M: Mitchell - Modrich
Wrestling Heritage A - Z
Don Mitchell suffered from the peril awaiting all kid brothers. He was considered a miniature version of his big brother, Dennis, who did overshadow him throughout his career. We certainly wouldn't take anything away from Dennis, a first class heavyweight, but will re-assert Don Mitchell for his own unique place in British wrestling. Don Mitchell turned professional in 1963 following his stint in national service and a short lived singing career as Donnie Douglas. He worked mostly in the north of England and Scotland, with the occasional forays south for Dale Martin Promotions. Weighing a couple of stones less than his brother young Don was mostly at home against light heavyweight rough guys such as Ezzard Hart and Abe Ginsbergh, but was well placed to oppose zippier middleweights like Ian Gilmour and the big men like Jumping Jim Hussey and Dangerous Danny Lynch. At other times he partnered brother Dennis against the likes of the Cadmans, the Black Diamonds and the Dangermen. A good value wrestler who we enjoyed watching on both Joint Promotion shows and,towards the end of his career, for the independent promoters.
Bradford heavyweight of the 1950s and 1960s. He was no relation to the Mitchell wrestling family although promoters sometimes claimed otherwise.
Another of the famed Mitchell wrestling family from Bradford, John is the eldest son of heavyweight Dennis Mitchell, nephew of Don, and brother of Karl who was an amateur county champion and British amateur finalist. John's first professional contest was in October, 1974, losing by straight falls to Count Bartelli at Sheffield. John's career lasted about a decade and his last match was against Ray Steel in Blackpool. Between these two contests he wrestled the likes of Mal Kirk, Pat Curry, John Cox and other top heavyweights not just in Britain but all over Europe and Japan. In the mid 1980s John retired from wrestling to concentrate on his career in the fire service.
Our memories of Salford's Paul Mitchell go back to the mid to late 1960s when he was one of a group of favourites on the northern independent circuit alongside Eddie Rose, Johnny Saint, Pete Lindberg, Ian Wilson and many others. In those days there were independent shows every night in Manchester alone, and so there was no shortage of opportunities for those with the skill. All those mentioned did have the skill, and each went on to work for Joint Promotions. Mitchell was invited to train at the Wryton Stadium, under the guidance of the Cadman brothers and Martin Conroy. Four years after turning professional Conroy decided Mitchell deserved exposure on the Joint Promotions circuit and he became a regular and popular figure on Best, Wryton and Atherton bills. The young middlewight combined skill with agility and speed; his flying head scissors and monkey climbs being the best in the business. Within a year he had made his television debut, drawing with another promising newcomer, Dave Barrie. His second televised contest, in which he defeated highly rated Bobby Ryan, was a demonstration of Paul at his best. He went on to near a dozen more television outings, in the opposite corner to the biggest names in wrestling at the time, Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, and Steve Logan. Paul Michell also appeared in the January, 1973, special, Fanfare for Europe, recorded in our Armchair Corner section.
The middle son of heavyweight Dennis Mitchell, younger brother of John and older brother of amateur champion Karl. Steve Mitchell followed his dad's footsteps into the ring for a short time during the 1960s and 1970s.
Beginning at the beginning, George Modrich was a man who was in at at the start. Readers of A Year In Wrestling - 1930 will know that Modrich wrestled George Boganski on 15th November, 1930, in an exhibition of the new style wrestling that was about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting British public. The following month Modrich was back once again, this time at the higher profile public launch of the "New Catch As Catch Can" style at the National Sporting Club, London. On December 15th he faced Henry Irslinger, losing to the veteran over three ten minute rounds.
Even these were not Modrich's earliest encounters in British rings. George Modrich was a Croatian born New Zealander with a background of ten years professional boxer, having arrived in Britain in February 1929 to make his British boxing debut. On 12th February, 1929, he had opposed Guardsman Charlie Penwill at Lime Grove Baths, which was later to become a regular professional wrestling venue. George knocked out Modrich in the second round but lost two further British boxing contests in 1929.
George appears to have been a wrestler, turned boxer, and drawn back to wrestling at the time of the wrestling renaissance when his boxing career had peaked. We have found records of him wrestling in New Zealand as early as 1917, two years before his boxing debut at Auckland Town Hall. There is something of a mystery about his background. He is billed at times as a Croatian, Serbian and New Zealander, and manages to be champion of each country simultaneously!
Add to that his name, George Crawford, and here we find a seventeen stone, super strong melting pot.
Modrich was a world traveller, leaving England shortly after his 1930 debut, returning in the second half of the decade, always in competition with the top names of the day: Douglas Clark, Bert Assirati and Bill Garnon.