WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

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Heritage

S: St Clair


Perfect Asymmetry



Roy and Tony St Clair


Tag team wrestling arrived in Britain big time in the mid sixties.  Initially independent promoters had already been favouring this particular type of mayhem for more than ten years, but it was only with the first tag matches at the Royal Albert Hall and on television that the format could comfortably become part of the establishment. 

Paul Lincoln Promotions had, in particular, offered mouth-watering match-ups of odd couple pairings from its crazy gang of assorted heavyweight villains as disparate as Ski Hi Lee, Gori Ed Mangotich, The Wild Man of Borneo and Doctor Death, a line-up colourful enough to parallel the foes of their tv contemporary, Batman. 

Joint Promotions sought a different format.  Pairs were created according to size, style and look.  Where no similarity was obvious it was forced through via, as in the case of the Black Diamonds, skull caps and beards.  Matching ring attire was produced from the Dennisons leotards, to the Artful Dodgers cloaks, and even McManus & Logan's simple blue jackets.  Some invested in further life-changing steps. The Hells Angels went blond for the best part of ten years.  The perfect symmetry that had seemingly been sought was finally achieved with the arrival of the identical Borg Twins.

Other tag teams were served up by the promoters as being brothers, and one undeniably genuine pair were the similarly weighted but not at all identical Cortez Brothers.  Nobody complained, the matches they were involved in were fast and thrilling.

These more or less equal pairings forged the Dale Martin concept of a tag team, and therefore, by extension, the viewing public's own perceptions.

Another pairing of brothers appeared when eighteen-year-old Tony St Clair turned professional wrestler in early 1967, facing Johnny Eagles in solo action in Nelson, after a successful stint as goalie with the Manchester United youth team. Elder brother Roy had been wrestling up and down the land throughout the sixties, and few can claim his range of opponents down the years, from welterweight kingpin Jack Dempsey, through middleweight headliners and even Les Kellett, to all the great heavyweight names, numbering one of the very few defeats of Kendo Nagasaki as a high point and even beating Franco-Bulgarian giant Jean Ferre, later André the Giant, in Scotland. It's Tony (below) being thrown by Jean Ferre.

Roy had been a whizz-kid in his own right after training at the Wigan Snakepit, and had even reigned for four months as British Light-Heavyweight champion. 

With vastly different experience clocked up, The Saints challenged also by their very unidentical appearance the prescribed format of two peas in a pod.  Burley Roy, the experienced and chain-smoking mid-heavyweight at 5'10", briefly bearded and ready to rough it with all the evil pairings and, in tag terms, one of the heavier members amongst all the regular Joint Promotions teams.  And baby-faced Tony, with every indication of a full-blown heavyweight bursting to escape from his tall middleweight frame.

That they rose to their challenge is undeniable and, what's more, they carved a new format all their own centred around battering Tony, a career-long darling of female ringsiders with his boyish good looks, but never more so than in those genuinely apprentice and teenage days of the late sixties.  The apparently naïve youngster would be caught nightly with blindside fouls and double-teaming, whilst Roy perfected the art of remonstrating to distract the referee, only for more evil to be perpetrated against his baby brother. 

Such was the unruliness that their pairing could elicit from the villains of the day that in their very first year they were already thrust into the spotlight and appeared in a Cup Final Day Television Spectacular from Rotherham where they opposed the Black Diamonds.

They even had merchandising:  Saints ties were widely available!

We knew the routine, but never for a second did we doubt that the bullying was for real, such was the aplomb with which they carried it off.  When Roy finally came into the action to rough up the baddies big-time, the roof lifted from the arena, and invariably a recovered Tony would come back in to gain a winning fall.

We can see another side to The Saints thanks to a re-run shown frequently on The now defunct Wrestling Channel in the early part of this century, in which they face The Royals.  Matched with equally clean opponents, they trade hold and counterhold in a showcase spectacle for television, where four clean wrestlers were frequently billed together in tag.  This went completely against the grain of tag matches in the halls where double-teaming and rule-breaking were not merely the norm but absolutely essential.

For many fans, the six years that The Saints regularly graced our rings were merely a prelude to greater things for future British Heavyweight Champion Tony St. Clair.  We prefer, however, to glory in those years for what they were and for the shrewd skills we  perhaps were unable to appreciate at the time, as we, too, became all wrapped up in  outrage at the in-ring antics.

