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Author Topic: Pro Wrestling in South Africa - Piecing Together Information and Looking for More
tamalie from MN
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The 2010 World Cup in South Africa got me thinking about pro wrestling in that country. It seems as if only bits and pieces are known about that country's pro wrestling history, so I'd like to try and expand on what we do know.

- Did the country have a single promotion that covered the entire nation or did territories exist in the different parts of the nation?

- The European Wrestling Union name was attached to some titles, but it's hard to tell if that was the name of a promotion or just something tagged on to a title to make it appear more prestigious. A promotion entitled Bronco Universal Promotions and Interworld Wrestling Promotions also ran. Or was it the same thing? Can anyone say? Jan Wilkens has been called a promoter, but so has Sam Cohen, the father of Steve and Shaun Simpson. Sam wrestled as Alec Simpson. Were they partners, competitors, or different regional promoters? I saw another promoter's named Bull Hefer who wrestled under that gimmick. Jackie Koen promoted under the Ring Promotions name. How did all that tie together?

- Jan Wilkens appeared for Joint Promotions in the UK and the CWA in Austria. He also worked for New Japan in the early days of that promotion and Seiji Sakaguchi subsequently appeared in South Africa.

Other foreigners who worked in South Africa at one time or another included Don Leo Johnathan, Hulk Hogan, Blackjack Mulligan, Terry Funk, Bill Irwin, Black Bart, Rick Patterson, Gama Singh, Big John Studd, Pez Whatley, Kevin Wahcolz, Mark Calloway, Fabulous Lance (Von Erich) who ended up staying permanently, Hacksaw Higgins, Hercules Ayala, and Adrian Street. Haru Sonada (Magic Dragon) was en route to a wrestling tour in South Africa only for he and his wife to die when their plane crashed into the Indian Ocean while en route.

Domestic wrestlers included the likes of Jan Wilkens, the Simpson brothers, Danie Voges, Kalahari Boerboel, Peet Strydom, Hans Rooks, Danie Brits, John Powers (presumably not the North American of the same name), Hans Boosch, Jackie Koen, Shaun Koen, and others yet to be named.

Were there any domestic black wrestlers? Were black fans able to attend the cards? If so, did they attend in great numbers?

Were there more wrestlers from the UK or from Australia and New Zealand? South Africa's sporting links have traditionally been to those three countries via Rugby Union and Cricket.

Were Apartheid and the overall political situation of any concern to the pro wrestlers, particularly from the 1980s onwards? I remember being shocked on one hand that Pez Whatley toured there in 1988 and not shocked considering the death of the territories in North America and his desire to get well paying work.

- Did any of the promotions ever venture to Rhodesia prior to its 1980 transformation to Zimbabwe or to neighboring Angola or Mozambique prior to 1975 when they gained their independence from Portugal? What of South West Africa which South Africa controlled as a puppet state?

- South Africa did not begin television broadcasting until January of 1976, a very late date in comparison to most nations. The South African government saw TV as a corrupting influence and worried it would show the oppressed black population just how bad it had life in comparison to the white population, but eventually allowed TV broadcasting to occur. There was only a single channel until 1981 and the content was rigorously controlled.

On this basis, I assumed pro wrestling probably never had TV in South Africa and was shocked to find the match below on YouTube. It pits Steve Simpson, Danie Voges, and Kalahari Boerboel against Bill Irwin, Black Bart, and Rick Patterson. The program was called Worldwide Wrestling. However, the year given as 1989 is almost positively incorrect. 1988 is the more likely year. Does anyone know what promotion this was, the broadcasting network, and other details? The match itself was from Cape Town.



[ 07-06-2010, 02:25 PM: Message edited by: tamalie from MN ]

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ponyplayer19
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I have nothing useful to add except an interesting tidbit I discovered when I spent an hour or so learning about Ski Hi Lee after seeing him listed in some clawmaster results.

