Brummie Pat Roach, he of the Brummagem Bump, was a big, bruising heavyweight who despite reaching the dizzy heights of European Heavyweight Champion never really received the push he deserved from the promoters.
He certainly looked the part. He was big, strong, could wrestle with the best of them, and had a bit of a temper. Maybe the promoters just didn't feel they could find the right niche for this more than capable bearded goliath, which was everyone's loss.
He first came to our attention when he stubbornly resisted Billy Robinson as the Billy punished him with successive boston crabs in a 1967 bout in Solihull. Maybe wrestling wasn't everything that it appeared to be, but this certainly looked very real indeed, and this one punishing hold by Robinson was discussed at length some years ago by fans on the internet. This was the moment we knew Roach was something special.
Big Pat was never a villain and yet never a fans favourite either. Temperamental as he was it usually didn't take too long for the touch paper to be lit and the arguments to begin. Arguments with some very hard hitting.
Pat learned the wrestling business from Jack Taylor and was quick was to point out that his entry into the paid ranks, and all his subsequent successes, would have been very unlikely without the encouragement and knowledge of the Lancashire born, Leicestershire based promoter. It wasn't very long after coming under Taylor's tutelage that Pat began wrestling and promoting shows in the midlands. Another man who played an influential part in preparing Pat for the professional ring was fellow Brummie Alf Kent.
The movement from the opposition promoters to Joint Promotions came within a few years, and with it came national exposure on televsision, contests in the country's biggest halls against the best in British wrestling, winning the European heavyweight championship, and a huge amount of overseas travel, throughout Europe, North America, Africa and the Far East. The photos show Pat in Durban, South Africa, wrestling Jan Wilkens.
Travel though he certainly did Pat Roach's heart and soul was always in Birmingham, the city in which he was born and lived, and in which he ran a successful fitness centre in the city centre. In 1988 Pat and Caswell Martin brought twenty-two years of ITV wrestling to an end. Following the final match it was Pat that was invited to make a poignant speech in which he thanked viewers for allowing the wrestlers into their parlours over the years.
His greatest acclaim came outside the ring, making a big screen debut in “A Clockwork Orange” and going on to further roles in “Robin Hood:Prince of Thieves” and the Indiano Jones trilogy.
His greatest success was as Brian "Bomber" Busbridge in “Auf Wiedersehen, Pet,” a popular comedy drama that began in 1983 with the fifth and final series in 2004. During the latter part of Pat's career, which continued until the early part of this century, he became Bomber Pat Roach. A resolution at last for a man who had been Peerless Pat, Big Pat and Judo Pat in his day.
Pat's untimely death from cancer brought the series to a premature end with the final programme being a fitting tribute. The nation mourned. It was time to say Auf Widersehen, Pat.
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Newcastle's Frank Robb turned professional in the late 1950s. He wrestled just about everyone in the lower weight divisions, appreciated by the fans but destined to remain a support player to the big stars of the day.
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Here was a big man.
The Portuguese heavyweight stood 6'4” tall and weighed twenty stones and reported to have a 20 inch neck , described by the press as “The Carnera of wrestling.”
With the rapid development of British professional wrestling in the early 1930s he was one of our earliest overseas visitors, gaining quick wins over Jack Pye and King Curtis.
He was back again in 1932, this time less fortunate as he went down to British heavyweight champion Athol Oakeley in Nottingham.
Science beat bulk with Oakeley taking the only fall required in the fourth round after 30 minutes 10 seconds, pinning his shoulders to the mat with a double arm scissors and body press.
Barnsley's Tommy Blackburn adopted the ring name Blackburn Roberts after learning the pro wrestling trade at the famous Junction Gymnasium run by Charlie Glover that was situated behind the Junction public house in Barnsley.
Like so many of his peers, including Pedro the Gypsy, Karl Von Kramer and Dwight J Ingleburgh it was at The Junction gymnasium that Blackburn started out as a boxer (the Junction was primarily a boxing gym) and later turned his attention to professional wrestling.
