Portland Wrestling was an exciting event for many fans of pro wrestling each and every week. Many of the top pro wrestlers in the sport started off wrestling in Portland for Don Owen Promotions. There is still a faithful following to this very day for this once top-dog independent wrestling promotion.
It all started in 1925 with Herb Owen, who began promoting boxing and wrestling matches in the state of Oregon. If you're a fan, you may be interested to know that the famous Gorgeous George developed his character here. In 1942, Herb died and his son, Don Owen, took over and was a founding member of the National Wrestling Alliance, which was started in 1947. Don's territory ranged from Oregon to Washington state and on into Idaho.
Portland Wrestling made it's television debut in 1953 on KPTV-12. In 1955, the show moved over to KOIN, but then returned to channel 12 in 1967. Despite the bouncing around between Portland television stations, the show was an enormous hit and fans from around the state came to see the live shows at the Portland Sports Arena each week.
Portland was a magnet for some of the top pro wrestling stars to ever grace a wrestling ring. Tony Borne, Jesse Ventura (you know, the governor?), Curt Hennig, Dutch Savage, Playboy Buddy Rose, Lou Thesz, Lonnie Mayne, Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper and on and on. They were all a major part of the Portland Wrestling legacy.
I remember my first live event. The show was regularly broadcast on Saturday nights, but this special was on a Tuesday night. The main event was a handicap match between "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and his tag team partner, "Bad News" Tim Brooks against the world-famous Andre the Giant.
It was awesome to see Andre in the flesh....what a huge man! Of course, the Giant beat the bad guys to a pulp and all was well with the world again. After that initial time, I began visiting the Portland Sports Arena every few weeks and always enjoyed my night out.
Don Owen went all out occasionally to hold huge pro wrestling cards at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland and venues in Seattle.
Don would fly in big names from the mid-west and back east to take on our hometown boys. People like Ric Flair, the Road Warriors, and others would gladly come and put on great shows for the fans. They all knew that Don Owen was the most respected and honest promoter there was and they trusted him completely.
In the 1980s, the Boxing and Wrestling Commission of Oregon started throwing around new regulations and fining wrestlers and Owen Promotions for various things.
I remember when the AIDS scare was first in the spotlight and, all of a sudden, Blading (when the wrestlers would cut themselves on the forehead) was no longer allowed. When someone takes a rough chair shot or has a chain match and doesn't bleed, it tends to take away from the illusion. Bah!
Suddenly, the bare concrete floor surrounding ringside was covered with mats and barriers were placed between the fans and the wrestling ring. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it was change. Change is not always a comfortable thing.
Jim Crockett Promotions (later to be WCW) and WWF became major players on cable, making the competition that much rougher for Don Owen and Portland Wrestling.
Vince McMahon and his WWF was the bigger threat of the two because of the fact that he didn't want to work with any other territory and went as far as refusing to even acknowledge their existence.
After struggling through the end of the 80s and heading into the 90s, the final blow happened when Tom Peterson, a long-time sponsor and supporter of the show, declared bankruptcy. It was all but over for Portland Wrestling.
In December of 1991, KPTV Channel 12 pulled the plug on televising the show after 38 years. It was a sad day for me, after being a part of my weekly schedule since I first began watching in 1978. Regardless, Portland Wrestling is still very much alive and well in video I had converted to DVD. It was such a fun period of my life! ;)
Several attempts have been made to capture the magic of the original. There are a couple local professional wrestling federations holding their own and keeping the spirit of the indie circuit alive, but nothing can ever match or surpass the one and only Don Owen Promotions.
Fast forward to today and Roddy Piper's introduced "Portland Wrestling: Uncut" in 2013. The Rowdy One returned to his roots here in the Portland area and worked with KPTV to bring local Professional Wrestling back to the NW. I thought that Piper was going to bring Pro Wrestling's glory days back to Portland. Unfortunately, the program slipped into ambiguity and has not returned as of this date, with no hint of why.
You can visit my Portland Wrestling web site at http://www.portland-wrestling.com
Share your Portland Wrestling memories and stories with other pro wrestling fans here. Tell us why it was so much better than what's out there now. Do you think that's true? Whatever stories you want to pass along, we'd all love to hear them.
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Rowdy Roddy Piper
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