S: St Bernard - Starsky
Wrestling Heritage A - Z
A pre and post war muscular giant amongst heavyweights the 23 stone Ray St Bernard wrestled greats such as The Angel, Strangler Lewis and Jack Sherry. The sight of him was enough to strike fear into lesser opponents.
A frequent bill toppoer throughour the 1930's Ray St Bernard's finest moment probably came when he was just twenty-five years old when he tackled former World Heavyweight Champion, Dick Shikat, in 1939 at the Tower Ballroom, Brighton.
The contest was a titanic struggle betwenn two of the pre war greats, and it lasted over fifty minutes before Shikat gained the upper hand and took the bout.
St Bernard continued his wrestling career after the war, finally leaving the ring in 1949, when he went on to a bit part in the film “The Night and the City” (1950), in which he wrestled The Strangler (Mike Mazurki).
Wrestling Heritage reader Brighton Belle recalls Ray as a big, smiling man who sported a bushy moustache and was always generous and full of fun.
Roy St Clair
From the day he turned professional Roy St Clair seemed destined for the very top. That was in April, 1960, and soon Roy was travelling throughout the north and midlands facing the biggest names in British wrestling.
When we started taking an interest in wrestling a few years later Roy was well and truly established as one of the regular favourites who kept popping up against other youngsters like Al Nicol and Colin Joynson as well as more experienced men such as Jack Dempsey and Tommy Mann. In those days Roy weighed in around the 12 stones mark and we were to wait a few years before he filled out into a more mature, solidly built heavyweight.
That ascendency through the weight divisions enabled Roy to build up a catalogue of opponents that was exceptionally impressive, from lightweight to heavyweight champions, and from aerial specialists such as Vic Faulkner to the solid power of Kendo Nagasaki, the towering Gargantua and the immovable object of Giant Haystacks. Those latter day opponents are far removed from lightweight champion Jim Breaks.
As he progressed through the ranks Roy retained much of his agility whilst adding robustness, skill and experience. It was these characteristics, supplemented with an irrepressible charisma that made him stand out as a cut above the rest amongst the overcrowded challengers to the mid heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. One more quality that was apparent during Roy's twenty odd years in the ring was a capacity for hard worker. Roy St Clair was a grafter, both in the ring where he went out of his way to give fans value for money, and also outside of the ring as he travelled up and down the country night after night. Whilst many wrestlers limited themselves geographically Roy, and brother Tony, were as likely to be seen in Arbroath as they were in Penzance, travelling hundreds of miles each week for the best part of thirty years.
Hard work and dedication led to success, but the family pedigree did no harm. Roy was brought up in a sporting environment, his father being Francis St Clair Gregory. Francis St Clair Gregory dominated the Cornish style of wrestling in the 1930s and represented Cornwall as heavyweight champion against Brittany at the first seven Cornu-Breton international tournament, winning every time. In the 1930s he moved to Lancashire to pursue another sport in which he excelled. Francis Gregory played professional rugby league for both Wigan and Warrington in the 1930s and was capped for England. He went on to become one of the most prolific and successful wrestlers in the Mountevans era.
Immersed in sport from such an early age it is hardly surprising that Roy himself took an interest in wrestling. Undeniably having a huge influence on his son Roy was dispatched to Riley's gymnasium in Wigan to learn the professional aspects of the business. Roy's professional début came in the far from opulent surroundings of the Russell Social Club in Hulme, Manchester. Roy's opponent was the experienced Jim Mellor, and surprisingly the youngster emerged the victor. Having impressed the promoter's Roy was booked for more contests in the weeks that followed, even making it down to the family home of Redruth before the year was out. Joe Critchley, Tony Zale, Alf Cadman, all added to the youngsters knowledge, and he enthusiastically absorbed everything they had to teach him.
Less than a years after turning professional Roy made his television debut (against Abe Ginsberg). It was to be the first of more than eighty televised contests, that's more than Johnny Kwango, Johnny Saint, Giant Haystacks, even more than Jackie Mr TV Pallo! Roy was featured in the TV Times supplement of the Top 50 TV Wrestlers, whilst in terms of appearances he sits firmly in the top 20.
