Interviews
Interview - Ken Dunlop


Interview: Ken Dunlop - Retired professional wrestler and businessman (Part 1) - July 2017

Ken Dunlop and Wayne 'Lofty' Pickford

Profiles

Wrestling

Media Man continues to ramp up interviews with some of Australia's and indeed the world's most interesting and talented people in and around the entertainment and sports business. Today we interview a gentleman who many would consider a living legend of Australia's professional wrestling. Hardcore wrestling fans already know him, while casual fans may not. Today part of his story goes worldwide via the internet and we can tell you that his matches are well worth looking up.

What's news?

Hi Greg, l had a good chat with Peter Moses yesterday for about 90 minutes about the old Jim Barnett days. l saw a list on one of your profiles about Australian Promoters.

There's no mention of Larry O'Dea and Ron Miller, Roy Heffernan, Steve Rackman, Johnny Csom, George Zorbas, Bob Blassie and Andy Harpis, Bob Blassie & Ken Dunlop & Wayne Pickford and Jock Ruddick that pretty much covers the 80"s and 90"s in Sydney. And l know in Melbourne there were many small promotions, Dominic Care, Sam Rossi, Kurt Schneider and many others.

Yes, there's too many promoters to list. We will have to keep a tab on it and perhaps start ramping up with promoters, as well as wrestlers, and other leading entities in the sports and entertainment industry, both in Australia and abroad.

How did you develop your interest in professional wrestling?

When l was about 4 years old Wrestling was like a religion in our family we used to sit in front of the TV at noon on Saturday and Sunday and watch the wrestling, as we lived in the country Moe up in Gippsland, in Victoria there wasn't anything live to see. WCW used to come to Kernott Hall in Yallourn, in the next town about once every two months and we used to go to those shows. But when l was 10 we moved to Melbourne so from Feb 1971 Mum and l started going to Festival Hall every Saturday night after a few months l was hooked , we had permanent seats booked and we went to every show right up until the end of 1978 when it finished. We also used to go occasionally to the TV taping at Channel 9 in Richmond they used to tape the show at 10.00 am and we would rush home to see it on TV at noon. We met some great friends who were also regulars. That was an amazing time of my life. Ken Medlin and Johnny Gray were my two favorite Aussie's and Bruiser Brodie and King Curtis were two of my favorite Yanks.

How and when did you get your break in the business?

When you go to Festival Hall every week you get to meet some of the local wrestlers , we got to know Sam Rossi, John Schneider and Fred Burger so we would say hi got to know their families and it was Sam Rossi who first asked me if l was interested in learning ,l jumped at the chance and the following Monday l went down to their gym MB'S Gym in North Melbourne, l was 16 and very shy, Sam Rossi and Casey Miller taught me all the basics breakfalls and bridging, holds and counetrholds, then on Thursday nights John Scneider and Jim Dimeros and Fred Burger would give us bump nights they would just throw us around for hours. I was hooked, l loved it. Sam came over to see my parents and promised them that he would teach me all he knew. I got to train with Fat Dominic and Johnny Doyle, there was also Rob Magris who started at the same time as me, and a few other locals ( sorry can't remember all their names) I trained there for 18 months and it was a very exciting time. l got some great friendships from those days, John Schneider (Denk) became my best friend and even though John passed away his family are still a very big part of my life, l even gave his daughter Sharlene at her wedding about 7 years ago. I also went to train with Mario Milano and George Guliovis for a few months and that was also a great help.

I was wrestling around Melbourne in the clubs and shopping centres , l was also refereeing and as part of my apprenticeship helping put the ring up and pull it down after the show. Around Sep/Oct in 1979 Kid Hardy took me to Sydney to do a show for Steve Rackman at Revesby Workers, l did the show for nothing to me it was like an audition, luckily Rackman liked me and offered me lots of work if l moved to Sydney. In December 1979 l packed up and moved here and I'm still here. I only worked for Rackman for the first 9 months probably 5 shows a month then Mario Milano came up for some shows and asked me why l wasn't working for Larry O'Dea and Ron Miller and Roy Heffernan, l thought l had to stay with just Rackman but Mario gave me their phone numbers and l started working for all of them which was sensational. I had a full time job within a week of moving up here and l stayed with my Grandparents in Darling Point for the first few months and then got my own unit and l was away. I really missed my family as we were all very close and l used to drive down about 6 times a year for the weekends. I started training at Doveys Gym in Darlinghurst which was a great old fashioned gym, there was Tony Hawkins, Doug Johnston, Andy Harpis who would come and train with us then Roy Heffernan would come down and we learnt so much more from Roy than you could imagine. We trained at various Police Boys Clubs as well , Paddington, Glebe, Rockdale, Glebe. After a few years l started training guys.

