In April 1962 the editor of The Wrestler magazine Charles Mascall reminisced “Some of the top stars thrilling fans all over the land.”
Alongside the names Vic Hessle, The Farmer, Ernie Baldwin and Jim Hussey was “The Young Apollo” Les Stent. Unlike the aforementioned stars Welshman Les, twice a British champion, has until now been been surprisingly overlooked by fans recalling the Heritage Years.
This oversight is certainly not due to lack of skill because Les Stent was a British champion and vanquisher of George Kidd, Jack Dempsey, Alan Colbeck and just about every other top ranking lighter man of the 1940s and 1950s.
We are pleased to put right the shortcomings of the past and add Les Stent to our Personality Parade.
Friends and family knew him as a gentle man; until he stepped foot into the wrestling ring that is. Les Stent was one of the toughest of men to set foot in the ring with a punishing, aggressive nature that failed to disguise the wrestling skills of a master technician.
Everyone can read our extended tribute: The Gentle Man of Wrestling
Yorkshire's Ray Stevens was a familiar figure on the independent circuit from the mid 1960s onwards, a regular worker for Cyril Knowles and other northern promoters. Like so many others it was a night at the wrestling that got Ray hooked. His older brother regularly went along to the fortnightly shows in Halifax. One night Ray went along with him and was mesmerised by the local favourites on the bill that night, Max, Brian and Shirley Crabtree. Max and Albert Wall were to remain the two wrestlers that Ray admired the most.
From that time on Ray was determined to become a wrestler himself and trained hard at the Hilltop Amateur Wrestling Club until given the chance to prove himself in the professional rings by the independent promoters. With Romeo Joe Critchley already well known he dropped his family name of Peter Critchley in favour of Ray Stevens, reminiscent of the American heavyweight of that name.
Promoter Cyril Knowles gave Ray his first opportunity in the professional ring, a match against fellow Yorkshire man Al Marshall. Ray recalls that the money he received for that match didn't even cover his petrol money, but he didn't care; he was a wrestler and that was all that mattered. Within a short time he was working for numerous independent promoters around the country.
Ray came to the attention of Joint Promotions and was signed up to work for them in 1971. National exposure came his way when featured in the July, 1971, issue of The Wrestler magazine, followed in August, 1973, when he made his television debut against Phil Pearson at the Newark Sports Centre. Ray was unfortunate to go down to Phil Pearson by the only fall required on that occasion, in which Kendo Nagasaki knocked out Tibor Szakacs in the main event.
Ray loved his wrestling, and gives specific mentions of the times he enjoyed working with Johnny Saint, Roy St Clair and Kid McCoy. The pressure was always on to travel further afield which did lead to conflict. Although a busy worker over many years Ray, like most others, wrestled on a part time business. He and his brother went into partnership with a bakery business. They did well and the business was thriving. Ray had to prioritise and devoted his time to the business. "I loved wrestling, but to be a star you have to devote all your time to it. I did not have the time."
Tall and slim Peter Stewart started wrestling professionally around 1964, but it was a couple of years later that we first came across him at our local hall. In those days he was often accompanied by his father, Vic Stewart, but in the world of magic and mirrors that is professional wrestling they were billed at the Stewart brothers. In the mid sixties one of the Sunday newspapers revealed they weren't brothers at all, but father and son. Shock and horror! Did we care? Not a bit. Not that Stewart was their name either. Peter Stewart was born Peter Ernest Lawler, and adopted his father's ring name. By the mid sixties the Stewarts were tangling regularly with the likes of the Royal brothers and the Black Diamonds. We read harsh words about him in The Wrestler magazine that don't tally with our memories of a clean skilful wrestler. By 1969 when father Vic retired from the ring Peter was well and truly ready to fly the nest. By then he was demonstrating that he could hold his own, though not necessarily beat, the likes of Billy Joyce and Mike Marino. Like the majority of wrestlers he remained a good, honest worker who never reached the top flight but throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s Peter Stewart remained a value for money heavyweight who was a good addition to any bill.
In those days he was often accompanied by his father, Vic Stewart, but in the world of magic and mirrors that is professional wrestling they were billed at the Stewart brothers. In the mid sixties one of the Sunday newspapers revealed they weren't brothers at all, but father and son. Shock and horror! Did we care? Not a bit.
