Go-on play the theme-song I know you want to
For eight memorable years (1975-83) the Television New Zealand produced programme ‘On The Mat’ was a Kiwi institution. Shot with a live audience in
‘On The Mats’ wrestlers became household names up and down the country.
It was promptly thereafter Kiwi mothers began complaining to schools about their sons clothing coming-home damaged as a result of boys replicating the moves & not to forget the odd broken bone or two!
Wrestling was suddenly 'in' and the talk of both the tea and jug drinking sets.
Indeed a couple of years back I was on a fishing trip with two other middle-aged guys and the subject of On The Mat arose, as trivia like this does tend to on boys trips. Over that weekend we came-up with a list of 13 wrestlers from the show, with a little help from similarly matured guys in the pub where we were staying.
The show had a huge impact and was an undoubted ratings winner.
Yet, ‘On The Mat’ wasn’t the first pro-wrestling programme to be airing on Television
Steve’s earlier proposals to the state-operated Television New
In some ways it would be wrong to dub ‘On The Mat’ as a local show, in-fact it had a loyal audience in Pacific basin countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Guam etc and even as far away as Zaire, Kenya and Tanzania! The series (first year 14 episodes) was produced by Graham Veitch, who is indeed the father of Tony. ‘On The Mat’ has the lofty distinction as the first N.Z produced series to be sold overseas.
At Steve’s side on the commentary desk, the Robin of the team, was Ernie Leonard. Steve and Ernie had previously promoted & commentated pro-wrestling in the
I can still hear the booming voice of King Curtis pointing his finger at the camera and beginning his tirade with the immortal “Steve Rick….ard….Ernie
Curtis’s bulging-eyes, Abdullah The Butchers maniac stare – live on in the minds of a whole generation of Kiwi’s.
Nothing beats a ‘good versus evil’ plot.
Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the hording skills of TVNZ archivists some of the old shows are available to look at here.
In the end the show ended because the N.Z Dollar weakened and it became too expensive to bring the big-name wrestlers to our shores. Another reason for its demise was the weakening of the NWA stable versus the increasingly dominant WWF.
In my photo gallery is a fairly good spread of photos of wrestlers all from the collection of Dave Cameron. google etc.
The gallery is also the place to leave comments and feedback on individual wrestlers.
Now to the hard-part of this article - drawing-up a no where near definitive list of the wrestlers to appear on the show ‘On The Mat’.
You-too can amaze your mates by remembering the names of:
Abdulla The Butcher
Baron Karl Von Krupp
Big Bad John
Mad Dog Martin
Three Rickard sons
John da Silva
Tiger Jet Singh
Siva Afi Taogaga
But wait there’s more!
Stun them some ‘On The Mat’ Trivia like this:
- Rick Martels brother was also a pro wrestler and died during a fight!
- Before they became the tag-team The Bushwackers comprising Butch ‘Brute’ Miller and Luke ‘Sweet’ Williams were known as The Sheephearders.
- King Curtis’s full name was Curtis Piehau Iakea III and for a long time he had a second home in
- Robert Bruce lost partial hearing in one ear when a fan threw a beer can into the side of head. Sadly Bruce passed away in 2009.
- Abdulla The Butcher is still getting in the ring at 70! It isn’t a pretty sight I assure you, he looks like a jelly fish with legs. The enthralling Abdullah the Butcher documentary is available on You Tube. He actually speaks rather eloquently on the doco rather than just starring maniacally at the camera.
- Rumours Rick Martell was Mark Lewins son were just that.
- King Curtis was once the guest speaker at N.Z Sportsman of The Year dinner.
- Mark Lewin had a persona as a good guy in N.Z but back home in the states he was known as ‘The Maniac’ or ‘Mad Mark Lewin’
- Robert Bruce played the role of a heavy in Stanley Kubrick’s film “A Clockwork Orange”.
- In the Aussie series ‘Big Time Wrestling’ Lewin and Curtis were tag team partners
- Loa Leota became a politician back in
- Big Bad John (real name William Goodman) a bloke who sometimes donned a German WW2 helmet died shortly after leaving N.Z back for the U.S in what was either an unsolved murder or suicide.
- Abdulla The Butcher was/is actually Canadian and has a 7th degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He owns two restaurants called Abdullah the Butcher's House of Ribs and Chinese Food" one in
- Peter Maivia is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnsons grandfather. He died back in 85.
- Robert Bruce’s finishing move was ‘The Caber Toss’
- Rick Martels’s nick-name was ‘The Model’
- As part of his faith Samoan Joe became a Mormon Missionary
- Professor Tanaka real name was Charles Kalani and he was from
- Tojo Yamamoto (real name Harold Watanabe) was another Hawaiian who became a manager after he retired. He took his own life in 1992.
- All these different names, aliases are hard to follow. Take wrestler Jack Claybourne who wrestled overseas as Eddie Morrow along with his brother Gerry shared the surname Ethifier. Confused?
- Steve Rickards real name is Sydney Batt
- Merv Fortune manages a pub in Blenheim
- Tiger Jet Singh was the first pro wrestler in
- Siva Afi Taogaga became Burt Reynolds bodyguard and did time in
There’s always a lot to be read into a persons favourite wrestler.
Mine will always be King Curtis.
R.I.P ‘The’ King.
Thanks to: John Mancers book ‘Steve Rickards life On The Mat’ (1979) which came-out in 1979 and is available on
Footnote: If you are into retro pro-wrestling a great site to visit is http://www.kiwiprowrestling.co.nz/ and the best of all I stumbled upon http://www.obsessedwithwresling.com/ You can also re-visit other classic TVNZ shows here at KiwiTV.