Wilbur: The King in the Ring

Film, 2017 (Trailer)

Former pro wrestler Wilbur McDougall was battling addiction and self-imposed isolation before undergoing gastric sleeve surgery. For this serio-comic documentary, he let university mate J Ollie Lucks film his journey of transformation. McDougall needs a new wrestling persona — and the "happiness and self-acceptance that has eluded him for so long". Will his friendship with Lucks survive, as the filmmaker jumps at the story from the top rope? Lucks and Julia Parnell's feature began in 2015 as a short film for Loading Docs. The long version debuted at 2017's Doc Edge Festival.

On the Mat - 29 July 1980

Television, 1980 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of the legendary pro-wrestling show screened on 29 July 1980. Ernie Leonard and Steve Rickard compere the action at Canterbury Court Stadium. In the first match up Aussie grappler Larry O'Day teams up with local Merv Fortune to take on Kid Hardie and young Ricky Rickard. An excerpt features Brute Miller and Sweet William (later famous as The Bushwackers) against Lu Leota and Samoan Joe; while Jack Claybourne and Ron Miller round out the bill. Billy T James makes an appearance and comments on the authenticity of the in-the-ring proceedings.

Loading Docs 2015 - Wilbur Force

Web, 2015 (Full Length)

Wilbur Force was once a warrior in the world of NZ pro wrestling, but he has fallen on hard times and is back in his hometown, living on the dole and mattress rather than on the mat. This edition in the second season of Loading Docs short films sees director J Ollie Lucks chronicling his ex-university classmate (real name William McDougall) battling the demons that have kept him from the ring. But McDougall soon questions his director’s motivation. Wilbur Force was selected for the 2015 NZ International Film Festival. A feature film inspired by the wrestler was released in 2017.

Series

On the Mat

Television, 1975–1983

Legendary professional wrestling TV show On the Mat ran from 1975 until 1983. Each half-hour show featured wrestling matches accompanied by commentary - promoter Steve Rickard described the technical in-the-ring aspects and Ernie Leonard, and later Barry Holland, added colour. The larger-than-life wrestlers were a mix of US imports and local characters: King Curtis, Samoan Joe, Aussie Larry O'Day, Rick Martel, and Sweet William and Brute Miller (soon famous in the US as The Bushwackers). The show was the catalyst for the boom in popularity of Rickard's pro-wrestling tour.

On the Mat - 17 March 1981

Television, 1981 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of the legendary professional wrestling series screened in March 1981. Barry Holland and the late Steve Rickard host (Ernie Leonard has moved behind the scenes into a producer role). Rickard welcomes locals and viewers from Kenya, Hong Kong and Malaysia. On the Mat mainstay Mark Lewin features prominently, appearing in tag action before reminiscing about a fiery battle with King Curtis in Japan. Things don't improve as he's attacked by the Voodoo-crazed Big Mullumba. The main event sees local star Johnny Garcia and Samoan Joe battling it out.

The Legend of Baron To'a

Film, 2019 (Trailer)

The Karate Kid meets South Auckland when Fritz (played by Australian-Tongan actor Uli Latukefu) learns the warrior ways of his old Dad, so he can secure the return of his family's treasured pro-wrestling title belt from local gangsters. The Legend of Baron To'a marks the first feature from director Kiel McNaughton, whose credits include Auckland Daze and Find Me a Māori Bride. McNaughton also produced acclaimed films Waru and Vai with his wife Kerry Warkia. The action/comedy boasts a stellar Pasifika/Māori cast, including  Jay Laga'aia and Shavaughn Ruakere.

The Deep End - The Wrestler

Television, 1980 (Full Length)

TV series The Deep End saw reporter Bill Manson trying his hand at a variety of tasks, from female impersonator to Robinson Crusoe to captaining a navy frigate. In this episode, Manson is given six weeks to get in shape for a pro wrestling bout. To prepare himself for the dangerous job, 12 stone Manson hits the weights, grapples with wrestling legend Steve Rickard (On the Mat) and works with an acting tutor, barber and promoters on his onstage persona: ‘Doctor Mindbender’. “The thing that scares me," he says, "is just breaking my neck…”

Barry Holland

Presenter

Alongside a radio career spanning more than half a century, Barry Holland, NZOM, has done numerous presenting jobs on television. Since starting his broadcasting career at Radio 1ZB in the early 60s, he has commentated the Olympic Games and the America’s Cup, and been the face of classic Kiwi TV series like On The Mat and Top Town.

J Ollie Lucks

Director, Editor

German born J Ollie Lucks moved to Dunedin to study film in 2005. Together with Max Bellamy, he directed haunted baritone tale The Characteristics of C-Minor, which screened on BBC Knowledge and in a run of international festivals. In 2015 Lucks began tailing ex-pro wrestler Wilbur McDougall for both a popular Loading Docs short, and the feature-length documentary Wilbur: The King in the Ring. His editing work includes Inside New Zealand entry Wildman, and episodes of second-generation Kiwi series Both Worlds.

Bill Manson

Reporter, Presenter

After completing a BA in politics, English-born, Kiwi-raised Bill Manson joined Radio New Zealand, then reported for TV's Town and Around. By 1969 he was globetrotting  — it wouldn't be the last time — then hosting a radio show in Thailand. Back in New Zealand, he worked as a reporter for TVNZ from 1977 to 1981; in 1980 he won fame as presenter of The Deep End, having a go at everything from pro wrestling to female impersonator and naval commander. Now based in California after reporting everywhere from London to Eritrea, Manson has written for The Huffington Post, The Guardian and the cover of The San Diego Reader.