Steely faced Alan Colbeck was respected rather than loved by the fans. A dour, skilful welterweight whose style lacked vitality and excitement he was, nonetheless a talented wrestler who held British titles at lightweight, welterweight and middleweight, as well as the European welterweight title. Born and bred in Morley, Leeds, Alan was the son of a miner.
He almost accidentally took up wrestling when he discovered Ernie Baldwin's gymnasium at Tingley when looking for somewhere to learn amateur boxing. Already an accomplished amateur Alan Colbeck turned professional shortly after the end of the second world war. Early bouts saw him billed from Glasgow, and in 1947 he took part in a knock out tournament for the Scottish lightweight championship. He was encouraged to turn professional by his friend, Harry Fields. That first bout was against Dundee's Tony Lawrence.
By 1949, before the formation of Joint Promotions Alan was already holder of the British lightweight championship, holding it for 18 months before losing it to George Kidd. In 1951 he took the welterweight crown, and on 19th December, 1951, knocked out Chris Londos in the seventh round to take the European welterweight title for the first time. With the formation of Joint Promotions in 1952 Alan was the first wrestler to wear the Lord Mountevans welterweight championship belt.
Over the years Alan Colbeck held the British championship at three different weights, light, welter and middle, as well as being a long established European welterweight champion. In 1965, he battled Mick McManus to a draw live on television in a contest so intense that the football score updates were not shown on the screen until it was finished.
A national worker Alan worked in the north of England and Scotland, mostly for Morrell and Beresford, but was equally well known in southern England working for Dale Martin Promotions. He tagged for a while with Jackie Pallo in an usual cocktail, but settled down for a while in The Masters alongside Peter Preston, a formidable team in cracking bouts against the Royal brothers, White Eagles and Black Diamonds.
One of the great post war lighter weight men, testimony that the greats of the ring had no need for star spangled trunks.
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Aubrey Coleman represented Britain at middleweight in the 1908 Olympic Games, placed 5th after losing to the eventual gold medal winner Stanley Bacon (George F DeRelwyskow took silver). As well as a Graeco-Roman style champion Aubrey was also one of the country's best catch-as-catch-can wrestlers. In the 1930s professional ring he was given the name Bull, a consequence of his aggressive style, wrestling top men such as Karl Pojello. Bull Coleman was the father of Vic Coleman.
One of the great post war middleweights, though his career spanned both sides of the war.
Vic was trained by his father, Aubrey Coleman, who had wrestled in the 1908 Olympic Games and then wrestled professionally using the name Bull Coleman.
When Vic turned professional he was just fifteen and billed as the World’s youngest wrestler, Young Bull. Like most other wrestlers Vic’s career was interrupted by serving in the RAF during world war two but he returned to the ring to go on to greater success.
In March, 1951, Vic won a knock out tournament at the Wimbledon Palais to win the Empire middleweight title. Others competing were Dan Darby, Ken Joyce, Ken Wilson, Charles "College Boy" Law, Bob Russell, Russ Bishop,and John Lipman.
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Known mostly by the name College Boy Charlie Law started out as a lightweight, (he wrestled Harry Rabin for the British lightweight title in1943) moved through the ranks and was still entertaining the fans as a heavyweight on Paul Lincoln shows in the early 1960s. That made a career spanning the best part of thirty years. Born in Dulwich, living in Peckham and later Surrey, Law worked mostly in the south, and was especially popular at Wimbledon Palais.In March, 1951 he fought in a knock out tournament for the British Empire Middleweight tournament, which was won by Vic Coleman.
Wrestling Heritage reader Palais Fan remembers, "When we used to walk between South Wimbledon station and the Wimbledon Palais on a Thursday evening, he would tell me what a treat we were in for if The College Boy was on the bill. My dad would say "now he can really wrestle" meaning, like Cappelli, Joyce, Kidd etc., he had all the basic skills and wasn't just a showman. He wrestled in a confident and clever (but not flashy) way, with great counter moves. He always looked 'well groomed' with a distinctive 'smart' (for those days) haircut."
Whilst the name College Boy may have been used by others (the name resurfaced in the 1980s used by a wrestler otherwise known as Mario Santana) most fans of the golden days consider Charlie to be the College Boy. He passed away far too early, aged just 55, in 1969.
The photo shows Charlie, left, with Billy Wood.
Memories and discussion of the College Boy almost always revolve around Charlie Law. It was a surprise to just about everyone when Heritage member Johnmac2007UK recalled a masked College Boy who appeared in Newcastle; "There was a name just came to mind from the 60's, a young masked wrestler who often appeared at Newcastle St James Hall, not many appearances, but seemed to fade out of the limelight faster than he came in. He was a masked wrestler possible lightweight by the name of College Boy, I believe he was billed as from Newcastle. Entered the ring in a Black Mask, and if my memory is not playing tricks on me a black leather jacket"
Whilst everyone was perplexed by the memory, Dave Sutherland came to the rescue, "I remember The College Boy to whom John refers as he came on the scene in the autumn of 1964 just after I had started to work at St James and he won a lightweight knock out competition staged at that time. He was billed as coming from Newcastle and his autograph (not that that gives much away) is in my collection published elsewhere on this site. He made a couple of appearances after winning the tournament both of which, I believe, he won but at the expense of a fair bit of blood as his nose appeared to be rather weak. Then, as has been said, he just disappeared."
Ian Pringle added, "I was told by someone behind the scenes that he was a very young Steve Best as his Parents did not take to kindly to their sons activities as it interfered with him studying to become a teacher."
The masked College Boy remains a mystery. If he's reading this, do put us out of our misery.
