Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Dick Conlon ...Kevin Conneely ... Bill Connor ... Martin Chopper (Cordite) Conroy ... Robert Cook ... Gary Cooper ... Norman Cooper ... Norman Cooper ... Sid Cooper ... Tomislav Copkov ... Godon Corbett ... Polo Cordova ... Tony Corletti ... Jean Corne ... More
A scowling, tough guy of a wrestler who worked the rings of usually southern England during the 1960s and 1970s.
A welterweight from London he was a good worker who failed to make it into the top notch in those days of immense competition . Not so much a villain, but the look of a villain who knew how to rile the fans. Probably mostly remembered when he joined forces with Chris Bailey as the Artful Dodgers tag team.
Whilst in the merchant navy Dick got interested in wrestling after making friends with the professional Bob Taylor.
Dick turned professional for one of the independent promoters, and was surprised to discover when making his debut that he was billed as the Lightweight champion of Spain!
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It would be so easy to fall into the trap of rolling out a list of stereotypical labels to describe the Irish born Kevin Conneely.
We won't. We will just tell you of the joy the Liverpool wrestler's appearance could bring to fans. A great wrestler and comedian of the ring. Liverpool wrestler Kevin Conneely began his career with the independent promoters in the 1960s, coming first to our attention on an independent show against masked man Mitzuko Chango in 1965.
By then he had around four years experience against top opposition men such as Jack and Ray Taylor, Johnny Saint and Bill Tunney. In 1969 he was signed up by Wryton Promotions and was an immediate success in Joint Promotion rings, with fans appreciating the combination of wrestling ability and humour. He was to remain a popular figure on Joint Promotion bills throughout the 1970s, returning to the independents in the 1980s.
Kevin Conneely sadly died on holiday in Thailand in 2004.
Our comment that Bill Connor had a well worn face are uttered only with warmth for a fine wrestler that we always enjoyed watching.
His wiry body zipped round the ring, slowing down just enough to reveal a grin as he had outfoxed his opponent yet again. An ex paratrooper from Salford Bill learned to wrestled at the Manco Amateur Wrestling Club in Stretford.
His first love was not wrestling but boxing, until he was encouraged to try his hand at pro wrestling by Ken Cadman. Like so many Lancashire lads he was taught the professional side of the business at the Wryton Stadium, Bolton, turning professional after a decade in the amateur ranks.
Bill was a regular worker, mainly for Wryton Promotions, for around ten years before disappearing in the mid 1970s. Outside the ring Bill was a builder by trade.
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One of wrestling's pioneers going back to the all-in days of the 1930s Wigan's Martin Conroy was one of the most enduring and cherished stars of the wrestling ring. Most readers remember him as one of their favourite referees or Master of Ceremonies. A few will remember him as Chopper Conroy the wrestler, and even older ones as Cordite Conroy, the alleged Australian hard man.
By whatever name he was known Mr Conroy had a long and proud wrestling tradition, turning professional in 1931, and clashing with pre war stars King Curtis, Jack Pye, Jim Wango, Norman the Butcher and the like.
Our earliest recorded matches are in the north of England with more in and around London in the mid 1930s, which coincides with a report we receibved that away from the ring in the 1930s Cordite Conroy was a part time physical education teacher. A respected man throughout his career Martin was one of the featured wrestlers in a vintage wrestling promotion series of cards by Wryton Promotions entitled "Stars of the Ring." He was also one of the two featured wrestlers in the book "Know Your Wrestling Holds."
Martin more or less took a break from the wrestling to serve during the second world war, returning to the ring in peace time to wrestle for almost twenty more years until he finally retired in 1963.
He went on to become a top referee and trainer for Wryton Promotions, before moving onto the management board and bringing the likes of Johnny Saint, Al Marquette and Wild Angus over to Joint Promotions.
A man who devoted his life to wrestling, fondly remembered by those in the wrestling fraternity, he passed away whilst holidaying in Majorca.
Robert Cook was born on 3rd October, 1905 and is another of the pioneers of wrestling whose professional career continued into the early 1950s, qualifying him for our Heritage A-Z.
"Robert Cook was known as a rough tough wrestler, with plenty of ability," according to wrestling historian and 1930s expert Mike Hallinan.
Putting aside his pioneering career in the 1930s it was in the amateur code of wrestling that Robert Cook initially excelled. His interest in wrestling was cemented when he joined the Ashdown Club, where he met some of the top amateurs of the day: Atholl Oakley, George MacKenzie, Bert Assirati, Bill Garnon and Sam Rabin. (The photo shows an upright Robert at the Ashdown Club). Robert was a porter at Smithfield Market and in 1927 with few opportunities for professional wrestling in Britain he had no aspirations of making money from the sport. 1927 was a successful year, with Robert winning the British lightweight championship.
This was only the start, with more British championship success to follow as British champion at welterweight and middleweight the following year and selection for the Olympic Games.
