestling to the Australian market with young rookie Madison often teaming with Rob Matrix to go up against Mark Mercedes and Miss Fit. IWA have even run shows overseas doing shows in New Caledonia. IWA are still running today and are the longest running wrestling promotion in Australia. The list of names the IWA have produced is impressive …Nixxxon, Rob Matrix, Billy Cole, Stephen Swann, Miss Fit, Angeleeka, Angus McLoud, Gregory Pexx, Rodney Schwanker and Andy Bumthorne, Leif and Bud – Bad Karma, the Dark Karnies – and they gave existing talent from other promotions a break like Kala Livai. They are still running monthly shows out of St Johns Band Club and are still running their very popular Wild West tours (Dubbo/Parkes) and their January Summer Meltdown tour which goes right up the North Coast of NSW.
Kudos to IWA for putting club wrestling back on the map.
Dates for the 2023 Summer Meltdown Tour
Wed Jan 4 – South West Rocks Country Club
Thur Jan 5 – Laurieton United Services Club
Fri Jan 6 – Tuncurry Beach Bowling Club
Sat Jan 7 – Sawtell RSL Club