Bad boy of the 1970s and 1980s rings, and sometimes referee, of southern England Kentish Town's Bob Collins was a frequent opponent of Tom Thumb. Worked for both the independent promoters and Joint Promotions.
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Bristol born Danny Collins was a fans favourite from the day he wrestled Adrian Finch in his professional debut in 1983, aged just sixteen. Danny’s style was was fast and furious, but he complemented his athleticism and agility with good wrestling skill. Having said that, one of Danny’s backwards summersaults from the top rope, was a site to behold.
Danny's breathtaking style in the ring was matched with his meteoric climb to fame. National popularity was secured with a television debut in January 1984 when he defeated Peter Kaye. He sensationally returned to television two months later to beat British champion Jim Breaks.
Now we were certain there was a new kid on the block.
The win over Breaks established Danny as one of our top welterweights, culminating in a win over Jim Breaks at the Royal Albert Hall in march 1984 to snatch the British welterweight title. He went on to hold the British welterweight title three times, the European welterweight title, the World middleweight title and twice the British heavy-middleweight title. Without doubt one of the late twentieth century’s top wrestlers.
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Like so many Wrestling Heritage readers Derek Collins' interest in wrestling began as a ten year old child when he joined the fans at Leeds Town Hall. Wrestling wasn't his first sports love. As a schoolboy he was a successful runner, representing Yorkshire Youth. It was whilst running that he took up wrestling in order to keep his weight down!
Derek was an amateur wrestler for nine years at the Hilltop Wrestling Club in Bradford. Derek would go along to the Hilltop when he wasn't at work down the coal mine, not just earning an honest crust but also building up the strength and stamina necessary for a career in the ring. With a good amateur grounding Derek moved to Ernest Baldwin's Tingley gymnasium in preparation for his professional debut. That moment came in 1962, but Derek's career was soon to be put on hold due to a serious knee injury. After more than a year out of wrestling Derek returned and established himself as a popular worker throughout northern England and and Scotland, working for all the major promotions. The Collins family remains a force in British wrestling with the emergence of Derek's grandson onto the British wrestling scene.
Leicester's Golden Boy Mick Collins. That's right, Mick was just thirteen when he stepped into the ring in front of paying customers, hundreds of them, at the huge Granby Halls in Leicester.
It was probably inevitable that the Saturday night fans took took the lanky youngsters to their heart, but it was his skill and charisma that was to keep in the hearts of fans for the next twenty or so years
Trained by Leicester based Lancastrian Jack Taylor Mick learned most of his trade in the hardest place of all, the wrestling ring, in front of the paying public.
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The older brother of Danny Collins was not content with living in the shadows of his illustrious brother and chose to develop a style unlike the big brother who brought him into the wrestling business. At times Pete tagged with his brother Danny, but their contrasting styles led to a parting of their ways. Unlike good guy Danny the younger Peter became “Mr Vain” and upset the fans not only with his rule bending and antics, but also by frequently taunting and arguing with them. Pete revived a name from wrestling folklore, College Boy.
For a heavyweight he was very speedy and acrobatic, giving rise to his nickname. The high flying Rocco Colombo was known as the Whirling Dervish. In the spring of 1962 he made a two month visit to Britain and impresses those who watched him in action.
Rocco was born in New York and was already well known to wrestling fans throughout North America when he crossed the Atlantic.
He was an impressive addition to (usually) southern rings, beating Francis Sullivan at the Royal Albert Hall, Canadian Georges Gordienko, and Les Kellett. Not bad for starters.
Rocco Colombo passed away in 1964, just thirty-six years after his birth.
The American Dream, the Promoter's Nightmare. Heritage member Bill Smith remembers the 1980 UK visit of Chris Colt (real name Charles Harris), who came to the UK and wrestled as "The American Dream" and as "The American Dream Machine." Colt was actually a Canadian but much of his career was in the United States, where he was a member of the "California Hells Angels" Tag Team who were title holders in the USA.
Chris Colt caused a sensation with his tactics inside and outside the ring. With his multi-coloured tights and elaborate make-up he made a colourful, albeit controversial, addition to the British wrestling scene. Bill recalls, “He was a very good worker who was not afraid to take a few 'bumps'. His best match in the UK is reckoned by many people to be the one against Dynamite Kid (Tom Billingham) at Wolverhampton Civic Hall. ” Another Heritage member, Norfolk Snake told us, "Can recall seeing The American Dream at King's Lynn Corn Exchange taking on Kung Fu for Brian Dixon - at the time I had never seen anything like it, the heat, the image and the violence that erupted in and outside the ring; punters included!"
A watershed moment for Colt during his British tour came the night he faced Big Daddy in a tag match for promoter Max Crabtree. That was the night the dream turned to nightmare for Max after Colt allegedly failed to follow the plan in the high profile Royal Albert Hall bout in November 1980. Following this match Chris went to work for Brian Dixon’s All-Star Promotions. Dixon must have thought Christmas had come early as the big name American filled the venues as the man Big Daddy could not overcome and who had to be seen to be believed.
Andy told us, "When I was a teenager I was lucky enough to work as a second to the wrestlers at Brian Dixon's shows at Yate near Bristol for about three years. Being a second meant being back stage and bring the wrestlers to the ring, taking their gowns and belts back to the dressing room and giving then water between rounds. I was asked to take The American Dream to the ring. Due to this being his first appearance I had no idea what to expect. As he left the changing room I can truly say i was very apprehensive he had heavy makeup showing blood running from both eyes. He also carried a baby doll with the head removed and hanging by a red cord. The crowds response was pure fear.As far as I can remember to bout was against Tony StClair. The Dream was disqualified after no more than 5 minutes, which was a little disappointing as this was the main event."
Controversial maybe, but certainly Chris Colt was an innovator and colourful character who could wrestle.