Australian Wrestling Chronicles (Part Four): The Fabulous Kangaroos
This week's Australian Wrestling Chronicles is being written in conjunction with Matthew Hester's Creature vs. Creature competition. I hope you enjoy it!
For those of you that missed part three of the Australian Wrestling Chronicles on World Wrestling All-Stars, you can read it here. Now let's get on with the article!
Over the years there have been several versions of The Fabulous Kangaroos, but in this article I will focus on the original team which consisted of Roy Heffernan and the original "Man of a Thousand Holds" Al Costello.
The Fabulous Kangaroos are described by many as one of the greatest tag teams in all of professional wrestling. Their ability to get the fans to hate them with such a passion was second to none.
Throughout their career's, Costello and Heffernan wrestled some of the best wrestlers at the time, and they will always be known as pioneers of tag team wrestling.
The Fabulous Kangaroos were responsible for popularizing tag team wrestling in the "golden era" of the business in the late 50s and 60s. They helped keep the struggling division alive; and without them, who knows what the state of tag team wrestling would be today?
The pair were so famous around the world, that it was a common misconception among some wrestling fans that this duo created tag team wrestling. The reason they suggested such a thing is because tag team wrestling was often referred to as "Australian Rules" wrestling, or "Relevos Australianos" in Mexico.
The original idea of The Fabulous Kangaroos came from Costello who thought of having a tag team where both members showed every Australian stereotype that people overseas portray Australians to be like. He believed that an "Ultra Australian" gimmick would work very well, and evidently he was correct.
The Fabulous Kangaroos' gimmick proved to be very successful in getting heat from the Canadian and American crowds. The tag team's ring attire consisted of them wearing bush hats similar to the ANZACs from war time.
They also brought cardboard boomerangs to the ring that they would throw into the crowd, as well as a large Australian flag with "The Fabulous Kangaroos" written on it. The cherry on top for the duo was their theme song of Waltzing Matilda, the unofficial Australian anthem.
Costello started wrestling in 1938, but it wasn't until 1956 that he came up with the gimmick. Up until then he only known as a singles competitor. When most would have been thinking about retiring, Costello came up with the idea that really kicked off his career.
Heffernan, on the other hand, began wrestling at the age of 20, in 1944, but couldn't get a foothold in the Australian wrestling scene so he decided to travel to America, where he was hoping to advance his training and get onto the indy scene. It was purely by chance that Costello and Heffernan met in the United States and they decided to try their hand at tag team wrestling.
The Fabulous Kangaroos made their debut in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion on May 3, 1957. Within a month of their debut they were already working with some of the best tag teams in the company.
After wrestling in Canada for a year or so, they decided to travel across North America to see how they would fair in other prominent promotions. They had the uncanny ability to garner sell-out crowds everywhere they went because they were so good at gaining heat from the crowd.
It is said that in August of 1958, while having a match at Madison Square Garden, The Fabulous Kangaroos almost started a riot. In a match against the team of Miguel Perez and Antonino Rocca, The Fabulous Kangaroos got the crowd so riled up that they began to throw stones and pieces of fruit into the ring.
The match continued and eventually went to a no contest ruling, which only agitated the crowd even more. It got to the point where the promoters had to step into the ring and try to calm the frenzied fans. The promoters then ordered the national anthem to be played over the speakers as a last resort to try and settle the audience.
Later that same year the duo started wrestling for the NWA Western States wrestling promotion that was run by Dory Funk out of Amarillo, Texas. It is there that they won their first ever tag team championships together. Although their reign only last for two weeks, it was a vital stepping stone in their careers.
From there, The Fabulous Kangaroos moved on to wrestle in NWA New Mexico for a short while, until they made the big move of wrestling for Capitol Wrestling, which is now known as WWE. They made a real impact there by winning the NWA United States Tag Team Championship on three occasions.
To avoid over-exposure, the team decided to go on the road once again, this time ending up in Championship Wrestling from Florida. It was there that they wrestled with many great wrestlers, including Eddie Graham and Dick Steinborn.
After spending less than a year in Florida, Costello and Heffernan uprooted themselves and went on a tour that led them to Ohio, Japan—where they were the first-ever NWA International Tag Team Champions, and they finally finished up on the west coast of the United States for the first time in their careers—where they competed for the World Wrestling Association.
Throughout their time travelling the globe, The Fabulous Kangaroos never forgot about how they got their start in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion. They would frequently return to Canada to wrestle for Stu Hart, as well as making several appearances for NWA All-Star Wrestling in Vancouver, where they had arguably their biggest rivalry.
Upon arriving at All-Star Wrestling, The Fabulous Kangaroos where met with contempt by the team of Don Leo Jonathan and Roy McClarty. The two teams fought over the NWA Canadian Tag Team Championships for the better part of a year.
There was one match in the summer of 1964 that the crowd got heavily involved in. The Fabulous Kangaroos had announced that Stan Stasiak was an "honorary Kangaroo" for one night only, which set up a six-man tag team match between the team of The Fabulous Kangaroos, with Stan Stasiak, and the team of Don Leo Jonathan, Roy McClarty, and Karl Gotch.
As usual, The Fabulous Kangaroos utilised typical heel tactics to try and win the match. The crowd was sick and tired of all the cheating, and showed their fury at the wrestlers by throwing their chairs at them.
Costello and Heffernan scurried to get under the ring for their own safety, and some select members of the crowd lit the ring apron on fire to try and smoke them out. Luckily, nobody was seriously hurt, but it just goes to show you the affect that The Fabulous Kangaroos had on wrestling fans.
NWA All-Star Wrestling ended up being the last promotion that the pair wrestled for as a team. In June of 1965, The Fabulous Kangaroos split up. Heffernan had left Australia 12 years earlier to travel the world and felt that it was time for him to return to his home land. Costello decided that he would stay in America for a while longer.
Over the eight-year period that they were together, Costello and Heffernan have an incredible 19 tag team titles to their names.
Costello went on to wrestle under The Fabulous Kangaroos title with several other members over the years, but none will be remembered as fondly as the original pairing.
In 1993 Costello made a comeback from retirement to manage a new tag team called "The New Fabulous Kangaroos." The members of this new duo included Denny Kass and Al Snow from before his first run with WWF. The new faction was short-lived as it only lasted a year due to Snow signing with the WWF. Costello retired for good after the split.
Unfortunately, both members of the original Fabulous Kangaroos had passed away by the time they were inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall Of Fame and Museum in 2003. They were the first-ever tag team to do so, and their legacy will live on forever within those four walls.
If you're interested in watching one of their matches, you can check it out here. That particular match is a six-man tag team match: The Fabulous Kangaroos and Dr. Jerry Graham vs. Antonino Rocca, Ricky Starr, and Miguel Perez.
Thanks for reading!
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