R: Rasputin - Red Ivan
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
The name most often associated with the name Rasputin is that of the wild Irishman Johnny Howard, who is listed under the letter H.
Another famed Rasputin, outside of the UK was Frank Hoy, otherwise known as Wild Angus Campbell.
We have a couple of other masked Rasputin's for you. Manchester's Harold Wrigley and Leeds' Jim Armstrong both pulled on a hood and took the name in the independent rings of the 1960s.
Lou Ravelle is remembered not just as a pro wrestler of the 1950s and 1960s, oft under the guise of Le Masque Rouge, but also as the owner of one of London's first fitness gymnasiums, editor of Wrestling World magazine, a bookshop owner in Bloomsbury, and in later life a hypnotherapist in Majorca.
Lou wrestled as an amateur at Manchester YMCA before being introduced to fairground wrestling by his friend Jean Morandi. In the fairground booths he learned many of the techniques that would prove essential in the professional ring, “We were paid 15/- for the match. If it was a good match fans would be invited to throw money into the ring, “nobbins,” and from those we could make another 30/- each.”
When he moved to London Lou began working for Dale Martin Promotions. He befriended a young Australian named Paul Lincoln, and provided valuable publicity for the fledgling promoter through the Wrestling World magazine, “Paul paid me handsomely for the work I did promoting the Dr Death v White Angel match.”
Editor of Wrestling World magazine, which covered both independent and Joint Promotion wrestlers, Lou was adamant when he spoke to us fifty years later that whilst the independent promoters were supportive Joint Promotions “Squashed us and after two years we were forced to fold up.”
Lou Ravelle was a mainstay of the London wrestling scene over twenty years, a member of wrestling's greatest haunt, The Mandrake Club, and was close friends with Paul Lincoln, Al Hayes, Joe D'Orazio, Bert Assirati and many other big names.
In 2004 Lou received the Oscar Heidenstam award for his lifetime contribution to sport.
Alf Rawlings was born on 5th September, 1909, in Dewsbury but was a long time long time resident of Stockton on Tees.
Alf Rawlings was a crafty ring general of the post war years. Our earliest record of Alf is in 1941, though we do have reference to a Ginger Rawlings from 1936 onwards. A top class heavyweight during the forties and fifties Alf held the British title for a few months during 1953.
Shortly afterwards Alf and the family moved to Canada and lived in Hamilton. Alf and his two boys, Jim and Bill, continued to wrestle. They left Quebec on their journey back to Britain on 29th April, 1957.
His bald head and rugged features made him look a formidable opponent, and looks were not deceiving.
His rough-house style prevented him from ever becoming a crowd's favourite, and how could he be with a broken nose and cauliflower ears? Such a contrast to the days following Alf's retirement when he became a popular worker in a children's home.
Heritage members have fond memories of Alf.
Bernard Hughes remembers Alf Rawlings:
Alf Rawlings (Hooker Rawlings) from Stockton on Tees was a regular visitor to St. James's Hall in the 1950 s.
Isn't it funny how bits of matches stick in your mind?
Alf wrestled quite nicely until Billy Two Rivers got the fall, then he started the rough stuff. We then had the Indian wa rdance, followed by the throw to the ropes and the chop. Alf shot up, did his own version of the Stockton on Tees war dance, which wasn't pretty. Two Rivers pretended to be mad ,threw Alf at the ropes, Alf threw a punch, and caught Billy Two Rivers a beauty behind the ear sending him through the ropes and into the crowd. We then had the disqualification and the rumpus that followed.
Alf was disqualified by referee Les Kellett and once again we had Les on top of the ropes in the red corner with the knob off the top of the post in his hand as Alf tried to sort him out! Bernard.
Alf Rawlings was a big, hard man not prone to fat. He normally was around fifteen and a half to sixteen and a half stone. Rough in the ring with a presence and a bit of humour if the opportunity arose. Like many big men, out of the ring Alf was a mild ,quietly spoken gentleman.