Having turned professional wrestler in the late 1950s Blackburn Roberts worked initially for the independent promoters before being signed up by Joint Promotions in April, 1964. With Joint Promotions he met high calibre opponents such as British and European champions Billy Joyce and Bill Howes, Arthur Ricardo, and Gordon Nelson.
Having watched Blackburn Roberts in action in the 1960s we were thrilled to meet up with him again in 2010 when he was fit and healthy, and still living in Barnsley.
We understand Lee Roberts had a short lived wrestling career in the mid 1980s, but it was a career appreciated by Heritage member "Seconds Out." He was a fan and tells us Lee was trained at the Norman Baish wrestling gym in Burton Latimer and worked for independents including All Star Promotions.
Lee saw tag action with Robbie Brookside, Doc Dean, Spinner McKenzie, and John Kenny.
A man who is fondly remembered by northern and midland fans of the 1960s and 1970s Llew Roberts took one of those curious routes into wrestling.
Born in Criccieth, North Wales he was a photographer with an interest in wrestling whose work was published in newspapers and magazines, many of them in the Ringsport journal. Through this interest Llew started to train and was keen to wrestle himself. He was an enthusiastic but raw debutant who took a serious beating in his first match from a merciless Jack Lang. Jack Lang was a powerfully built middleweight from Crewe who had a background as a BAWA weightlifting champion. He was a very strong man with an enormous chest, neck and shoulders. Llew was undeterred by the beating but was reluctant to forgive and forget.
He was friends with the Stockport wrestler Alec Burton, the two had met when Llew was photographing the wrestler for promoter Jack Oatley. Alec told Llew about Black Panther's gymnasium in the Openshaw district of Manchester. The gym was run by Grant Foderingham, a veteran wrestler who worked for Direct Works Department, Manchester Corporation as a joiner. Alec suggested to Llew that he come along to the gym where he trained alongside Eddie Rose, Paul Mitchell, Ian Wilson and numerous other Manchester wrestlers. Llew was eager to learn and so began the regular journey twice a week by train from his home in Crewe to Manchester. Over the next couple of years he applied himself and became much more competent in the ring. Two years after joining Panther's gym he broke Lang's nose in a bout described as "a bit of a ding-dong" by promoter Jack Cassidy.
Throughout the late 1960s and 1970 Llew's scientific style made him a popular figure in the north and midlands, particularly in the Potteries where he regularly worked for promoter John Ford. He wrestled for many other independent promoters also,including Jack Oatley, Jack Cassidy, and Unique Promotions. Pete Lindbergh, Eddie Rose and Mel Riss were regular opponents on the independent circuit. On the nights he wasn't wrestling Llew would referee for promoter Oatley Promotions.
In 1972 he was signed to work for Joint Promotions, bringing him into combat with men such as Alan Wood and Jackie Robinson, and travelling to Scotland to wrestle Len Ironside. Llew's debut for Joint Promotions was in the pouring rain at an open air tournament at his local Crewe Alexandria football ground. The sun didn't shine for Llew that day, going down by the odd fall to Irishman Kevin Conneely. It was whilst working for Joint Promotions that Llew sustained the most serious injury of his career, a nasty head injury during a bout with Ray Steele that put him in hospital for some time with severe concussion.
In the early 1970s Llew seemed to have the potential to reach the top. Maybe he was just too modest and didn't put himself forward, maybe he didn't have the luck, or maybe the welterweight and middleweight divisions were just crammed too full of wrestling stars. For whatever reason it just didn't happen and Llew remained in the most important category of them all, one of the true grafters that made British wrestling great.
Llew Roberts passed away on 12th January, 2015.
Eddie Rose remembers his friend:
The death of Lew Roberts came unexpectedly. I had spoken to him just a couple of weeks ago and despite fighting a succession of serious health problems he seemed in good shape and good spirits.
He's been a friend for almost fifty years, ever since he turned up at Panther's gym in Manchester wanting to further his wrestling education. He'd made his debut and suffered a good scurfing at the hands of Jack Lang a fellow wrestler from the same town, Crewe. His desire was revenge and after a couple of years hard training with the likes of Alec Burton, Bill Blake and other gym members, he got his revenge and left Jack with a broken nose and a pair of black eyes at their next bout which Jack Lang himself described as "lively."
