In days when wild haired Peruvians, Stetson wearing Americans, and east Europeans with unpronounceable names were familiar features on our wrestling bills it seems ironic that such great interest could be aroused amongst fans by British wrestlers working outside their customary region.
Such was the case when Scottish lightweight Jim McKenzie ventured south. McKenzie was an accomplished wrestler, a regular worker and popular performer who never quite made it to the dizzy heights of Saint, Breaks or Kidd.
After nine years as an amateur, and winner of the Scottish championship, he turned professional and made his debut against George Kidd in Glasgow.
In his third year working professionally he took the Scottish Lightweight title in 1964, holding it for many years apart from short lived losses to Jim Elder and Bill Ross. Jim remained a popular lightweight throughout the 1960s.
Long before lightweight Jim McKenzie won the hearts of 1960s and 1970s wrestling fans there was another Jim McMckenzie. “Iron Man” Jim McKenzie was at the opposite end of the weight divisions to our 1960s lightweight champion.
Iron Man Jim, commonly known as Red McKenzie, was a fiery Scottish heavyweight, a big man indeed who tipped the scales at seventeen stones.. McKenzie, from Methil, worked British rings in the 1940s and 1950s.
Soccer and boxing were Red Mckenzie's first sporting interests, until he volunteered for the army in 1939, serving overseas in the First Cavalry Division, serving in the Egypt, Palestine, Libya and Italy.
Spinner Mckenzie is another of those wrestlers who just scrapes into the Heritage years. He was a teenager when he turned professional in 1984, but his youth and the twilight years of the Mountevans era did not prevent him from finding success as Big Daddy's tag partner for a couple of years.
Opponents ranged from speedy, skilful lightweight Danny Collins to the hardest of them all, Mark Rocco and Dave Finlay, to the biggest of them all, Giant Haystacks.
Spinner is still wrestling more than twenty years after turning professional and considered something of a legend amongst fans of the current scene.
In more recent years Spinner has gone on to become a huge influence on many young wrestlers of the modern era, including Drew Galloway amongst many others.
Scotland's Sandy McLaren came from Coupar Angus and began wrestling around 1940, our first report of him being a draw against Bob Silcock in January, 1940.
Sandy was said to be a skilful wrestler who remained cool and collected. Standing sround 6 feet tall he fillled out into a fully blown heavyweight.
He worked regularly in northern England and Scotland throughout the 1940s and was said to be a worthy opponent of top class men such as George Gregory, Francis St Clair Gregory and Dave Armstrong. With most of his matches in the north we suspect he may well have moved south and lived in northern England. Sandy seems to have disappeared from our rings in 1949.
Anglo-Irish cornerstone of the Dale Martin Empire from his forties début right through to July 2007 and his appearance on an ITV nostalgia show alongside Dickie Davies as the face of wrestling.
The most featured wrestler of all time in television bouts. A carefully crafted ring persona was effective in arousing fans’ hatred over several decades.
No one equalled Mick McManus. Here was a man who was just as comfortable in the company of the great and the good, or mixing with the Beatles and other entertainment celebrities, as he was mixing it in our local wrestling halls.
Few weeks would pass by without Mick popping up on television, radio and the national press. He even had his own weekly column in the Sun national newspaper, which can now be enjoyed once again elsewhere on the Wrestling Heritage site.
Mick McManus died on 22nd May, 2013.
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Tony St Clair's Memories of Mick McManus
Yesterday, the 11th June, I took an early flight from Hanover to Heathrow in order to attend the internment ceremony of Mick McManus. As the only flight I could get on arrived in London at 6:30 am I think I was one of, if not the, first to get to Woking Crematorium.
I remember when I went to South Africa in 1975 for a year, I got a message from him that he was going to be in Cape Town for three weeks and that we could maybe get together sometime. As it happened my wife was singing at the Crazy Horse nightclub in Cape Town so one day I went to meet Mick, who was staying with a member of the Royal Family ( Lord ,,,,,,,) and invited them to come and see my wife sing. They came and we had a great night. The next day they invited my wife to the Lord's house for a BBQ and we had a great time. Mick was so relaxed and having a great time, `This is the life Legs `he said to me `wonder how the lads are doing on the road to Torquay !!!! `and we both laughed.
Bob McMaster was a tough Australian heavyweight who combined careers in wrestling and rugby. Born in 1921 he was a successful rugby player in Australia who came to Britain to represent his country in the late 1940s. Bob had already learned amateur wrestling whilst working in the Brisbane police force. He re-started his rugby career following the end of the Second World War. In July 1947 Bob and the rest of the squad boarded th liner Orion and sailed for England, visiting Colombo, Ceylon, Yemen, and Egypt before arriving in Tilbury, England. In the match against Gloucester, the Times reported that McMaster ‘clearly is a first class as well as a strikingly powerful forward’ who contributed fifteen points to the score.
