One of those tough men in the ring and a gentle giant outside the ropes, that was Elmo the Mighty, otherwise known by his real name of Jim Foy.
Born in Bolton on 26th March 1914, Jim was one of the great characters of professional wrestling for twenty years, from the mid 1940s until his retirement in 1963.
Born in Bolton he was brought up in the hard tradition of Lancashire style wrestling . He was sixteen years old when he began wrestling and was Lancashire Heavyweight Champion before he turned professional.
During his career Jim travelled throughout the country and wrestled all the greats like Black Butcher Johnson, Jack Pye, and Bill Benny. The programme(right) is of one of Jim's appearances at Belle Vue, Manchester.
Following his retirement Jim continued to coach young wrestlers at Bolton Amateur Wrestling Club.
Jim Foy died in 2000. He was undoubtedly one of the hardest men in wrestling and we have it on good authority that a young Billy Robinson considered Jim the hardest man he knew and complained that he was unable to throw the Bolton man.
A tough nut who looked the part. Bob Francini trained at Hollywood Amateur Wrestling Club in Stockport but made his professional debut in Australia. He returned to Britain in the mid 1960s using the name Jack La Rue on opposition shows. After gaining a bit more experience he was soon snapped up by Joint Promotions, with a decade of regular bookings from Jack Atherton and Wryton Promotions.
His all action style didn’t always endear him to fans but Francini’s bouts were never short of drama or emotion. He was a regular opponents of all the big names in the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions, but rarely a winner, and lacked television exposure.
Occasionally he wrestled as the Red Mask, Red Marvel, or Red Devil. Either he liked the colour red or had just the one mask.
Should a book of wrestling's greatest characters be written Ezra Francis is sure to be in there, whatever the criteria. Stories of the man abound whenever the wrestling fraternity gathers together. Eddie Rose told Wrestling Heritage:
"Ezzie was a favourite to work with and to socialise with, too. Top man and what a sense of humour, mind you, we needed it because we were both Manchester City fans! I had some of my most memorable bouts with him. He was fun to be with and had a wide variety of moves to suit every occasion. He took on all shapes and sizes from Jackie Pallo to Klondykes and always gave full value to the audiences."
The fans loved Ezra, whether he was billed that night as The Zulu, Sugar Ray Francis, Sugar Ray Dodo or The Witchdoctor.
The grass skirt, spear and facial paint meant that Ezra was on the bill. This welterweight was a hugely popular and regular performer on the independent circuit throughout the 1960s. Whilst not reaching the popularity of Masambula (who did have the advantage of tv exposure) Ezra was no insubstantial copy of the African. When the lights were down and he entered the hall the excitement amongst the crowd was very real. A slow walk into the ring, followed by a bit of voodoo nonsense directed at an opponent and then he would get down to the serious business of wrestling, at which he was very good.
Not to be confused with another Zulu, Harry Bison of the Isle of Man
Tony Francis is a man well remembered by wrestling fans of the Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks era. Too many of those memories are of playing a supportive role in an era when oversized immobile objects were filling halls around the country.
Nowadays Tony can be found living in the Lancashire resort of Blackpool, a town he has called home since childhood. Often seen walking along the promenade taking in the sea air he will pause briefly as he passes the pleasure beach, the Central Pier, Blackpool Tower, and a handful of other halls, recalling cherished memories of the golden years of British wrestling.
Tony's memories extend far beyond losses to Big Daddy, to a long period in British wrestling and overseas.
Tony was invited by Stu Hart to work the Canadian circuit in 1975. Tony remembers travelling the Canadian circuit, remote cities with angry fans, against big names such as Dan Kroffat. The boy must have done well because the following year he was invited back to work for Vince McMahon in California, and by Stu Hart in 1976 and 1977. Tony's youngest daughter was born in Canada in 1977.
Whilst in North America Tony got a job with theCanadian Automobile Association where the English accent and the Lancashire charm awarded him the top North American salesman prize.
Read his story, and of those who influenced him in our Personality Parade extended tribute.
Read our extended tribute: Blackpool Rock
Standing six feet tall and weighing around 14 stones Len Franklin was known as the Elstree Adonis and was part of the All-In wrestling scene from the outset. We first come across Len on 9th February, 1931 when he wrestled Yugoslav George Modrich at Belle Vue, Manchester, in a wrestling bout on a boxing show.
From a seemingly lacklustre start to his professional career in 1931 Len began to sparkle the following year with impressive wins over Sam Rabin, Jack Pye, Barney O'Brien, Stan Roberts and George Gregory. Atholl Oakeley listed him an equal to Bert Assirati, Douglas Clark and Barney O'Brien.
He was certainly good enough to challenge Atholl Oakeley for the British heavyweight championship, having won through a series of eliminating contests. He was deemed unfortunate to have lost to Oakeley after sustaining a knee injury in the third round of their contest at the the New Victoria Halls, Nottingham, on 29th August 1932. A return contest, on 25th September, 1932, again resulted in a victory for Oakeley, but Len reportedly ?gave the champion one of his hardest fights of the year.?
Although Len's scientific knowledge of wrestling was surpassed by few, if any, as shown in matches against Sam Rabin and Jim Wango, we wouldn't rate him alongside those greats because his record was far more patchy and his career short; we have no records beyond 1934. That's a short record by anyone's standards.
Stockton's Brian Eeles was one of the multitude of Teesiders who worked for independent promoters in the 1970s, using the ring name of Glen Frazer. Glen trained at Alex McDonald's gymnasium, the Alexandra Wrestling Club in Cannon Street, Middlesbrough. Glen worked mostly in the North East of England alongside the likes of Les Prest, Sean McNeil, and Jimmy Devlin. He died suddenly on November 15th, 2015, aged 75 years. His wife, Margaret, died eight days later.
Dave Freeman trained at the Chelmsford Amateur Wrestling Club and worked for Dale Martin Promotions in the 1970s. He made a couple of television appearances in 1975, losing by the odd fall to bothe Johnny Kwango and Catweazle.
A powerful heavyweight who weighed over 16 stone German champion Heinrich Froehner wrestled fairly regularly in Britain between 1932 and 1937, twice holding the European heavyweight championship, by defeating and losing it again to Atholl Oakeley and Karl Pojello.
Froehner decisively defeated British heavyweight champion Atholl Oakeley, the Nottingham Evening Post reporting, “The German was the more accomplished wrestler, and this with his prodigious strength, was responsible for Oakeley’s first defeat in the local ring.”
In February, 1933, Pojello beat Froehner at Nottingham in the sixth round to win the European Heavyweight Championship. Froehner had taken the title from Oakeley some six weeks earlier.
Apart from Oakeley and Pojello Froehner met and defeated most of the big names in European wrestling.