In the 1960s Bill Clarke emerged onto the wrestling rings of East Anglia as one half of the Boston Poachers tag team. From the start of his career he proudly proclaimed himself as Eastern Counties Heavyweight Champion, often on shows he promoted himself under the Star Promotions banner.
Bill's activities were to become known to a much wider audience under a very different guise..
Much maligned by fans of the original Kendo Nagasaki King Kendo was an allegedly poor imitation of the real thing. But then who wouldn't have been? His costume was a cut-price version of Nagasaki's, with a shortened sword, mis shapen visor and a simple red cape. Behind the mask on most occasions was Lincolnshire heavyweight Bill Clarke, famously unmasked by the real Kendo on All Star Promotion bills in a series of loser to unmask contests in 1981. King Kendo only came to the fore in Joint Promotion rings when Nagasaki moved across to work for the independents in the mid 1980s. This brought King Kendo television exposure between 1986 and 1988, incuding the inevitable loss for partner Masked Spoiler and himself against Big Daddy and Andy Blair.
David Mantell told us that in 1982 Bill Clarke wrestled as the Red Devil and was, said David, "Victim of perhaps the most humiliating unmasking ever - after the match Big Daddy grabbed him from behind in a headlock and practically ravished him out of the mask!"
As a footnote, and stepping outside the heritage years we believe that shortly before Kendo Nagasaki's retirement in 1993 he parted company with manager Lloyd Ryan who conveniently took over management of Kendo Nagasaki. Kendo and Lloyd then re-enacted most of Nagasaki's feuds from 1994 to 1996, but by then Dale Preston was believed to be the man behind the mask.
John Clarke was the eldest of the two Clarke brothers from Borrowby, a village near Thirsk. A rough pair who did little to endear themselves to fans. Although he did wrestle in singles matches he was often seen in action with brother Rob in a pairing known as both "The Yorkshire Farmers" and "The Invaders."
The two brothers were trained by the Blue Angel, Jim Stockdale, and turned professional in 1967 and had a fairly short career of about ten years, with westling activities were limited to the north east of England and Scotland. At the time of writing in 2013 John remains living in Borrowby with his wife Shirley, parents of two children.
Middlesbrough wrestler who wrestled Jimmy Devlin on one of the BBCs rare showings of professional wrestling, from Southend. Milton was the younger brother of Ray Clarke, and shared his wrestling commitments with his day job of motor mechanic. A popular young wrestler renowned for his sportsmanlike tactics.
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Middlesbrough's Ray Clarke was a popular middleweight for a short time in the 1960s, and the older brother of Milton Clarke. Ray turned professional for Scarborough promoter Don Robinson, which led to work for Paul Lincoln Management and the move to Joint Promotions. Ray had other business interests and we guess this is why he disappeared from our rings.
New Zealand farmer Ray Clarke came to Europe in 1949. Standing over six feet tall he quickly established himself as a top heavyweight. He tackled the best that the UK had to offer, the likes of Jack Pye, Ray St Bernard and Bert Assirati. He wrestled in Britain in the early fifties, before setting off back to New Zealand in 1953, wrestling en route in Mexico and Canada. returning to New Zealand in 1953, where he wrestled for another couple of years before joining the police force.
Rob Clarke was the youngest of the two Clarke brothers from Borrowby, born in 1948. A rough pair who did little to endear themselves to fans. At fourteen Rob began working on a farm, and has been involved in some form of manual work all his life. It was a lifestyle that made him exceptionally strong and earned the nickname “Two Man Bob” because he was said to have the strength of two men. Although he did wrestle in singles matches he was often seen in action with brother John in a pairing known as both "The Yorkshire Farmers" and "The Invaders." The two brothers were trained by the Blue Angel, Jim Stockdale, and turned professional in 1967. Wrestling activities were limited to the north east of England and Scotland. Only seemed to be around until the early 1970s. At the time of writing (2013) Rob is happily married to his wife of forty-eight years, parents of three daughters.
Regrettably we never saw Ron Clarke in action despite reading of his exploits regularly in the pages of Ringsport magazine. A regular feature on wrestling in East Anglia recorded the latest news of Ron and his wrestling brother, Bill Clarke, known collectively as the Lincolnshire Poachers.
Unsurprisingly, the two were not actual brothers as Ron was Dick Harrison, a name he was to use in later years, going on to become Dick the Bruiser. Dick was trained by Bill Clarke and cut his wrestling teeth on the holiday camps of the east coast. He went on to work for major independent promoters Brian Dixon and Jackie Pallo as well as Joint Promotions.
London based Jamaican heavyweight Rick Clarke was known as Stedman. He had a short lived career for Dale Martin Promotions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Born in January 1934, Stedman Clarke passed away on on 3rd August, 2011, aged 77.
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The Names We Gave Them
"Jumping" Jim Hussey comes to mind. Kent Walton would often say, Jim Hussey could launch a dropkick from a pocket handkerchief and land back on it. I never saw Jim Hussey perform a dropkick and although a capable wrestler he looked to bulky to perform one. I assume Jim Hussey was a dropkick expert in his younger days.
I saw a match between Black "Butcher"Johnson and Tiger Bright, the oldest looking wrestlers I've seen together, Johnson still looked in good shape, but Tiger Bright could never have been compared with a tiger.
I have two favourite nicknames myself. First Jo Kovacs "The Butcher Of Budapest, Kovacs size and ruthless wrestling style fitted the nickname.
"Iron Jaw" Joe Murphy was a favourite of mine, once he got a hold on an opponent it was hard to make him let go. He too lived up to the tag "Iron Jaw"