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Blast From The Past: Wreaking Havoc in Wrestling World That's the "Fabulous Kangaroos"
Wrestling Revue, May 1968
By ROGER BAKER - For SLAM! Wrestling


Al Costello and Don Kent. Photos by Roger Baker.

Digging into the archives of writer/photographer Roger Baker, we revisit a Wrestling Revue article from May 1968 on the Fabulous Kangaroos -- or at least the latest version. Check out Roger's story -- which we vet for the kayfabe of the era (in red) -- and his amazing photo gallery of the Kangaroos.

The place was War Memorial Auditorium, which is situated in the southeast section of downtown Buffalo, NY. Note #1

An ominous-looking sky hung overhead: it had been raining intermittently all day and one could hardly expect any but the hardiest of wrestling fans to show up.

But they did; 6,500 to be exact and by the sound of their vociferous reception for the two wrestlers attired in bushmen's hats and jackets and parading around the ring holding authentic Australian boomerangs, an observer could readily understand why.


A souvenir boomerang.
The Kangaroos hurled many paper replicas of the boomerangs out to hundreds of reaching hands which were bunched around the ringside. They were paired against Danny Miller and Chief White Owl and won the match taking the best two out of three falls in thirty five minutes of torrid action that saw Al Costello boomerang White Owl up off the floor into the waiting elbow of his partner, Ray Kent, to win the third fall and the match. Kent limped back to his dressing room with the air of his partner Costello while a cordon of police surrounded them. The pro-White Owl-Miller fans were highly incensed with the rough tactics used by the Kangaroos. Costello had to go give Ray a spinal adjustment on a bench in the dressing room. His sacro joint had popped out.


Costello adjusts Kent backstage.
Two nights earlier in Rochester, they were in with Dan Miller and Fred Curry. The match had to be stopped with no decision being rendered by the referee, when some fans intervened on behalf of Miller's team and started wielding chairs and shooting boots and fists at the Kangaroos. A riot almost ensued and the wrestlers were lucky to escape almost unscathed, Kent received a gash on the bridge of his nose.

Later that evening over a late dinner, Costello, Kent and myself discussed some of the facets of the varied careers of both men.

"Let me state here and now," said Costello, "that Ray Kent and myself are the original 'Fabulous Kangaroos.' We evolved the team in Sydney, Australia some years back." Note #2

Al recalled that they had wrestled together as amateurs at the Ashtown Athletic Club in Sydney. During this period Al won the Australian Light Heavyweight title. "It was at the Ashtown that we met Athol Layton, Fred Atkins and Roy Heffernan."

"I was itching to turn pro after listening to some of the stories those boys would tell you back in Sydney," related Ray. "However, my parents emigrated to the U.S. Dad had an opportunity provided by a parent firm in the U.S. I decided this was my opportunity to get a college education over here and went two years to Boston College and one year at St. Benedict's in Atchison, Kan. on football scholarships." Note #3


The Original Fabulous Kangaroos: Roy Heffernan, Wild Red Berry and Al Costello.
During the interim Costello had united with Roy Heffernan. In 1956 they invaded North America as a team and reached the highest echelons to be had in tag team honours.

Some of the biggest houses we drew were in Madison Square Garden," related Costello. "The first meeting we had with [Argentina] Rocca and [Miguel] Perez drew over 20,000 fans into the Garden and perhaps another 10,000 fans had to be turned away. Scalpers were getting as much as $25.00 for ringside tickets. Wild Red Berry was our manager and added much color to the team. Red is a very talented man when it comes to making speeches and the fans around New York nicknamed him 'Squeaky.'

"The gate for the Rocca-Perez show was $63,000. The only gate in the last 15 years to top it was when Buddy Rogers defeated Pat O'Connor in Comiskey Park in Chicago, to draw a record $138,000."

The Kangaroos appeared on that show also, in the semi-windup. Note #4 -- the full card

"The roughest battle Roy and I ever had together, as far as crowd participation, occurred in the Sport Arena in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. We wrestled Don Leo Jonathan and Whipper Billy Watson. Six thousand people were in attendance and a riot ensued. The fans threw hundreds of chairs into the ring. Consequently, I had to have nine stitches in the head and four in the leg. Stan Stasiak, who had come in to help us, finished up with 16 stitches in the head and my ex-partner Hefferman received two broken ribs. We were forced to take cover under the ring for an hour before the riot squad could restore order. Note #5

"Roy and I both parted amicably in 1963 after we had been wrestling up in Vancouver for about a year. Roy was homesick, he hadn't been home in a long while."

