British wrestling history 

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S: Swales - Szakacs

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 Dick Swales 

Mike Marino and Norman Walsh were the favourites of young Dick Swales when he went with his father to watch the wrestling in Middlesbrough. Yorkshireman Dicky, from Thornaby on the south bank of the River Tees dreamed of standing in the ring like his heroes, but unlike most young fans he decided to do something about it. He joined the Middlesbrough Amateur Wrestling Club, a grand sounding outfit that occupied two rented rooms in a house in Newport Road, Middlesbrough.

When the club folded in 1950 Dick continued his learning at Joe Walton's Boys Club and finally St Lukes Wrestling Club. Dick turned professional in 1957, the start of eleven  great years.  Dick retired from the ring when he stopped enjoying himself, with his wife burning his boots to make sure he didn't change his mind! For a dozen years Dick wrestled in the fairground booths of Ron Taylor taking on all comers alongside  Boy Devlin,  Farmer’s Boy Peter Hornsby,   Duraham Ox Arnie Bullier, Ken Prest,  and Joe Robinson.

From the start of his professional career in 1957 Dick was sharing a dressing room with his heroes Marino and Walsh as he worked for Joint Promotions against the likes of Mel Riss and Bernard Murray, one of the two men he most enjoyed working with, the other being Boy Devlin.  The photo above was taken in February, 1963, at  Don Robinson show in Scarborough, with Dick standing alongside Ski Hi Lee. Sometimes billed as Dirty Dick Swales Dick was never really a villain,   "More of a loveable rogue who sent them home happy," said Les Prest.

Monty Swan

One of the good guys of the ring, with a ready handshake and a smile on his face. That's how we remember Monty Swan of Ellesmere Port. Mind you, there wasn't much of a smile on his face the night we watched him at Preston in the rowdiest match of them all, partnering Bob Bell in a tag team contest against the Outlaw and Dr Death.

On other occasions we witnessed dazzling displays of technical brilliance against Mick McMichael and Steve Young.

Monty turned professional in the late 1950s, quickly establishing himself and building up his experience against seasoned pros like Tony Vallon, Don Branch and Chic Purvey. National exposure came along in April, 1960, with a televised match against another up and coming light heavyweight, Tony Charles. The fans immediately took to Monty, and he was back on their screens the following month, against Bob Steele, and shortly afterwards opposing Dean Stockton. He was to appear on tv around twenty times over the next few years. One advertised televised match that didn't take place was in May, 1962, when he was scheduled to face Jackie Pallo on Cup Final day. At the eleventh hour promoters Dale Martin substituted Monty with Mick McManus, thus setting up the first of the televised grudge matches of all time.

Never afraid of travelling Monty worked for all members of the Joint Promotion organisation. It was Dale Martin Promotions that gave him his first British championship opportunity, against Tommy Mann at Swindon in October, 1960. Weighing around thirteen and a half stones Monty was well placed to face a range of opponents from athletic middleweights like Bobby Steele to fully blown heavyweights such as Johnny Yearsley. Whoever the opponent, fast and skilful or heavy and thugish, Monty had the skills to deal with them all and entertain the fans. Highlight of his career, we would guess, was the night he faced Les Kellett at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

In 1970 Monty left Joint Promotions and began working for the independent promoters. He was one of a number of Joint Promotion men, Count Bartelli, Syed Saif Shah and Roy Bull Davis being others, who made the move at this time to work for a new young promoter, Brian Dixon, whom he had known for many years since the time Brian was a second at Liverpool Stadium. Monty continued working throughout the country for the independents until the mid 1970s, working for Brian Dixon, Taylor & Allan, Jack Cassidy and numerous other opposition men.

Eddie Rose recalls working with Monty, "He was always good fun to travel with and to work with and had a lot to offer by way of in-car entertainment with his funny stories about wrestling and the characters he had encountered. He always aspired to be a heavyweight like his mate Bob Bell but never quite managed it despite intensive weight training. He declared that the only thing he got for all the hard work was bigger breasts!" For many years Monty helped Bob Bell with the organisation of the Northern reunion in Ellesmere Port before moving to Scotland where at the time of writing he still lives.

Terry Swan (Terry Quinn)

1970s  Ellesmere Port wrestler  and brother of Monty Swan. In later tears Terry used the name Terry Quinn and tagged with Mighty John Quinn, billed as the Canadian's brother.

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Bob Sweeney

The muscular young Yorkshireman was described as a “young titan” in the Wrestler magazine, and the name was apt for a youngster who had skill and speed in abundance.

Appearing at his best against technical greats like Ernie Riley, who he challenged for the light heavyweight crown on at least six occasions,

Halifax born Bob hit the headlines in April, 1960, when he made his television debut against fiery Bill Howes.

More televised outings followed, including appearances against Riley and Steve Logan, making him one of the most popular and highly respected light heavyweights  in the early sixties.