For twenty years Roy travelled up and down the country, admired as much at the Royal Albert Hall (where he wrestled a dozen times) as his local Belle Vue. Occasionally he would venture across to the Continent where he was equally popular. There were few of the biggest names that he did not wrestle at least once on his career
A second, highly successful episode in his career came when Roy began guiding younger brother Tony, with the two of them forming a hugely successful tag team discussed in some detail in the Shining Stars section under Perfect Asymmetry.
As well as partnering brother Tony as described in detail there, Roy also regularly partnered Ricky Starr in tag on overseas trips.
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Youngest of the three wrestling St.Clairs whose early career is considered in Shining Stars under Perfect Assymetry.
Only fate prevented wrestling losing Tony to the world of soccer as he seemed destined to a pro footbll career. Tony St Clair is one of the few that bridges the Wrestling Heritage generations.
Older readers remember him as the youthful sibling of Roy, emerging onto the wrestling scene in 1967 having been well prepared by Roy and his father Francis St Clair Gregory.
A faster, leaner version of big brother and readily on hand for rescuing in their successful tag partnership, The Saints.
Solo success was confirmed with the defeat of Mick McManus on television. Younger fans remember him as one of the great British heavyweights, a champion worthy of the title who upheld the good name of British wrestling as the dark clouds gathered. As British Heavyweight Champion he maintained the title's status at an international level, including his triumph in the 1978 Oldenburg tournament.
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Speed merchant Ian St John was a favourite on the independent circuit in the 1960s and one time tag partner of Johnny Saint. Billed from Scotland Ian's birth name was Harry Walsh and he lived in Accrington where he worked as a joiner and ran a security business training guard dogs.
When younger Ian was a military policeman in the army. Trained by Bob Bannister at his gymnasium in Accrington. In the ring Ian was a wiry lightweight, very fast and acrobatic, often in action with another speedy lightweight, Andreas Svajik.
Very popular amongst fans Ian was also highly respected amongst collegues. Eddie Rose told us, "A great wrestler and a very good friend with a dry sense of humour. I wrestled him on quite a few occasions and for quite a few promoters, too, and it was always a pleasure. That is, if you could keep up with him!"
Ayr's Dale Storm also recalled Ian with fondness, "He was quick, he was skillful, and he was above all, very, very generous! And he was always very safe to work with. I really liked the man and I respected his ability immensely. I learned a lot from my time in the ring with him."
Ian moved across to Joint Promotions in 1969, working mainly for Wryton Promotions in the north and midlands. Ian passed away on 7th December, 2012, aged 83.
Stephen St John had wrestling in his blood, because dad was John L Hagar, one of the great villains of the independent rings.
Dad was a regular worker for promoter Brian Trevors and took his son along to Brian's gym in 1967. For Brian Trevors it was important that all his pupils took their studies seriously and gained a thorough foundation in how to wrestle.
For Stephen his training was timely, as Brian's promotional business was just beginning to grow (he hadn't lng moved to the area from Yorkshire) and as Stephen's skill grew so did the size of the halls in which Brian promoted! Brian Trevors' contract to provide wrestling shows for numerous holiday camps around East Anglia gave his apprentices the chance to gain a lot of experience in a relatively short time. Stephen St John learned quickly and worked regularly for the independent promoters throughout the 1970s and in to the mid 1980s.
Popular welterweight from Witham in Essex turned professional when he was sixteen years old, working for the independent promoters in the 1970s.
Cited as one to watch out for by The Wrestler magazine, but seemingly came to nothing.
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The stylish German heavyweight with American citizenship made a good impression on British fans during his visits spanning 1967 to 1970. His methodical textbook style and some rather nifty high flying manoeuvres made a pleasing contrast to the majority of imported heavyweights.
Certainly not invincible the popular German matured over time and visibly improved over successive tours, which tended to be southern biased. Notable achievements included three scalps in one night at the Royal Albert in April 1968, cutting through Count Bartelli, Professor Adiwasser and Jim Hussey to take the Royal Albert Hall in his place.
Drawn verdicts at the same venue against both of the top masked men of the time, The Outlaw and Kendo Nagasaki, cemented his popularity at the Kensington venue. At other times results were more mixed, surprisingly being held some midcarders on occasions and suffering straight falls defeats against Mike Marino and Billy Robinson.
Wolfgang was the son of Rudi Saturski who had held Mike Marino to a draw at the Royal Albert Hall in 1956.
