Ken Dunlop On Promoting Wrestling In The 90’s

I started promoting in 1991, my partners were Bob Blassie and Wayne Pickford. Russ Carew was an honorary member of our team. We started off as Down Under Wrestling Promotions, and after a couple of years changed to the Australian Wrestling Alliance. Right from the start, we all sat down and discussed things and we all decided to go with youth.

We had a lot of great young talent, most that I trained like Mike Starr, David Hart, Skyhawk, Thunderbolt, Kiss the Ultimate Male and Red Flair, there was also some great young talent trained by other trainers like Pablo the Spanish Bull, The Gangsta (Dean Draven) Amy Action, Lethal Injection, Brian Cannon, Jumping Josh, Peter McCormick, Dynamite Danny Burns and Bladerunner plus we had some great young talent from Victoria like Red Hot Ricky Diamond (my younger brother Allan) Chucky, Physco Kid Thunder, Bladerunner.

In that time all promotions fell under the guidelines of the Department of Sports and Recreation and all promotions had to have full comprehensive insurance. I was the booker and I would book each club 3 months in advance, obviously that would change with no shows or injuries. I would always listen to the workers with their ideas and I paid all my workers decent money. Plus l would try to get all my guys work with other promotions to get more experience. I had a deal with Ron Miller, John Csom and George Zorbas, they would call me and tell me how many guys they need and I would book guys and I always told them how much to pay them and I would usually go along to support them even if l wasn’t on the card.

In that time we were lucky compared to Victoria as all our shows were guaranteed money from the clubs, shopping centres was the best paying events. We were again lucky that we didn’t have to pay for advertising as the clubs did their own and of course there was no social media in that time. We received quite a bit of publicity through the Daily Telegraph from Ray Kershler, he gave us around 8 stories over the years.

Early in 1998 we struck a deal with the NRL Footy Show and we were supposed to do the whole year appearing every second week and the deal was that I was in charge of the booking, pushing young talent, however after the 3rd show they wanted to use Mario Milano and a few other old timers and I refused, so we cut the deal.

1998 was a tough year, Wayne Pickford had taken time out, Bob Blassie was dealing with cancer and in the July l suffered a mild heart attack. I panicked and retired immediately and decided to sell the promotion. I did come back for some matches in 2000.

Back then one promotion did something which changed the face of wrestling in NSW, they went to a club that we had done for 2 years and it was very successful and they offered to do a show there for a door deal, the club rang me and told me and asked if I would match the offer and I said no, they had 2 shows at that club and failed miserably and lost the club. That changed the face of wrestling for the worse in my opinion. I honestly don’t know how the promotions today can survive, they use more workers than we ever used and most of them draw less crowds than we ever had. I have also heard that most of the guys get paid less today than l was paying in the 90s. We are blessed in this country that we have some amazing talent.

When the promotions were under the guidelines of the Department of Sports and Recreation, all wrestlers had to have a full medical every two months and at every show their had to be two licencing police at every show and they had the power to stop any show if they felt it got out of control, It was very tough during the Aids Crisis, the rules got a lot tougher. Once we got to know the police they would often turn a blind eye to some of our antics. We did get in trouble once or twice, back then it was illegal for men to wrestle women, and I had an unplanned match against Amy Action basically to fill out time as we were short if guys on the day and I told the police on the day and they didn’t mind but someone, and we know who reported us to the department and I had to go to the head office in North Sydney and apologise and explain the situation and guarantee that it would never happen again.

We also had a situation where two wrestlers got into a real fight, in the ring and it continued in the dressing room and one of the guys went to the police station and wanted the other guy charged with assault, now I didn’t know anything of the fight backstage as l was hosting the show. So I was shocked the next day, we nearly lost the club and again I had to front the board and apologise.

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