Around 1964 Bob Sweeney disappeared from the rings leaving fans disappointed and wondering just what had happened to this fine wrestler in his prime. The mystery, and much more, can be found out in our extended tribute 

Read our extended tribute: Yorkshire's  Shooting Star 

Josef Szabo

Joe was a Hungarian refugee from the same uprising that saw Tibor and Peter Szakacs  arrive in the UK. He had amateur  experience in Hungary and turned professional in this country mainly to supplement his income as a swimming instructor and baths manager. 

He lived in Levenshulme, Manchester quite close to Jack Atherton, Grant Foderingham and several other wrestlers. He trained at various gyms including Panther's gym. He wrestled as a middleweight but would take on all comers regardless. His opponents included Billy Graham, Mad Mike Mahoney, Jimmy Lewis, Ian "Mad Dog" Wilson, Roy Fortuna, Eddie Rose and Pete Lindberg.

He worked mainly for the Independent promoters rather than Joint Promotions. Later he tried his hand at promoting with mixed results. He could go from a full-house one night to an empty one the next and eventually this ebullient, good humoured wrestler decided to call quits on the wrestling scene and concentrate on leisure management. He left the Manchester area in the late '70s, address unknown but rumoured to be in the south Midlands.

Peter Szakacs

Born in Budapest in 1930, grew up in the Transylvanian town of Szatmarnetdi, the British wrestling public were forever grateful that Hungarian Peter Szakacs lived his adult life in Britain, most of those years in Brixton, London, not far from the Dale Martin gym where he trained and left most nights of the week to venues around the south of England. Szatmarnetdi, a Romanian town since 1919, was returned to Hungary in 1940. This gave the Szakacs family the opportunity to move to the town from Budapest in 1942, when Peter was twelve years old. Following the Second World War the town was returned to Romania and the Szakacs family moved back to Budapest.

It was the Hungarian uprising of 1956 that brought Peter and elder brother Tibor to Britain. Born on March 24th, 1930, Peter was already an experienced amateur wrestler in his native land. The brothers left Hungary in the winter of 1956-7, made their way to England and were temporarily housed at a refugee centre in Worcestershire.

Tibor moved to London and was the first to enter the professional ranks in Britain. Peter followed shortly afterwards, moving to Brixton and being introduced to Jack Dale, who gave him his professional wrestling opportunity. By the winter of 1958 Peter was travelling most nights of the week to wrestle around the south of England. It was inevitable that the lighter of the two brothers would remain overshadowed by big brother, but that should not diminish his status as a stalwart supporting wrestlers for two decades. Peter was on a roll in the mid-sixties with a 1964 Royal Albert Hall victory over Al Miquet and two 1966 televised bouts against Mr TV Pallo, on both occasions coming within a whisker of victory. Remembered not just as a value for money singles wrestler Peter also tagged with Zoltan Boscik, as the Magyars, a pairing that held their own with any team in the land. A reliable and consistent performer Peter's wrestling career was brought to a premature end through injury. That was by no means the end as career made an equally successful second career as one of Dale Martin's most respected referees. Peter also appeared in the Dickie Henderson show and the film Snatch.

Peter Szakacs died in April, 2015.

Tibor Szakacs

Record five-time winner of the coveted Royal Albert Hall Tournament Trophy, wrestling's F.A. Cup, Hungarian Army Officer Tibor fled to Britain in December 1956 and immediately started a career-long association with Joint Promotions, from his first professional contest in January the following year in Ramsgate against Billy Joyce.  A classically trained purist, he was nevertheless dour in his unsmiling approach and grimaced extensively, as left.   His counter holds were a pleasure to behold, and for one so skilful it was always rather anomolous that his speciality should have been a back-handed chop to the chest when he was the master of suplexes, flying tackles and other more scientific manoeuvres. 

Right he is seen proudly receiving his 1963 trophy from HRH Prince Philip. 

Only limited success on his rare ventures to the German international tournaments but a largely unvanquished Union Jack-flying defender in the face of visiting heavyweights, whether technicians like Tibor himself, or rule benders. 

Occasionally partnered Steve Viedor and brother Peter in tag, a rare twin autographed tag picture of the brothers is on display in  the Autographs section, but the most notable of his limited tag appearances was his 1966 pairing with Henri Pierlot. Partners Kendo Nagasaki and Count Bartelli fell out and The Count was subsequently unmasked in a challenge contest.

Tibor sustained a serious eye injury in a later solo bout against Kendo Nagasaki. 

His career ended with sad showings in silly tag bouts against the belly butt brigade, due to ignorant promoters being unable to showcase his undoubtedly slick skills in a suitably appealing manner.   Landlord of the Lord Palmerston in King’s Road Chelsea and  featured in a downbeat 2005 BBC radio programme from a snobbish yet terminally low-life Hungarian emigré who decided it was his preroragitive to make detrimental comments about fans and practitioners of the magnificent concept that was British Professional Wrestling.