In 1928 Robert represented Great Britain in the freestyle welterweight division at the Olympic Games which were held in Amsterdam. With an unfortunate draw he was finally placed fifth of the eleven competitors, losing to the eventual silver and bronze medal winners, Lloyd Appleton of the United States of America and Maurice Letchford of Canada.
In 1931 many of Robert's contemporaries at the Ashdown were turning professional as the all-in style started to gain a hold. Oakeley, Assirati and Garnon were establishing themselves as national figures on the rapidly developing pro circuit. Oakeley was also making his way as a promoter, and persuaded Robert to turn professional.
It was the beginning of a new career. Professional wrestling was flourishing in the early 1930s and skilled in both the freestyle and Catch as Catch Can styles of wrestling, Robert was well placed to make a success.
Although he never became a household name like Jack Pye, Norman the Butcher or Bert Assirati; Robert Cook was a man who gained the respect of other wrestlers and admiration of those at ringside. The names of his opponents are indicative of his calibre: Richard Willis, George Boganski, Mario Magisti and Bert Assirati.
By 1937 Robert Cook was widely recognised as British and European Light Heavyweight Champion. The precise lineage of the championship belt is unclear, but we have seen unconfirmed reports of Robert winning the British championship at Belle Vue on 8th May 1936.
Wartime Britain saw Robert serving in the Navy as chief stoker on board HMS Empire and Sefton.
Following the second world war Atholl Oakeley resumed his attempt to re-establish wrestling in the face of the relenting competition from the new Mountevans style rules.
He turned to established wrestlers such as Robert Cook, with our final recorded match at Harringay Stadium on 7th March, 1950, defeating Yugoslavian Sandor Schlosser in 28 minutes.
Robert Cook died of cancer in 1963.
We have a second Norman Cooper for you. Norman Curry used the ring name Norman Cooper after training at the Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield. He'd approached Jimmy Devlin, who trained wrestlers in the stables behind the hall, and told him that he wanted to learn how to wrestle. Jimmy invited Norman along to the gym and it was the start of a friendship that is still going strong as Norman is added to the A-Z in August, 2015.
All our second Norman has in common with Bradford's Syd Cooper is a name, though Norman tells us that he didn't know Sid's real name was also Norman until the night they were travelling together between Bridlington and Aberdeen working for Relwyskow and Green Promotions. Norman was a fit and powerful six feet tall muscular heavyweight weighing fifteen stones, a hard wrestler who had no time for those with gimmicks and little skill who brought the sport into disrepute.
He was born in Kelloe, a village to the to the south-east of Durham in northern England, on 1st May, 1945. Seventy years later he still lives there. Norman's interest in wrestling started as a fan watching the wrestling on television - Johnny Czeslaw, Eric Leiderman and Honey Boy Zimba were his favourites, though he wasn't so keen on Zimba years later when Zimba lifted him high and tossed him from the ring.
As a youngster Norman had no desire to become a wrestler, though he was always a fitness fanatic and interested in sport - throwing the javelin and discus, and weightlifting, at which he excelled. When he was seventeen Norman started to learn unarmed combat, and in his early twenties was an unarmed combat instructor in the Territorial Army. It was a few years later he approached Jimmy Devlin and began to learn the professional style of wrestling. By 1971 he was considered good enough to work in front of the paying public and made his professional debut for Cyril Knowles at Whitley Bay.
Norman also gained a lot of good experience working on Ron Taylor's boxing and wrestling booth at the Newcastle Hopping Fair and the Durham Miners Gala. A wrestler can quickly learn a lot when he is wrestling six or seven matches a day in front of a demanding audience.
Norman was soon wrestling around the country for many of the biggest promoters, including Relwyskow & Green, Max Crabtree, Brian Dixon, Don Robinson, Orig Williams & Taylor-Allan. His daytime job as a long distance lorry driver proved handy as Norman would phone promoters to see if they needed any last minute substitutes in the town he happened to be sleeping that night. Life was good as far as Norman was concerned, now getting paid to wrestle some of those men he had watched on television as a boy - Adrian Street, Eric Taylor, Honey Boy Zimba and John Cox amongst them. A hard man in the ring Norman's philosophy was that it didn't look like it hurt unless it really did hurt, and although he was always the good guy in the ring he enjoyed nothing better than a good scrap.
By the late 1980s Norman was becoming disillusioned like many of the fans. True, a recurring back injury was causing some pain but it was too many unskilled men in the limelight that made him disenchanted and so he decided to hang up his boots for the last time. He still lives in Kelloe, in a house across the road from where he was born, and near to his daughter and grand daughter.
The early incarnation of a short, blond haired Norman Cooper turned into the long haired Yorkshire tearaway from Queensberry, Syd Cooper.
Few could swagger or glare at the fans like Sid. They booed as he bent the rules, and booed even louder when his inevitable protests that he was innocent followed.