Roy St Clair

From the day he turned professional  Roy St Clair seemed destined for the very top. That was in April, 1960, and soon Roy was travelling throughout the north and midlands facing the biggest names in British wrestling. When we started taking an interest in wrestling a few years later Roy was well and truly established as one of the regular favourites who kept popping up against other youngsters like Al Nicol and Colin Joynson as well as more experienced men such as Jack Dempsey and Tommy Mann. In those days Roy weighed in around the 12 stones mark and we were to wait a few years before he filled out into a more mature, solidly built heavyweight.

That ascendency through the weight divisions enabled Roy to build up a catalogue of opponents that was exceptionally impressive, from lightweight to heavyweight champions, and from aerial specialists such as Vic Faulkner  to the solid power of Mal Kirk, the towering Gargantua and the immovable object of Giant Haystacks. Those latter day opponents are far removed from lightweight champion Jim Breaks.

As he progressed through the ranks Roy retained much of his agility whilst adding robustness, skill and experience. It was these characteristics, supplemented with an irrepressible charisma that made him stand out as a cut above the rest amongst the overcrowded challengers to the mid heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. One more quality that was apparent during Roy's twenty odd years in the ring  was a capacity for hard worker. Roy St Clair was a grafter, both in the ring where he went out of his way to give fans value for money, and also outside of the ring as he travelled up and down the country night after night. Whilst many wrestlers limited themselves geographically Roy, and brother Tony, were as likely to be seen in Arbroath as they were in Penzance, travelling hundreds of miles each week for the best part of thirty years.

Hard work and dedication led to success, but the family pedigree did no harm. Roy was brought up in a sporting environment, his father being Francis St Clair Gregory. Francis St Clair Gregory dominated the Cornish style of wrestling in the 1930s and represented Cornwall as heavyweight champion against Brittany at the first seven Cornu-Breton international tournament, winning every time.  In the 1930s he moved to Lancashire to pursue another sport in which he excelled. Francis Gregory played professional rugby league for both Wigan and Warrington in the 1930s and was capped for England. He went on to become  one of the most prolific and successful wrestlers in the Mountevans era. 

Immersed in sport from such an early age it is hardly surprising that Roy himself took an interest in wrestling. Undeniably having a huge influence on his son Roy was dispatched to Riley's gymnasium in Wigan to learn the professional aspects of the business. Roy's professional début came in the far from opulent surroundings of the Russell Social Club in Hulme, Manchester. Roy's opponent was the experienced Jim Mellor, and surprisingly the youngster emerged the victor. Having impressed the promoter's Roy was booked for more contests in the weeks that followed, even making it down to the family home of Redruth before the year was out. Joe Critchley, Tony Zale, Alf Cadman, all added to the youngsters knowledge, and he enthusiastically absorbed everything they had to teach him. 

Less than a years after turning professional Roy made his television debut (against Abe Ginsberg). It was to be the first of more than eighty televised contests, that's more than Johnny Kwango, Johnny Saint, Giant Haystacks, even more than Jackie Mr TV Pallo! Roy was featured in the TV Times supplement of the Top 50 TV Wrestlers, whilst in terms of appearances he sits firmly in the top 20.

For twenty years Roy travelled up and down the country, admired as much at the Royal Albert Hall (where he wrestled a dozen times) as his local Belle Vue. Occasionally he would venture across to the Continent where he was equally popular. There were few of the biggest names that he did not wrestle at least once on his career

A second, highly successful episode in his career came when Roy began guiding younger brother Tony, with the two of them forming a hugely successful tag team

Tony St Clair
Youngest of the three wrestling St.Clairs whose early career is considered in Shining Stars under Perfect Assymetry. Only fate prevented wrestling losing Tony to the world of soccer as he seemed destined to a pro football career. Tony St Clair is one of the few that bridges the Wrestling Heritage generations. 

Older readers remember him as the youthful sibling of Roy, emerging onto the wrestling scene in 1967 having been well prepared by Roy  and his father Francis St Clair Gregory. 

Tony brought a breath of fresh air to a wrestling family that didn’t even need it. Roy was doing well enough, but Tony brought greater speed and a perceived need amongst fans of a wrestler who would benefit from their urging him on to overcome the nasty man in the opposite corner, Roy was that much bigger and older; he could clearly look after himself!.

A faster, leaner version of big brother who was readily on hand for rescuing in their successful tag partnership, The Saints. Solo success was confirmed with the defeat of Mick McManus on television.  Younger fans remember him as one of the great British heavyweights, a champion worthy of the title who upheld the good name of British wrestling as the dark clouds gathered. 

As British Heavyweight Champion he  maintained the title's status at an international level, including his  triumph in the 1978 Oldenburg tournament. Tony blossomed into one of the very best heavyweights of Europe during the 1970s and 1980s, a firm favourite around the continent, he eventually settled in Germany.