For the 1960s wrestling fan New Zealand’s John DaSilva made an impressive and memorable site as he entered the ring.
Those who were fortunate enough to see him in action will remember him well; here was gladiatorial elegance. Maori elegance at that, or so the promoters would have us believe.
Although a genuine New Zealander, born in 1934, John’s blood was a cocktail of Portuguese, Spanish and Tahitian, but Maori he was not! His father, Ding DaSilva was a champion wood chopper in the1930s.
John DaSilva represented New Zealand in the 1956 Olympic Games and two years later turned professional shortly after representing his country in the 1958 Commonwealth Games. He was an immediate success in both Britain and Germany, quickly climbing the bill to main eventer.
Experience in America, against top calibre men such as Whipper Watson, Buddy Rogers and Dominic DeNucci, was followed by a short visit home and then on to India. All of this within five years of turning professional! John returned to Britain in time to top the bill against Tibor Szakacs in the presence of Prince Philip, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. Read about this contest in our "Royal at the Royalty" feature.
We guess that by then he would think he’d made it! John picked up sticks again in 1966 and headed back to New Zealand, destined to become one of their greatest heavyweight stars.
other times grappled with the powerful Yorkshire miner Bert Mansfield, number one villain Jack Pye, giant Big Ben Buck with classy acts such as Cab Cashford and Sonny Wallis in between. Here was a man who mixed with wrestling royalty.
Dan's wrestling career spanned both sides of the Second World War, finally retiring from the ring in 1951. He was an almost permanent feature on Belle Vue bills during the post war years tackling opponents that included Tony Bear, Rex Gable, Iron Duke, Alf Rawlings, Vic Hessle, Tony Mancelli and Billy Joyce.
When not billed as an Irish champion Dan was billed as the Welsh champion! When not wrestling he played supporting roles in films. He played a stunt double for Jon Lodder in the 1937 film "King Solomons Mines" Dan served in the merchant navy for six years, fortunate enough to continue his interest in boxing and wrestling during this time. Later in life, during the 1960s, Dan was a bouncer at the Playboy Club. Not bad work if you can get it.
Every Mountevans era wrestling fan remembers the giant, smiling round faced heavyweight Gwyn Davies.
Imagine a huge frame, immense strength, wrestling skill and a determination to win and you have a picture of Gwyn Davies. The baby face could not disguise the fact that here was a hard man who was willing to bend the rules when he deemed it necessary and towards the end of his career there was certainly a harder edge to his style.
Gwyn was trained by his father, the bearded ken Davies, and like dad took an interest in wrestling before turning to the professional wrestling ring. Gwyn turned professional in 1952 and early bouts included tag matches partnering his famous father.
His career was plagued with a recurring back injury, caused in a bout with Herman Iffland. Following a short stint as British champion in 1966 it wasn’t until Bill Robinson’s departure for North America in 1970 that Davies and Albert Wall began a duel for the top heavyweight spot that was to last a decade. Gwyn Davies remained at the peak of his career until his retirement.
As a wrestler Davies relied heavily on his great strength and opponents were mercilessly punished until he ended it by extracting another submission. Often that submission came from the Davies Suspension Hold, in which opponents were caught in a double finger lock and lifted upwards. It looked very, very painful. Gwyn continued wrestling until 1980 when a recurring hip injury brought his thirty year career to an end with a contest against Steve Veidor at Belle Vue, Manchester, on 23rd April, 1980.
Heavyweight Ken Davies grew a beard whilst serving in the navy during World war 2 and it became a trademark of the Maesteg wrestler.
Ken Davies combined professional wrestling with professional rugby playing, and it was his pursuance of a rugby career that led him to move from Aberavon to Yorkshire.
Davies was a big, rugged wrestler who competed with the top heavyweights like Assirati and Armstrong. Like so many others wrestling seemed to be part of Davies’ genetic make-up that was passed to family members as he fathered another Welsh Heavyweight, Gwyn Davies.
Occasionally Ken donned a mask and wrestled as The Legionnaire. Fans have often mistakenly confused this Ken wlth Killer Ken Davies, the welsh welterweight. Only the names are the same. Ken Davies died in 1978.