Not that Stewart was their name either. Peter Stewart was born Peter Ernest Lawler, and adopted his father's ring name. By the mid sixties the Stewarts were tangling regularly with the likes of the Royal brothers and the Black Diamonds.
We read harsh words about him in The Wrestler magazine that don't tally with our memories of a clean skilful wrestler. By 1969 when father Vic retired from the ring Peter was well and truly ready to fly the nest. By then he was demonstrating that he could hold his own, though not necessarily beat, the likes of Billy Joyce and Mike Marino. Like the majority of wrestlers he remained a good, honest worker who never reached the top flight but throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s Peter Stewart remained a value for money heavyweight who was a good addition to any bill.
Polish heavyweight Eugene Stezycki is best remembered for his feud with legendary British heavyweight Bert Assirati. Having served in the Polish army and survived a German labour camp during the war Stezycki came to Britain and set up home in Bristol.
With a sportig background of weight lifting, boxing and wrestling he chose the latter as his career and began wrestling professionally in 1954, aged 30.
His early career was pretty unspectacular, but all that changed in July, 1956 when he gave Bert Assirati a tremendous tussle in Brighton, and once again at Belle Vue a few weeks later.
From that time on Stezycki’s place in wrestling was established, and that place was often in the opposite corner of Assirati. He wrestled Assirati almost fifty times over the following three years, one of the most memorable being a particularly bloody European title clash at the Seymour Hall on 15th December 1958.
These bouts established Eugene Stezycki as one of the toughest wrestlers in British rings. Stezycki died on 19th July, 2007.
Born in Notting Hill and later living in Ewell, Surrey, Billy Stock was a popular 1960s wrestler. A keen swimmer he was a life guard before turning professional wrestler.
He began wrestling as an amateur at the Foresters AWC before turning professional in 1961. Usually sticking within the rules Billy could let the fury fly when he felt the situation required it. His all action style appealed to wrestling fans, particularly in the south where he mostly appeared.
His style was not always textbook stuff and he specialised in strength holds.
In the 1980s he was known to don a mask and wrestle as The Assassin.
Billy Stock passed away suddenly in September, 2010
The plumber turned wrestler from Stockton on Tess, Gentleman Jim Stockdale, entertained fans mainly in the north of England both under his own name and that of the villainous masked man The Blue Angel.
Jim took an interest in wrestling during his teenage years whilst he was serving an apprenticeship at Head Wrightsons Apprentice School.
In his early twenties he began to wrestle professionally, and one of the highlights of his career came in November, 1956, when he was the plucky local boy who narrowly lost by a KO decision to Mike Marino at the New St James Hall, Newcastle.
Opponents during a career which spanned the best part of two decades, from the early fifties to the end of the 1960s, also included well known names such as Steve Veidor, Dai Sullivan, Cyril Morris and Bobby Graham.
Amongst the many wrestlers who were influenced by Stockdale were “Boy” Devlin, Tommy Stones and Arthur Openshaw all of whom were amongst those he trained at his gymnasium behind the Grey Horse Pub, where his father Charlie Stockdale was landlord.
In 1968 Jim and his family left the North East and moved to Lincolnshire where his wrestling career continued for a few years more.
Unbeknown to fans there was another side to this popular wrestler. There was no shortage of masked wrestlers on the independent shows of the 1960s. One that stood out from the crowd was the villainous Blue Angel. Even before he entered the ring fans were in no doubt that here was a scoundrel of the first order.
The costume and body language conveyed the message of skulduggery as he moved little by little towards the ring. A sombre, scruffy, full length cloak made the heavyweight easy to place in the first class villain division. If that wasn’t enough there was always the bell that he rang out aloud like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. For good measure The Blue Angel would drag his leg, allegedly the result of an horrific accident that had somehow resulted in the acquisition of superhuman powers.
Fans would jeer him as he unhurriedly made his way towards the ring and the forlorn figure would stop to return the compliment with a snarl. The man beneath the mask was the popular Stockton wrestler Jim Stockdale who was nothing like his mysterious masked persona.
Take note of the poster on the right where the cash conscious promoter uses Jim twice on the same show, masked and maskless.
As years passed by Jim’s fame moved into a new sphere as he left behind the world of championship wrestling to become the owner of champion pigeons!