A Masked Man
and a Smasher.
The victor stood centre ring with arms held high as he acknowledged the endorsement of the fans. The partisan Merseyside crowd were going wild because “our kid” had just defeated one of the wrestlers they loved to hate, Hans Streiger, to take the European heavyweight championship.
The Wrestling Heritage eye witness on that occasion, The 1978 Kid, remembers it well:
“That European title victory in February 1978 was my first ever night of live wrestling; what a triumphal occasion to start with. The victory was a very popular one as Hans Streiger was playing the part of the evil, cheating German!”
It's a night that the victor, Salford's Pat Curry, also remembers well, and with understandable satisfaction. Of the many momentous milestones in his wrestling career this was the one that Pat picked out as his greatest moment.
The venue could hardly have been more fitting. Many wrestlers name the Liverpool Stadium as a memorable venue, usually because of the hostility of the fans; but Pat had been a favourite amongst the Liverpool audience from the first time he stepped into the huge ring in that cavernous Merseyside venue in June, 1969, losing on that occasion to the big Welshman Gwyn Davies.
Between that Stadium debut and his European championship triumph Pat had returned to Liverpool on more than thirty occasions. Best Promotions capitalised on his popularity by seemingly matching him at the hall with just about every villain on their books - Kendo Nagasaki, Gargantua, Wild Angus, Harry Bennett, Shirley Crabtree, Hans Streiger, The Destroyer, Bobby Barnes, Johnny South, Steve Haggetty and Abe Ginsberg to name but a selection.
Occasionally Pat was able to demonstrate his technical ability when matched with Albert Wall, Tibor Szakacs, Wayne Bridges, and John Lees. The bout with Bridges was a surprisingly bad tempered affair with Pat taking the victor's role following the disqulification of Bridges. There was no doubt about the fans allegiance in September, 1975, when Pat defeated Giant Haystacks at the hall, though the big man gained revenge a few weeks later when he defeated Pat and Roy St Clair in a handicap match.
Whoever the opponent the Liverpool fans always got behind Pat. Starved of championship matches for many years it is, therefore, little wonder that the crowd erupted with such energy when Pat Curry's hand was raised in victory and the MC announced that he was the European heavyweight champion.
Championship success had taken sixteen years coming for Pat, though he had been declared Heavyweight champion of Sweden a few years earlier, and unsuccessfully challenged Count Bartelli for the Commonwealth title. Wrestler and promoter Danny Flynn had encouraged him to take up wrestling and both Les Thornton and Roy Bull Davis influenced him greatly.
Following an amateur grounding at Bolton Harriers AWC Pat was given his first professional contest by Danny Flynn. Not that his later fans would have recognised him because on that occasion, and only on that one occasion, he was dressed as a Mexican, Pancho Villa, and beat a long time friend of his, Angus Campbell, who was disqualified.
Following that first match Peter, for that is his birth name, became “Smasher” Pat Curry of Canada; doubtless a promoter's ploy to capitalise on the post war North American heavyweight of the same name. 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.
In 1969 some members of Joint Promotions re-named Pat as Pete Curry. We always felt that Joint Promotions failed to capitalise on their new asset and Pete did not receive the push he deserved. When we put this proposition to him he refused to take the bait:
“Joint Promotions were the best to work for. They phoned me and asked if I'd work for them. It was the best move I made.”
We can understand Pete's opinion; after all he did remain a regular worker for Joint Promotions for many years, though never relinquished his daytime trade as an asphalter, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, not to mention numerous uncles and brothers.
Pete was soon one of the top heavyweights in the country, climbing the ranks and defeating the best, Albert Wall amongst them. His all-action style suited Kendo Nagasaki, a frequent early seventies opponents, to provide some exhilarating bouts. He even donned a mask, took the name Red Devil, and was ceremoniously unmasked after being knocked out by Nagasaki at Nelson in October, 1970.
Following his European triumph Pat became, if anything, an even more frequent contestant at Liverpool Stadium. The loss of his championship belt, a few months later when he was knocked out by the old foe, Wild Angus, was one of his biggest disappointments, but did nothing to dampen the fans enthusiasm for the Salford star. In fact that title loss started one of the greatest, and bloodiest feuds ever seen at The Stadium, with victories going each way. Pete and Angus had known each other for many years, training together on occasions, but there was no love lost between them during this period of intensive rivalry. When Pete's mother saw Angus' tactics against her son she banned him from visiting her house again!
Apart from championship success other career highlights included appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, against Catweazle, Masambula and Giant Haystacks; opponents of greater variety it would be difficult to find.
National exposure came through fifteen televised contests, meeting some of the best heavyweights around at the time, including Albert Wall, Kendo Nagasaki, Count Bartelli, Gwyn Davies, Steve Veidor and Peter Roberts. We steered hesitantly onto the subject of a September, 1972 televised bout with Shirley Crabtree, who had only recently returned to Joint Promotion rings. It was Pete's third time on television and Crabtree knocked him out in the first round. We need not have worried. Pete is philosophical about the contest, the result was a fact. . We failed to draw Pete on the subject of Shirley Crabtree, he would be no more critical than to say that Shirley wasn't very mobile and was over-used by brother Max.
Pete's career came to an end in 1984. After twenty years in the business it was probably a wise move to get out whilst on top, as they say, but things may well have turned out different were it not for the result of a match in March, 1984. On 2nd March Mighty John Quinn put his title up for grabs against Pete at Hindley. Pete was familiar with Quinn's style as he had already met him in both singles and tag contests. He knew that this was his big chance to finally be elevated to the ranks of the all time greats and achieve something that had eluded Assirati, his mentors Thornton and Bull Davis; and his rival Angus. Sadly it was not to be, and Quinn took the hard fought, bruising contest. The fans were disappointed, as was Pete, and for him it confirmed the decision he had put off making for some time, it was time to hang up the boots.