Working in the clubs in Sydney was fantastic some Friday nights you could be on 2 shows and on Sundays you could be on 3 shows it was frantic. The death of El Grecco killed the scene for quite some time. We lost alot of clubs straight away.

What's some of the best advice, best people, and challenges overcome?

Most of the older guys were great and would offer lot's of advice and Roy told me always listen to the advice thank them and respect them and then do what you want with the advice. There were 2 guys in particular who hated any new talent coming in and they were George Barnes and Bret Small, they would give us young guys a real hard time they would beat the shit of us week in week out, we just kept taking it and were getting better all the time. Tough guy Vic Murray was also a great help with good advice.

Tell us about training wrestlers and how you also helped out a few in other aspect of their lives?

I started training guys myself at Doveys and l had some great young come through l taught them the old way - tough and hard l was always 100% honest with them and taught them respect. Alot of these young guys had family issues and became part of my family l was always there for them quite often they would crash at my place for the weekend and eventually l had to rent a 4 bedroom house in Sans Souci and 3 of them moved in. l tried my best to help guide them through life and l am still in touch with most of these guys, l have been to their weddings, become an uncle to their children. l am very proud of that.

When and why did you decide to come out as a gay man in wrestling?

As in coming out as Gay l never really came out it's just who l am. l always told the young guys before l trained them so they knew and no one had an issue with it. There was only one other openly gay wrestler the late John English on the wrestling scene. I'm sure there were more but not out. It was never an issue for me.

Tell us about some of the injures you have sustained and overcoming challenges?

My injury list will fill your story. Both knees, I've had 12 operations on my knees finally have had them both replaced. Had my right shoulder reconstructed twice and my right shoulder done once. Had my right ankle fixed up and a steel plate in my big toe on the right foot, l can't bend it anymore. (Having the same issue with my left ankle at the moment). Had many fractured and cracked ribs over the years had my lung punctured once from a cracked rib. The most serious issue which could affect me as I'm getting older is that l have had concussion at least 12 times. My memory is shot, when I'm on a roll l can remember things but the next day it's gone. I'm hopeless with names but good with faces.

What's the biggest and smallest crowds you have performed in front of?

The smallest crowd l worked to about 12 people. It was in Brisbane in 1988 it was an outdoor show on the coldest night in Brisbane for over 20 years. There was however about 80-100 in the clubhouse watching but a fair way from the ring. The biggest crowd would be around 6,000 people at Festival Hall in Melbourne which was awesome, we also had about 4,000 in Adelaide for the same tour.

What's the highlights of your career?

Sorry , it's hard to pinpoint one. Working against Ken Medlin at Festival Hall in Melbourne with Jack Little as compare, wow that was amazing, as a kid going to the shows Ken Medlin and Johnny Gray were my favorites and to wrestle Ken was as l said awesome. Also wrestling Danny Boy Collins in England was fantastic. He was easily the best worker there at that time and we had an amazing match. Working with Wayne Lofty Pickford as a tag team was incredible, you could never meet a nicer man than Wayne. Also teaming with my younger brother Alan who worked as Red Hot Ricky Diamond was very emotional. I was so proud of him. I also wrestled him a few times most fittingly my final match.

Also very proud that l became friends with people like Jack Little, Roy Heffernan, Steve Rackman, Mario Milano, John Schneider, Ken Medlin and so many more. Also very proud of all the young men that l trained , Skyhawk, Kiss, Thunderbolt, Mike Starr, David Hart, Ace Fenton, Red Flair and again quite a few more.