Not all tip-top heavyweights needed to hide behind a mask.
Albert "Rocky" Wall was the very essence of a British Heavyweight champion, travelling the country far and wide over an on-off championship reign spanning the late sixties and early seventies. Skill, ruggedness, tenacity and courage were his hallmarks. The latter two characteristics actually getting him into the professional ring in the first place as a diagnosis of rheumatic fever would have put paid to most others ambitions.
Watching him enter the ring was not an overly exciting event because the dour Yorkshirman's style had nothing to do with grand entrances, flashy outfits or fashionable gimmicks. He was simply a plain, powerful heavyweight technician at its finest; a man who who reached the top of his profession in a quiet, dignified way.
He had been an active pro since about 1957, and went down dutifully to the big stars of the day all over the UK. Alan Garfield was a notable victor, but by 1966 and his first title victory, Albert Wall had almost become invincible and was reversing earlier losses against Garfield and others, frequently via the knock-out route. He was even a rare victor over Kendo Nagasaki in the masked man's pre-television days.
He first won the British Heavyweight title in Glasgow on 2nd July 1966, defeating Billy Joyce, only holding the belt for a month. After defeating Steve Viedor in an open tournament in April 1970 he held on to the Championship for a 9-month period, before once again relinquishing honours to Gwyn Davies. But soon after Albert?s main and uninterrupted stint as heavyweight champion began and formed the defining period of activity which we remember admiringly.
It was great to see a Yorkshireman wresting a title from the other side of the Pennines, and he brought his own open approach to the defence and display of his belt and his prowess nationwide, in a way fans in the south were not accustomed to. The belt had been in the wrong hands for far too long.
He was often described as "The Doncaster Panther", and anyone who witnessed his magnificent flying head-butt, a speciality par excellence amongst any other speciality move that can be named, anywhere, will find the description apt.
We remember seeing the great Steve Logan as a sub for Prince Kumali against Albert Wall. What a sub! However, hopelessly outweighed, and a realistic if very one-sided bout resulted totally believably in one of the Iron Man's very rare 0-2 losses.
Above he is in action against two heavyweights who continued their wrestling careers in the U.S.A. On the left, Jean Ferre, a two-time opponent of Wall in the U.K., seems reluctant to co-operate with referee Joe Hill. Meanwhile centre, see the tousled blond locks of Southern England Heavyweight Champion Judo Al Hayes held in a face bar. If you never saw Albert Wall in action, think Jon Cortez, but bigger. 17st 2lbs was the weight generally attributed. A no-nonsense dour style, occasional dust-ups to signify he was taking things seriously, but a largely rule-abiding manner. And superb technical expertise.
Albert Wall at the Albert Hall?
On wrestling's night of nights it was Rocky who faced The Outlaw at the peak of that masked man?s fame. Wall suffered a very rare loss, retiring through an injured knee. Later on, Rocky seemed regularly to face a limited but imposing group of contemporaries: Bruno, Viedor, Campbell, Szakacs, Mitchell.
No subsequent Royal Albert Hall spring spectacular was complete without Albert Wall headlining alongside the other household names of the day. As for television wrestling, in 1971 Albert Wall appeared 12 times. As a measure, Mick McManus was on 11 times in the same year. He continued at the same rate with seven 1972 appearances until suddenly stopping in August.
Scandal too, when it was Albert Wall who was bugged secretly by the press when planning the detail of a bout with Mike Marino.
Many a 21st century fan dependent on internet for their fix of seventies grunt and groan are frustrated by the absence of this great from the web in spite of this notable status attained. He seemed to slide away from regular appearances in Joint Promotions rings over a slow three year period until 1975 when he had become disaffiliated from their rings and wrestled for a while on the independent circuit, battling Nagasaki and other old foes.
We never noted the end of his career, through a knee injury, hopefully not down to the Outlaw a decade earlier! An unsung ex-heavyweight champ, a career fizzling out without the respect it deserved.
He was also billed as the European Heavyweight Champion, though this may be news to him. There is little evidence as to how he acquired this championship, but his final Royal Albert Hall appearance was a defence of this title against Steve Viedor.
We see no sign of Albert relinquishing either belt in the ring, and therefore this non-masked man's great career remains with many gaps to fill and mysteries to unravel.
Extra information came in 2005 from Albert's son who was able to fill in some biographical detail:
"Dad trained in the gym above a pub in Bentley, Doncaster, close to home and was taught the very basics of wrestling by Johnny King . After a spell in the Judo ring he started training with the very heavy weights to get as big as possible in the muscle department because of his big frame.
Agility and fleet of foot were never going to be his thing.
As soon as he felt competent enough he launched straight into the professional heavyweight scene. The best shooter he believes was Georges Gordienko, and best ever opponent was Primo Carnera.
Countries wrestled in include Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Japan, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Beirut, France, Germany and Austria."