The Wigan Peer
There were wrestlers who looked as though they could wrestle, those who could wrestle and a few who could really wrestle. Wrestle until it hurt.
Anyone watching him in action was left in no doubt. Their five shillings were not going to buy them colour, showmanship or acrobatics. Just pure wrestling. Skilful, crafty, tenacious and very hard, he epitomised wrestlers of his era. Hard as nails. Nothing flash. For Jack Dempsey showmanship meant carrying a brighter than usual towel or wearing black trunks with a single white stripe. Not that he was a wrestler who would lower himself. He was a wrestler who didn't need gimmicks.
By the early 1960s the age of such wrestlers was drawing to a close and we saw the emergence of men such as Breaks, Faulkner and Cortez, who were able to combine their wrestling skill with speed, acrobatics, excitement and charisma. The unkind might say that Jack had none of these, but that would be to miss the point entirely. Here was a master of many holds, a student of the Snakepit, who was able to apply his skill with a touch of genius, and relentlessly punish his opponents. The entertainment value of Jack Dempsey was watching him outwit and outclass opponents with sheer wrestling brilliance.
In a gruelling match against the much more youthful Vic Faulkner, their styles could hardly have differed more. The match in itself was a symbol of our changing world. Dempsey was a youth of the pre-war mining era, and Faulkner was a youth of Harold Wilson's "White heat of technology." Dempsey, the wiley technician and master in wearing opponents down by consistently outwrestling them, against the young Faulkner who supplemented his wrestling skill with speed and acrobatic flair. They shared a wrestling heritage by both coming from the industrialised areas of
Another memorable Dempsey bout was against
For a wrestler the calibre of Jack Dempsey it seems discourteous to begin listing individual highlights in such a long and illustrious career. Where would we begin? A win over Jackie Pallo at the Royal Albert Hall? Overcoming Mick McManus for the British welterweight crown? Establishing himself as undefeated welterweight champion with a win over Eddie Capelli? Dozens of championship successes as holder of the British title at lightweight and combined British and European welterweight titles at welterweight?
Here was a man whose chosen sport took him from the mining areas of
Towards the end of his career Jack, then working for the independents, issued a challenge to McManus and Pallo. This must have been the idea of the promoter, It seems unlikely to have been Jack Dempsey's idea, not just because promotional differences meant the bouts would never happen, but because it just wasn’t Jack’s style. The leaflets issuing the challenge were placed on chairs before fans entered the hall. It wasn't Jack's style to parade around the ring, shouting the odds and throwing his leaflets at the fans. Jack was simply a wrestler through and through, a monarch of the mat, truly a Wigan Peer.
Sign in or sign up now to read Members Only articles: Wryton's FILO (First in, Last Out)