New Zealand wrestling legend Steve Rickard has died at the age of 85.

His son Tony, who lived with his father on the Gold Coast since Rickard shifted over there in 2010 after the passing of his wife Lorraine, said he died last night.

Rickard, who was born Sydney Mervin Batt, was a professional wrestler who went on to become a trainer, promotor and a local television celebrity.

He fought bouts around the world, taking on high profile wrestlers such as King Kong and Andre the Giant, and at various stages held the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) New Zealand, Australasian, and Commonwealth titles.

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Merv Batt, aka Steve Rickard, at his home in Greenmeadows, Napier in 2009. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Merv Batt, aka Steve Rickard, at his home in Greenmeadows, Napier in 2009. Photo / Glenn Taylor

But Rickard is perhaps best known to New Zealanders for On the Mat, a television series he created and presented that ran on local screens from 1975 to 1984.

The popular show featured Kiwi and international wrestlers facing off against each other. Rickard was able to regularly draw top-level talent to the programme, including stars from America's WWF.

Rickard served as the NWA president during the 1990s and also worked in the hotel business.

- nzherald.co.nz

Watch an episode of On the Mat at NZ On Screen here:
On the Mat: 17 March 1981