Arguably the most sensational wrestler to impact the British scene in the sixties and a major player in those golden years, pursuing a glittering undefeated run and returning on several occasions, including long-haired and balding in 1974 on independent bills.
Having boxed, and won 17 amateur wrestling titles, Starr turned pro wrestler in 1953 and combined the mat sport with a career as a ballet dancer, touring Europe with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and later appearing on Broadway in Paint Your Wagon and Annie Get Your Gun. But it was when he started to combine his ballet with his wrestling that the spark came and he sold out Madison Square Garden on several occasions.
Even on our 1964 monochrome sets his golden ballet shoes caused a stir, and his prancing and pirouetting had audiences on the edges of their seats. The fifteen-stoner invariably finished off his opponents with an aeroplane spin, and his defeat of Steve Logan - seconded by Mick McManus - on Cup Final Day 1965 is legendary. Later scaled down to as little as 13 stone 2 pounds and, at this weight in his final three televised appearances, span not only light-heavyweights Czeslaw and Haggetty to knock-out defeats but also the 19 stones Mucky Mal Kirk.
In 1968 Ricki Starr was one of a number of wrestlers featured in the movie The Touchables.
The early seventies saw occasional UK glimpses of the new look Starr including Royal Albert Hall bill-topping appearances in which he sensationally knocked out Mr TV Pallo. Dale Martin's precious emergent jewel proved a harder rock to crack and he only drew with Goldbelt Maxine.
His status was undiminished in European actions and in the marathon two-month Hanover tournament of 1974 with almost nightly action, he emerged undefeated - but was still placed only second overall by protectionist Germans.
Have you ever wondered where Richard Starkey got his name from when he became drummer for the Beatles ....
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The Lancashire town of Wigan was not the only one famous for coal mining and wrestling.
Mossblown, a village in South Ayrshire, Scotland, also produced an abundance of the black stuff and skilled professional wrestlers.
For those who have read Dale Storm's book, "Ask Him Again Ref!" the wrestling gym in the village of Mossblown needs no introduction. Dale Storm, Bruce Welch, Big Ian Miller, Scott Thomson, Bull Wilson, Mike O'Hagan and dozens of others, including Young Jim Starsky, graduated from the Mossblown gym. We guess none of them would claim to be a Jack Dempsey or Billy Joyce, but they were every bit as dedicated and all were very capable wrestlers who devoted their lives to entertaining the wrestling public. Most nights of the week the Scottish terrain demanded they travelled more miles than most of their English counterparts to far flung venues around Scotland.
Around 1970 Young Jim Starsky joined the regulars at the Mossblown gym. He was just sixteen years old when he was taken under the wing of Dale Storm. Not long left school, just starting out in his first job as a mechanic, and with all the interests of a teenager young Jim needed a lot of determination to begin making an impression on the Mossblown men. In fact it was in the garage where he was serving his apprenticeship that Jim and Dale Storm first met and the youngster was invited along to the gym. Like many wrestling gyms it was not a grand affair. In common with Riley's at Wigan and The Junction in Barnsley the Mossblown gym was largely built by the young wrestlers themselves and filled with equipment they could beg, borrow, but certainly not steal. Apart from learning from the more experienced wrestlers Jim took to weight training, quickly adding a couple of stones to take him from a lightweight into the middleweight division.
Jim certainly proved that he had the necessary dedication and was a fast learner, impressing the boss of the gym enough to become his regular tag partner. The two of them were a well matched pair, both known for their fast manoeuvres, dropkicks and other high flying moves, with Jim learning to use the ropes as a means of propulsion to great advantage. Although Jim was still a teenager Dale told us, "Young Starsky was well respected both for his dedication to the sport and the upholding of its age old traditions."
His first few professional matches were for Spartan Promotions but the skilful youngster soon attracted the attention of other promoters, and began working for Jack Atherton, Orig Williams, Brian Dixon, Andy Robin and Relwyskow Green. He has told Wrestling Heritage that through all those matches his toughest opponents were Mad Michael O'Hagen, Bruce Welch and Bill Turner (Rory Campbell).
In the late 1980s with fans dwindling, shows reduced in number and television dropping wrestling from the schedules Jim decided he needed to move on, leaving the ring to begin teaching engineering at a local college.