The Globetrotting Heavyweight
Many Wrestling Heritage readers will share our memories of Earl Black as the villainous Australian heavyweight who hit our shores in 1970 seemingly to show us just how those convicts we had exported a couple of centuries earlier had turned out. As with so many things in wrestling it now emerges that reality was not quite how it seemed, but whilst the Earl Black story may not be the one you expect it is no less interesting or remarkable.
For starters the man from the land of convicts wasn’t born in Australia at all, but some twelve thousand miles away in Sheffield, England. Life was hard for a youngster from a big family, he is one of eight children, and in his teens Earl had the urge to get away from it all and make his own way in the world. A life at sea and an opportunity to see the world seemed very appealing, and so that’s what he set out to do.
Working for the Shaw-Saville line on a voyage from London to Australia aboard the Taranaki seventeen year old Earl injured his right knee. Complications set in and the injury led to a blood infection and the onset of osteomylitis, a disease from which two others in the hospital he was being treated died whilst Earl was undergoing treatment.
After a year in hospital Earl returned to the UK but was soon back to work and on his travels once again. Whilst recovering from his knee injury Earl had begun to work out regularly in the gym and was encouraged by wrestlers he met to learn a few moves. Earl,who had previously tried his luck at boxing and not enjoyed the experience, decided to give the grappling game a try. He continued to visit gymnasiums on his travels and became a familiar face at the gym used by New Zealand wrestlers Steve Rickard and Joe Komone. Encouraged by the two New Zealand wrestlers Earl soon made his professional debut in Wellington, New Zealand's windy city, in 1966.
Earl was a regular traveller across the Tasman and his new career soon took him to Australia. In the mid sixties there were opportunities for young men to gain experience wrestling in Sydney. Many small clubs put on shows every week and there was always a need for young talent. He was taken on by promoter Hal Morgan and was soon working regularly at servicemen clubs, surf clubs, rugby clubs and the like around the city.
“Hal Morgan was a very hard submission wrestler in his day, sadistic at times. He was a hard man to work for, but I got plenty of work, in both Australia and New Zealand. The wrestlers were wrestling every night, sometimes twice a night, dashing from one place to another. This is how we got the experience that was to prove invaluable. “
With a natural talent, good physique and a charismatic personality it didn't take long for Earl to get noticed and was soon signed up to wrestle in the World Series of Wrestling, which took him around the world to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and India. Bouts against Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba in the Japan series are still vivid in Earl's mind and bring a smile of satisfaction to his face.
The rugged style of Earl Black was introduced to British crowds in February, 1971. The fans made up their mind very quickly. Here was a man to boo and jeer. Earl Black did his job well. He took the lead against Sean Regan at the Royal Alber Hall only for good to prevail when the Irishman took the decision by a knock out. During his short visit Earl would meet the biggest names in British wrestling - Marino, Szakacs, Veidor, Zaronoff and the rest. Unlike many overseas visitors Black did not play the part of the conquering hero, but often went down to the good British guy only after giving him a good beating much to the disapproval of the fans. It wasn't just the wrestling style that made earl Black memorable, it was also a muscular body covered in tatoos, "Each one has a story to tell."
Earl moved on from Britain to work in Japan, where he found it difficult to adjust to the lifestyle, not to mention the food. He felt much more at home in Canada, where he became one of the most successful wrestlers working for Stu Hart's Stampede Promotions. It was here that he made good friends with fellow British wrestlers Angus Campbell and Les Thornton. Earl was known in canada as Sailor Earl Black and Black Jack Black. He worked with a number of tag partners and whilst he names Kurt Von Hess as the most satisfying it was with Joe Tomasso that he won the International Tag Team Title in 1971, not once but twice.
Further success came in the USA where he worked in Florida fro Eddie Graham. Fate was all the time waiting to deal a cruel blow. Earl was beginning to have trouble with his back. He had suffered from recurring back problems from the start of his career and puts the problems down to a very hard ring used by promoter Hal Morton in Australia. Numerous back injuries took their toll until it could take no more. Earl Black was forced into retirement before his thirtieth birthday.
He returned to Britain and developed a number of business interests in Luton. He also began to promote his own shows in Bedfordshire, and did wrestle occasionally but knew that regular bouts would result in permanent injury.
With the memories still alive, and finding a new lease of life as he discovers the wonders of the internet, Earl Black is alive and well, living contentedly in Leeds.