With his good showing Bob was signed up by Leeds Rugby League Club. During his years in Britain he combined rugby and wrestling, meeting men such as Pat Curry, Jack Pye, Mike Demitre and Alf Robinson.
Bernard Hughes remembers watching Bob wrestle as "... a rough tough Aussie wrestler.... It seemed to me at that time that McMaster, Verna and Coverdale were all from the same mould. Hard hitting, tough Australians."
On his return to Australia in the mid 1950s Bob became a wrestling referee on Australian television and bought a hotel on the Gold Coast called "Wallaby Bob's." John Shelvey told us, "Bob McMaster was a widely known figure years after his tenure as a Rugby Wallaby and League player. He was the no.1 Queensland referee for the Barnet and Doyle World Championship Wrestling that was arguably the most succesful wrestling promotion in the World for over a decade in the 60s and 70s. Bob was often the third man on the t.v. broadcasts and if I remember rightly even at his advanced age he challenged a wrestler or two after altercations. I also ate at Bob's bush restaurant (that's being polite) where TOADS TOOLS was among the fare chalked on the menu board!"
Heritage member Ed Lock completes the story, "After retiring as a referee in 1979 Bob sold the Wallaby Hotel and operated a team of harness racing horses (trotters) until the early 1990s. McMaster was successful in sport and business and was regarded as a legend in Australia. “Wallaby” Bob McMaster was attending an Australian Rugby Union presentation ceremony (honouring him and his team mates) in Brisbane on 1 August 2003 when he suffered a heart attack and passed away at the age of 82."
Trained by welterweight Chic Booth from fourteeen Mick McMichael claimed he was the youngest ever pro wrestler when he climbed into the ring a year later, just fifteen, in 1958. That first opponent was the old timer Jim Mellors, who unsurprisingly defeated the youngster.
In the early days he was Michael Gale and the less generous amongst us might suggest the McMichael name was an attempt to cash in on the success of another. But there any similarity ended.
He developed into a middleweight title contender with bouts against champion Bert Royal and had tag team success at the same weight when his Yorkshire Terriers pairing won the European title in Madrid in 1968.
Having invested heavily in tag wrestling he was somewhat abandoned by partner Steve Clements and failed subsequently to make further advances with his career. Cringe-makingly billed by northern matchmakers as Popular Mick McMichael from Doncaster, he went on to become a respected referee in Britain and mainland Europe, oft seen wearing a kilt as the Scot McMichael.
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It wasn't just the wrestling; it was the smile and the good humour made Sean McNeil a fans favourite.
Sean was a youngster, about seven years old, when he began Sunday morning visits to the St Lukes Amateur Matmen near his home in Middlesbrough. At first he watched the wrestlers, but before long he was rolling around the mat with none other than Norman Walsh, the mid heavyweight champion. Norman was a hero to Sean and he soon decided that he too wanted to be a wrestler like Norman. Mind you, Sean was a bit too enthusiastic, and before long the parents of neighbours children were knocking on the McNeil door to complain that young Sean was trying out his newly learned skills on their precious little ones.
Following a short ban by his mother Sean was back at St Lukes and learning to wrestle. When he was sixteen he joined the St Lukes troupe that put on wrestling shows and raised thousands of pounds for charity. In 1958 Sean turned semi-professional and began a twenty year career that working for most of the independent promoters, notably Don Robinson, Cyril Knowles, Jackie Pallo and George Kidd.
Sean travelled far and wide but turned down the opportunity to work for Joint Promotions as he did not want to commit himself to leaving his family on a regular basis. He remembers great matches with other northern favourites Dicky Swales, Pedro the Gypsy, Butcher Goodman and Boy Devlin, alongside higher profile stars such as Ricky Starr and The Wild Man of Borneo.
Sean McNeil is photographed on the right of former British heavyweight boxing champion Richard Dunn, and on the left in action against Les Prest.
All we know about Duncan McRoberts is that we enjoyed watching him in the 1960s. Billed from Scotland we suspect Manchester was closer to the mark. Eddie Rose told us, "I worked with him often in the 70s both in solo bouts and tag matches. He was a regular on shows in the North West,particularly Jack Cassidy's shows where he met the likes of Roy Fortuna, Mark Wayne, Ian Wilson, Mike "Flash" Jordan and featured in tag matches versus the Red Devils. A very solid wrestler and a good guy out of the ring."
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