The Wrestler magazine claimed he had three times been sacked from previous jobs for arguing with the boss. Sounds feasible.
A great all action villain, many fans still remember his feud with referee Max Ward. Singles success was superseded by his tag partnership with fellow Yorkshireman, Alan Dennison, as the Dennisons. The successful partnership was eventually disbanded when Cooper moved south to pursue his career. Greater singles success followed, as did another tag pairing, this time with Iron Jaw Joe Murphy as The Roughnecks.
Yugoslavian born heavyweight made a three week visit to Britain for Joint Promotions in June 1962. Opponents included Albert Wall, Dave Armstrong, Jack Pye and Kiwi Kingston.
We thank Heritage member Tessa Milenkovic for sending us these photos, treasured by her grandmother who was a friend of the wrestler in the 1960s.
Not the most well remembered, but certainly one of the most prolific wrestlers and an influential promoter of the 1960s and 1970s Gordon Corbett was a man of many guises.
Like many others his first interest was boxing until he chose to take the opportunities presented by the rapidly growing popularity of professional wrestling in the early 1960s. We came across Gordon in the mid 1960s as a popular blue eyed Midlands area champion when good would overcome evil as Gordon battled the likes of Klondyke Bill and The Monster, or tag partnering Count Bartelli against undesirable pairings.
When the fans weren't cheering him they could more often be heard jeering and booing Gordon on the nights he was wearing a mask and assuming a multitude of evil identities. Doctor Death, The Executioner and, most memorably The Exorcist. As The Exorcist Corbett was accompanied by his manager, Miss Jamie Barrington. He wore a boot with a raised sole, said to be necessary due to an horrific motor racing accident, which fans claimed was used illegally as they the toe cap contained hidden weights! Mostly associated with his work for the independent promoters Gordon did work for Joint Promotions, both masked and unmasked.
In 1957 when Mexican Polo Cordova made a short visit to Britain he was already an experienced grappler of almost twenty years.
In January, 1957, he visited Spain, the birthplace of his parents, and made a fleeting visit to Britain, losing to Alan Garfield at the Royal Albert Hall and Mike Marino in Beckenham.
Polo Cordova died in August 1975, aged 61.
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The Names We Gave Them
I think Woodhouse promotions within Joint Promotions gave the most evocative descriptions of the wrestlers.
Some of the most cringeworthy billings, as part of wrestling's decline, are listed in the Year of Wrestling on this site, 1977.
Promising 1970s lightweight of the 1970s from Stoke Ferry, Norfolk, was featured in The Wrestler magazine in March 1972. His promise seemed to fizzle out and we heard no more about him.
The Names We Gave Them
There was a wrestler, early 1980's, called "Farmers Boy" Pete Ross. Also, I remember Kent Walton calling Colin Joynson, "The Pocket Tank, as they have nicknamed him in Germany", and I remember Dave "fit" Finlay being nicknamed (by himself), "Superman" Dave Finlay. I think he started using the "Belfast Bruiser" nickname in CWA in Germany and Austria, before taking it to the USA for WCW.
Then we had Ian "Bully Boy" Muir, "Tiger" Dalibar Singh, Mal Kirk "The Pit Mans Hercules" (a reference to his mining roots of course), and on the old Wrestlecall hotline they always said "Giant Haystacks, the 45 stone mat monster!"
Jim "cry baby" Breaks, "Beautiful" Bobby Barnes, "Exotic" Adrian Street (after already being called "Nature Boy"), "Nipper" Eddie Reilly, "Golden Ace" John Naylor. I am sure there are loads that I have forgotten.
French men frequently popped across the channel to wrestle in the South of England. Some, such as Julien Morice became resident Britons, whilst others, such as Jean Corne, travelled back and forth from his home in Brittany.
In fact he travelled back and forth frequently over a decade that spanned from 1959 until 1969. Fledgling promoter Paul Lincoln enticed the French middleweight to our shores in 1959, and the stylish technician remained a frequent and popular figure on the independent circuit until 1964, opposing other Lincoln regulars such as Eddie Capelli, Ken Joyce, Joe Murphy and Doctor Death.
He also formed a popular and successful tag team with Judah Ischa Israel. He was then tempted across to the Joint Promotion camp where television exposure and Royal Albert Hall appearances were part of the attraction.
A Royal Albert Hall loss to McManus was followed by a win over rising star Brian Maxine. The crowning glory was a Royal Albert Hall appearance in July, 1968 in the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Philip when the French team of Jean Corne, Gil Cesca, Jacques Lageat and Bruno Asquini won the hearts of the fans against the rule bending London team of Mick Mcmanus, Jackie Pallo, Steve Logan and Al Hayes.
Later in his career Corne formed a tag team, Les Celtes, with Michel Falempin (above, with Jean Corne on the right). He also authored a book about wrestling, “La vérité sur le catch" (The Truth About Wrestling).