50th State Big Time Wrestling

50th State Big Time Wrestling (sometimes referred to as NWA Hawaii) was a professional wrestling promotion headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii in the United States that promoted professional wrestling matches throughout Hawaii. The promotion was founded by Al Karasick in 1936 and became a member of the National Wrestling Alliance in 1949. In 1961, Karasick sold the promotion to "Gentleman" Ed Francis. Along with his business partner Lord James Blears, Francis created a "golden age" of professional wrestling in Hawaii that lasted throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with 50th State Big Time Wrestling becoming one of Hawaii's most-watched programs.[5] The promotion came to an end in 1979 when Francis sold his interest to Steve Rickard.[1][6]

50th State Big Time Wrestling
HeadquartersHonolulu, Hawaii, United States[1]
Owner(s)Al Karasick (1936–1961)[2][3]
Ed Francis (1961–1979)[4]
ParentMid-Pacific Promotions


Mid-Pacific Promotions was founded in 1936 by Russian emigrant Al Karasick. Assisted by booker Bobby Bruns, Karasick staged weekly shows in Honolulu's Civic Auditorium, which he managed. Thanks to Hawaii's tropical climate, Mid-Pacific Promotions emerged as a popular destination for wrestlers looking for a "working vacation", with high-profile wrestlers such as Lou Thesz and Rikidōzan visiting Hawaii. In 1949, Karasick joined the National Wrestling Alliance. In the early-1950s, Karasick began expanding into Japan, lobbying NWA president Sam Muchnick to recognise Japan as his territory.[2][3][7][8] By the 1960s, Hawaii was established as a hub for American wrestlers travelling to and from Japan.[5]

In 1961, Karasick retired from promoting, selling the territory to "Gentleman" Ed Francis, who rebranded it "50th State Big Time Wrestling".[9] Francis continued promoting weekly Wednesday shows at the Civic Auditorium, with the venue regularly sold-out.[10] Shortly after Francis took over the promotion, a bout between Native Hawaiian wrestler King Curtis Iaukea and Samoan wrestler Neff Maiava resulted in a violent riot.[9] Francis appointed Lord James Blears as booker, with Blears quickly gaining a name for his "outrageous" and "goofy" characters.[5] The promotion's top stars included Johnny Barend, Curtis Iaukea, Don Muraco, Neff Maiava, Peter Maivia, and Sammy Steamboat. The promotion helped introduce several concepts that later became ubiquitous in professional wrestling, including the steel cage match and the backstage interview.[11] Johnny Barend became infamous for his outlandish interviews, which began with him emerging from a coffin while smoking a cigar. In 1967, Barend married Annie Lum in the ring at the Honolulu International Center shortly before a title match.[10][12][13]

Francis secured a Saturday afternoon live television slot on KHVH-TV.[4] As the promotion increased in popularity, it moved to KGMB and increased its output to two programs a week: a taped show featuring interviews, vignettes and replays on Friday nights and a live show on Saturday afternoons.[5] Hosted by Francis and Blears, 50th State Wrestling was at one point the most watched television program in Hawaii.[14][15][11] Television tapings rotated between Hawaii, Kauai, and Maui. After the Civic Coliseum closed in the 1970s, the promotion shifted to the Honolulu International Center.[5]

With costs rising and revenues falling, Francis sold the promotion to Steve Rickard in 1979.[10][16] With Francis no longer promoting, Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association expanded into Hawaii.[17]


Championship Created Abandoned Notes
NWA Hawaii Heavyweight Championship 1937 1979 The original Hawaii Heavyweight Championship was created in 1917. The revived version was established in 1937 when Oki Shikina won a tournament. The championship was vacated in 1979 when 50th State Big Time Wrestling was sold. The championship was briefly resurrected in 1979-1980 and again in 2000.
NWA Hawaii Tag Team Championship 1952 1979 The Hawaii Tag Team Championship was created in 1952 when Bobby Bruns and Lucky Simunovich won a tournament. The championship was vacated in 1979 when 50th State Big Time Wrestling was sold. The championship was resurrected in 2000.
NWA Pacific International Championship 1962 1979 This championship was created in 1962 as the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship (Hawaii version). In 1968, it was renamed the NWA North American Championship (Hawaii version). In 1978, it was renamed again to the NWA Pacific International Championship. The championship was vacated in 1979 when 50th State Big Time Wrestling was sold. The championship was briefly resurrected in 1980.



