F: Froehlich - Fury
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
The German heavyweight Erich Froelich was born in 1937 in Berlin and emigrated to Vancouver, Canada in 1956 and raking citizenship in 1961. Being a big talent in gymnastics, Froelich was discovered by wrestling promoter Rod Fenton who convinced him to try pro wrestling.
He quickly evolved in the new sport where he became known for stepping in the ring bare footed and grappling with a tiger on more than one occasion. He made a big impression during his early 1960s British visit, unusually being popular with fans who were used to German villains. Apart from a twenty year career in his adopted Canada Erich wrestled around the world in the United States, Japan, and Australia.
Erich Froelich retired from wrestling in 1981.
Lee Leong Fu (family name Edward Leong Choo Liang) combined judo and wrestling skills when he flew to the UK from his home in Ipoh, Malaysia for his three month tour in 1957. He had learned Ju Jitsu whilst a teenager from Japanese officers following the invasion of Malaysia. From his knowledge of different Aikido, Judo, Ju Jitsu, Karate and Kung Fu, Leong Fu developed a system called Atado.
Although he stood only 5'2" tall Leong Le Fu was immensely strong. Opponents included Tony Mancelli, Bill Howes, Emil Poilve and Alf Cadman. The name with the international kudos was obviously Ernest Baldwin as this was the name on which he cashed-in when advertising his classes back home in Malaysia.
Following his British tour he travelled to Singapore where he faced the giant King Kong. In their contest at the Happy World Stadium on 2nd November, 1957, King Kong took the first fall in the second round, Lee equalised with a submission in the fifth, but then injured his hand when a chop aimed at his opponent missed and landed in the ring post. The match was declared a No Contest.
Lee retired from wrestling around 1963, following which he set up a food stall with his wife in Ipoh.
Lee Leong Fu passed away in 1991, aged 59.
A champion at smiling, polite bowing and the most dastardly acts of villainy. Yasu Fuji came to Britain in 1980, a genuine Japanese import brought over to help the short lived renaissance of British wrestling.
He made his UK debut on 25th February with a No Contest result against young Chris Adams. He was to remain a fixture of British wrestling throughout the early eighties, eventually making the transition from Joint Promotions to the independents.
Whilst his record is littered with disqualification losses against bigger and lesser names at small halls Yasu Fuji was the man for the big occasion.
David Mantell reminded us that after John Quinn won the World Heavyweight title from Wayne Bridges on Cup Final Day 1980, Daddy stormed the ring to protest the decision, thus setting up the much-hyped Daddy & Bridges vs Quinn & Mr Yasu Fuji non-televised Wembley match - a rare British use of the old American Territories era tactic of using TV to have an angle to sell tickets for a non-televised Arena show. Quinn and Fuji lost by two straight falls. Although John Quinn was Fuji's most celebrated partner he also tagged with others willing to share his art of villainy; partnering Mark Rocco to lose to Big Daddy & Steve Grey at the Royal Albert Hall.
He appears to be one of those stereotypical dastardly Oriental villains who would commit all sorts of skulduggery and then bow low and grin at his opponent. Annoying or what? He certainly looked the part. Shaven head, short and wide with the obligatory facial hair. Other than that we can report little of substance about this villainous heavyweight who worked Joint Promotion rings during the winter of 1964-5, mainly in the north of England and Scotland, against top class opponents that included Gordon Nelson, John Allan, John Da Silva, Bill Howes and Billy Joyce. Quite a few of those bouts seemed to end in his disqualification; evidence no doubt that our referees never did quite understand the workings of the Oriental mind.
In a sport filled with hooded terrors, colourful characters, the weird and bizarre it was always the case that fans were more than willing to appreciate the wrestler who relied on ability and hard graft. Such a wrestler was Dagenham’s Ray Fury.
He was neither flamboyant or dull, just a more than competent wrestler who would entertain fans by skill alone. In fact those in the know, the wrestlers themselves, testify to Ray being one of the real shoot wrestlers of the time. Born in Istanbul to British parents, and spending his childhood in Greece, Egypt and India meant that his personal life was more colourful than his professional one.
Learning to wrestle at the Foresters Club and the London Central YMCA he was guided by ex wrestler Mike Demitre who encouraged him to turn professional, which he did in 1961, eleven years after entering Britain. After that first bout against Monty Swann it took just twenty-five months for him to win the Southern England Light Heavyweight Title and simultaneously established himself as a tv favourite. Fans were shocked when Ray left Joint Promotionsin January 1971. He had formed a new company with another ex Joints wrestler, Frank Rimer, and the two of them set themselves up as opposition promoters known as Independent Joint Promotions. Big names such as Joe Zaranoff, Hans Streiger, Don Stedman and The Wild Man of Borneo were soon working for the company.
Australian Ron Fury was a powerful heavyweight who visted Britain in the early 1960s. Earl Black told us “Ronnie Fury was a powerlifter who started wrestling for Hal Morgan in Sydney. "He was a larger than life character, always amusing.” Made one television appearance, against Steve Logan, in January 1963.
The decision of teenager Steve Fury to leave home and move from the Lancashire town of Leyland to the seaside resort of Blackpool proved a fortunate one for the youngster who was keen on wrestling.
In Blackpool he discovered that one of his friend's father was none other than the wrestler and promoter Bobby Barron. Steve began working for Bobby putting up the ring, setting out the chairs and all those other behind the scenes jobs. In return Bobby started teaching Steve a few wrestling moves until one day when he was a wrestler short he asked Steve to step into the ring and begin his career as a pro wrestler.
Steve admits his opponent was kind to him that day, so much so that he didn't realise just how much he had to learn. It was John Naylor that taught him that lesson!
Soon Steve was working every day of the week, often more than once on the same day, wrestling on Blackpool Pleasure Beach, holiday camps around the north and Scotland, and the halls of the independent promoters. Eventually Max Crabtree asked Steve to work for Joint Promotions, and this led to televsion appearances against Peter Kaye (left), Lucky Gordon, Steve Peacock, Rollerball Rocco, and a tag match partnering Ringo Rigby. In the years following his retirement Steve has remained involved with wrestling in various ways and is now one of the organisers of the Wrestlers Reunion Leeds.
Liverpool's Tony Fury was a busy worker for the independent promoters of the north and midlands in the 1960s. Tony is the grandfather of female wrestler, Lisa Fury.
Lisa credits her grandfather as the greatest influence on her wrestling career and has contributed these photos to the Wrestling Heritage website. Tony died when Lisa was a toddler. She told us,
"My family showed me pictures of him. He looked like a hard man but my Mum says he was a gentle giant. He's probably looking down on me when I'm fighting.''