Wrestling is mentioned in one verse of this South African hit folk song from the early 60's:

original release.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RAQP-2sODk

much later live version with singer/songwriter explaining its origins.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Hr75pqA8bo

the verse:
Ag pleez Deddy won't you take us to the wrestling
We wanna see an ou called Sky High Lee
When he fights Willie Liebenberg
There's gonna be a murder
'Cos Willie's gonna donner that blerrie yankee

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Matt Farmer from WA
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There was wrestling in Zimbabwe, I have a result here or there.

In April of 1981 I have a pair of results as both cards took place at Salisbury Rufaro Stadium in Harare Zimbabwe. They were headlined with Dalibar Tiger Singh wresting either Dave Viking and Kojack Mal Kirk. Both cards drew very well.

While I don't know a lot about wrestling in South Africa, I have been learning more about Power Mike's promotion that was based out of Nigeria. Who later used Power Uti as his top stars, and brought in tons of big name Americans and European stars to face him.

Sammy Cohen still is involved on a lower level of promoting in South Africa.

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Travis Cook
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This is probably total kayfabe, and with no validity whatsoever...but I remember when Eric Embry was billed in WCCW as the "World Light Heavyweight Champion", he claimed on an interview that he won the title in South Afirca. Ok, it's probably another "Rio" situation...but Embry actually had a little story concocted around the title change--he claimed that he won the title from somebody named "Pete Vendergraland", and put him out of wrestling by piledriving him off the apron onto the arena floor.

Probably completely made up--but is the name Pete Vendergraland a name of an actual wrestler, or just something Embry made up for a promo? And as for that piledriver from the apron to the floor...is there even the slightest, 1% possibility that could be pulled off without severly crippling somebody legit? (If so, I'd love to see it!)

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tamalie from MN
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Peter Van Der Graling was the name. It was put over as a real match for years, but Gary Hart said in his book that he made up the guy and title change to get Embry the rub as an international star.
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tamalie from MN
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quote:
Originally posted by Matt Farmer from WA:
There was wrestling in Zimbabwe, I have a result here or there.

In April of 1981 I have a pair of results as both cards took place at Salisbury Rufaro Stadium in Harare Zimbabwe. They were headlined with Dalibar Tiger Singh wresting either Dave Viking and Kojack Mal Kirk. Both cards drew very well.

Was this a full time promotion and did it go back to the Rhodesia days? Based on the names, it sounds like some Joint Promotions guys from the UK making a tour.
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JohnEric
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This is an interesting topic. I would be interested in finding out more on professional wrestling in South Africa.

Would be interested in knowing more about Steve & Shaun Simpson's father. Was he a big star in South Africa?

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codystarbuck
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I know a couple of the smaller wrestling mags used to include lists of champions and wrestlers from South Africa. Gama Singh and Fabulous Lance were the two names I recognized. I seem to remember some young guy called the Pink Panther (tied to the nickname of the SAS Land Rovers, which were painted pink to blend into the desert sands better, not the cartoon). They never really went into the history. Nigeria was also covered with Power Uti and guys who toured there.

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dw
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I booked South Africa for Paul Lloyd/Pink Panther from '88-96.
Get a little more specific, or fewer at a time, and I'll help with what I can

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tamalie from MN
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There's at least one Pink Panther match floating around on YouTube.

Dusty, what was the name of the promotion you booked and which wrestlers worked there, both domestic and foreign?

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dw
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All Stars was Paul's promotion. Other promoters such as Willie Cohen in Cape Town promoted on their own, but would often use Paul's talent.
Major domestic duys were Danie Brits and Danie Voges. Steven Debbes/Toronado II. Terri Middeaux. Jimmy Abbott.
Foreigners were Lance von Erich and Giant Warrior, both who married local gals and stayed for years. Also, Rod Price, Ricky Santana, Randy Rhodes, Mongolian Mauler, Steve/William Regal, and a few others that escape me now.

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Ken Viewer
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At least one card held in Rhodesia and one held in South Africa were filmed by European-newsreels, perhaps using local crews or footage, in the post-World War II era -- and these survive to this day in-part, and have been digitized. I don't have a comprehensive file of everything that survives or I'd go to it and pull up the information. Search the Lou Thesz Forum for the Rhodesia footage-data, as someone probably posted it there.

