P: Pedro - Pizarro
Wrestling Heritage A - Z
Whilst most of wrestling’s larger than life characters relied on costumes or abnormal physical appearance Pedro the Gypsy’s popularity was due to no more than a zest for life, a sense of humour and facial features that made it seem inevitable that Barnsley’s Gordon Allen should be transformed into Pedro the Gypsy. In the early days Gordon was billed as a Polish Jew, but his complexion and hairstyle made the name Pedro fit like a glove. Over the years the comedy that Pedro built into his wrestling repertoire made him one of the most popular and successful wrestlers on the independent circuit. To Pedro working for laughs was simply easier than pure wrestling. For the rest of us his work was pure genius.
It was that tremendous sense of fun that made Pedro so popular with wrestling fans. His bouts were full of laughs, and many of those we would expect to know have claimed that better known funny men were greatly influenced by Pedro. He was a wrestler who was loved by fans, respected by wrestlers, trusted by promoters and (according to Pedro) told what to do by his wife. When Wrestling Heritage chatted with him it was obvious there were three loves in his life – his family, his wrestling, and life itself.
After a brief flirtation with boxing Pedro was taken to Charlie Glover’s Gym behind The Junction Pub in Barnsley. Pedro made it sound as though he had little choice. This was a set up job between Charlie and his dad who thought it would do the youngster good because, as Charlie put it, “I’ve never seen that lad do any work.” He was only twelve at the time, but Gordon soon learned about work. He was working with weights, working on the mat, increasing his bodyweight, developing strength and skill.
Gordon was to go on and work for well over fifty years. He didn’t see it like that because he enjoyed his work. A wrestling career that spanned well over thirty years, playing bass in “The Rock Chords,” working as a television extra and organising events such as Blackpool’s summer season “It’s A Knockout” tournaments. When we touched upon the subject of Joint Promotions and the lure of television Pedro made it clear he was never interested in working for them because he was always too busy making money.
The decision to turn professional was an easy one for Gordon. A conventional job had no appeal, he enjoyed his wrestling and Charlie Glover told him, “Never do owt for nowt. Get summat for thi sen,” so he began to make money from the sport he loved. That first paid bout, against Granville Lawrence, was the start of his career that took him throughout Britain and across much of Western Europe. “They were great days, wonderful men. Butcher Goodman, I had marvellous bouts with him. Stoker Brooks who passed away recently. Then there was Karl Krammer, Max Raeger, Sam Betts….”
Charlie Glover was obviously a great influence on Pedro. He was the man who told him to “Always remember the fans,” which Pedro certainly did.
“I loved it all,” said Pedro, “I’d do it all again.” We bet you would, and we want to be there.
Pedro the Gypsy passed away on 26th November, 2010.
It was a long and illustrious career for George Pencheff, the Australian heavyweight who wore his national credentials on his dressing gown in the shape of a kangaroo. Removing the gown revealed one of the finest physiques in wrestling.
When he came to Britain in 1937, tackling the likes of Carl Reginsky, Tony Baer, Jack Pye and all the other great names of the 1930s, Pencheff was already a seasoned professional, having started out in the late 1920s.
Six thousand fans filled the Empress Stadium in London to watch George wrestle Jim Londos in a match advertised as “modernised Catch as Catch Can” style. George returned to Britain post war in 1950 and 1953.
It was a career destined to last for well over thirty years, only reaching a conclusion in 1962 following a serious injury in India. Those thirty years between times had seen George wrestle in every corner of the world – Australasia, Europe, Africa, North America and Asia against an A-Z of the world's best heavyweights. Famed for his dropkick speciality George's depth of skill went much further, enough to sustain lengthy periods as Australian and Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion.
The Anglo-Latvian Heavy-Middleweight wasactive through the sixties and seventies, usually black-tighted, and with a lithe suppleness that led to his being billed as The India Rubber Man.
Regular tagster, right from the very first televised match alongside Alan Colbeck; fleetingly with Sid Cooper in The Drop Outs then variously with Rann or Holton in The Riot Squad but most consistently from 1965 to 1970 alongside Tiger Ryan in The Rebels, the pair falling-out in-ring and the pairing ending.
A late seventies partnership with Johnny Czeslaw was called The Iron Curtain Duo, rather uncomfortably given Czeslaw's circumstances - and Penzy's Lancashire accent! TWC airings include a surprising draw against 18 stone opponent John Cox. We and the promoters so wanted his demonic beard to conceal a true Red, but it was forever clearly stated that Penzy was from Bolton, and for once no pretence was made.
Penzekoff was an ex-miner and ex-amateur boxer, trained as a pro wrestler at Horwich by Dave Armstrong, making his debut against Gentleman Jim Lewis. Apparently keen on animals from snakes to breeding guard dogs.
Skilful, exciting, fast. Dropkick Johnny Peters had it all.
Not to forget the looks which made the Brighton based matman a popular figure for many years.
In the 1950s and 1960s there seemed to be an unwritten rule that wrestling fans could not utter the name Johnny Peters without the prefix of "Dropkick." Those feet were magic,and the way they threw across the ring and propelled themselves at his opponent meant that he was always Dropkick Johnny Peters.
