British wrestling history 

has a name


S: Strong - Svajick

Wrestling Heritage A-Z

Rex Strong  (Samurai, Barry Sherman)

Blackpool's big, bad, bearded heavyweight could torment the fans with his underhand tactics as one of the best villains of the day. Mind you, he had a good tutor, having been taught the wrestling trade by none other than Dirty Dominic Pyea man that Rex admired until the day he died. 

Rex recalled working on the beach at Blackpool and if Dominic was a man short for one of his three times a week wrestling shows a public announcement would instruct him to  to make his way to the hall. Rex made his professional debut in 1959, and in the early days was billed as Wild Angus Campbell, complete with swirling kilt. Angus Campbell was a Dominic Pye creation and Rex played the part for two or three years until Frank Hoy came along. At other times Rex would use the name Barry Sherman (a corruption of his birth name Shearman) and most memorably that of the masked man Samurai. Rex rose to his most prominent in the 1970s, in the opposing corner to the likes of Big Daddy, Wayne Bridges,  Pete Roberts and Count Bartelli. 

In 1975-6 he formed a notable tag partnership with Kendo Nagasaki. A familiar figure to tv viewers, he was dropped in at the deep end partnering Kendo Nagasaki against Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks. A couple more televised outings against Romany Riley and John Elijah, and then promoters really stepped up the class of  opponents and Rex was in the big league on tv against Pat Roach, Big Daddy, Kendo Nagasaki, Gwyn Davies, and Tony St Clair.  At the Royal Albert Hall Rex and partner Kendo Nagasaki beat Haystacks and Big Daddy in March, 1977. More Albert Hall success three years later when he partnered John Quinn to defeat African Kruger and African Rand.  During this time Rex was also a councillor in his native Blackpool and proprietor of The Hadley Hotel on Blackpool Promenade.  

In 1986 Rex was back on television screens, this time as the Masked Samurai, appearing once against Tom Tyrone and a couple of times in tag matches with Big Daddy in the opposite corner. Wrestling Heritage reader Nightlight told us: "Back in the 1970's, my parents used to stay at the hotel in Blackpool run by Rex Strong. My Dad often recalled that Rex's 'party piece' was bending the old-style 'crown' tops from bottles of Guinness between two of his fingers! "

One final Rex Strong memory - does anyone remember seeing Rex in the Blackpool team of the 1981 It's A knockout competition? 

Rex Strong, born Barry Ronald Shearman in 1942, died on 25th November, 2017.

Mel Stuart

Real-life fire-fighter, deep-sea-diver and budgerigar-breeder, Pretty Boy Stuart was a Gravesend mid-heavyweight who appeared on the Dale Martin scene mid-seventies and proved adaptable to any opponent. 

Prior to that he had worked for independent promoters and on the fairground booths. 

Particularly skilled at allowing the aged Les Kellett to shine in spite of deteriorated timing.  Tagged with any villain going, the only consistency being alongside Steve Haggetty in the Blond Bombers. 

We got upset as sloppy emcees called him Mal, but his wrestling by any name could enliven any bill.  Continued wrestling until well into the twenty-first century. 

Thunder Sugiyama

Barefooted and bearded Japanese heavyweight Thunder Sugiyama made a fifteen day visit to the northern England in May 1969. Inside that fortnight he made two television appearances, defeating Henri Pierlot and Roy Bull Davis. Opposition to the talented Jap was first rate; draws against Mike Marino and Kendo Nagasaki, and disqualification losses against Albert Wall and John Cox.

At the age of 24 Tsuneharu Sugiyama had represented Japan in the Greco-Roman heavyweight championship. Shortly afterwards he turned professional, using the name Tokyo Joe, and should not be confused with later American Tokyo Joe's.

His partnership with Giant Baba and speciality "thunder and lightning drop" made him a big name on the American scene. Following his wrestling career he became a television personality appearing on tv and in films.

He died of heart failure on 22nd November, 2002, aged 62.

Butty Sugrue

In a sport that is full of larger than life characters few could have had a life larger than Butty Sugrue. Strongman, circus performer, wrestler, and not to forget that he was the promoter of  the Muhammad Ali versus Al " Blue " Lewis boxing match in Croke Park in Dublin in July 1972.

Michael Butty Sugrue was certainly one of the most colourful Irishmen in London. His feats of strength were the stuff of legends and earned him the title of  “Irelands Strongest Man.” In 1953 Butty wrestled  The Gorgeous Gael, Jack Doyle,  at Killorglin's  Puck Fair in 1953.

After moving to London Butty became landlord to various pubs such as the Admiral Nelson in Kilburn and the Wellington in Shepherd’s Bush. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he wrestled for independent promoters in London and the south. Butty had a talent for self promotion – a quick internet search will reveal photos of him lifting a chair with his teeth (with a woman sat on it!), mixing with film and sporting celebrities, and the time he persuaded one of his bar staff to live buried alive in a coffin for sixty-one days.

Butty Sugrue died in 1977, aged 53. Ironically for Ireland's strongest man, he died carrying a fridge up the stairs.

Mickey Sullivan

Portsmouth's Mickey Sullivan is remembered by fans as one of the best wrestlers of the latter Mountevans years.

On numerous occasions discussions of the most under rated wrestlers have included Mickey's name.  Mickey trained in Portsmouth at the gym of Big Bruno Elrington, alongside his friend and mentor Danny Quinn and John Kowalski.

Mickey turned professional in the late 1960s, initially working for the independent promoters. In the 1970s he was a popular worker for top independent promoters that included Jackie Pallo and Independent Joint Promotions, against top class opposition that such as  Tony Scarlo, Jon Cortez and Al Miquet.

