Vancouver’s Butts Giraud burst onto the British wrestling scene unheralded in May 1972 at the age of 26. He adapted instantly and sweetly to the transatlantic style and was accepted into the fold by all in the business. He stayed on until Christmas wrestling virtually nightly at halls up and down the land and exclusively for Joint Promotions.
A powerful, burly sixteen stoner, Butts had been a top gridiron star in North America at college and immediately afterwards. See his Hall of Fame plaque, left. But he shared his sports time around and was a useful amateur wrestler, too.
Upon graduating, it was wrestling that attracted Butts most and he turned professional in 1970, learning the ropes at the prestigious British Columbia, Washington and Oregon tournaments run by promoters Sandor Kovacs and Don Owens.
The early years were tough as no quarter was given and Butts learnt to look after himself inside the ring…and out of it. Early opponents numbered regular British visitor Chati Yokouchi; and a trio of Brits who visited Canada in 1971 - Mal Kirk, John Foley and Wayne Bridges. One particular dressing room skirmish in Nanaimo was unpleasant at the time but served to mark Butts Giraud amongst his peers as a man not to be messed with.
In a bout with veteran heavyweight Duncan McTavish fists flew, and there was no pulling of the punches. Fair enough, these things happen, but the action is generally left in the ring for the audience’s enjoyment. As Butts was wiping himself down in the dressing room afterwards, however, he felt a hard right hook to his temple from behind. McTavish was still angry. Butts pulled himself together and pinned McTavish to the wall and retaliated furiously and decisively. Up and coming super-heavyweight star John Quinn was present, and witnessed the scene without intervening, but it is certain that his testimony on the grapevine of the time served to assure one and all that Butts had earnt his stripes.
It was at the suggestion of Texas Jack Bence that Butts Giraud set off for Britain in the spring of 1972. Texas Jack had mixed it with Britain’s best ten years earlier and told the youngster that there was no finer place to learn the true craft of professional wrestling. Armed with just one name, Butts arrived and immediately contacted former Olympian and founding father of Joint Promotions, George de Relwyskow, right.
The Relwyskow family had long been associated with introducing international talent to British rings and had been instrumental in securing the three 1969 tours of Jean Ferre, later André the Giant. George and fellow promoter Anne, his daughter, welcomed the newcomer warmly and even put him up for a few weeks while he got settled. Butts ended up sharing a Leeds flat and becoming lifelong friends with recording artiste and tv star Ethna Campbell, and her husband, Bill.
With bills planned at least a month in advance, Butts' early appearances were as last-minute stand-ins, but some of his finest bouts were at the beginning of his stay as he feuded with Andy Robin in Edinburgh and elsewhere. The heat was so intense after their first encounter that a challenge was issued and a return bout made on the summer solstice, with Robin’s Commonwealth Mid-Heavyweight Championship and belt at stake. With a prestigious championship seemingly within his grasp only weeks after arriving in the UK, Giraud fluffed his chance and got himself disqualified. Still acclimatizing to British rules!
Butts’ arrival had not escaped the outreachingly acquisitive southern arm of Joint Promotions, Dale Martin, and he secured a fortnight of bookings at many of the leading southern arenas in July. But one particular bout entailed a long train ride from Butts’ Paddington B&B. His UK television debut was set for 5th July in Morecambe. Butts had by this time carefully analysed British audiences and decided the time was right really to let loose and give them something to remember. He had seen their hostile reaction to his arrival in the ring dressed in his US football gear and gridiron helmet.At the end of the bout, in which he lost narrowly to the British and World Mid-Heavyweight Champion, Butts grabbed the microphone. This was unheard of in British tv wrestling at the time. Worse was to come. He went on to make derogatory remarks about the British being cowards in World War II and the crowd went wild. Back in his makeshift London base, Butts was recognised everywhere as that loudmouth American from the tv wrestling.
Relwyskow & Green wanted him back! Butts was box office! No more substituting now, it was top-of-the bill all the way, facing up to Britain’s best: Viedor, Kirk, Bartelli, the St Clairs, and a series of bouts with Heavyweight kingpin, Rocky Wall. Perhaps the most memorable bout of this period was in Rhyl, against former Mr Universe, John Lees. With thinning hair from a young age, Butts decided to treat the Welsh audience to a different look and entered the ring unusually hirsute. But with his tactics growing ever rougher, Lees found himself forced into illegal retaliation and threw the North American out of the ring by his hair. To the audience’s absolute disbelief, Lees was left centre ring holding the hairpiece whilst a more streamlined Butts scrambled back into the ring. No need to describe the hysteria that ensued.
The newbie had quickly become a mainstay of the UK scene and achieved the highlight of his wrestling career when facing Steve Viedor at Kensington’s Royal Albert Hall. Butts recalls:
“I was awestruck as I entered the magnificent Royal Albert Hall. My opponent was Steve Viedor but I must confess that in back-to-canvas moments my mind wandered as I admired the magnificent ceiling of the rotunda. I thought to myself that here was little Richard, whose mom called him Butts because of the way he rolled around like a button at birth, in the world’s premier wrestling venue with a magnificent view of a ceiling like that of the Sistine Chapel!”
It was, however, Butts’ very final two 1980 bouts against World Champion Wayne Bridges, one of which was televised from Solihull, Birmigham, that ensured the friendship of a lifetime. Butts now remains in contact with Wayne and his wife Sarah, and hopes to meet up with his erstwhile foe one day soon.
Butts wrestled all over the world during his eleven-year career, and reduced his appearances to a part-time basis in the late seventies to allow time for study.
Between UK trips Butts managed to become world belly-flops champion, left, but thereby hangs another tale. He went on to have a successful career as an educationalist, then made it in business. You can imagine that such a versatile fellow will never retire, and at the time of writing in 2012, Butts remains CEO of the Dogs Ear T-Shirt company. In all these ventures, Butts has been supported by his wife, Peggy.