"Meanwhile I had affiliations in Los Angeles where my wife operates her own beauty salon and our 12-year-old daughter Joanne attends school. I could have teamed with several young Australian boys during the interim, until Ray and I got together recently once again. However, none of them could measure up to Roy's ability."

"In other words, if you've had a top team and it breaks up, you have to improve on it when a new one is formed or else the fans will just not buy it.

"I feel with Ray's maturity, experience and science that we have the top team in the world today."

"Also with all sincerity, Ray is vastly superior to Roy in this respect. Roy had the body beautiful. He was a former Mr. Australia. However, what he had in appearance he lacked in the finer points of wrestling which Ray Kent does possess." Note #6


Kent and Costello double team Al Lafrance.
"When we split I will admit I missed the action of tag-team contests. This type of wrestling is a science if done properly. Not just a lot of kicking and punching like many think it is. There's much more to it than meets the eye."

"However, I soloed for a while and went to Texas where I teamed up with Louis Tillet. For a short time we campaigned as the Globetrotters."

"From Texas we went to Atlanta, Ga., and did very well. However, we didn't see eye to eye and decided to give up the team."

"Then I went to Nashville, Tenn., where I met Karl von Brauner. I figured with a merger with Von Brauner, who along with his brother Kurt were one of the top teams and myself we would have something, and we did. We wrestled as the Internationals and went to Dallas, Texas, where we drew the biggest houses they ever had there for continuity week after week. We sold out Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Beaumont, Texas at the time. We had a very capable manager in Playboy Gary Hart. He's one of the best spokesmen in the business and is presently in Houston."

"From Texas we moved our base of operations to Detroit and operated as a team until our one year contract expired recently. We had our differences. Karl to me is a great competitor in this business but I felt that his Germanistic viewpoint was a little contrary to my flamboyant Australian heritage."

"It was at this point that I wanted to bring the Kangaroos back together, in all their glory. I'd been in touch with Ray, who was available."

Many fans will remember him as "Don Bulldog Kent."

"Yes, that's right," motioned Kent, "after college I turned pro under that name. Al was enjoying great success over here with Heffernan and I was intent on making it on my own. I wrestled in Oklahoma extensively and headlined shows at the Madison Square Gardens in Phoenix, Ariz., for 25 months straight between 1963 and '64."

"We've only been together three weeks and already have appeared in Madison Square Garden, Toronto, Detroit, Cincinnati, Montreal and Buffalo. We had a call from San Francisco last week asking if we could appear." Note #7

Costello took over again at this point of the interview.

"We have our plans laid out for the future and they spell success. Most people recognize it and they won't go for anything that's underneath it. We are after the big purses, and I believe we have the qualifications and experience that is needed in this business to stay on top and win the world's title. We are definitely the world's No. 1 tag team combination -- the most controversial, complex and talented figures in the wrestling world. We possess two of the most well-coordinated physiques in professional wrestling.

"Ray Kent and myself are unbelievable exponents of science, precision and natural ability, spectacular we out-think and out-maneuver our opponents with thrilling tag team extravganzas. Ray and myself go by the philosophy that there is no substitute for talent. When you combine that talent with intelligence plus colorful personalities you have an unbeatable combination. Only two men possess all three precious priceless attributes, the boys from Down Under -- often imitated but never duplicated, The Fabulous Kangaroos." Note #8

(Heffernan died at age 67 of a heart attack in September 1992. Kent died of leukemia in June 1993, just shy of his 60th birthday. Costello, suffering from pneumonia and related ailments, died in January 2000 at 80.)

RELATED LINKS

  • Roger Baker's Kangaroos Photo Gallery
  • Roger Baker story and photo gallery archive

    Roger Baker was a writer and photographer for magazines like The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, Wrestling Revue, and Boxing Illustrated from 1958 to 1973. An archive of his contributions to SLAM! Wrestling are here. Email him at rbbaker@rogers.com.