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 inde-pendent bills. Having boxed, and won 17 amateur wrestling titles under his real name, Bernard Hermann, Ricki Starr then 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 many occasions.
Starr arrived in England at the behest of Paul Lincoln Promotions but was a rare example of Joint Promotions instantly poaching a new bill-topper, thanks to their ability to give him national television exposure.
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 1966 is legendary, Starr claiming the deciding fall in five seconds of the sixth and final round. Starr later scaled down to as little as 13 stone 2 pounds and, at this weight in his final three televised appearances, spun not only mid-heavyweights Czeslaw and Haggetty to knock-out defeats but also the 19 stones Mucky Mal Kirk.
Heritage Members may be surprised to learn that Ricki Starr appeared in only eight televised bouts in the sixties, and the Logan bout was the final one. Furthermore, several of these bouts were edited down to only short glimpses of the action. The promoters and producers were treading very warily to see what reaction Starr's incredible antics would create.
British fans were fortunate to have the very best of Starr, at the height of sixties homophobia. All he had to do was a few ballet twirls and the whole nation was discussing his antics – it was all in their minds!
Starr appeared alongside William Rushton and others on the number one British chat show of the sixties, the Eamonn Andrews Show, left.
In 2011, British fans enjoy some sense of ownership of sixties Ricki Starr, but his record shows that we may be jumping to wrong conclusions. That sparsity of televised appearances was reflected in the halls, and it seems that Starr simply made a series of short tours, with a televised bout more or less each time. He was sharing himself around Europe, wrestling in month-long German tournaments, and enjoying parallel fame in France. His fame spread and he travelled all over the globe, including in Egypt, Tunisia, Greece and Turkey. He was reputed to be earning a massive £35,000 a year.
Ricki Starr’s Royal Albert Hall appearances included a drop-kick knockout of Dangerous Danny Lynch, and a disqualification verdict over Mick McManus, right.
Our research throws up another surprise on the intriguing subject of Ricki Starr versus Les Kellett matches, since a photo of this clash of clowns appeared in the Pictorial History of Wrestling. Starr defeated Les Kellett on every one of their 13 bouts between 1964 and 1967. In 1972 however, the pair wrestled to a draw in Hull, perhaps a sign of Kellett's new status and the fleeting nature of Starr's visits. An unexpected sideline of this research throws up the fact that Les Kellett was Ricki Starrs’s most frequent British opponent. See photos left.
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, however, and Starr only drew with Goldbelt Maxine, in their bout left.
Starr’s 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.
Through the late seventies Ricki Starr wrestled regularly for Jackie Pallo and other independent promoters. Pallo v Starr matches were big box office nationwide.
In the latter years Ricki Starr lived in London but declined any contact with the wrestling fraternity. He died in 2014
Oh, by the way, have you ever wondered where Richard Starkey got his name from when he became drummer for the Beatles ....
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The Early Years - Ron Historyo has delved into the archives
In 1972 Ricky was in the States with UK friend Judo Al Hayes. Ricky and Al had become friends when Ricky first came to Britain.
In 1972 Ricky was in the States with UK friend Judo Al Hayes.
Ricky and Al had become friends when Ricky first came to Britain.