The Fighting Springbok: Spotlight On World Wrestling Professionals (WWP)

Dean LobContributor IApril 11, 2010

Welcome to the very first installment of The Fighting Springbok, a feature which will be dedicated to all things related to South African wrestling. For over ten years I have been an avid follower of the scene and I intend to share some of my knowledge with you readers through what I hope will be a regular feature.

Many of you are aware of WWE NXT superstar Justin Gabriel, but how many know that he wrestled regularly as PJ Black for many years in the past for South Africa's World Wrestling Professionals (WWP) promotion? You may also be aware of current FCW wrestler Leo Kruger, who tagged with Gabriel over a decade ago and later feuded with him in WWP. Kruger was a former WWP World Heavyweight Champion while Gabriel was the first-ever WWP World Cruiserweight Champion. Ever since they were signed by WWE, World Wrestling Professionals has come to be known as a "star-making promotion".

World Wrestling Professionals was founded in 2002 by former professional wrestlers Mark Beale and Abdul Kader, running shows in its home city of Port Elizabeth for the first two years until their acquisition of a national television deal with SABC2 in 2004. Their flagship program, known as WWP Thunderstrike, aired on Saturday afternoons during its first two seasons and was considered a ratings success by the network. The show was pushed to a night-time slot on Wednesdays in 2007 and in 2008 a primetime slot on Saturdays. Television tapings usually occur at Johannesburg's most well-renowned studio, Urban Brew Studios (dubbed the "Dome of Doom").

The roster was previously divided into two factions, namely Alkebulan and Def Faxion. The kayfabe storyline entailed that the factions adopted different cultural beliefs, with Def Faxion being based on modernity and materialism, while Alkebulan bore opposite traits, deeply rooted in myth and tradition. Each faction had a championship which was regularly competed for on the WWP Thunderstrike show. The final Def Faxion Heavyweight Champion was The Blacksmith and the final Alkebulan Heavyweight Champion was Ananzi. In late 2006 with the premiere of the third season, the factions were dropped and focus was placed on traditional Heavyweight, Tag Team, Female and Cruiserweight divisions.

PJ Black (Justin Gabriel in WWE) VS Mikey Whiplash:
Dameon Duke (Leo Kruger in WWE) VS Joe E Legend:
Jason Steele VS Angelico:
Ananzi VS Zizou Middoux:
Ananzi VS Mikey Whiplash VS Lizzard:
Fury VS Dameon Duke:
Ananzi VS Angelico:

In 2009, they signed their first international television deal with Colours TV in India. The first season of 100% De Dhana Dhan aired every Saturday and Sunday in a primetime slot from September to December 2009. The kayfabe plot of the show involved the Indian wrestlers being trapped in South Africa and stumbling upon an underground fight league headed by Mark Beale and WWP. WWP wrestlers Tornado, Jason Steele and Ananzi were involved in training many of the wrestlers from India. In the middle of 2009, WWP held a tryout in Bombay, India, searching for athletic candidates for the show. They selected twelve candidates to be trained before the 100% De Dhana Dhan television tapings.

Jason Steele VS Danger Anna:
Jason Steele VS Murat:
Kwaito Kid VS Zizou Middoux:
Tornado VS Badshar Khan:
Ananzi VS Angelico in ladder match:
Tornado VS Sando Paaji:
Tornado VS Sando Paaji:
Tornado VS The Blacksmith:
Ananzi VS Thakur:

The most prominent competitor throughout WWP's history has been multi-time
WWP Heavyweight Champion Tornado, who is considered a staple of their main
event scene. Tornado is one of the most highly regarded and experienced professional wrestlers in South Africa, and has wrestled for over 20 years. At over forty years of age, Tornado is arguably one of the top grapplers in the world in that age category and remains one of the more outstanding performers on the continent. Tornado went under a few aliases during his early career and wrestled in a mask after it was given to him by Danie Brits (the very first Tornado) in the late 80s. He became known as Tornado II from then on and subsequently spent time touring overseas in Mexico, Japan, United Kingdom, Russia and other countries. He unmasked in 1999 when his best friend Paul Lloyd Sr (a promoter and wrestler who went by the name The Pink Panther, who was the father of WWE's Justin Gabriel) died in a tragic incident. The high standard and tradition set by Tornado has also prevailed given that Tornado trained and mentored many of this generation's top South African stars.

Tornado's Top Ten Moves:

In highlights from the first season, Tornado became the 100% Heavyweight Champion on the second show and defended the championship for most of its run until being dethroned by the much larger competitor Goonga in the final episode. Tornado won a tournament where the winner would be awarded the WWP World Heavyweight Title, but seeing as he was already the champion he retained the championship. Sando Paaji defeated Tornado to win the 100% Championship but refused to accept the title and it was awarded back to Tornado.

Ananzi and Jason Steele were featured prominently on the show, with Steele winning a title contender's tournament that lasted several weeks and Ananzi winning a crucial ladder match against Spain's Angelico that awarded the winning team keys to a new vehicle. A controversial angle aired where one of the wrestlers competing on the Indian team died in the ring as a result of injuries inflicted by the Nigerian wrestler Kilimanjaro, which later led to an angle where the passed wrestler returned.

The current All-Africa Heavyweight Champion is Ryan Cage, who won the title from Ananzi (who trained Cage). The All-Africa Heavyweight Title is regarded in the same light as the WWE Intercontinental Title, in preparing upper midcard wrestlers for a future main event spot. Akilah, generally considered the most skilled women's wrestler on the continent, is the Ladies Champion. The Tag Team Titles are held by Terri Middoux and his son Zizou Middoux, who are billed collectively as "The French Connection". Terri Middoux is a former Judo and Sumo champion and is another veteran of the game. His son Zizou is only 19 and began his career at 15. The promotion's Cruiserweight Champion is the "Spanish Sensation" Angelico, who was a regular of IWRG very recently.

WWP has five training facilities scattered throughout South Africa, the most for any promotion in the country. They drew their highest attendance to date in 2009 during a tour of the Democratic Republic of Congo when 20,000 people packed the Stade des Martyrs Stadium in Kinshasa. In 2008 they drew a sellout crowd of nearly 5,000 people at Carnival City and were the first wrestling promotion to run the famous venue since the 1980s. Many of the stars are influenced by American mainstream wrestling, particularly the psychology aspect. Compared to other independent leagues, their wrestlers appear more muscular and much like a roster you would see in WWE or TNA.

For good reason, WWP thus bills itself as the "biggest federation in the southern hemisphere" and the "undisputed leader in African wrestling". No other promotion in Africa has accomplished and established as much as World Wrestling Professionals has in such a short time. Thanks for reading and remember to visit WWP's websites at:

In my next feature I will reveal the incredible and little-known history between WWE NXT's Justin Gabriel, his legendary father Paul Lloyd, Sr., and current WWP Heavyweight Champion Tornado.

Until next time,
The Fighting Springbok