Although London born Johnny resided in Brighton for many years, a popular figure at the Brighton Sports Stadium and venues around the country. His fast, furious and exciting style meant that his appearances were always welcomed by wrestling fans, but his popularity reached a crescendo in the early 1960s when he formed a hugely successful tag partnership with Dazzler Joe Cornelius. The style of the two wrestlers made them a natural partnership and they were one of the heavyweight pairings that helped build the popularity of tag team wrestling in Britain.
Johnny's professional career had its foundations in a successful amateur career that brought him various titles at several weights whilst serving in the forces in the Far East during World War Two. Once demobbed he turned professional and soon claimed the astonishing and unique distinction of a 12-second knockout victory over George Kidd.
Ring activity and regular trainining soon began to build up Johnny's muscular frame and he moved up to welterweight in 1947, where he had the equally unusual but less satisfying claim to having his British Welterweight title fight with Jack Dempsey cancelled - due to rain! Consolation came in Paris in 1953 when he defeated Gilbert Le Duc to snatch the European Welterweight Championship.
He continued to climb through the weights to heavyweight and the record books show a drawn decision against Bert Assirati when he challenged the Islington Hercules for his British title in the independent rings. Record book opponents from George Kidd to Bert Assirati must make this popular wrestler quite unique. Whilst the British heavyweight championship remained illusive he was holder of the Southern Area Heavyweight title for many years.
Johnny retired from wrestling rather abruptly in 1965 due to an ear injury. Following retirement he combined a greengrocery business with wrestling promotion. Johnny was the brother in law of French lightweight Julien Morice.
Dropkick Johnny Peters. Always was and always will be.
Dropkick Johnny Peters passed away on 24th May, 2011.
Sign in or sign up now to read Members Only articles: Speciality Manoeuvres
A 1970s Johnny Peters, from West Tanfield, near Thirsk, in NorthYorkshire.
Blond haired Johnny was a popular middleweight in the northern rings of the 1970s.
Trained by Norman Walsh he acquired skill but not temperament from the World mid heavyweight champion.
A couple of televised bouts saw him lose to the Rev Michael Brooks and Barry Douglas.
Three of his sons also went into the wrestling business.
Eighteen year old Dave Phillips, the Camberwell middleweight, was given his chance in the professional wrestling ring by independent promoter Paul Lincoln. That was in 1961 and Dave was soon swapping holds with other youngsters who were destined for future fame - Leon Fortuna, Zoltan Boscik, Johnny Williams and the like.
After a couple of years he was signed up by Dale Martin Promotions and was soon receiving regular bookings throughout the south. Dave's clean, fast style made him very popular, never more so than when he made his televsion debut against Jackie Pallo in September, 1964. Dave lost that one, but was more fortunate in his second television outing when he beat the hard Lancastrian Colin Joynson.
Dave seemed to have a promising future but in 1967 decided to pursue a teaching career and temporarily retired from wrestling to study at a teachers' training college. Four years later, having qualified as a teacher, Dave returned to the ring, this time using the name Dave Jantzen.
He is seen in action against Tony Bates, who we thank for supplying the photograph.
The name Kid Pitman may not be familiar to most readers but he is more worthy of inclusion in the pages of Wrestling Heritage than many of those we more readily remember. Londoner Percy Pitman was born in October, 1919 and became interested in wrestling in his early teens.
He joined the John Ruskin Amateur Wrestling Club and turned professional shortly before the outbreak of war, a bout at Rochester Casino in 1938. His career was interrupted in 1939 when he was called up for service, winning a medal for bravery for his actions during World War 2. Before the war a youngster turned up at the John Ruskin who was befriended and encouraged by Percy. That youngster was Mick McManus.
Following the end of the war when both Mick and Percy returned home Percy encouraged Mick to turn professional. The two of them also went into business and started a haulage company that specialised in transporting timber. As the revival of wrestling continued in the late 1940s Percy and Mick found that wrestling took up too much time for them to also concentrate on their haulage business. So they sold their lorries and started a printing business in Peckham High Street. They specialised in printing sporting tickets, programmes and literature.
Again the business was a success and outgrew the two of them, at which time they sold it to Norman Morrell. For twenty years Percy Pitman wrestled the top names in British wrestling, retiring from the ring around 1960, becoming aproprietor of a garage in Lambeth before retiring to Staffordshire.
The Spanish middleweight made his way to Britain for the first time in January, 1960, facing the big guns of Mick McManus, Cliff Beaumont and a European middleweight championship tilt at Bolton's Bert Royal. With impressive results against our best he was surprisingly laid down to rest by Wigan's Jack Dempsey at the Royal Albert Hall. Made numerous returns to Britain during the 1960s, sometimes with brother Nino, forming a tag team facing the Cortez brothers, Hells Angels, McManus & Logan, but most notably the Royal brothers.
The lighter of the two Pizarro brothers from Valencia, renowned for speed and skill. Followed his brother Gomez to our shores in 1962, going down to World champion George Kidd on television.
Made a number of return visits during the 1960s, with another high profile defeat, this time against Jackie Pallo, at the Royal Albert Hall in December 1964.