Man shares collection of Portland Wrestling memorabilia in new exhibit

One man is taking people back to that golden era of grappling.
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 7:17 AM PST
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Portland Wrestling was one of the longest running weekly shows in the history of American television, and one man is taking people back to that golden era of grappling.

An exhibit in Southeast Portland displays the collection of Kerby Strom. As a young pro wrestling fan growing up in Beaverton, Strom became enamored with the bygone era of Portland Wrestling.

“Portland Wrestling certainly had a local flavor to it. The Portland Sports Arena not too different than walking into your favorite dive bar, I would say,” Strom said.

For non-fans, Portland Wrestling was a local promotion that dated back to the 1920s. In 1953, Promoter Don Owen started a weekly show that ran for 38 years on local TV.

“KPTV 12, every Saturday night,” said Strom. “Frank Bonnema doing the commentary. People really latched on to the characters and the wrestlers.”

Several years ago, Strom began collecting original 8x10s of Northwest titans like Tough Tony Borne, Dutch Savage, and Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne.

“There was a sense of childlike wonderment in his character. People latched on to him,” Strom said.

For decades, the giants of wrestling all came through Portland. Real giants like Andre the Giant.

Eventually, Strom’s collection went beyond pictures and he started to buy from auctions and estate sales to get in-ring items. Like gear belonging to Portland legend Playboy Buddy Rose.

“He’s kind of like the Northwest’s version of Ric Flair. So you know, he had the gawdy robes, very braggadocious,” said Strom.

One of the biggest stars came out of Portland and would eventually headline the very first WrestleMania.

“These are Roddy Piper’s trunks, I’d say the most emblematic trunks of the territory,” Strom said.

Taken together, it’s all a Portland-centric slice of Americana. And while most of of the time Strom keeps this all in his private office, on occasion he puts it on public display so visitors can come face-to-face with Bull Ramos and see Playboy Buddy’s robe.

“Wrestling is a far cry from what is was back then, and that’s neither good nor bad,” said Strom. “I just think this history should be maintained and should be recognized.”

So if you want to revisit the Portland of yesteryear, Strom is happy to transport you to an age of blood and guts and glory.

The exhibit can be seen at World Famous Original, at 4831 Southeast Division Street, this weekend. Anyone interested in following Strom on social media to see more of his collection, can do so here.