Grizzled Veteran recalls Alf and his sons:
In April 1959 it was announced that the Rawlings family were in town with a Tag Team Challenge with a side stake of £50 (a lot of money then!) to be given away at ringside if they lost! The Team that answered the challenge was Alan Garfield, Gori Ed Mongotich, and Tibor Szakacs. An interesting combination two heels with what we now know was the fairly newly arrived Tibor.Although revolutionary at the time the rules were much as we would now expect. Three individual contests followed by a three man tag match. However bear in mind that at this time I had never seen or heard of a tag match! In the individual contests; Alf pinned Mangotich, and Alan and Tibor pinned Jim and Bill respectively. So the Rawlings trailed 2 to 1. Going into the tag Alan extracted submissions from both Bill and Jim in fairly quick succession. So the Rawlings now trailed 4 to 1! Some of the audience were probably already mentally counting the money. Then Alf entered the fray and k.o.’d both Mangotich and Tibor, I seem to recall his favourite finisher was the piledriver. So it was now 4 to 3! It was now Alf and Alan and after a flurry of action Alf gained a submission. So; 4 to 4 the next score must be the winner. But to everyone’s disappointment Alan refused to continue on his own and the Rawlings were declared the winners
Son of Alf Rawlings Bill was a stocky mid heavyweight more in the mould of his famous dad than brother Jimmy. Despite having skill and capable of creating more than a flicker of excitement in the British rings of the 1950s and 1960s Bill failed to capture the imagination of the fans in the way his father did. Sometimes it’s just hard when you’ve got a famous dad.
For a short time in the late 1950s all of the Rawlings clan settled in Hamilton, Canada, where Bill and his brother worked in a nail factory. They continued to wrestle and worked out at the Al Spittles gymnasium.
Apart from his father Ernie Baldwin was a big influence on the young Rawlings, training him at his gymnasium in Tingley. Bill was a familiar figure to television fans in the 1960s yet is remembered as a more than competent worker seen at his best as part of the three man Rawlings team described by Grizzled Veteran above. Seen on the right in the grip of Abe Ginsberg.
The third member of the Rawlings clan who, like his brother, was a powerful skilled wrestler who failed to match the ring presence of the old man. Hardly surprising with Alf being such a rugged force in the ring.
None of this should take anything away from Jim, who was a valuable part of the 1950s and 1960s wrestling fraternity. Although never a main event performer he was often seen wrestling on television during the first half of the 1960s. Trained by his dad he could certainly handle himself in the ring and the photo demonstrates that the youngest of the Rawlings family certainly looked the part.
Also like brother Bill his father’s influence was given a finishing touch when he went on to train at Ernie Baldwin's Tingley gym, following amateur grounding at the Hill Top Amateur Club in Bradford.
Not long after making his professional debut he and the family moved to Hamilton in Canada for around six months, returning to the UK in the spring of 1957. Whilst in Canada Jim worked in a factory making nails as well as continuing to wrestle part time.
The Rawlings brothers and their father were often seen working in pairs as a tag team or the three together taking on another team..
Like his father Jim Rawlings also became a carer in a children's home and we are fortunate to have the memories of one child for whom he cared.
Like his father Jim Rawlings also became a carer in a children's home and we are fortunate to have the memories of one child for whom he cared.
Memories of Uncle Jim
I was placed in Romanby Shaw Children’s home in Eccleshill, Bradford, West Yorkshire, due to family breakdown in 1970, I was 13 years old. Staff were known/addressed as “Uncle” or “Auntie” followed by their first name.
Jim was a big powerful looking bloke with big hands but was a gentleman in manner and actions. He told us that he used to wrestle and showed us some wrestling moves. He was really strong and I remember hanging from one arm while my mate hung from the other, and we quickly realized this was one member of staff that we would never get away with giving cheek to.
He was a really decent chap. I managed to find a set of weight lifting weights in a waste skip and he arranged for me to use them in the boiler room and gave every encouragement to keep fit. I was a bit sceptical about his tales of being a wrestler until one day during the school holidays I was in our local library and I came across a book on wrestling and found his picture amongst the other wrestlers. I took the book back to the home and showed it to him and he was really appreciative and pleased that I had found it.
I was into mending radios and he had a reel to reel tape recorder that the switch crackled when the volume was turned up. So I stripped it down in his kitchen flat, and had it running good as new. He said he would sort me out with a bit of extra spending money and the next day gave me £1 and told me not to let on to his wife as she had said give me 50p. This was in 1973 (good money for a kid)
I remember he had a wife and two children who lived in the attached flat; a young boy and a girl who he really protected; she may have been around 13 years old. I left the home when I was 16 and worked in Bradford for a while then moved down to London and have not had any contact with anyone from the home since. I did go down the road on a nostalgia trip a few years ago but the home has long gone and replaced by offices.
