The History of Pro-Wrestling in Hawaii (1973 - 1980)
Throughout 1973, ED FRANCIS continued to promote monthly wrestling shows at the Honolulu International Center. Hawaii wrestling fans were treated to big name wrestlers such as DUSTY RHODES, KEN PATERA, BILLY GRAHAM, BILLY ROBINSION, IVAN KOLOFF, THE CRUSHER, and VERNE GAGNE flying in to defend his AWA World Titles. Also RIPPER COLLINS returned to local action in Jan. 73.
Also in 1973, the tv format for Wrestling changed. Every Saturday on KGMB TV, fans were treated to "International All-star Wrestling", a 90 min. show which was used to promote upcoming monthly wrestling cards.
IN 1974, ED FRANCIS only promoted five wrestling shows in that year. On July 17, 1974 was the last wrestling show promoted by FRANCIS for the next three years.
The last card featured VERNE GAGNE defeating former NWA World champion GENE KINISKI.
Wrestling newspaper ad promoting Saturday television show on channel 13.
What caused the demise of professional Wrestling in Hawaii in 1974? All clues pointed to the closure of the Civic Auditorium. FRANCIS couldn't afford to bring in wrestlers just for one match every four weeks at the Honolulu International Center. At the time, weekly shows at the Civic drew 4,000 to 5,000 fans a week, then wrestlers would go on tour to Bloch Arena in Pearl Harbor, Schofield Barracks, and the neighbor islands, where they'd perform in front of packed houses.
The weekly matches at the Civic were the blood line of professional wrestling which enabled FRANCIS to keep 12 to 14 wrestlers living in Hawaii at a time.
On April 10, 1974 the Civic Auditorium was finally torn down by American Security Bank, the owner of the property. The demolition of the Civic Auditorium made way for a new American Security Bank building, which still sits on the property today.
Wrestling card for January 15, 1975
On June 22, 1977 after 3 1/2 years Big Time Wrestling finally returned to Hawaii in a weekly format . ED FRANCIS started promoting weekly shows on Wednesday nights at Bloch Arena and neighbor islands in conjunction with monthly cards at the the Honolulu International Center which was renamed the Neal Blaisdell Center. Also a one hour tv show called "Wrestling Hawaii" was use was aired on Friday nights on KGMB tv, used to promote the upcoming weekly cards.
The first card took place at the Blaisdell Center on June 22, 1977 featured a Texas Battle Royal with ANDRE THE GIANT, plus six other matches. More than 7, 600 fans filled the Blaidell Center that night to see ANDRE THE GIANT win the Battle Royal.
Wrestling returns to Hawaii
The following week, weekly wrestling shows were held at Bloch Arena, Pearl Harbor featuring BILLY and RUSS FRANCIS battle JOHN TOLAS and SUPER STAR STEVE STRONG. Through the summer of 1977 fans were treated to old wrestling favorites BILLY WHITE WOLF, SAM STEAMBOAT, GORILLA LAWLER, JESSIE VENTURE, and NICK BOCKWINKEL flying in to defend his AWA World title on the monthly Blaisdell Center Cards.
In the fall of 1977, TOR KAMAKA arrives and becomes one of the top villains in Hawaii doing battle with almost every one. THE MISSING LINK also returns to action 1978: IN Jan. 1978 RICK MARTELL arrives in Hawaii and will become a fan favorite for most of the year, MARTELL captures the NORTH AMERICAN title from TOR KAMAKA on Jan 25th 1978. Also after the 1977-78 football season ED FRANCIS's son RUSS FRANCIS will wrestle in the off season teaming with his brother BILLY FRANCIS and teaming with both BILLY and ED FRANCIS in Six-Man tag team matches.
In the Spring and Summer of 78, BIG JOHN STUDD and DON MURACO arrive in Hawaii.
HARRY FUJIWARA who went to the mainland and changed his name to MR. FUJI returns to Hawaii and teams with KARL VON STEIGER and capture the Hawaiian Tag team titles. STEVE STRONG who was wrestling as a "Bad Guy" turns into a fan favorite.
IN the fall of 1978 RIPPER COLLINS returns to Hawaii with his cousin WHIPPER WATSON.
PRETTY BOY LARRY SHARPE arrives and feuds with DON MURACO. Hawaii fans are treated to THE MCGUIRE TWINS, who weigh over 700 pounds each.
In Jan. 1979, on KGMB TV the ED FRANCIS/RIPPER COLLINS feud is reborn when COLLINS spits in FRANCIS face during locker room interviews.
In April 1979, ED FRANCIS to every one's surprise shuts down his wrestling operations in Hawaii and sells his territorial rights to promote wrestling in Hawaii to New Zealand promoter STEVE RICKARD, who retains LORD BLEARS as his match maker and tv announcer.
Starting in June 1979 promoter STEVE RICKARD promoted weekly matches at BLOCH ARENA and once a month cards at the BLAISDELL CENTER ARENA. He maintained a TV contract with KGMB TV and also retained LORD BLEARS as his announcer.
From JUNE 1979 till early 1980, Hawaii wrestling fans were treated to such stars as RICK MARTELL, SIVA AFI, PRETTY BOY LARRY SHARPE, DON MURACO, ROCKY JOHNSON, KARL VON STEIGER, BILLY WHITE WOLF, RIPPER COLLINS, and others.
In the early 1980's STEVE RICKARD sold his territorial rights to Hawaii to PETER MAIVIA, who continued to promote weekly wrestling programs in Hawaii until his death from cancer in July 1982. After his death, his wife LIA MAIVIA became the only woman promoter in the United States and continued to promote wrestling till the late 1980's and the demise of the territorial days of wrestling before the WWE.
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