In theory, professsional wrestling is as relevant as movie stars or musicians, and is as popular as soccer or basketball. Yet, one of the world’s most popular cities of Hong Kong, the contrary was true. Unless it’s being seen by expats, tourists who are familiar with such form entertainment in their home countries or terroritories, or individuals such as Ho Ho Lun (何顥麟) and yours truly who have seen the programmings and were instantly hooked with the first instance, the interest was in such niche that there was little caring for it as far as the television market in Hong Kong, never mind that as if there isn’t enough programming or sources of entertainment for the locals already.
Before Ho Ho Lun was announced to be part of WWE Cruiserweight Classic as a competitor, truth be told, Hong Kong’s professional wrestling scene was between bare or nothing as interests for sports entertainment/professional wrestling never really got off the ground in spite of its introduction back in 1969 by Ivan Ho Sau Sun (何守信). Even with its broadcast on “Sports World” program in the late 1980s with host Dominic Lam (林嘉華), the interest for this form of entertainment didn’t spike interests. The early days of TVB’s coverage was Ho brought footages from Australian promotion with Ho himself conducted interviews with some of the wrestlers. That was the first attempt to bring pro wrestling into Hong Kong’s television market, but little attentions were paid upon by the locals as their focus were elsewhere such as Bruce Lee and his movies, the formation of ICAC – Independent Commission Against Corruption (廉政公署) battling the mass corruption within law enforcement and rescue agencies, the rise of international stature for Hong Kong and the Cultural Revolution in mainland China, or perhaps the commentaries from Ho and others reminded too much of Wuxia genre from the 1950s or from Louis Cha’s novels than the actual wrestling terminology due to lack of proper translation. In other words, the initial exposure drew rather limited audience and was silenced by the mid 1970s unless it was programmed on TVB Pearl.
Before I continue with the second attempt, allow me to digress for just a moment, truth be told, as I have been following and observing pro-wrestling for more than 2 decades, have come to the realization that pro-wrestling attacks, throws, aerial techniques, holds and other maneuvers, particularly those from the last decade or so, have become nearly impossible to translate into Chinese unless an detailed explanations are provided beforehand, such as Scorpion Deathlock & Death Drop, F-5, Hurricanrana, or Muscle Buster (links are provided for wrestling terminology). Sometimes, those terminology also includes individual or tag team matches, and tournaments alike.
Then, if I recalled correctly, the next time pro-wrestling reappeared on HK television was during the Rock’n Wrestling era in the mid-1980s, I was about 10 or 11 years old at that point in time. TVB Jade launched a magazine-styled sports program called “Sports World” with Dominic Lam as host, it was aired on Saturday or Sunday late evening, and they had WWE and All Japan Women Pro Wrestling. While it garnered some attention in the beginning, it wasn’t long before they stop airing that segment altogether as interests waned again. By the time I came to the United States in late June 1989, it’s much of the same and the viewers resumed watching the familiar programs and left pro wrestling behind. As for yours truly, however, every Sunday at 11AM on KTVU Channel 2, it was WWE (back then it was WWF) Wrestling Challenge featuring Hulk Hogan, the late Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Roddy Piper, and the cast of hundreds including the owner/chairman of the promotion, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, whom at that time was doing announcing. Then, one day about a year later, WCW programming, specifically Worldwide Wrestling, replaced Wrestling Challenge and they featured Ric Flair, Sting, Lex Luger, Barry Windham and others from what was the backbone of Jim Crockett Promotions that was bought out by Ted Turner in 1988 as a result of mismanagement on expeditures on wrestlers’ salaries and gimmicks. Not long after that, WWE Superstars of Wrestling maded its run on KTVU’s programming on Saturday morning at, ironically, 11AM as well. Above that, WCW (NWA at the time) Worldwide Wrestling and WWE Wrestling Challenge went back-to-back from 10AM til noon. Meanwhile, as the 1990s hit Hong Kong, all they had was WCW programming on the now-defunct Asia Television (more on that at another time) in an attempt to draw an audience, which unfortunately also failed miserably as it only broadcasted for 1 year. By the end of 2000s, unless it’s to cable sports network, the main channels won’t broadcast it on prime time, never mind in Sports World.
Even though WWE and other international promotions have made an effort to bring pro wrestling to China in the last few years, however, Hong Kong was virtually excluded from this conversation. While there is some sort of hope as Ho Ho Lun qualified for the Cruiserweight Classic, whether that would finally spike the interest in such form of entertainment remains to be seen. Yours truly would like to wish best of luck to Ho during the tournament and sincerely hope that I would be able to see pro wrestling would finally flourish in my birthplace in my lifetime. As for my viewership for such entertainment, this sure won’t be the last discussion. Until next time ….
Update: While Ho joined WWE in the past year, his career with the company was halted as he found out that his mother became ill during his recent 3-week vacation, and he was given his release in order for him to deal with this health scare. While hoping and praying his mother get healthy as he takes on this new journey in life, I also hope he’ll be able to resume his wrestling career and pick up where he left off.