Ken

[ 07-07-2010, 08:57 PM: Message edited by: Ken Viewer ]

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Matt Farmer from WA
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LIke Dusty said those guys were fly in's and they used a lot of them. Almost similar to Japan were our boys would go there for a few months or weeks. I know Gama Singh (Calgary version) was booking guys into Cape Town for some time.

I don't know about Rhodesia? It's on the tip of my tounge but for the life of me I cannot remember the name of the all black promotion that ran there for years?

I sent this link to a guy who is known for being a historian on wrestling in Africa. Let's see if he responds.

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dw
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Gama and Tiger Singh from England, along with Tiger Jeet would go into Durban for the thieving b*******s that ran that town. I can't remember Gama's brothers name. They would work Durban once a week for 3-6 weeks. Maybe Cape Town once, and maybe a small spot show in between.
Paul would run in conjuction with the Mano Singhs of the world, take his pistol in order to make sure money counts were correct, and then we would continue on.

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dw
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By the time I was there, Zimbabwe/Rhodesia was entirely too dangerous to tour. Mugabe was in full machete mode.
Paul ran shows in Mozambique, Madagascar, and Zambia. He also ran with a Russian promotion in 90/91.

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tamalie from MN
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When did the shows run in Mozambique? I ask because while things were rough in Zimbabwe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it was arguably rougher in Mozambique which was in the midst of a full scale civil war.
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dw
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1995. Civil war had just ended. And you could tell the news crews had not done that conflict justice. Zimbabwe was dangerous for any man of the wrong color during this time period.

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codystarbuck
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So, as to the original question, what were crowds like in the aprtheid era? Were there mixed audiences or whites only? Or seperate shows for black and white audiences? I seem to recall seeing mention of shows (in the aforementioned wrestling mags)in Sun City, which was definitely whites only in the apartheid era.

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JWLPromoter from FL
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quote:
Originally posted by dw:
I booked South Africa for Paul Lloyd/Pink Panther from '88-96.
Get a little more specific, or fewer at a time, and I'll help with what I can

Paul Lloyd is the father of Paul Lloyd Jr., aka WWE/FCW/NXT wrestler Justin Gabriel/Justin Angel. He's the guy who does the 450 Splash during the Nexus beatdowns.

[ 07-07-2010, 03:08 PM: Message edited by: JWLPromoter from FL ]

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Crimson Mask from FL
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quote:
Originally posted by JohnEric:
Would be interested in knowing more about Steve & Shaun Simpson's father. Was he a big star in South Africa?

As far as I know, the biggest star and the biggest promotor. He worked as Sammy 'Star of David' Cohen. Simpson is the actual family name.

So long from the Sunshine State!

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Crimson Mask from FL
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quote:
Originally posted by tamalie from MN:
Sam Cohen, the father of Steve and Shaun Simpson. Sam wrestled as Alec Simpson.

Yeah, actually that's backwards. His real name was Alec Simpson.

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Tom Burke
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Professional Wrestling dates backs to when SA was part of the British Empire when it was called the Union of South Africa. A future post will have more information in a day or so.
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Crimson Mask from FL
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quote:
Originally posted by Crimson Mask from FL:
quote:
Originally posted by tamalie from MN:
Sam Cohen, the father of Steve and Shaun Simpson. Sam wrestled as Alec Simpson.

Yeah, actually that's backwards. His real name was Alec Simpson.
Well, and still is.

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dw
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There weren't many blacks in the crowds. Even in post apartheid times.
Obviously there was segregation in the day, and to an extent even during the Mandela years.
The crowds were mainly whites inland, and Indian on the coast.

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Matt Farmer from WA
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Dusty, Gama's brother is Akam Singh. Believe they are both living in British Columbia still

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tamalie from MN
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Thanks for the Alec Simpson/Sammy Cohen correction.
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Crimson Mask from FL
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De nada.