He was a good wrestler and he was also profient at Judo and Karate so he could look after himself but he was a good and relaible mate and made a legion of friends in wrestling: promoters, wrestlers, official and fans. A walk around Crewe on market day even in 2014 was slow progress with Lew; everyone wanted to chat with him just as they used to in previous times with his old mate, Count Bartelli.
He often came up to Bury to do some shopping and used to call in at our family business (The Northern Institute of Massage) for a coffee and a chat - usually reminiscing about old fights, old friends. He dearly loved wrestling and was held in the highest regard by his colleagues.
Well Llewellyn Roberts, ("Lew from Crewe" my daughter used to call him when she was about six years old and it stuck with him for she still called him that when he turned up to see us at Bury and she's forty now), your fight is over. Rest in Peace my dear friend.
Whilst younger fans refer to him as the Super Destroyer for those of our age he will always be, quite simply, Judo Pete Roberts.
1930s favourite Stan Roberts was from Ilford, son of wrestler Gill Roberts, born in 1911and son of wrestler Gwilym (Gill) Roberts. Stan learned the rudiments of the professional style in the United States, returning to Britain when wrestling regained popularity in the 1930s.
Throughout the decade he was a regular worker throughout the country, though mostly in southern England, often cited as Eastern Counties Heavyweight Champion.
Opponents were the top heavyweights of the decade, including Islington Hercules Bert Assirati, Jack Pye, and Black Butcher Johnson.
Stanley Roberts died on 12th September, 1998.
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Jim Watt the boxer, Moira Stewart the singer and wrestler Bill Robertson have something in common. They were all born eight miles north of Glasgown in a small town called Kirchintilloch. Admittedly only Bill benefited from thorough amateur wrestling training!
For Bill a good amateur background led to a good professional wrestling career, though sadly restricted to north of the border. Bill turned professional in the 1960s, working mainly for the independent promoters. He did wrestle occasionally for Joint Promotions, one of those occasions in June 1969 on a bill at the Eldorado Stadium when a young Johnny Saint came over from the opposition and defeated Iron Man Steve Logan.
Work commitments prevented Bill from travelling too far south, thus limiting his opportunities with Joint Promotions. Nevertheless, a lively independent scene in 1960s and 1970s Scotland provided no shortage of opportunities to meet quality opponents and Bill proved himself one of the best, holding the Scottish welterweight championship for quite a few years. He travelled throughout Scotland, which does involve often travelling hundred of miles to contests and whilst popular everywhere he was a particular favourite in Rothesay and in his native Glasgow.
Bill worked frequently for Dale Storm's Spartan Promotions against the likes of Bruce Welch, Farmer John and Dale himself. “He was a really good worker,” recalls Dale, “very popular throughoughout Scotland. He regularly came down to my gym in Mossblown village to train.” In the early 1970s Bill opened his own vending machine company, which restricted his wrestling appearances until he retired in the late 1970s.
In a business full of larger than life characters Andy Robin stands out large.
Whenever fans or wrestlers gather together the stories or memories abound.
Memories of a muscular heavyweight who was just about invincible, in his native Scotland at least, and near invincible elsewhere. Fans waited in anticipation knowing that ts was just about inevitable that Andy would eventually wrap his legs around those of his opponent and secure a submission, and usually a technical knock out, by the application of his Power Lock hold, said to be the deadliest in wrestling from which no opponent ever escaped. Or maybe they are memories of Hercules the brown bear that Andy brought back from Canada and his companion in the ring. When no accompanied by Hercules we remember Andy carrying a huge tractor tyre to the ring which he could toss with ease. A Highland Games champion in both wrestling and hammer throwing Andy learned to wrestle alongside his friend Jim Bell, who was tragically killed in a boating accident. Much of Andy's early career was spent in Canada, and on his return to Britain he brought with him a Commonwealth Mid Heavyweight championship belt, a bear named Hercules and an air of invincibility.
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