In the 1960s and 1970s a bald headed, mean looking welterweight more than slightly annoyed fans in the midlands and Wales.
He was Killer Ken Davies, and apart from the name there was little similarity with the heavyweight of the same name.
The muscular young middleweight from Rotherham started out around 1959 and was around the rings quite a bit until the late sixties. Opponents included Leon Fortuna, Linde Caulder, Jon Cortez, Jim Breaks and both of the St Clair boys.
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The balding ruffian Roy Bull Davis sneered and snarled at the fans, who did him the compliment of enthusiastically booing and jeering him.
Davis was a beefy, rugged type, with the remnants of what was presumably once a fine head of hair.
Although his physique was not the sort associated with a fine athlete he was a far cry from the super heavyweights that later brought wrestling into disrepute.
After serving in the merchant navy, where he learned the rudiments of the wrestling ring, and with a background of fairground booths taking on all comers these were the skills that Plymouth’s Roy Bull Davis brought to the wrestling business. In those early days he was known by his family name of Charlie Northey.
This was an entry route to the sport that contrasted with the amateur background of most professionals, but lack of those credentials did him no harm at all. Entry into the professional ranks came thanks to the ex wrestler and referee Dick the Dormouse, who promoted at Plymouth. When Dick and his wife moved to Manchester, promoting and refereeing at Belle Vue, Bull Davis was given the chance to share his ring style with appreciative northern fans.
He was a wrestler who combined wrestling knowledge learned in the business with the cunning and skill of the experienced street fighter. Not to forget a great character, that made him a popular figure on any wrestling bill.
Skilful technician, no, value for money crowd pleasing villain most definitely.
Busy Mancunian post war heavyweight in the north of England who wrestled the likes of Norman Walsh, Jim Hussey, Chic Knight, The Ghoul and Bill McDonald and disappeared from the circuit around 1952. Wrestling Heritage member Ron Historyo has discovered that Eric was billed as a Canadian footballer who came to Britain to play rugby league. Eric's nephew has informed us that Eric was born in Manchester, England, and the family emigrated to Canada whilst Eric was a child. The family name was Doubleday but on returning to England in the late 1930s Eric was known as Eric Day.
Ron Historyo unearthed a report from Tayside, Scotland of one of Eric's matches in March, 1949, “Ernest Baldwin and Eric Day figured in the best bout of the evening. It went the full six rounds before ending in draw at one fall each.” Posters proclaimed “A 23 year old Canadian Football star,” and also capitalised on his growing reputation on the rugby field. He made his debut for Salford Rugby Club in 1939, and returned to the club following the end of the war. On 23rd August 1949, Eric Day was signed up by Bradford Northern for a record fee. Eric's rugby career is believed to be unique as he played four different codes of football – rugby league, rugby union, Canadian football and American football. In the early 1950s Bradford were a cracking team, with a record crowd of 70,000 in 1953. Eric disappeared from our wrestling rings in 1952. We have now learned that in this year Eric sailed for New York, then found his way to Canada. Eric Day died in Canada.
Nottingham's Peter Deakin followed a route not dissimilar to that of Spencer Churchill, Earl Maynard and John Lees into professional wrestling, being a body builder of international repute.
In 1956 and 1957 he was placed 4th in the Mr Britain competition, 5th in 1958. In 1956 he came 4th in the amateur Mr Universe competition, the year that John Lees was runner-up. In 1957 independent promoters gave him the opportunity to show his skills in the pro wrestling ring, surprisingly being billed as Wonder Boy rather than the name by which he was nationally known.
By the end of 1958 he had been signed up by Joint Promotions and was immediately pitched in with the top names of the day, and holding his own with them. He stepped up a gear in 1959 when he took part in the Royal Albert Hall heavyweight tournament and television exposure came in April, 1960, in a bout with Welsh heavyweight Gwyn Davies.
In November, 1961 tragedy struck Peter when a ring injury resulted in a damaged knee and a premature end to a promising career.