M: Peter Maivia

Peter Maivia

Service with a Smile

It seems quite incredible that Peter Fanene Maivia wrestled on British shores for a mere four years. Taking him to their hearts Peter was considered an integral part of the British wrestling scene in the 1960s; a fan club in his honour being exceptional for a visiting wrestler.  Fans were genuinely shocked and upset when he abruptly left the country in 1967.  He left a void and for many months we held on to a forlorn belief that he would return.  Fan Club organiser, Dorothy Paget, was inundated with requests to keep the club active. Dorothy persevered with the club for a few years and the Wrestler magazine continued to report his wrestling activities in the Pacific islands and New Zealand, but sadly fans were left only with their  indelible memories.

But what memories. Not only was Peter Maivia one of the most colourful characters of the ring his facial features, and those sprawling feet, made it apparent that he was indeed a genuine Pacific islander. Those feet could do magic and cause no end of trouble for an opponent. The mop of dark curly hair. The unmissable and unforgettable smile. And who could forget him lying across the top corner ropes for his inter-round relaxation? We’d seen some gimmicks in wrestling, but no one else could make lying down an attraction. 

Peter Maivia was born in American Samoa in 1937, moving to New Zealand in his early  twenties. His birth name was Fanene Pita Anderson, and his first wrestling name was Peter  Anderson. He worked as a plumber and a carpenter in Auckland and wrestled as an amateur at the YMCA. Not for long though, as he soon decided to pursue a professional wrestling career under the guidance of New Zealand wrestlers Doug Harding and Steve Rickard.  Rickard promoted his first match and Peter Anderson made an immediate impression on the New Zealand public.  He was even allowed to relieve Rickard of his New Zealand heavyweight title, albeit for a matter of days. Long enough to provide a springboard for his soon to commence travels, now with the status of a former New Zealand champion and recently acquired Australasian champion,  not that such things mattered too much to wrestling fans. Within a short time he was on the move, and in the spring of 1963 arrived in Britain, suitably renamed fit for a Pacific island chief, Peter Fanene Maivia. 

His good humour, colourful trunks and all-action style made him an immediate hit with fans around the halls and nationwide when he made his television debut against Dazzler Joe Cornelius. Shortly afterwards an appearance at the Royal Albert Hall must have been his  career highlight to date, drawing with Steve Viedor. Another Royal Albert Hall match resulted in a draw against Dazzler Joe Cornelius, and few could boast that in the Kensington arena. For four years Peter Maivia entertained the British fans, periodically leaving us for visits to the continent, and back home to New Zealand on at least one occasion. Yet to all intents and purposes British fans considered him “One of us.” There is little point listing any of his opponents because during that four year period he literally wrestled all the best heavyweights in British rings.

Peter Maivia would counter any hold with a huge smile that would instantly remind fans why they loved him so much. The enduring smile didn't prevent him from being cast as a killer taxi driver in the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice."

Peter went on to wrestle in the United States, New Zealand and  later concentrate on the promotional side of wrestling in Hawaii. Younger fans know Maivia as the grandfather of “The Rock.”  Older fans know him as one of the great characters  of modern day wrestling. Peter Maivia died of cancer  on 13th June, 1982. 

Page added 13/6/2019

Reviewed 30/03/2022