Surely a hero of all us ageing wrestling fans? Do we sympathise or do we celebrate a man who lived his dream? Keith Rawlinson was a 27 year old Burnley schoolteacher who had his ambition fulfilled in a British television programme by training as a professional wrestler.
Months of training from Sid Cooper and Peter Kaye were not enough to save Keith from a good hiding from one of the hardest of the 1970s wrestlers, John Naylor.
Keith retired at the end of the fourth round, never to set foot in the wrestling ring again.
If you're reading this Keith, do get in touch and tell us your story.
Gorilla Reg, the nickname was hardly a surprise in view of his abundance of body hair, was, in his prime, one of the best workers on the British wrestling circuit.
He was, said Eddie Rose, “a natural villain,” and “never took part in a bad bout,” according to Dennis Lord. We are told by a relative, and family historian, that one of Reg's ancestors was Sir Christopher Wray, Lord Chief Justice under Elizabeth the First, who signed Mary Queen of Scots death warrant.
A villain of the ring maybe, but Reg was never that dangerous!
Turning professional shortly after the war Reg was a regular on the Joint Promotion circuit following their establishment in 1952. This brought him into regular combat with the top men of the day, holding his own with the likes of Jack Dempsey, Eric Taylor, Alan Colbeck, Bert Royal, Vic Faulkner and Cliff Beaumont.
When ITV began to televise wrestling Gorilla Reg was one of the first to receive nationwide attention, wrestling Chic Purvey at the Lime Grove Baths on 17th April, 1956. Further televised contests followed against Tug Holton and Cyril Knowles,
Like many others Reg chose to leave Joint Promotions in 1962 and flirted with the independents, most notably for Don Robinson, Cyril Knowles, Brian Trevors and Evan Treharne. The following year he returned to Joint Promotions, making his final television appearance on 29th January, 1966, against the visiting Greek, El Greco. Gorilla Reg lost that match due to disqualification, which we suppose is something of a tribute to one of the great villains.
In the second half of the 1960s Reg returned to work for the independent promoters, mainly for Cyril Knowles. Reg and Cyril were both now in the twilight years of their long wrestling careers, and the two opposed each other on many, some would say too many, occasions. The photo right shows Gorilla Reg Ray about to post Cyril Knowles.
A tremendous villain, a huge contributor to everything that made wrestling great, fondly remembered by fans and wrestlers. His one fault, and one that he shared with so many others, was that of wrestling well beyond his prime.
A champion swimmer, an international soccer player a professional wrestler and a promoter, that was Ireland’s Jack Raymond, The Belfast Bulldog. Our initial A-Z entry was a simple statement that we knew very little about this forgotten hero of Irish wrestling other than a few recorded bouts in the 1940s and 1950s.
That spurred on Ron History to get digging, only to discover the amazing story of Jack Raymond, the Belfast Bulldog.
In September 1962, following in the footsteps of the original Chief Thunderbird and Billy Two Rivers, came another native American. Entering the ring, wearing the standard native American gear, New Mexico’s Chief Red Eagle, arrived in the UK following combat in Australia and the Far East.
Billed in Britain as a Ukranian with a Polish mother, Red Ivan was brought in as cannon fodder for Big Daddy in one of the more pitiful storylines that the latter days of British wrestling had to offer. Ivan appeared on television and vastly outweighed his first opponent Andy Blair. A further demolition job ensued on Burly Barry Douglas, who again gave away over two stones in weight. Just when Red Ivan seemed to be establishing his reputation as a formidable likely opponent for full blown British heavies such as Davies or Roach or Bartelli he was required to succumb most unbelievably to the out of condition “Mams and Dads Favourite”. Fans were left wondering about what might have been, and a good showman and fine athlete let his entire reputation go up in smithereens. SaxonWolf has told us "Red Ivan was Richard Krupa, who wrestled under various names, such as Vladimir Krupoff, a Canadian with Russian born parents who had begun his wrestling career for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling. SaxonWolf has told us "Red Ivan was Richard Krupa, who wrestled under various names, such as Vladimir Krupoff, a Canadian with Russian born parents who had begun his wrestling career for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling.