Pro Wrestling

Portland Wrestling

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Portland Wrestling was the television program for Pacific Northwest Wrestling.

Show history

The original series

Pacific Northwest promoter Don Owen began airing his National Wrestling Alliance-affiliated promotion's matches on television when his program, originally called Heidelberg Wrestling, debuted on Portland, Oregon station KPTV on July 10, 1953. The show's first incarnation, broadcast live from the Portland Armory on Friday nights from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., was hosted by Bob McAnulty.[1]

Around 1955, the show moved over to rival Portland station, CBS affiliate KOIN-TV. During its time on KOIN, the show was renamed as Portland Wrestling, and televised PNW matches began to be syndicated when Harry Elliott, a PNW referee and assistant promoter under Owen, signed a contract with CBS to air shows taped in Seattle, Washington for distribution outside of KOIN's broadcast area to other parts of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia.[2] The regional PNW TV show ended in 1967 when management changed within CBS, the same year that Portland Wrestling returned to its original Portland home on KPTV.

Following the show's return to KPTV on February 17, 1967, station broadcaster Frank Bonnema became the new host of Portland Wrestling. In 1968, the venue for the televised matches moved from the Portland Armory to a converted bowling alley renamed as the Portland Sports Arena, from where Portland Wrestling was broadcast for the remainder of its run. During this period, both the show and PNW itself entered a lengthy boom period as many stars from the 1960s through the 1980s competed in the promotion, including national stars like Stan Stasiak, Roddy Piper, Rick Martel, Jesse Ventura and Buddy Rose. The show first aired live on Friday nights from 1967 until 1969, when it moved to Saturday nights, where it aired live from 9:30 to 11:00 p.m. from 1969 to 1970, then from 8:30 to 10:00 p.m. from 1970 until 1979. Beginning in September 1979, Portland Wrestling began airing on a tape delay on Saturday/early Sunday from 11:00 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

After Frank Bonnema died on October 5, 1982 due to complications from a heart attack he suffered several weeks earlier, Don Coss, who had filled in as guest host following Bonnema's heart attack, took over as the permanent play-by-play announcer on the show's October 9, 1982 telecast, joined by color commentator and former wrestler Dutch Savage.[3] During the show's later years, an edited 60-minute version of Portland Wrestling was syndicated to stations in Seattle (where it aired on local station KCPQ-TV) and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest under the name Big Time Wrestling.

For many years, Portland Wrestling was the highest-rated locally produced TV show in Portland, but declining ratings in its last years (although it remained the highest-rated local show), combined with the national expansion of the WWF, rising production costs and the bankruptcy of the show's main sponsor, Portland businessman Tom Peterson, led to the cancellation of Portland Wrestling, whose final broadcast aired on December 28, 1991 after nearly 39 years of continual production. At the time of its cancellation, Portland Wrestling had been the longest-running non-news show on American television and the third-longest overall, after NBC's Meet the Press and the CBS Evening News.

The Portland Wrestling video archive is one of the few major televised wrestling archives that is not owned by Vince McMahon's WWE Tape Library. Don Owen had opted not to archive his TV shows due to the expense involved, so most of the shows were taped over by KPTV. Episodes of Portland Wrestling that do exist are primarily those that were taped at home by viewers of the show, but the rights to the Portland Wrestling archive are owned by the estate of Don Owen, which is managed by his son Barry Owen. A PNW match featuring Roddy Piper from Portland Wrestling was licenced by WWE from the Owen estate for use on its 2006 DVD set on Piper, Born to Controversy: The Roddy Piper Story.[4]

Portland Wrestling revival

In 2000, a new version of Portland Wrestling went on the air, promoted by a new promotion sharing the program's name (and claiming the heritage of the original PNW, but otherwise not connected to PNW, nor was it an NWA member like PNW had been), on Salem/Portland station KWBP-TV (now KRCW-TV) with KWBP ad salesman Frank Culbertson acting as the new show's play-by-play host.

The show did not last long on KWBP, however, as the station was sold in December 2002 and local programming (including the new Portland Wrestling) was dropped by the new ownership. Following the deregulation of wrestling by the Oregon state legislature, Culbertson quit his job at KWBP and took over the Portland Wrestling promotion, then brought its TV program to KPTV (the previous home of the original Portland Wrestling) and later to a local public access cable station, CNW 14, before the show disappeared from the Portland airwaves once again.

Second Portland Wrestling revival

On October 22, 2012, it was announced that KPTV would be reviving Portland Wrestling (under the name Portland Wrestling Uncut) under the direction of WWE Hall of Famer and PNW legend Roddy Piper. The new series debuted on October 27 on KPTV following Game Three of the 2012 World Series.[5]


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