Mickey went on to work for Joint Promotions, most famously losing to Steve Grey at the Royal Albert Hall in September, 1981 and wrestling in Zimbabwe.

Johnny Summers

From Chorley in Lancashire Johnny Summers claimed the World Flyweight Championship in the 1930s. He must have been a pretty tough fighter to have made his way in the all-in rings of the 1930s against men who were usually much heavier than himself. Nowadays Johnny is mostly remembered as the opponent, and vanquisher,  of Jeff Conda (later Count Bartelli) when he made his professional debut at the Broadway Palace, Chester, in June 1939. In “They Called Him The Count” Bartelli tells how Summers taught him a hard lesson that night in Chester.

Please get in touch if you can provide more information

Dai Sullivan

We remember Dai Sullivan in the latter part of his career when he  was something of a heavyweight bruiser. Even so, his rugged style did not hide the fact that here was a skilful wrestler who could hold his own with the best, including World heavyweight champion, Lou Thesz, when the Amrican toured Britain.

From his earliest days in the professional wrestling ring Dai had earned a reputation as an all-action, aggressive fighter.

Born in Tonypandy in 1922 Dai was the son of a miner. Like all mining families times were hard, and none more so than during the 1926 General Strike. During the strike non mining families from around the country volunteered to look after the children of mining families. That was how, in 1926 it came about thah four year old Dai was sent to live with a family in Doncaster.

As things turned out he  stayed with the family and remained in Doncaster  for the rest of his life. Like many other professional wrestlers Dai's first sporting interest was boxing, and he was an army champion before turning to wrestling whilst stationed at Chester and watching the shows at Liverpool Stadium.  Having turned professional aged 22 he went on to hold the British heavyweight title for a year or so, and continued to battle the best until retiring in the late 1960s.  "A non stop whirlwind," according to Dwight J Inglebergh.  

Francis Sullivan (Frank Pollard)

The speedy and popular heavyweight of dropkick fame was a mainstay of Joint Promotions rings for fifteen years.  One of the Wigan lads Francis Sullivan and the Rileys went back many years. Billy Riley tutored him and in the 1950s, in the early years of his professional career, Francis and Ernie Riley would work together earning a few extra pounds in Matt Moran's fairground wrestling booth. Simultaeneoulsly Francis was gaining popularity around the country in the professional rings of Britain. No one could accuse Francis of being one of those wrestlers who limited himself to working close to home; he travelled the length and breadth of the country. A study of his record shows   Francis was almost a weekly fixture at Belle Vue soon after he turned professional in 1950. Not just Belle Vue, but a regular at those other big venues Liverpool Stadium and the New St James Hall, Newcastle.   Dave Sutherland remembers,

 "Francis was my all time favourite wrestler having seen him on TV in the early sixties and then on many occasions at Newcastle where I attended and later worked for a number of years. He was a big favourite among the crowd there, normally pitted against a lot of the top villains of the day although it was against equally skillful wrestles that he most frequently shone; a narrow defeat by Geoff Portz in 1964 was among the top three fights that I have seen."  

Dave also told us that Francis  went into the music business with Ernie Riley, the two of them putting on dance and music shows. Francis also appeared at the Royal Albert Hall, with Billy Howes, Iska Khan, Gordon Nelson, Rocco Columbo and John Lees being amongst his opponents. 

Championship success eluded Francis, though he did give Norman Walsh a run for his money in a British mid heavyweight championship clash. In November 1964 he met Kendo Nagasaki during the masked man's first week in the professional ranks, following in the footsteps of Jim Hussey and Terry O'Neill.

Of his dozen or so televsion appearances Mike Richards remembers one match against Frikki Alberta.

 "At the end of the match Sullivan was knocked out and when he was revived he started shouting turn on the lights, turn on the lights, in a loud  panicking voice, this lasted for a minute or more and I was quite shocked by it, and the wrestling audience were also very concerned. Genuine or just a good act, I don’t know, but very convincing. "

Francis combined his wrestling commitmnets with those of running a shop in Top Lock, Wigan. Shop work was in his blood as he had since childhood helped his parents in their shop in Park View, Ince, Wigan.

Francis Sullivan continued as one of Britain's top mat men until his retirement in 1966. He went on to own a slot machine business with long time friend and wrestler Billy Riley.

Francis Sullivan passed away peacefully, in hospital, on 6th June, 2009. He was eighty-four years old.

Andreas Svajick  (Janos Svadjek, Andreos Swasjics, Anton Swasjics, Androz Zychich) 

No wrestler had a greater variation for the spelling of his name than this lightening fast Hungarian born lightweight of some forty odd years ago. The name on the birth certificate was Andreas Swaijick.

Whatever the arrangement of letters and consonants the youngster impressed on the many occasions we saw him.

He was athletic and lightning fast, with his clean cut style  at its best against other speed merchants like Johnny Saint, Ian St John and Maurice Hunter.

Andreas was Hungarian born and left his native country in the second half of the 1950s following the Hungarian revolution. He was already an experienced amateur wrestler when he left Hungary to set up home in Accrington, Lancashire. He gained employment as a fitter at the English Electric aircraft factory in nearby Clayton le Moors. With a desire to pursue his wrestling interests in the professional style he joined Bob Bannister's wrestling club. It was here that he met Ian St John, with whom he was to have a long series of scintillating bouts around the country. Andreas turned semi professional around 1961, working for independent promoters Bob Bannister, Cape Promotions and Jack Taylor.

Mostly associated with the independent promoters of the north and midlands, Andreas did work for Joint Promotions on occasions and partnered Zoltan Boscik when the pair lost to the Royal brothers