Portland Wrestling (Big Time Wrestling)
February 1967 - December 28, 1991

Opening credits from a show, 1984.

A long-running staple in Portland television, wrestling had its first exposure on KPTV in 1953, with host Bob McAnulty (see Heidelberg Wrestling). It also aired on other Portland channels, including KOIN (6), but found its greatest success when it returned to KPTV in 1967. 

KPTV sports announcer (and midday movie host!) Frank Bonnema took the helm, developing a rapport with the wrestlers that few play-by-play men ever do. His exciting calls of the action inside the ring, as well as his "crow's nest" interviews between matches, became the highlight of KPTV's weekly coverage.

Many wrestlers who found national fame got their start in Portland, and appeared on KPTV's "Portland Wrestling," including Jesse Ventura and "Rowdy Roddy" Piper.

In the beginning, "Portland Wrestling" was a Friday night entry, but by 1969, the program had moved to Saturdays, where it would remain for the rest of its run. Originally a live program, KPTV began tape-delaying the Saturday matches until 11:00pm in 1979.

Frank Bonnema, host of Portland Wrestling, waits for another
match to begin from his perch in the "Crow's Nest."

Following Frank Bonnema's sudden death in 1982, Don Coss took over as host of the program. Rising production costs, the loss of faithful sponsor Tom Peterson (who declared bankruptcy in the early 1990s, and declining ratings finally put an end to "Portland Wrestling" in December 1991. The matches continued, and have been periodically televised on other Portland stations through the years.

Not since this incarnation, however, has wrestling from Portland enjoyed such a following. Even the nationally broadcast WWE matches on the UPN network don't draw the numbers of viewers who tuned in for "Portland Wrestling" during its heyday.

At some point, during the 1970s or 1980s, KPTV's broadcast was also aired in other markets, including Seattle, Washington, and the program was called "Big Time Wrestling."



Frank Bonnema interviews wrestling legend Lonnie Mayne.


Frank Bonnema hosted the show from 1967 until his death in
1982.


Jay Youngblood makes a point to the fans as Frank Bonnema
listens in.


Frank Bonnema and Steve Regal take a break between matches
in the Crow's Nest.


Playboy Buddy Rose (left) makes a speech while Rip Oliver looks
on.


Matt Borne (left) and Steve Regal have Frank surrounded.


From October 1980: Frank Bonnema stands
with wrestling icon "Rowdy Roddy" Piper.


Opening credits, 1991.


Don Coss took over as announcer for the program, following
the death of Frank Bonnema in 1982.


Don Coss welcomes fans to another edition of Portland
Wrestling on KPTV.


Behind the scenes: A wave from cameraman Phil Brown and a
smile from floor director Dan Whitehurst. Covering the weekly
wrestling matches required the coordination of a dozen people
and the set-up of heavy television cameras.


The final Portland Wrestling on KPTV, December 28, 1991.  Don
Coss thanks KPTV for 24 years of wrestling coverage and 
reminds fans that the matches will continue, even though they
will no longer be televised.

Portland Wrestling BROADCAST HISTORY
FEB 1967 - : FRI 9:30PM-11:00PM [LIVE]
MAY 1967 -  JUN 1967 - : FRI 9:30PM-10:30PM [LIVE]
JUN 1967 -  AUG 1967: FRI 10:00PM-11:00PM [LIVE]
JUN 1969 -  NOV 1969: SAT 9:30PM-11:00PM [LIVE]
OCT 1970 - SEP 1979: SAT 8:30PM-10:00PM [LIVE]
SEP 1979 - DEC 1991: SAT 11:00PM-12:30AM

share your memories of this program at kptvmemories@comcast.net

I grew up on KPTV during the 1960s and '70s in Eugene. For me, KPTV had the best movies available. I saw such films as "Casablanca," "Psycho," "The Birds" and "Holiday Inn" for the first time on KPTV. Movies on 12 were a staple of Saturday late-night viewing - after Portland Wrestling, of course. I well remember Frank Bonnema, Shag Thomas, Lonnie Mayne and Dutch Savage, and sponsors Tom Peterson and "Friendly" Joe Cahan from Friendly Chevrolet out Lake Oswego way. Every Saturday night at 8:30, there was - as Lonnie Mayne would put it - "excitement in the air!" Channel 12 was the best cartoon channel around, too - all the great Warner Bros. 'toons, and Popeye on the great Ramblin' Rod show - and God bless Rod Anders for his years of entertainment. KPTV is still my ideal of what the independent local station should be. It truly is "Oregon's 12." 

Mike Sims
Hillsboro, OR

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From a now-defunct website called "Golden Oldies"

Portland Wrestling returned to TV on KPTV in February 1967 with Frank Bonnema. It ran on Friday nights at 9:30 until wrestling was moved from the Armory to Portland Sports Arena in 1968. At that time, it moved to Saturday at 9:30. In 1970, it moved to 8:30. In 1979, KPTV started tape delaying the show until 11:00. Bonnema was the announcer (and a great one) until his death in October 1982. At that time, Don Coss & Dutch Savage took over. Savage was later replaced by Stan Stasiak. It wasn't until about 1972 that KPTV started broadcasting Portland Wrestling in color. Even for a few years after that, if KPTV broadcast another sporting event (Blazers, Ducks or Beavers) on a Saturday night, Portland Wrestling would be in wonderful black & white. They must have only had one color broadcast truck.

Jerry Gaule
creator of the "Golden Oldies" website

Jerry has another site with information about Portland Wrestling and Northwest TV History:
http://members.tripod.com/valleyhams/portlandwrestling.html

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