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Dwayne Soper
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quote:
Originally posted by Matt Farmer from WA:
Dusty, Gama's brother is Akam Singh. Believe they are both living in British Columbia still

Gama currently lives in Calgary Alberta. He is involved in rental and real estate properties. Quite the businessman from what I hear. He has popped up off and on in the local PWA promotion helping out his son and nephew both who are in the business. His nephew Raj is currently in WWE developmental FCW. Not sure where Akam Singh is right now, I heard BC as you mentioned.

I recentally saw Akam was sceduled for a indy show in Merrit BC

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dw
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Gama was well off 20 years ago. He did huge business in the Durban area. HUGE business. Impossible to explain to those that only know todays product.

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Martin Tori
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quote:
Originally posted by Crimson Mask from FL:
quote:
Originally posted by JohnEric:
Would be interested in knowing more about Steve & Shaun Simpson's father. Was he a big star in South Africa?

As far as I know, the biggest star and the biggest promotor. He worked as Sammy 'Star of David' Cohen. Simpson is the actual family name.

So long from the Sunshine State!

Interesting that he would change his name to sound more Jewish (in fact, as Jewish as humanly possible) given South Africa's stridently Protestant Christian demographic.

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Crimson Mask from FL
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Yeah that struck me too. I'm not sure but he may have done that when he was working the US, and taken the name back to SA with him.

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Crimson Mask from FL
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But even at that, how did he get over? There's like NO Jewish population there, never was.

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Martin Tori
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quote:
Originally posted by Crimson Mask from FL:
But even at that, how did he get over? There's like NO Jewish population there, never was.

Tellin' ya, it's like the early 70's Carolina hillbillies cheerin' for the big scary black guy with the hippie peace sign on his boots (Sonny King) all over.

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Crimson Mask from FL
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quote:
Originally posted by tamalie from MN:
Jan Wilkens has been called a promoter, but so has Sam Cohen, the father of Steve and Shaun Simpson. Sam wrestled as Alec Simpson. Were they partners, competitors, or different regional promoters?

On that video, at like :45 in, the commentator says something about 'Sammy Cohen & Jan Wilkens' in the same breath, which leads me to at least suspect they were copromotors for this show.

[ 07-08-2010, 08:27 AM: Message edited by: Crimson Mask from FL ]

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dw
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They did promote together, along with Wille Koehne(sp?) until about 1980. Sammy moved to the Dallas area, and a group of us trained Steve at the old Junction here in San Antonio.

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Crimson Mask from FL
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When did Sammy move back?

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dw
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Honestly never knew he did. Last I heard he was still in the Dallas area.

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tamalie from MN
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin Tori:
quote:
Originally posted by Crimson Mask from FL:
But even at that, how did he get over? There's like NO Jewish population there, never was.

Tellin' ya, it's like the early 70's Carolina hillbillies cheerin' for the big scary black guy with the hippie peace sign on his boots (Sonny King) all over.
I also erroneously figured his name was Sammy Cohen, but he changed it to Alec Simpson out of fear that a Jew wouldn't get over with the fans. The Jewish population of South Africa was only about 70,000 to 75,000 at its 1970s peak at a time when the total population was about 26,250,000 with about 18,500,000 blacks, 4,500,000 whites, 2,500,000 "coloureds" of mix race, and 750,000 Asians.
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Matt Farmer from WA
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quote:
Originally posted by dw:
Gama was well off 20 years ago. He did huge business in the Durban area. HUGE business. Impossible to explain to those that only know todays product.

Was on a tour with Gama & Bad News Allen. When riding with Bad News he was telling me stories of working Gama in S. Africa, it may have been the first time Bad News was there. He was really shocked out how over Gama was. He kept telling me he was like Hogan there.

Mentioned that during a cage match with Gama in front of a huge crowd, some fans were attempting to light the ring mat on fire!

That was one country I had always wanted to tour.

How many nights a week were you usually working in South Africa? And did it have a regular loop?

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dw
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Every trip was different, but Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban would be on the trip. Paul had a deal with the Sun resorts, so we would make at least one of those. We would work anywhere from 1-4 times a week.
Durban is the town I have seen full riot squads have to be called in, fans shot, fires in the stands, and other assorted mayhem we have no clue about here.

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