At a time when wrestling was on the decline here was a talented and popular 1970s and 1980s performer who worked for both Joint Promotions and the independents over a career spanning more than twenty years.
A professional career that began aged 16 saw him draw with Micky Sullivan in a European Middleweight title match.
On one of his televised appearances Ray wrestled as one of those rare masked men, a good guy, Spiderman.
Ray trained youngsters at gymnasiums in Essex and also taught the cast of the television drama, Trafford Tanzi.
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He was known as Romeo Joe and with good cause; here was a man who could charm the opposite sex in the world of wrestling and the world outside, resulting in numerous marriages and a big fan following.
He charmed the fans for well over a quarter of a century, an accomplished wrestler with an entertaining, downright funny style. Many of the comedy moves used by various wrestlers in the seventies and eighties could be traced back to their originator, Romeo Joe.
In “Send In The Clowns” Eddie Rose recounts the story of Joe mesmerising the fans when he took on “The Invisible Man,” the best possible substitute the harassed promoter could find for a wrestler who had failed to turn up. Even in his twilight years he was still a star performer. Though what the admirers would have thought had they known that for many years after the bout he was off back to his chip shop in Gidlow lane, Wigan, we can only imagine.
Colourful trunks at a time when plain colours were the order of the day, flowers to throw to the female fans and kisses blown to the masses. Joe was a man who seemed to have time for everyone, the most demanding of fans or the younger wrestlers needing a bit of guidance in the business. Romeo Joe tagged with Les Kellett on television and beat Bernard Murray at the Royal Albert Hall. His biggest wins came in the charisma stakes because there were few that brought more colour and fun to the world of wrestling than Romeo Joe.
Although "Romeo" Joe Critchley was a very funny performer, he was deadly serious about refereeing. I recall an argument between himself and Brian Mason (who used to wrestle as Crusher Mason or Mighty Chang) backstage at a Brian Dixon show. Mason was due to wrestle Jimmy Hagen and would wrestle in a leotard with a leather belt around his waist. Much of the earlier rounds were taken up with Mason turning Hagen blindside of the referee, pulling him down and rubbing the metal buckle of the belt against Hagen's eyes. It had happened at plenty of Dixon's other shows with referees such as Al Miquet, Roy "Bull" Davies and Ken Williams officiating. However, Critchley refused point blank to do it. He claimed that allowing the bout to start with Mason still wearing the belt was improbable so ordered him to remove it and refused to work the angle. Although Critchley was a little fellow and Mason a big guy, Critchley had the respect of the dressing room and , when he refereed, the offending belt was removed.
A new heavyweight masked man appeared on the wrestling scene in 1964.
This one was hard to miss; he was dressed head to toe in white.
His speciality was predictably called the crucifix, and Jim Hussey is seen as the unfortunate recipient. Find out more and discover who was beneath the mask in the Wrestling Heritage Top 20 Masked Wrestlers.
Hooded Heydays - Top Masked Wrestlers of the Heritage Years
Merely choosing the criteria to use for our positioning of the greatest masked wrestlers has had us scratching our collective head.
One thing we were completely sure of was that quality should reign supreme over quantity. So, while we could reel off well over a hundred masked names that were active during our period of study, so many of them appeared for only a short while, or were copycats, that any listing would be pointless. Indeed, half those hundred might be made up of sundry Doctor Deaths and Zebra Kids alone. Read more...
Frank “Chic” Cullen was a British wrestling great of the latter part of the twentieth century.
A world heavy middleweight champion who found success on both sides of the Atlantic, but we guess did have a few regrets that he had not been born a few years earlier.
Fans should be thankful to the likes of Chic Cullen that British wrestling survived into the twenty-first century.
Now living in Calgary, Canada, where he recently opened the Robbie Stewart Sports Bar and maintains contact with fans and colleagues through the various wrestling forums and attendance at the British Wrestlers Reunion.
Born twenty years earlier Cullen would still have been a major player in the more competitive days of the 1960s, combining charisma, action and wrestling skill.
Read our extended tribute to discover how he got involved in wrestling and the early part of his career...
Read our extended tribute: Early Days
In April 1950, when Irishman Jim Cully “The Gargantuan Gael” was brought over from Ireland to face American Ed Don Virag at Harringay Stadium. Promoter Atholl Oakeley claimed the Irishman stood 7'7” tall and weighed 24 stones. Virag defeated him. Oakeley may have been overstating, but not by much, various sources record Cully as 7'2” tall. "The Tipperary Giant" started out as a weightlifter on Irish fairgrounds before turning to fairground wrestling and professional wrestling. Made the unusual route of going to the United States in 1948 and turning from professional wrestling to professional boxing, but seems to have fought only a couple of professional boxing matches.
In days when wrestling barefoot was considered an exciting gimmick, though his rather splendid monkey climbs may also have endeared him to fans, Jack Cunningham was a popular South African middleweight who went on to become an equally popular referee following his retirement due to a neck injury, sustained at Exeter in 1964.
In his youth Jack was a champion swimmer in South Africa, representing his country against the United States of America whilst a teenager. During the war Jack served in the South African Air Force, moving to Britain following the war.
For quite a few years he lived in Manchester, where he shared his wrestling commitments with playing rugby for Sale Rugby Union Football Club.
Maybe the name just didn't suit the suave north American image, but the wavy haired, good looking Canadian, Pat Girard adopted the name Pat Curry when he made his 1947 debut in British rings. We can also find little evidence of Pat being a big name wrestler in North America as, unsurprisingly, British fans were led to believe. We do know, however, that following his British wrestling activity Pat returned to his Montreal home where he become one of the most highly respected Canadian wrestling trainers, responsible for mentoring Pat Patterson, Terry Garvin, Ronnie Garvin, and Sunny War Cloud amongst others.
Pat was a familiar heavyweight in British rings from 1947 until the mid 1950s. He met all the great names of the day, men such as Bert Assirati, Francis St Clair Gregory, Dave Armstrong and Ernest Baldwin, and losing to Tony Mancelli in a World Junior heavyweight title clash.
When Pete Curry started out with the independent promoters, following an amateur grounding at Bolton Harriers AWC, he was billed as “Smasher” Pat Curry of Canada. On occasions they even threw in a Pacific Coast Heavyweight Title for good measure. These are our fondest memories of Pat, a young, energetic, all-action golden boy in raucous bouts against the likes of Angus Campbell, Dominic Pye, The Ghoul and The Wildman of Borneo. No doubt those independent promoters were hoping to cash in on the memories of fans who remembered the original Pat Curry who had visited British shores some years earlier.