If Adrian Street were a real queen he would certainly be one of the longest reigning monarchs of all time. As Wrestling Heritage celebrates Adrian's 54th year in the business we acknowledge the length of his reign is exceeded by Queen Elizabeth II, but then Her Majesty isn't half as good at applying a half nelson or Boston crab, doesn't own such a flamboyant collection of clothes and has probably not added quite so much to the profits of the world's hair product manufacturers.
As life's journeys go the one made by Adrian Street from a coal mining town, Brynmawr, (the name means Big Hil and claims to be the highest town in Wales) to Florida takes some beating. The youngster of seventy years must surely go to sleep with a smile of satisfaction as he reflects his life's achievements.
Adrian Street made his professional debut on 8th August, 1957, and as we write this tribute in August, 2011, Adrian continues to send us photos of his more recent contests near his home in Florida. That is an incredible fifty-four years years of wrestling, seven decades, spanning two centuries.
For much of that time Adrian's persona has been that of a flamboyant, colourful character who wrestling fans were quick to perceive as gay. In fact the gay tag made Adrian uncomfortable in the early days. He told us that when he first dyed his hair blond and took to wearing flamboyant costumes his intention was to look like the American heavyweight champion, Nature Boy Buddy Rogers.
British wrestling fans didn't quite see it that way, and Adrian was quick to realise that he had inadvertently hit upon a gimmick that was to make him one of the twentieth century's greatest wrestlers.
It wasn't just Nature Boy Buddy Rogers that influenced the young Adrian Street, but more of that later. Born in Brynmawr, a town which towers above the neighbouring towns of Beaufort and Ebbw Vale; Nantyglo and Blaina; Blaenavon and Llanelly Hill, Adrian's earliest memories are of wartime and post wartime Wales. Life could be pretty mundane for a teenager growing up in the 1950s, and hanging around the market square, fighting any youngster who had the audacity to challenge him, just wasn't exciting enough for Adrian. Leaving school at 15 the natural step for Adrian, the only step, was to follow in his father's footsteps and start work down the coal pit.
He hated it. Adrian was determined for a better life away from the constraints of a mining town. Brave or foolish it was only a year later that Adrian left home and travelled to London in search of his fortune. With more than his share of experience fighting local boys in the fields around his home Adrian knew that he was going to be a wrestler.
His active childhood, manual work down the pit and interest in physical culture meant that he was very strong for his age with a good physique. The photo shows Adrian in the back garden of his Brynmawr home posing with brother Terence, five years his senior.
In London Adrian continued with manual work, always knowing there must be easier and more enjoyable ways to earn a living.
Adrian became a male physique model, posing for features in physical cultural magazines and earning extra money working on a boxing booth. The booth was hard work but suited Adrian's temperament more than going down the mine, and earned him enough money to pursue his real interest.
Adrian's main interest remained wrestling. He would avidly buy and read the American wrestling magazines that went on sale in Britain weeks, sometimes months, after their American publication date.
From those pages jumped out larger than life figures such as Buddy Rogers, Freddie Blassie, Gorgeous George and Adrian's favourite, Don Leo Jonathan, the Mormon Giant.
The goal was always to become a professional wrestler, and whilst training at the YMCA he met Wandsworth's, Chic Osmond, who began to prepare the youngster for the professional ring.
When the time came to make his pro wrestling debut Adrian chose the name, Kid Tarzan Jonathan, reminiscent of his idol. The similarity extended no further. Adrian was no giant, comfortably fitting in the lightweight division, and energetically flying around the ring.
For the next three years Adrian worked for the independent promoters, gaining experience, learning his trade and smoothing the rough edges. In August 1960, Dale Martin Promotions offered Adrian work, using his own name.
Kid Tarzan Jonathan may have been no more, but for Adrian Street this was the beginning. The rest, as they say, is history. Within weeks Adrian was working almost every night of the week for Joint Promotions, opposing the likes of Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, Bob Steele and Bob Archer O'Brien. Admittedly he was usually on the losing end when facing opponents of this calibre but the boy was learning all the time.
1963 was a milestone year. Adrian had been working full time for Joint Promotions for two years, rarely with more than one night off each week. His fame spread only across the south of England. All that was set to change. In April 1963 Adrian was introduced to a nationwide audience when he faced British lightweight champion, Mel Riss, on television. Adrian was back on television the following month, and more than sixty times during the next thirteen years.
The Adrian Street of the early 1960s bore little resemblance to the larger than life character who was to emerge in later years. No dyed hair, no flamboyant costumes, but always a charismatic personality with good wrestling ability. As fans began to take to the youngster, still a preliminary bout wrestler unless booked against one of the biggest names, Dale Martin began to label Adrian as "Nature Boy" Adrian Street, a result of his tendency to train outdoors he told us. That may have been Dale Martin's idea, but Adrian had other ideas. He remembered Nature Boy Buddy Rogers who he had read about in those American magazines and the persona of Nature Boy Adrian Street began to evolve.
It started with a change of hair colour. Blond. Accompanied with a nice shade in blue. There was the blue velvet robe with matching trunks and boots, complimented with the silver accessories. The catcalls began. The fans loved it. Loved to shriek the terms of abuse that is. Adrian hated it, or so claims. Hate it or not he immediately realised that he was on to a good thing.
Everything seemed to be going well for Adrian Street. Fans packed the halls loving to mock him, promoters throughout the country were eager to book him, he was one of the biggest names on tv, appeared at the biggest shows at the Royal Albert Hall, Nottingham Ice Rink, Paisley Ice Rink, and not to forget his long running tag team success with Bobby Barnes.
Here was a man who made the colourful Jackie Pallo look monochrome.
As we headed towards 1970 we were certain that Adrian Street would replace Jackie Pallo as one of the country's big two.
It was not to be.
In March 1974 Adrian Street left Joint Promotions and moved across to the opposition independent promoters. Here at Wrestling Heritage we regularly champion the opposition promoters, but even we are mystified why a man on the brink of mega stardom pushed aside the television exposure, the big halls, and the big name opponents.
We can only imagine that Adrian was tired of waiting for Joint Promotions to give him the final push that he deserved. Or was it that Joint Promotions were nervous of the way the Adrian Street persona was developing? Did Adrian want to further the career of his partner, Linda, who wrestled as Blackfoot Sioux? Was there an issue with the new management gradually taking over from the Joint Promotion founders? So many questions.
No story of Adrian Street can be complete without mention of his long term partner and wife, Miss Linda. Adrian and Linda, we remember her as Blackfoot Sioux, have been together for more than forty years, inseparable in both their personal and private lives.
In 1981 Adrian left the United Kingdom for North America, wrestling in Canada and Mexico before settling in the United States in 1982.
In the USA Adrian unsurprisingly made his mark and became a significant figure on the North American scene. With Wrestling Heritage a site whose foundations lie firmly in memories and passion for British wrestling we can acknowledge but not comment on Adrian's North American success. We leave that to our American readers.
We end our tribute to Adrian Street with requests for the story to continue: American readers to write and celebrate the North American career of the exotic Adrian Street; and for Adrian himself to write the story of why he did leave Joint Promotions and later the country.
Now read the full story in the words of the man himself.....
"If you want an honest opinion of what went on in the 60s.70s and ;80s buy his books. Great reads all of them from a great wrestling figure."
Adrian's books are available in paperback and Kindle