The Man We Loved To Hate?
Mick McManus also shared the status accorded many seventies pros when he went on headlining
His in-ring performance was well thought out, carefully crafted to arouse the ire of the audience. None sneered better than a victorious Mick, and none squealed more satisfyingly when his ears were pulled! He successfully put himself across as a man without a single redeeming feature, claiming frequent lucky verdicts, as well as regional, national and European titles. If truth be told, it is hard to identify any true skills or agility that elevated his performance above the level of contemporaries such as Joe Murphy, Johnny Kwango or Tug Holton. But he was the perfect professional, travelling widely and reliably to contribute diligently to the national Joint Promotions operation, a fact graciously acknowledged by one sixties Scottish journalist.
This status brought its own jealousies, too, and one of the most sensational matches in the history we describe was another televised match in 1967 from Lime Grove Baths in London, when northern promoter Norman Morrell apparently double-crossed McManus by having his man, Peter Preston, refuse to take the planned beating. McManus chose to get himself disqualified as there was clearly no straight wrestling way he could beat the younger and heavier
What we have yet to unearth, however, is just how and why this admittedly fiery but scarcely outstanding welterweight scaled the pro ranks from his forties debut, through the fifties, reclaiming the British Welterweight title at times from the widely recognised truly skilful Jack Dempsey, to become the major sixties name through his feud with Jackie Pallo, and how he enjoyed the in-and-out-of-ring benefits denied almost all his peers.
This clout was clear in so many ways described here and has puzzled wrestling fans for several decades. Perhaps we
The pair's fortunes were sealed, and over 5 years they exploited their mutual hatred to the full inside and outside the ring, the two Cup Final day match-ups forming the absolute pinnacle of British wrestling's fortunes. Ever. McManus remained undefeated in his sixties matches with Pallo. The arrival of Jackie Pallo Junior on the scene allowed new angles, and the final series of three seventies singles bouts is reported in our Years of Wrestling sections, 1972 and 1973.
Many a nostalgic fan would hope to discover that the two were great friends and shared a laugh and a beer over the success they created for themselves. Alas, no evidence exists to suggest this, and if anything a cold merely tolerating enmity identified their relationship outside the ring.
This invincibility in the Pallo feud leads us to wonder when precisely McManus had become part of Dale Martin Promotions. Certainly from autumn 1965 and the time of his name change, shortly before Dale Martin promotions took over Paul Lincoln's set-up. But we still wonder about the preceding 15 years. No single significant event in southern wrestling was complete without McManus’s presence, most notably shows at The Royal Albert Hall in the presence of the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of Kent. Even setting aside the limited ringcraft we reluctantly mention, McManus risked over-exposure by always headlining such extravaganzas.
This ownership theory fits in with his parallel promoter contemporary, Paul Lincoln, who also liked to run his promotion from the centre of the ring, behind the mask of Doctor Death. See the two in memorable and previously unthinkable 1966 opposition, left, with a youthful Max Ward trying to intervene between his past and present employers.
It could be stated that Mick McManus’s anonymity as manager was protected even more effectively than the identity of many a masked wrestler. Equally mysteriously, it came to light in 2011 via the Wrestling Heritage Talk Wrestling forum that, in the world of music, Mick McManus wrote Hawkwind's Silver Machine. We await further evidence that this was not a hoax.
Whatever the circumstances of his fame, none can dispute Mick McManus’s lifetime dedication to the professional wrestling business, its disciplines and secrecy. As the famed Emperor Nero haircut goes on and on into Mick's nineties, protecting and promoting the good name of professional wrestling in the twenty-first century, we salute that professionalism and openly treasure one who, in this era of over-statement, can truly be termed a living legend.
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