A Tough Nut To Crack
However could we decide who to include in this section at the start of our heritage website life? We have so many favourites that it seems almost unfair to be excluding others by including some. In the end we surprise ourselves with our choice of the Camden Town henchman and night-club bouncer himself.
The career of Peter Rann seems to run along classic Dale Martin lines. A youngster in the forties breaks into big time wrestling and shows the discipline during the fifties to be regarded as a reliable worker. Reward comes in the sixties with coverage in the trade press and literature, television and Royal Albert Hall appearances, and in the end, the southern England Middleweight Championship becomes his own for many years, by virtue of victory in the deciding bout against Ken Joyce (photo right) at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon.
It is the style of Peter Rann that intrigues us rather more than his career, however. His infuriating and persistent knee stomp incurred the wrath of audiences and depicted a dark rebellious streak, belying the famously blue streaked hair. He seemed not to enjoy his wrestling and opponents seemed not to enjoy him. As with so many, he suddenly disappeared in 1974, never to be heard of again, possibly still wearing his championship belt.
Our interest is therefore in this classic example of how little we know about the workings of Joint Promotions. Here we have a hard nut who apparently was ever ready to pull a knife if the occasion arose. We could see this hostility in his wrestling, it was too real to conceal, a hostility acquired perhaps as bodyguard to fifties slum king Rachman, and applied never more than in riotous double-teaming as one half of the Riot Squad with Pasquale Salvo.
Ostensibly he was merely an outsider inasmuch as he was from the wrong side of the Thames. So very few north Londoners ever penetrated the close-knit Brixton epicentre of Dale Martins’ and after naming the Islington Hercules, Mr T.V. & Son and The Walthamstow Bear, we struggle to add any more career professionals.
That style tells us he was very much an individualist outsider too. It was a style which was perhaps most highlighted when it came face to face not once but twice with that other great contemporary hard man, individualist, allegedly awkward co-worker, Bradford’s Les Kellett.
On 7th August 1972 in Catford the pair squared up in front of the tv cameras for the first time. Kellett was at the height of his unbeatable glory and admittedly ageing fame. A bloody battle ensued, deemed too brutal for the Saturday tea-time viewing public and consigned to the late night mid-week adults-only timeslot. Either the most perfectly staged shoot-out – or, as seems likely from the result, the pair were at it for real. We remember Kellett sliding headlong out of the ring below the bottom rope to what amounted to a sensational loss.
A month to the day later in Walthamstow, the result was reversed, Rann failing to beat the count.
If the initial skirmish was for real, as seems likely, what co-operation allowed the rematch to work? What forgiveness from the promoters allowed Peter Rann to continue to ply his trade? We had seen a parallel four years earlier when Peter Preston double-crossed Mick McManus into his first ever televised defeat, yet continued to wrestle with seeming impunity for many more years.
Dare we even extend our conspiracy theory yet further? Dare we imagine that this was payback between the two feuds? The connections and asymmetry astound. Norman Morrell’s northerners - Preston and Kellett – wrestling first on a Morrell bill and then a Dale Martin. A hard hitting undercarder out to spoil the unbeaten record of the big name veteran, and sheer youth and ability ensuring that nothing could be done to prevent the damage. Was this perhaps a battle between Kellett and McManus, or even between Norman Morrell and Dale Martin?
Heritage Member and veteran grappler Al Tarzo recalls an anecdote told to him by Peter Rann in a dressing room over 50 years ago. Al had always remained sceptical of the truth of the story, but, reading our article here, he now believes it may well have been true. "Peter told me of the time he was in prison and sharing a cell with a guy who was desperate to get transferred to the hospital wing. It was agreed that Peter would jump down from the top bunk onto his cellmate's leg, outstretched from the bottom bunk, to break it. Ouch!"
What we don’t know about Peter Rann - his rise, employability, aggression, lack of co-operation – typify so much of what we don’t know about Professional Wrestling to this very day.