The First Celebrity of Professional Wrestling
The First Celebrity of Professional Wrestling
One of the biggest names ever created by televised wrestling was born into Islington's Gutteridge boxing family in 1926 and had scaled no particular heights as a 1950s professional wrestler when he made his television début against Cliff Beaumont. In this bout, a failed posting resulted in Pallo spreadeagling the corner and seemingly hurting his private parts. The switchboards were jammed with viewers wanting to know how he was, his name became known, and Pallo needed little more encouragement to establish the persona of the pigtailed bombastic middleweight with for the time outrageous hair, ribbon and striped trunks.
His wife Trixie and young son were often to be seen at ringside and were worked into his bouts if at all possible, with kisses from Jack - and once, memorably, from his opponent. Years later, Trixie’s contribution would be honoured when Wrestling Heritage awarded her the accolade of First Lady of the Heritage Years.
Pallo’s feud with Mick McManus from 1962 to 1973 was the greatest in wrestling history, but what remains rather unclear to this day is just how deep the rivalry went; Pallo beat McManus once only during this feud. Read our review of 1972. However, even the very basic facts about the feud are widely misreported, and were so as early as 1970 in the Mick McManus Wrestling Book, which introduced the myth that the pair had fought a 1965 Cup Final Day grudge match.
So in this 2011 tribute to Jackie Pallo, Wrestling Heritage now specifies the true events of the six-bout series that constitutes still the greatest feud in wrestling history, ever, anywhere.
In April 1962 at a televised presentation from Wembley, Pallo came to the ring apron after McManus had just defeated his opponent and challenged him to a match with £100 side stakes. The all-action affair duly took place and was aired on Cup Final Day, ending in a fall apiece draw, with Stan Stone refereeing. A year later, they had a rematch again on Cup Final day, McManus a lucky winner, and thereby retaining his Southern Area Welterweight title, with Lou Marco officiating.
The next four bouts all took place at the Royal Albert Hall and had no national television coverage. In 1967, right, McManus again claimed a controversial decision, Max Ward stopping the bout due to cuts to Pallo’s forehead. Then in December 1972, Pallo claimed his only victory in the series, which led on to two unsuccessful 1973 challenges for McManus’s European Middleweight Championship.
Sure the pair had other encounters: several 1950s match-ups included a 1959 televised victory for McManus in Ipswich, but the feud had not started at all at that point. From the 1962 bout to 1967, they had only one other match, in Westbury. This lack of frequency in their encounters will astonish younger readers who would imagine that the pair would have been wrestling nightly around the land. Even more astonishing is that in spite of the lack of in-ring action, the feud was very much alive throughout this period.
To complete the record, we point out that after the 1967 bout, Pallo and McManus fought each other a total of 17 times in the years 1967 to 1969, at a total of 11 venues, all well away from Dale Martin rings, and at venues in Scotland and Wales, Yorkshire and Lancashire, and Nottingham and Leicester. Pallo was allowed controversial verdicts only where a return bout had already been booked at the same venue when McManus would generally triumph.
The innermost details of the feud in and out of the ring have been described clearly by Pallo himself. We can only wonder at what McManus's version might be. Early sixties Mr TV genuinely had a high opinion of his own status in the business. But McManus was carving his own niche at the same time, becoming a director of Dale Martin Promotions, and living the part he created in the ring. Unrest had just been put to bed after several years of strike threats and unionisation, and it is probable that Pallo's persistent dressing room tirades of how He would run the business and how He would eventually set up his own promotion were enough to make the promoters treat him as a loose cannon. Tellingly, in his peak years, Pallo wrestled on tv only about five times a year from 1963 to 1968, while McManus appeared more than double that. The limited number of Pallo v McManus clashes during their feud may also have been a sign that the promoters wanted to keep a lid on this ever expanding personality.
