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World Championship Wrestling - The Start


It's the 49th anniversary of the debut of the World Championship Wrestling promotion of Jim Barnett and Johnny Doyle in Australia. As such, I would like to appraise the very first World Championship Wrestling card that was presented on 23 October 1964 in Sydney, Australia.

The results were:
* Larry O'Day defeated Dr Al Woods
* Emile Dupre defeated Nikita Kalmikoff
* Dale Lewis defeated Buddy Austin
* International Wrestling Alliance (IWA) World Title: Killer Kowalski (Champion) defeated Dominic DeNucci

The venue was the famous Sydney Stadium, originally an open-air venue at Rushcutters Bay that was built to house the World Heavyweight Boxing Title match between champion Tommy Burns and challenger Bill Squires on 24 August 1908. The Stadium became legendary as the venue for Jack Johnson's title win over Tommy Burns on 26 December 1908. The Sydney Stadium gained its roof in 1911 and professional wrestling was presented in the arena from 1924 to 1970.

Barnett and Doyle created the International Wrestling Alliance as their governing body, citing San Francisco as the IWA's base, billing Roy Shire (then promoter in San Francisco) as IWA president and installing Killer Kowalski as the first IWA World Heavyweight Champion.

I feel that it is interesting to review the wrestlers appearing on that historic first event for promoters Barnett and Doyle in Australia.

Babyface Larry O'Day and heel Dr Al Woods were local wrestlers. Both were trained by former Australian pro wrestlers Hal Morgan and Jim Deakin. Morgan and Deakin operated a rudimentary gym in Wentworth Park in the central Sydney suburb of Ultimo and trained many of the Australian wrestlers of the day.

O'Day and Woods both wrestled for Morgan's Top Pro Wrestling promotion throughout Sydney’s many licensed (to serve alcohol) clubs. O'Day (also billed as O’Dea during his career) will be recognised by many American fans as being a member of the Australians tag team with Ron Miller. O’Day and Miller wrestled successfully in southern USA in the early 1970s and later became the promoters of Australia’s World Championship Wrestling company.

In contrast to the very talented O'Day, who received good pushes long before becoming a promoter, Woods was always utilised as a preliminary wrestler for Australia's World Championship Wrestling promotion. Dr Al did, however, often headline for Morgan's Top Pro Wrestling group.

Emile Dupre proved to be a fiery midcard babyface. Dupre was very popular especially with our female fans but didn't headline any arena shows. Emile's only main event occurred on TV when he lost an exciting IWA World Title challenge to the champion, Killer Kowalski.

Nikita Kalmikoff was an intriguing name to use on the inaugural tour. Kalmikoff (aka Nikita Mulkovitch, aka Alex Mulko) was a capable wrestler but my records reveal that he lost all his matches in Australia and he only competed in this country for approximately 4 weeks. Perhaps an American historian can advise whether Nikita possibly worked regularly for Barnett and/or Doyle in any of their US cities?

Dale Lewis played the clean cut, collegiate American babyface. This was based on fact as Lewis was a 2 time US Olympian (1956 and 1960 Olympic Games) and a 2 time NCAA title winner. Dale was popular but his main events were limited to challenging Killer Kowalski for the IWA World Title and teaming with Dominic DeNucci against the top heels on the tour.

Buddy Austin played number 2 heel to Killer Kowalski. Austin was a great rulebreaking wrestler and the master of the Piledriver. Buddy served as Kowalski's tag team partner in main events and also wrestled as a headliner against Dominic DeNucci.

Killer Kowalski was an all-time great wrestler and was acknowledged by promoter Barnett as his best heel attraction ever in Australia. The physically imposing and superbly fit Kowalski was the perfect choice as the initial IWA World Champion, having held versions of the world title in North America and being a perennial main event wrestler for many years.

Dominic DeNucci established himself as one of the best and most popular wrestlers to ever campaign in Australia. The ultimate authority, World Championship Wrestling promoter Barnett, told Dave Meltzer that DeNucci was his overall number 1 babyface draw in Australia. Just as Kowalski was the perfect choice as the number 1 heel for the new promotion, DeNucci was the ideal option as his babyface nemesis.

The drawing power and wrestling ability of both Killer Kowalski and Dominic DeNucci set Australia's World Championship Wrestling on the road to becoming what Dave Meltzer has described as the number 1 wrestling company in the world and the highest paying promotion in the world at the time.