The Origins And Impact Of Professional Wrestling In Portland

Professional Wrestling is often considered a joke; it shouldn’t be that way. Wrestlers are part athletes, stuntmen, and, most importantly, entertainers. Aren’t all sports a form of entertainment anyways? Pro wrestling may be known for its roots in the South, but before the monopolization of the industry by Former WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, it was a regional affair. And Portland was one of those regions. This article will relive Portland Professional Wrestling and the stars that passed through the PDX. 

How it Started

One of the first documented “wrestling affairs” occurred in Portland Mechanics Arena in July 1883. The Oregonian labeled it a “grand athletic tourney.”

The match pitted Donald Dinuie against an unknown opponent. At the time, Dinuie was considered “Portland’s greatest athlete.”

This event is considered PDX’s first “professional wrestling match.”

However, the new sport was met with disdain, and dissenters made their voices heard, concerned with whether wrestling was an appropriate sport for women to watch. 

The Oregonian responded with the following statement, “There should be no breach of decorum, and those who admire the display of physical strength, endurance, and skill will no doubt be well entertained.” 

From here on out, wrestling was in.

Somewhere in the Middle

In the late 1920s, a local farmer named Herb Owen began to venture outside his day job. 

Owen found himself involved in boxing promotion, which eventually led to wrestling. 

One of his first notable shows took place in April 1929. The match featured George “Wildcat” Pete of Eugene Vs. Gus Kallio, both competitors donned their respective championships entering the fight. 

Kallio won the matchup with a “head scissors and hammerlock” submission hold making him a dual-threat champion.

Sometime after the event, there was a change at the helm, as Don Owen took over for his father in business promotion. 

With Don in charge, “Portland Wrestling” reached new airspace, specifically, the T.V. medium.

But it almost didn’t happen this way.

When the T.V. reps pulled up to D Owen’s farm, they were met with an interesting response. 

Don, who’d been up all night tending to a sick animal, recalled the story in detail, “ My clothes were dirty and covered with manure.”

He added, “ I told these guys, I’m tired; I’ve been up all night with a sick cow. I haven’t got time for you.” 

But eventually, he changed his mind and signed on with the company. Portland Wrestling first appeared on a television set on Friday, July 10, 1953.


While Portland Wrestling never reached the ranks of WCW or WWE, it wasn’t close. Its impact was felt.

A lot of star power came through the Pacific Northwest, and this isn’t a sympathy statement.

Mr. Perfect, Buddy Rose, Matt “Doink the Clown” Borne, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper all had stints in Portland.

These guys all made it to the highest level. 

To captivate what Portland Wrestling was in writing can’t be done. But maybe a Roddy Piper quote will do. 

“You don’t throw rocks at a machine gun, man.”

Ya, Portland Wrestling was good stuff.

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About Nick Bartlett 211 Articles
My name is Nick Bartlett, and I am a Senior Writer at as well as a Senior Writer here at OregonSportsNews. My work has been featured in the Seattle PI, OregonLive, and various other publications. I've also served as a guest on Sirius XM radio as a "Pac-12 Football Insider" For business inquiries, you can reach me at - Email: Phone Number: 425-366-9711