The black tights and sequined capes were the trademark of the hugely popular Londoner, Dazzler Joe Cornelius.
From the moment he jumped over the top rope until the day he retired as undefeated Southern England heavyweight champion Dazzler Joe was a crowd pleaser throughout. Trained by Tony Mancelli and Joe D’Orazio the dazzler made his professional debut in Germany, substituting for his injured mentor, Joe D’Orazio.
Legend has it that an unknown Cornelius challenged Bert Assirati at Wimbledon Palais in 1953. Whether this is true or part of wrestling codology we cannot confirm. Our earliest record of Joe at Wimbledon is being knocked out by Assirati in September, 1955, by which time he already had a couple of years experience under his belt.
Dazzler Joe combined wrestling with hairdressing, which was not the unique pairing that might have been expected. What was it with wrestlers and hairdressing, or pubs?
Fans were surprised and disappointed when, in 1967, Dazzler Joe hung up the sequined crown for the last time, whilst still Southern England Heavyweight Champion. In his retirement Joe spent some time living abroad but has now returned to Britain and was a welcome guest at the 2012 Wrestlers Reunion in Kent.
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Brazilian born heavyweight domiciled in Bonnyrigg, Australia, made his way over to Europe and visited Britain in November, 1959.
Top class opponents included Norman Walsh, Ray Apollon, Johnny DaSilva and Alan Garfield.
Holiday Camp Memories
I started my grappling in 1987. I was a compere for Haven Holidays in North Wales and I had watched World of Sport for years and all I had ever wanted to do was 'grace the mat.' I told the travelling troupes (organised by Jimmy Hagan) that I was a former semi-pro. It was great for the crowds and I got to fight Peter Jay, Dave D George, Dave Duran, Mighty Chang and Mal Stewart. I ended up with Orig where I can claim to have been used against Tony StClair, Finlay, Chang and Rocco.
I did the Wryton circuit of Butlins with people like Don Branch, Keith Martinelli, Carl Dane, Peter Tallyho Kaye, Mark Wayne etc. Ayr down to Clacton. Odd days to Pwllheli.Two shows a day and three shows at one camp, Skegness I think. After expenses it worked out at something like £2 a show. Staple diet was fish and chips, boiled eggs and lemonade. Had to find own B&B as well. The rings were unexpectedly hard and in some cases just a canvas over a dance floor. Good fun most of the time depending on who was in your group on the tour. Wages were awful.
I also have some fond memories of working the holiday camps. The best ones for me were Butlins, Barry Island, one day and Minehead the next. For that one day of the week the travelling was easy. Plenty of free time to relax and enjoy. Remember fighting Paul Luty a few times. Happy memories.
The elder (by two years) of the sensational Dulwich brothers who turned professional (initially using the name Jimmy James) for Paul Lincoln Management in 1960. After joining Joint Promotions the brothers became instant television successes, often as a tag pairing, but Jon particularly was renowned in his own right.
He was loved for his speed and agility, which may have disguised the fact that he was a very skilful technician to boot.
Pepe married an American girl and settled in the United States before being tragically killed in a car crash on the return from a wrestling show in 1971, aged 39.
G'day, names Dave and I'm from Australia...
I've been a wrestling fan for...um, well since '68 and I'm 51 now...used to go to the shows in Sydney with my grandad and uncle, and I can always remember them saying about the Aussie wrestlers (Roy Heffernen, Al Costello, Ron Miller, Larry Oodea etc) that, and I quote "Them blokes can't wrestle.Now Mick McManus , HE could wrestle"...so as the years went by I came to appreciate all the styles and history of wrestling. I delved into British wrestling and got a couple of dvds of the old days from world of sport and that recent Grapplers and Grannies doco...
Favourite British wrestlers would be Rollerball Rocco, Kung Fu, Kendo , McManus and Steve "William" Regal...cant say I was a fan of Big Daddy, I guess you had to be there. Also if someone if someone could explain Catweazle to me I would be much obliged.
Although he was overshadowed by his elder brother of two years just about every descriptor of lightweight favourite Jon could equally be applied to younger brother Peter. Like brother Jon he learned the trade at the United AWC, Brixton, before turning professional for Paul Lincoln Management and becoming a regular worker for the independent promoters.
Not that it was a smooth start.
Only a few weeks after making his professional debut in 1959 Peter was called up for national service and his new career was put on hold for two years. When he returned to the ring in 1961 Jon had already established himself as a potential star in the independent halls. In 1961 Peter re-joined brother Jon in the ring and the soon to be famous Cortez brothers tag team was formed. In singles contests Peter wrestled other 1960s wannabees such as Zoltan Boscik, Johnny Williams and Roger Green. In August, 1964 Peter (and brother Jon) were signed up to work for Joint Promotions.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Cortez brothers were outstanding successes throughout the UK, with popularity equalling that of the Royal Brothers. The wrestling world was shocked in 1972 when Peter abruptly disappeared from the scene and we were told he had emigrated to Australia.
Fast moving lightweight of the 1960s and 1970s who independent promoters crowned European lightweight champion.
Another of the clean cut skilful 1960s welterweights who worked regularly but failed to stand out in a crowd of talented wrestlers.
One of fifteen siblings Tony Costas came to the UK in 1961 as an engineering student, and turned professional wrestler only a year later. By then he had served a three year apprenticeship an amateur in both Cypus and Britain.
Mercifully for MC's and television commentators Tony dropped his family name of Hajihannas when he turned professional. Costas would also save a lot of time when signing autographs!
A speedy, technical wrestler Tony was renowned for his drop kick and seen at his best in matches against other technicians such as Jon Cortez, Al Miquet and Leon Fortuna. On one of his return visits to Cyprus he defeated Apostolos Souclekas to win the Cypriot welterweight title. At the time of writing this entry (March 2013) Tony and his wife, Suzanna, are back in Cyprus where they own a hotel.
So many memories of the 1980s are of despair as the styles change and fans begin to stay away. Such memories are a disservice to the good wrestlers who were around at the time, and there were many of them.
One newcomer who we would place in this category was Chris Cougar. A bundle of dynamite yet a hard wrestler the 1980s, from Douglas in the Isle of Man.
Chris was an all action wrestler trained by Ted Beckley, mentor of Dynamite Kid, after Ted moved to the Isle of Man. He made two television showings, losing to Richie Brooks after taking the opening fall, and then unluckily losing to Alan Kilby in a British light heavyweight championship clash at Keighley in September, 1988. Had wrestling on television continued we are sure Chris Cougar would have become a popular and well known name.
Young Billy Coulolias was one of those who just couldn't decide, boxing or wrestling? So he did them both, with some success. In 1946 he won the New Zealand amateur middleweight championship at wrestling whilst also boxing as an amateur. The following year he opted for boxing and turned professional. Following a professional boxing match in Greece he decided to explore more of Europe and eventually ended up in Britain.
He made his British professional boxing debut in August 1947, losing to Bert Sanders when cut in the fourth round. He boxed 36 matches in the United Kingdom (W14 ,L22 , D2), finally retiring in May, 1951. It was then that he decided to try his hand at professional wrestling and began to use the name Basil. Initially he over-relied on his strength, which was immense for a welterweight, but returned to the gym and developed his professional wrestling skill.
He worked regularly for Joint Promotions, often matched against heavier opponents such as Steve Logan and Johnny Czeslaw. In October 1962 Paul Lincoln tempted him across to work for the opposition promoters and Basil was to remain a prominent name on the independent circuit until our last recorded match for him was in February, 1966