  • Ed Francis (2012) Gentleman Ed Francis Presents: 50th State Big Time Wrestling!


  1. ^ a b c d "Mid-Pacific Promotions (Mid-Pacific)". Cagematch.net. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Tim Hornbaker (2007). National Wrestling Alliance: The Untold Story of the Monopoly That Strangled Professional Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-55490-274-3.
  3. ^ a b Brian Solomon (2015). Pro Wrestling FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the World's Most Entertaining Spectacle. Backbeat Books. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-61713-627-6.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dan Cisco (1999). Hawai'i Sports: History, Facts, and Statistics. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 418–419. ISBN 978-0-8248-2121-0.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Rod Ohira (July 24, 2005). "Iaukea reminisces about 50th-state wrestling". The Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  6. ^ "Big Time Wrestling / Mid-Pacific Promotions". Wrestling-Titles.com. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  7. ^ Tim Hornbaker (2017). Legends of Pro Wrestling: 150 Years of Headlocks, Body Slams, and Piledrivers. Skyhorse Publishing. pp. 59–60. ISBN 978-1-61321-875-4.
  8. ^ Josh Gross (2016). Ali vs. Inoki: The Forgotten Fight That Inspired Mixed Martial Arts and Launched Sports Entertainment. BenBella Books. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-942952-19-0.
  9. ^ a b Leslie Wilcox (December 2012). "Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox: Ed Francis". PBS Hawai'i. Retrieved November 7, 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d "Former promoter pens Hawaii wrestling memoir". Honolulu Star-Advertiser (via PressReader.com). December 9, 2012. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d Steve Murray (July 22, 2005). "When wrestling was king". MidWeek. Black Press. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  12. ^ a b Gordon Pang (September 21, 2011). "50th State Wrestling star enjoyed 'ordinary' life". Honolulu Star-Advertiser (via PressReader.com). Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  13. ^ Greg Oliver (August 21, 2008). "A visit with 'Handsome' Johnny Barend". Canoe.com. Postmedia Network. Retrieved November 8, 2017.
  14. ^ Kristian Pope (2005). Tuff Stuff Professional Wrestling Field Guide: Legend and Lore. Krause Publications. p. 151. ISBN 1-4402-2810-8.
  15. ^ a b c Bill Watts; Scott Williams (2006). The Cowboy and the Cross: The Bill Watts Story: Rebellion, Wrestling and Redemption. ECW Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-55022-708-6.
  16. ^ Steven Johnson; Greg Oliver; Mike Mooneyham; J.J. Dillon (2013). The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Heroes and Icons. ECW Press. p. 375. ISBN 978-1-77090-269-5.
  17. ^ Superstar Billy Graham; Keith Elliot Greenberg (2006). Superstar Billy Graham: Tangled Ropes. Simon & Schuster. p. 145. ISBN 978-1-4165-0753-6.
  18. ^ a b Harris M. Lentz III (2013). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2012. McFarland & Company. p. 31. ISBN 978-0-7864-7063-1.
  19. ^ John Grasso (2014). Historical Dictionary of Wrestling. Scarecrow Press. p. 49. ISBN 978-0-8108-7926-3.
  20. ^ George Schire (2010). Minnesota's Golden Age of Wrestling: From Verne Gagne to the Road Warriors. Minnesota Historical Society. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-87351-620-4.
  21. ^ James Dixon; Arnold Furious; Lee Maughan (2013). Tagged Classics: Just The Reviews. Lulu.com. p. 399. ISBN 978-1-291-42878-0.
  22. ^ Christopher Price (2013). New England Patriots New & Updated Edition: The Complete Illustrated History. MVP Books. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-7603-4513-9.
  23. ^ Steven Verrier (2017). Professional Wrestling in the Pacific Northwest: A History, 1883 to the Present. McFarland & Company. p. 105. ISBN 978-1-4766-7002-7.
  24. ^ Bertrand Hébert; Pat Laprade (2005). Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story. ECW Press. pp. 116–117. ISBN 978-1-77305-065-2.

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