The following is a column by Australian pro wrestling historian Kirk Beattie on making a Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame case for Bearcat Wright.
Bearcat Wright was born on 13 January 1932, making him just 21 years old in his first tour of Australia in 1953. Steve Yohe has compiled a great ring record for Bearcat showing his earliest match as 17 December 1951 whilst Bearcat was still competing as a professional boxer. Thus, Wright had just barely 18 months of experience when he made his Australian wrestling debut on 21 May 1953 and toured until the end of July that year. His name was acknowledged as Eddie Wright but he was generally billed as Bobo “Bearcat” Wright.
His professional boxing statistics credited him as being 6'5" inches tall, and 18 stone 6 pounds (258 pounds). In Australia, he was billed as 6'7" tall and 19 stone (266 pounds) in weight.
Australian newspaper articles in 1953 acknowledged Wright as “the biggest wrestler to visit Australia”, possessing an “abnormal reach of 87 inches”, being “remarkably fast for a big man” and “in perfect condition and strong in proportion to his great weight”. It was noted that Bearcat would turn heads as he walked down main streets as he “dwarfed” the average Australian of the time.
Other newspaper reports were that Wright had “a chest measurement of 50 inches”, wore “size 13 shoes and “6 ½ yards of cloth are required to make him a suit”.
It was published that Bearcat was formerly a professional heavyweight boxer who “in August 1951 was named in The Ring (magazine) as prospect of the month”. Wright’s pro boxing record was embellished from actually winning all of his eight professional boxing contests - 5 by knockout – to having “had 37 fights for 35 wins”. Bearcat was quoted as saying he “would like to fight Kevin Brady, heavyweight (boxing) champion of Australia.”
A gimmick at some of his matches was that “all ladies attending the wrestling will receive a free picture” of him.
The Debut Tour
Technically, all of Bearcat’s 1953 Australian matches were main events as back then, shows were headlined by a wrestling match featuring overseas stars supported by preliminary matches with local wrestlers and/or boxing bouts. At Sydney Stadium, the undercard contained two matches featuring local wrestlers plus boxing bouts. At Leichhardt Stadium (in suburban Sydney), the undercard contained three matches featuring local wrestlers plus boxing bouts, whilst the undercards at West Melbourne Stadium, Brisbane Stadium and Newcastle Stadium contained only boxing bouts.
On rare occasions, there would be two matches featuring overseas wrestlers. Of course, by these standards, all overseas wrestlers wrestled only main event matches.
Overseas wrestlers working in Australia during Wright’s campaign were Chief Little Wolf, Pat McGill, Johnny Moochy, Pierre La Salle (Eddie Auger – uncle of Johnny and Jacques Rougeau), Mario De Souza, and Nick Kapitan.
Here's the results of his 1953 run in Australia.
The Second Tour
Wright’s second tour of Australia was in July to September 1966 for the World Championship Wrestling promotion of Jim Barnett and Johnny Doyle. In typical pro wrestling manner, Bearcat was then billed as 6'9" and 20 stone (280 pounds).
He was nicknamed “the world’s most spectacular wrestler” due largely for his ability to deliver dropkicks, flying head scissors and somersault splashes despite being as such a huge man, and “the Houdini of the mat” for his smooth escapes from opponents’ holds.
Australian newspaper articles of the day proclaimed Bearcat as “a giant” who “dwarfs his opponents not only in physique but also in skill, speed and showmanship.”
Wright debuted in 1966 with great fanfare, wrestling in special event matches directly before the main events in capital cities and major towns throughout Australia. After a week Down Under, Bearcat was headlining World Championship Wrestling events. After two weeks, he teamed with Mark Lewin to win the International Wrestling Alliance (IWA) World Tag Team Titles from Skull Murphy & Brute Bernard. After five weeks, Bearcat defeated Skull Murphy to become the IWA World Champion.
At one stage, Wright held both the IWA World Championship and the IWA World Tag Team Title simultaneously.
On this tour, Bearcat had great matches against Professor Tanaka, Skull Murphy, Brute Bernard, Bob “the Bruiser” Baker (Larry Hulin aka Bobby “Hercules” Graham), Mitsu Arakawa, Mark Lewin, Dan Miller and the masked Destroyer (John Hill aka Guy Mitchell).
Here's a complete rundown of Wright's 1963 run in Australia.