Exactly why Steve Grey should change his ring name from Green to Grey we don't know. Maybe he wanted to avoid confusion with Roger Green, but whatever the reason it made this lightweight wizard none the less colouful and pleasing for the fans. Steve Greay first graced Britain’s wrestling halls with his fast, slick ringmastery in 1970, and during the first decade of the twenty-first century he could still turn on the magic at will.
Looking back to his television début in the summer of 1971, he was sharing a bill with very great personalities of the past Judo Al Hayes (known better to fans of American wrestling as Lord Alfred Hayes), Big Bruno Elrington, Mucky Mal Kirk and Camden Town’s hardcase Peter Rann.
That autumn he was in equally illustrious company for his Royal Albert Hall début when he defeated Ireland’s Jim Fitzmaurice. That bill featured other well known wrestlers already at the veteran stage including Johnny Kwango, Les Kellett, Wild Ian Campbell as well as a Rare appearance in Britain of the flying Spaniard, Ricardo Torres.
Over the following decades, Steve Grey honed his skills and became one of the most respected British Lightweight champions in history, putting his belt on the line on many occasions, losing and regaining it, and facing a veritable Who’s Who of light and welterweight grapplers from home and abroad.
Victories in the early seventies over European champions of the preceding era, Julien Morice and Ken Joyce, had sent him on his winning ways. Other veteran national champions were soon outwitted in their turn, Eddie Capelli and Tony Costas being notable scalps.
The next challenge was to establish supremacy on his own London patch against former British Lightweight champions and contemporaries, Jon Cortez and Zoltan Boscik.
Grey never shirked from going up a weight to take on welter and middleweights, and gave as good as he got in memorable bouts against European Middleweight Champions Vic Faulkner, Mick McManus and another of the legends honoured on our programme, Superstar Mal Sanders. It will be interesting tonight to see whether the unconcealed animosity with long-standing adversary Sanders bubbles once again to the surface.
Grappling fans will perhaps remember with most nostalgia the Steve Grey period when he regularly opposed the two top northern stars of the lighter weights.
Blackpool’s World Lightweight Champion Johnny Saint was a wrestler in Grey’s own style and they gave beautiful precision displays of professional wrestling for purists up and down the land. Although Grey triumphed it was never in one of the matches where the World title was at stake.
It was a different matter when Grey’s opponent was Bradford’s Jim Breaks. Faced with Breaks’s blindside fouling and scurrilous tactics, Grey proved himself a worthy opponent on many occasions.
In the spring of 1978 Grey defeated Breaks at semi-final stage in an open tournament to determine the new British Lightweight champion, going on to claim outright victory and the title for the very first time over Hanley’s Bobby Ryan. As a side note to hardened wrestling fans, that bout with Bobby Ryan was notable as it pitted against each other two sons of well known television referees. Who were the referees in question?
Even though Grey had won the title, such were the heat and controversy aroused in the semi-final that a return bout was an absolute must and Breaks v Grey II was transmitted on wrestling’s showcase day of the year, FA Cup Final Day, with the Londoner successfully retaining his belt.
The following six years saw much toing and froing with an exciting long-term feud between North and South, Evil against Good – Breaks against Grey. As late as 1983 Steve Grey was still regaining his lost Lightweight title from Breaks, even though he had other business on the side, not least of which was going up a weight to claim the British welterweight title from Bristol’s Danny Collins, successfully retaining it, and being a regular tag partner to Big Daddy.
It was against Collins that Grey appeared in his final televised bout in the final month of ITV wrestling, October 1988. He was destined to remain a dominant force in British wrestling for two decades more.