British wrestling history 

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S: Sands - Saulnier

Wrestling Heritage A-Z

Eric Sands

Eric Sands wOne of the most accomplished men of the lighter weights Bradford's Eric Sands is often  overlooked when the golden days of wrestling are remembered. Not surprising really because only fans in their sixties would have seen him in action, and we doubt that any recordings of his twenty or so televised contests are still in existence.

A British champion for a year, from 1953 until 1954 Eric spent the best part of two decades wrestling, and beating the best on offer – Pallo, McManus, Lewis, Stead, Dempsey all went down to the dour Yorkshireman.  Eric Sands was not a gimmicky wrestler, he was part of that vital group that gave credibility to the sport.

A tenacious and technically accomplished wrestler he could should aggression when ever required. A 1956 win over World Welterweight Champion, Jim Lewis, at the Royal Albert Hall in January, 1956, demonstrates the height of  success, with the demise signified by losing to  newcomer Leon Fortuna at the same venue a decade later in May, 1965. Like many others Eric ended his wrestling days on the opposition circuit, where he was joined by other old foes  Jack Dempsey and Mel Riss.

Eric Sands died on 14th December, 1995.

Everyone can read our extended tribute: A Class Act

Neil Sands (Sky Churchill)

6' 3” heavyweight from Halstead in Essex whose career within the Joint Promotions network started in 1974 following five years training as an amateur and formative years wrestling for independent promoters, initially billed as Sky Churchill.  One of his final independent bouts has the distinction of being the final career bout of his opponent, the great Alan Garfield.

His 1975 television début against Steve Viedor was aired again in 2006, a highly entertaining encounter from unpromising Gravesend which had commentator Kent Walton billing and cooing in admiration.  From this launch Neil was featured only a few days later on a Wednesday night tv slot from Brent Town Hall in a six-round draw with Steve Logan.  And in the same week as these two bouts he recorded the Larry Grayson television show with Prince Kumali.   It would be fully 12 years before Sands would appear on the small screen once again, and then alongside Tony St Clair in tag.

In the intervening years he ran  Newtown Promotions in Essex and the Home Counties and had left Joint Promotions to return to that and the independent circuit, see him billed early on an intriguing independent bill, right.

In 1976 he appeared in international tournaments  in Munster,  Munich, & Wiesbaden Germany, gaining experience alongside fellow big-name entrants Horst Hofmann and Otto Wanz, and facing old pros Micha Nador and Josef Molnar, Japanese stars Fujiwara & Ozowa ( Killer Khan) and British stars Geoff Portz, Steve Wright, Dave Morgan and Judd Harris.

Neil Sands made a notable Royal Albert Hall début on the infamously decimated bill and defeated Mal Kirk.  Went on to greater success and promotion in the period beyond that examined here, but a  wonderfully dedicated and civil contributor to all internet debates  over thirty years on. Neil retired from the ring in 1981, save for a short comeback in 1986.

Albert Sanniez

The stylish, fast  and clever Spanish born and French based lightweight  was a popular visitor to the United Kingdom in  1967, 1969 and again in 1970. He wrestled all the top men of the lighter weights – Saint, Breaks, McManus, Kidd et al. A number of high profile matches included a loss to Vic Faulkner at the Royal Albert Hall, an unsuccessful challenge to George Kidd for his World Lightweight,  Championship at Ayr, another loss to Jim Breaks at Nottingham for the European Championship, and televised victories over Alan Sargeant and Dick Conlon. Most of his 1970 matches were tag contests in partnership with Kadar Hassouini.

Jack  Santos (Young Santos)

Maybe it was the coal dust, or just the atmosphere in the Stoke On Trent air. Who knows, but it did the trick. Never missing an opportunity to add a bit of colour to the evenings proceedings the  promoters billed welterweight Jack Santos as the man from Spain. Well, it does sound a bit more exotic than Stoke on Trent, the birthplace of this capable welterweight.  The name was  unauthentic  but did sound more colourful than Jack Sambrooks of Hanley. During the day Jack's trade was that of a bricklayer, but by night he assumed an entirely new personality, that of Spaniard Jack Santos. Jack turned professional  in 1941, he was Young Santos in those days. He worked throughout the country until the early 1960s, our last sighting of him being in 1965.

Miguel Santos

The nature of the wrestling business means that confusion inevitably abounds.

Adrian Street: “Even I have had bogus Brothers and Cousins by the score since I first began wrestling 56 years and 15,000 matches ago.” 

Miguel Santos was a Greek wrestler who worked for Dale Martin Promotions in the early 1960s, and not Jack Santos (above) as mistakenly believed by some fans and blindly repeatedly on other websites. We are certain that Jack Santos and Miguel Santos were different people. Though we wouldn't rule out Jack putting on the old sombrero and assuming the role on occasions. After all, this is wrestling.

Adrian Street told us, "The Miguel Santos that I refer to in 'So many ways to hurt you.' was not from Stoke on Trent. I can't remember his real name but he was a Greek - and according to him, emigrated with his family from Greece to Argentina - hence his Hispanic gimmick.  I once had the misfortune to travel by car, from London all the way  to one of Ted Beresford's TV shows with him, El Greco and Billy Torontos, and the three of them spoke nothing but Greek all the way there. I travelled back to London on my own, by train.”

Not many Potterries folk speak fluent Greek. We rest our case.

We believe that in the 1980s the Miguel Santos name was revived by Micky West.

Rudi Saturski

The technical German heavyweight made a short visit to Britain in December of 1956. Amongst his half dozen British matches was a one fall each draw with Mike Marino at the Royal Albert Hall. Rudi Saturski was the father of the 1960s visitor Wolfgang Stark. Rudi Saturski died on 8 August, 1975.

Michel Saulnier

The diminutive French wrestler stood barely over five feet tall, but his lack of stature was more than made up for by skill and agility.  Skill, agility and speed. Michel Saulnier was fast, very fast. The foundation of that pro skill was an outstanding amateur career in both Greco-Roman and freestyle disciplines. Amateur success was carried through to the professional ring, where Michel was a very popular wrestler, initially in his native France, and subsequently throughout Europe.

Michel was born in Paris in 1933, making him thirty years old when he made his British debut in 1963, The young Frenchman was matched with many of the top lighter men of the time: Mel Riss, Jackie Pallo, Jack Dempsey, Cliff Beaumont amongst them. Michel wrestled around the south of England for much of the winter of 1963-4.

It was a visit that was to be followed up with frequent sailings across the channel in the years that followed. During later visits Michel Saulnier eventually made his way north and worked for all the Joint Promotion members and faced just about everybody who was anybody.  Wherever he went he pleased the fans, but results certainly didn't go all his own way, not surprising with the quality of opponents. British promoters did the talented Frenchman no favours. David Franklin remembers Michel as "A top class wrestler, and considering all the lightweight talent that came over from France at that time he must have been very highly rated because he was the one regularly billed as Lightweight Champion of France".

In France Michel was for many years one of the top wrestling promoters.  We met him in 2009 at the Kent reunion when he came over with a group of his French colleagues. At the time he was in good health, but in the years that followed his health deteriorated and we are told he suffered a number of strokes before his death in January 2017, aged 83.