By the time Eddie Scarf had finished his wrestling career, another Australian Lebanese wrestler was coming into prominence.
Wadi Youssef Ayoub was born in Lebanon in 1927. As a young man he excelled in Greco-Roman wrestling, eventually becoming the Champion of Lebanon.
In 1951 Ayoub, looking for new opportunities, decided to settle in Australia and found his way into professional wrestling as a living. He made his début at Leichhardt stadium in 1953. Most professional wrestlers adopted a gimmicky name to best market their talents, and Wadi Ayoub adopted or was given name of Sheik Wadi Ayoub. His boxing attire, of course, included a keyfiah on his head.
The cover of Libnan Ayoub’s book on the history of Australian Professional Wrestling featuring a photograph of his father Wadi Ayoub. As was generally the case in his bouts, Wadi Ayoub found little difficulty winning matches.
Ayoub travelled widely throughout Australia and the world undertaking wrestling bouts and in the process became a well-known and popular sporting entertainment figure in Australia. Ayoub, like other Australian wrestlers, had a try at the American professional
wrestling scene, and though successful in bouts, suffered from a lack of popular support for non-American wrestlers.
While wrestling had been popular in Australia since the early 20th century, the advent of television saw the development of the televised “World Championship Wrestling” hosted by Jack Little and former Rugby international Mick Cleary. It provided an opportunity for professional wrestling to dramatically increase its popularity and the 1960s have been described as the Golden Age of Australian professional wrestling. It helped to make “Sheik” Wadi Ayoub and others, reflecting our post-war immigration diversity, like Mario Milano, Spiros Arion, Brute Bernard, Larry O’Dea, “Killer” Kowalski, Dominic De Nucci, and “The Mongolian Stomper”),
Many of the wrestlers, like Ayoub, had proven themselves to be champions in the past and brought their adoring bands of fans over to support their television careers. Wadi Ayoub, of course, was the darling of the Lebanese. When Wadi Ayoub died of cancer in 1976, Australian Lebanese community and Australian professional wrestling lost a great champion and a vibrant personality.
· ‘The Golden Age Of Professional Wrestling’. (Amanda Smith, Barry York, Mario Milano) The Sports Factor. ABC National Radio Transcripts. Friday, July 11, 1997.
· Ayoub, Libnan with Tom Gannon. 100 Years of Australian Professional Wrestling. Marrickville, NSW: Topmill Pty Ltd. .
Libnan Ayoub’s book 100 years of Australian Professional Wrestling features a number of other boxers on the Australian professional scene with Arabic sounding names. Perhaps they are Lebanese. Can members help us out with information, please?
Post-war professional boxing happily accepted any stereotypical ethnic identifier, and used them to promote individual wrestlers. Thus there were characters such as Pat Barrett in a kilt, Chief Wahoo McDaniel in warrior’s feathers, Tiger Singh with a turban, Shohie Baba in a kimono, Waldo von Erich and ‘Kangaroo’ Kennedy.
Andrea and John Saade, with keyfiah, were brothers who fought in the 1970s. Also in the early 1970s was the fearsome visage of Abdullah the Butcher (no surname!) also wearing a keyfiah. Abraham Mansour and Joey Jabbour also made appearances.