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The History of Pro-Wrestling in Hawaii

Also in 1962, HARRY FUJIWARA (MR. FUJI) made his professional wrestling start. Other stars appearing in 1962 were LORD BLEARS who settled in Hawaii and went on to do the TV announcing for the 50TH STATE BIG TIME WRESTLING TV show which continued to air every Saturday on channel 4.

From 1962 through 1963 Professional Wrestling under ED FRANCIS continued to grow with sellout crowds common at the CIVIC AUDITORIUM. Then 1964 brought major changes to Wrestling in Hawaii with the opening of the HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL CENTER that year which could seat 8,700 fans for boxing and wrestling.

The HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL CENTER was owned by the City Of Honolulu and did not honor the territorial rights to promote wrestling in Hawaii by FRANCIS. Instead the City would accept bids to promote wrestling at the new arena. FRANCIS was surprised that he was outbid by a DALLAS WESTERN of ALOHA PROMOTIONS to do wrestling shows at the new arena.

How was this done? WESTERN, seeing that Hawaii was big wrestling town, started airing a 1 hour Wrestling TV show from San Francisco area called BIG TIME WRESTLING which featured big name wrestling stars such as RAY STEVENS, EDWARD CARPENTER, KENJI SHIBUYA, PEPPER GOMEZ and other top name stars. DALLAS WESTERN put on his first Wrestling Show at the HONOLULU INTERNATIONAL CENTER on Tuesday July 28, 1964 featuring a Heavyweight Championship of the United States with Champion RAY STEVENS defending his title against EDWARD CARPENTER, followed by five other matches. ED FRANCIS seeing this, did not back down from WESTERN 's first card that night and put on a wrestling card that same night featuring a 18 MAN TEXAS BATTLE ROYAL with such stars as GENE KINISKI, TOSH TOGO LUTHER LINDSAY, MR. MOTO, CURTIS IAUKEA and others.

What happened that night on JULY 28, 1964 was wrestling shows at the Honolulu International Center and Civic drew a combined crowd of 14,000, with 8,700 turning out at the new arena and a capacity crowd of 5,300 watching the "competition" show at the Civic. Even more amazing was that the following night July 29th, FRANCIS put on another card at the Civic featuring a United Stated Championship match Between CURTIS IAUKEA and LUTHER LINDSAY resulting in another sellout at the Civic.


Dallas Western Ad

One month later, on August 25th the two promoters again went head-to-head with wrestling cards at the Honolulu International Center and Civic Auditorium on the same night. Also in the months of September through December 1964 both promoters continued to put on rival cards on the same night with near sell-out crowds at both arenas.

As DALLAS WESTERN continued to promote his monthly cards at the new arena his wrestling show was known as NATIONAL ALL WRESTLING which aired weekly on KONA-TV channel 2. Meanwhile the sellout crowds allowed FRANCIS to expand his tv wrestling shows when channel 4 added WRESTLING FROM THE CIVIC which aired on Sunday afternoons. The shows were taped wrestling matches from the civic with locker room interviews starting in the fall of 1964.

Also in the fall of 1964, FRANCIS brought in, direct from MADISON SQUARE GARDEN, HANDSOME JOHNNY BAREND who became a top head-liner. BAREND started feuding with the likes of NICK BOCKWINKEL and winning the HAWAIIAN CHAMPIONSHIP from NEFF MAIAVA. HANDSOME JOHHNY BAREND's stay in Hawaii lasted until December 4th of 1964 after wrestling to a "no contest" in a Texas Death Match with CURTIS IAUKEA.

Going into 1965, DALLAS WESTERN promotion folded due to a law-suit concerning payment to the talent agency he used to fly in wrestlers from the west coast for his monthly wrestling cards at the Honolulu International Center.

This lawsuit and the cost of flying in wrestlers every month and smaller crowds ended two promoters operating in Hawaii. In the end Francis won out.

Finally on March 19, 1965 ED FRANCIS put his first wrestling card at the Honolulu International Center with a main event featuring GIANT BABA vs CURTIS IAUKEA.
Ed Francis' first HIC card
Ed Francis' first HIC card

One month later FRANCIS presented another card featuring World Champion LOU THESZ defending his World Title against HARD BOILED HAGGERTY. After the April card, FRANCIS did not promote wrestling again at the Honolulu International Center until July 1965.

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