New Zealand pro-wrestling is returning to the nation’s TV screens for the first time in 25 years with the launch of Off the Ropes, a brand new series coming to Prime TV.
This 13-part series, filmed in Wellington, will hit New Zealand screens later in the year and will provide viewers with an action packed half hour of New Zealand’s top wrestling talent complete with spectacle, drama and all round family entertainment.
Champion wrestlers H-Flame and Shane ‘The Technician” Whitehead will provide world-class action in the ring along with promising new Kiwi talent Kade Morgan (the only third generation wrestler in New Zealand), Inferno and Diva Queen Hollie.
“The circus is coming to town,” said former top New Zealand and international wrestler Rip Morgan, the driving force behind both the series and the revival of pro-wrestling in New Zealand.
“Off the Ropes will be compulsive viewing for all ages. WWE has a huge following and this will have just as much excitement, spectacle and drama with a real Aotearoa theme. We are doing it our way.”
The last televised Kiwi pro-wrestling show, On the Mat, ran from 1974 to 1984 and was one of the highest rating shows in the country.
Rip’s passion for wrestling began as a small boy in Wellington watching his uncle, legendary ‘Bushwacker’ wrestler Butch Miller, an On the Mat favourite, competing in bouts across New Zealand’s wrestling circuit.
“In those days everywhere from small towns to big cities had a wrestling circuit, the following was huge,” said Rip. “International wrestlers came here to fight and our wrestlers were in demand all over the world.”
Rip, now retired from wrestling, also competed internationally and was a regular on the US circuit.
He and his co-directors launched Wellington-based Kiwi Pro Wrestling in 2006, establishing the Wild 4 Wrestling training school and working steadily to raise skill levels to world standard.
“For the last couple of decades New Zealand wrestling has survived at club level,” said Rip. “Our vision is to take it to a new level of dynamic sports entertainment with Kiwi wrestling identities who can successfully compete on the international circuit.”
Former On the Mat stars closely involved with the series include ‘Irishman’ Mike Ryan and Juno Huia who has passed his mantle of ‘Maori Warrior’ onto emerging talent, Whetu.
Teaming up with producer/director and wrestling fan Stevo O’Rourke of Wellington-based Ocular Films, provided the catalyst for the series.
“Off the Ropes is going to make compelling viewing,“ said Stevo. “Wrestling is the ultimate in physical theatre. It’s about telling the story of good versus evil.
“The wrestlers are true athletes who combine the fighting arts with acrobatics and showmanship. There are going to be very strong characters in the show. There will be good guys, bad guys, bad guys who turn good and so on. There will be someone everyone can relate to.”
Filming for the first series takes place in September in front of a live audience who have been personally invited and will include pupils from local schools.
A former munitions store in Newtown, Wellington, previously used by Peter Jackson, is being transformed with a central ring, tiered seating and state of the art sound, lighting, safe strobes and special effects equipment.