McManus, however, was not Pallo’s only rival. Throughout the late sixties Bobby Barnes was a regular opponent and the pair had a series of grudge matches centred mostly around venues close to the Lewisham wrestler’s home. In tag, it was surprisingly European Welterweight Champion Alan Colbeck from Wakefield who proved Pallo’s most regular partner – until Jackie Junior appeared on the scene in 1972.
Unlike McManus, Pallo regularly faced much heavier opponents including Mike Marino, Andy Robin, and, right, Judo Al Hayes.
When Eamonn Andrew sprang his big red book surprise in This Is Your Life, Colbeck was one of a handful of wrestlers to pay their respects, others being Steve Viedor, Les Kellett, Mick McManus and, right, Jimmy Savile.
The Mr TV tag came after a late fifties appearance on Sunday Night at the London Palladium, and for 6 or 8 years from 1958 he was seldom out of the limelight. Let it not be forgotten that he used his fame for the benefit of wrestling as a whole, typically getting his Avengers co-star, Honor Blackman, left, to a 1964 Royal Albert Hall show when she was at the height of her Goldfinger fame, and having her presented in the ring.
By way of illustration of how times have changed and what big names our sixties heroes were, when Pallo was billed to appear at Bishops Stortford in 1964 all tickets were sold out within 3 hours of the box office opening.
Never underestimate the skill of Pallo the wrestler, and the highpoint of his "competitive" career when on 12th April 1969 he defeated Bert Royal to become only the third holder of the British Heavy Middleweight Championship, a rare photo of the belted Londoner appearing right. Take no notice of superficial obituaries printed in the national press purely for monetary gain and with scant regard for wrestling facts.
Possibly as a result of real rivalry with Mick McManus and his fellow directors at Dale Martin Promotions, Pallo was the biggest name to break away from the dominant Joint Promotions and for a while successfully lured big stars and promoted colourful bills - "The Stars you cannot see on television" - and his Bexhill bills, left, show that plenty of big names were content to follow him.
His 1985 exposé "You Grunt, I'll Groan" gives a poignant portrayal of the business difficulties he faced as a promoter. Some within the business were disgusted at this betrayal, but in truth Jack wasn’t revealing all that much that the previous ten years hadn’t made us aware of already. Re-reading the book in the twenty-first century, this exposé of exposés still leaves many murky secrets of professional wrestling to reveal. Pallo was at war with the rival promoter but still had great loyalty to his co-workers and wrestlers as a whole.
In the ring Jackie Pallo was a risk-taking athlete on the one hand (see our Feature Speciality Manoeuvres) but unsettlingly pushed believability to the limits at other times owing to his over-the-top cockiness. We rejoiced in his sit-on back breaker and arm lever, executed left on Ricki Starr, his aeroplane spin, and his cross-shoulder backbreaker, but we winced at the regularity of his walk-outs when fans had paid top dollar to see him face bill-toppers of equal standing such as George Kidd or Masambula.
A great traveller, Jackie Pallo took the game reliably nationwide and made numerous television and stage appearances as well documented elsewhere. This willingness to put his neck regularly on the line at wrestling venues notoriously hostile to cocky Londoners, such as Liverpool Stadium, King’s Hall Belfast and pretty much anywhere in Scotland, has been much appreciated by Heritage Members in the five years of this site’s existence. In fact we can scarcely remember a bad word about Jackie Pallo from fans or wrestlers on our Talk Wrestling forum.
So it is high time that we inducted this multi-faceted star to this Shining Stars section this summer of 2011, and we hope readers agree with our decision.
In Wrestling Heritage's 2014 interview with Jackie Pallo Junior, we finally got to the definitive bottom of how and when the Mr. T.V. nickname started, after numerous guesses in the Talk Wrestling forum. JJ relates: "One night when he was wrestling, MC Francis Blake introduced Dad as "one of the television wrestling stars", whereupon Dad grabbed the mike and said "Not one of, MR TV". Soon after, early in 1961, Dad appeared on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. It was a walk-on appearance and host Don Arrol introduced him as Mr TV. And it stuck."
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