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Irishman Mike Ryan

Irishman Mike RyanHeight 6' 1"

Weight 130kg

I started wrestling in NZ in the amateur ranks as an Olympic Freestyle Wrestler at the Kilbirnie Wrestling Gym in Wellington, more by accident than desire, being a keen rower and rugby player I knew little about the NZ local wrestling scene, I initially tagged along with a mate who wanted to get back into the sport and he just wanted company when he had to show his face back into the gym.

There I met a young Ricky Rickard and his coach Ron Butts, Ron was a previous gold medallist at the Empire Games, now the Commonwealth Games, Ron became like a second father, but also a great mentor, he also helped get me back on track and off the streets where I was heading for trouble.

Ricky and the other gym members basically gave me nothing but grief, tying me up in knots and pinning me endlessly, being a supposed Jack the Lad around town, I could not get my head around it, and could not understand how these smaller guys were getting the better of me and giving me hiding after hiding, my mate who introduced me fell by the wayside and left the sport again, but I refused to leave until I bested these so called wrestlers, the rest is history, " I never left".

Over the next two years I clicked under Ron Butts and along with Ricky's help I made it into the NZ National Wrestling team twice and toured overseas two years in a row, touring exclusively all around the USA, also competing in the Junior World Champs in Joliet, Chicago, USA.

Although winning local titles, the best memory was winning the NZ 90kg National Title, the gold medal which was presented to me by none other than that great international weight lifter "Precious McKenzie".

I took out the title with a reverse suplex which put my opponent in an ambulance and off to hospital, at the time a great worry, but he pulled through with no permanent spinal injuries and was back on his feet the next day.

Steve Rickard's gymSteve Rickard was a gym patron and donated the latest wrestling mats to the club that year, he also bought along the "Iron Sheik" who was on tour in NZ with Steve, he is probably the toughest and strongest man I have ever come across, he was a Greco Roman specialist and also assisted the USA Olympic team as a coach in the off season, under his guidance and training methods backed up by Ron Butts we got 4 members of our club into the NZ team to tour the USA that year.

After my second national tour I returned to NZ broke and as crook as hell, then to top it off I ended up in hospital for a time. Ron Butts had left Wellington while I was away so I was now the head coach and trying also to train myself for the upcoming NZ Champs, trying to keep the club going as far as training was concerned and also recovering from the hospital was too much for a young man of 18, things were a real mess.

Previously I had worked for Steve Rickard as an usher when his promotions were in town for some extra cash, so when he recommended I should change ranks and join Ricky who had also just turned Pro, I had to think long and hard, needing the money and some new direction, I made my mind up and was on my way.

Steve Rickard would have to be the main promoter I have worked for in NZ, I have also worked for Al Hobman, Bruno Bekker, and Bob Crozier. At present I am on contract with KPW, after breaking into the business around the same time as Rip Morgan, it is hard to believe I am now on his roster, Rip has wrestled all around the world and is still highly regarded Internationally, this has been borne out especially on the last two occasions when WWE has arrived in NZ, Rip has on both occasions been the only NZ promoter to be given the job of bringing local talent to WWE for them to have a look at, the experience he brings to KPW is immense. One issue that I see holding some great potential NZ talent back is not listening to sound advice from those that have done the hard yards, especially Rip, whether this be hitting the gym harder or taking sound advice on mat work etc, some local talent have missed out on once in a lifetime opportunities, the old story about putting an old head on young shoulders comes to mind.

The question regarding the number of matches I have had would leave me unable to remember or count, in the old days you sometimes wrestled 6 or 7 times a week, both here and overseas, driving or flying to the next town or city, you either got on with it, toughened up, kept training, whether injured or not, and stopped complaining or you fell by the wayside with a broken down mind and body.

Merv FortuneWellington wrestlingThe number of overseas wrestlers is also endless, but certain individuals stick in your mind, not because they were the best but because they strike a cord somewhere. Steve Rickard always knew how to push my buttons so I was always wired up and as rough as hell when I got in the ring. I fought Joe Le Duc in his first match in New Zealand at Wellington. I was told he was just getting over a heart operation and he had a scar from neck to waist to prove it. I was warned to take it easy as he got mad as hell when he was pushed and wound up. I knew was in trouble the instant I drop kicked him on the chin and gave him a bit of a kicking, he got straight up with eyes like saucers, he was like an enraged bull, needless to say he won shortly after.

The sight of Andre the Giant screaming and yelling at me while running down the aisle to the ring one night in New Plymouth was a sight to see, ( his idea of a joke ), I had just given an opponent an intense and bruising night to remember. I thought I was done for; he leapt over the top rope, picked me up and carried me around the ring above his head with one hand, much to the delight of the capacity crowd. Andre's sudden death was a shock to many of us, despite his giant size, he was really down to earth and a real hard case.

Being splashed by Giant Haystacks (the same size as Andre, at the time they were both on tour in New Zealand ), was also a painful night. We were the last two in the ring at Invercargill after a big Battle Royal, once again I over stepped the mark and paid the price.

Mike and Steve RickardMike Ryan