Ring Magazine – November 1948
By Wallie Ingram
WELLINGTON, N.Z.—If there is one magazine respected for its views in New Zealand, it is Nat Fleischer’s popular The Ring. About six years ago I wrote a special article for that publication on wrestling as it is conducted in New Zealand.
Today, with the passing of the years, I want to tell readers of at least one country where wrestling is not a sport where freaks parade as wrestlers and bring discredit to a sport that boasted such men as Hackenschmidt, Gotch, Farmer Burns, Tom Jenkins, and the Terrible Turk. Yes, even in New Zealand, many thousands of miles from America, we know of these men. After all, we do get The Ring. The history of wrestling in New Zealand is interesting. I could go back a matter of 20 years and tell of the days when the odd American passing through to Australia had a match or two. Why, Stanislaus Zbyszko once wrestled our Maori champion, Ike Robin, for the world title, but when midnight Saturday struck and the men were still on their feet without a fall, “curfew” was called to enable the good citizens—a handful only—to go to bed and get up in time to go to church.
The real solidarity of New Zealand wrestling started when former world champion in the lighter divisions, Walter Miller, arrived in company with a young Canadian, Earl McCready. Yes, sir, the advent of Miller and McCready really put wrestling on its feet in this country.
McCready, a big fellow who took the imagination for his clever, straight wrestling, is paying his eighth visit to New Zealand this season and is more popular than ever. McCready doesn’t claim any world titles, but he has the confidence of all New Zealanders that it will take a genuine world-class wrestler to beat him. He will find such men waiting for him this season.
We have had Len “Butch” Levy wrestling here and, for the benefit of those Ring readers who haven’t seen Levy in action I might go on record that whenever the ludicrous “world championship” position is cleared up—as it surely must be—Len Levy will be a worthy contender. He, like McCready, never starts jolting. He really wrestles in the manner that would do the heart of oldtimers good—but he has streamlined and speeded up the sport. Then we have Joe Pazandak. Now, contrary to a published report, Pazandak is not 6 feet tall. He’s about 5 feet 8 inches, but what there is, is solid. Pazandak, coming from Minneapolis, is a clever wrestler and has been engaged to coach New Zealand’s amateur wrestlers this season—in addition to fulfilling his own professional engagements. Bill Kuusisto, former American amateur champion, is another man doing well this season. Then, maybe Americans have heard of Jack Claybourne, the Negro wrestler? Jack’s acrobatics have added a spice of novelty to our wrestling. He’s a fine wrestler—not in the Pazandak, Levy, Kuusisto class when it comes to orthodox wrestling— but he’s tops with the crowd for his genuine ability to throw in dropkicks and tackles equal to the best. Every year since Walter Miller was given the task of selecting REAL wrestlers to compete under the control of the Dominion of New Zealand Wrestling Union attendances have increased. All matches are controlled by wrestling associations affiliated to the New Zealand Wrestling Union. These associations are formed in most towns and cities— every town with a population exceeding 8,000 has an association—and comprise the leading businessmen. Patron of the Dominion of New Zealand Wrestling Union is New Zealand’s Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Peter Frazer. New Zealand’s own champion is Lofty Blomfield, who has met most of the topliners in modern wrestling and has held his own. He is now being challenged by another New Zealander, Ken Kenneth, who went to America to gain experience.
The Ring, a paper respected for its honest approach to sport, might take a look at the conduct of wrestling in New Zealand and suggest that here, in a land known to thousands of Marines—before they went north to Guadalcanal and Tarawa—is a place where the rebirth of wrestling is taking place.