Wrestling Heritage A-Z
The big man billed from Australia or Canada, but certainly a British domicile, began to make an impact on the British and European scene in the mid 1930s in the opposite corner to big names such as Bert Assirati, The Ghoul, Man Mountain Benny, Bert Mansfield and Dave Armstrong.
Even in the 1930s he was a genuinely national player who could be found on bills the length and breadth of the country. Gable continued wrestling during the war and post war, though in latter years the majority of his bouts were in the north of England.
His long limbs made him quite a straggly character whilst his fair hair and good looks made him a popular star. He was signed up by the Joint Promotion organisation when they were formed in 1952 and went on to make a few of the earliest television appearances before retiring from the ring in 1957.
Born in 1930 the welterweight from Surrey was seen fleetingly around the south of England in 1959 and 1960.
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Bradford based heavyweight who made numerous appearances in Joint Promotions rings in 1963, almost all of them in the north and Scotland.
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Big Crowds and Ticket Touts
In the late 1960s I attended a few wrestling tournaments at the Royal Albert Hall. The sports and social club of the firm I worked for obtained the tickets and laid on coaches. But they didn't do this for the event when Mick McManus was due to wrestle Les Kellet in a return contest.
Myself and a couple of mates decided to go on the tube to the Albert Hall and buy tickets at the door, when we got there we found it was a sellout no tickets available. Fortunately we were young and single and had a little cash to spare, so when a tout offered us 5 shilling tickets for 30 shillings each we accepted. For the benefit of younger Heritage members that's 25p and £1.50.
When we got in we were so high up in the building I expected to see bats flying around and we had to stand looking down over a rail. For a tout to buy up tickets knowing he could make a profit shows how popular wrestling was, but I'm wondering how widespread "ticket touts" were around the halls, I'm sure the "sold out" sign often went up around the country.
I do recall travelling to Newark in the early 1970s to a Max Crabtree show which was topped by Billy Two Rivers vs Kendo Nagasaki. I arrived in the afternoon and the young lady on box office duty told me that she had just sold me the one remaining seat. As it got nearer to showtime ticket touts emerged and tickets were being exchanged for a considerable amount more than the advertised price. For the record, Two Rivers fought Nagasaki to a double count out.
Billed at times from Lima, Peru, and at others from Mexico city, Wildcat also enjoyed two names. His earliest incarnation in British rings was as Pancho Gonzales the colourful Mexican imported to Britain by independent promoter Paul Lincoln.
Legend had it that he became smitten by wrestling the night he walked many miles from his village to watch the bullfight, only to find that wrestling was on that night instead. Such is the nonsense the fans of the sixties was fed, and we have it on good authority from the source of the story that this is the case.
Shortly after being brought to the UK by Lincoln in 1959 and again in 1962 he was snapped up by Joint Promotions, notably losing to Steve Logan at the Royal Albert Hall in a contest where the fans actually cheered the London iron man on to a knock out win.
Our first record of Bob Gardiner is in January, 1936, drawing with Horace Taylor in Bradford. The following bout we uncovered, against College Boy, was reported as an “excellent and clean contest” with Gardiner taking the first fall after 19 minutes and College Boy pinning the Scot in the 30th and 40th minute.
Reports suggest Bob was a skilful wrestler who displayed "A surprising facility in escaping from holds." Bob, from Denny in Stirlingshire, was said to be a Junior Highlands Game champion and billed as middleweight champion of Scotland. Bob was the brother George Gardiner who wrestled in the 1924 Paris Olympics and was placed fourth in the freestyle lightweight class. Bob's opponents included Billy Riley, George DeRelwyskow Jr and French wrestler Alex Poizat. Bob Gardiner does not seem to have continued wrestling following the Second World War. We understand another brother, William, may also have been a professional wrestler.
London based heavyweight born in the the Turks and Caicos Islands made his debut in April, 1975 at Hanley, losing to Pat Curry.
A succession of appearances followed, throughout the south, usually losing to distinguished and less distinguished opponents ranging from Tug Holton to John Kowalski to Wayne Bridges.
He disappeared from the business as quickly as he had appeared later in 1975.
One of my earliest reminiscences was ballet dancer Rikki Starr lifting up Jim Rawlings into an aeroplane spin and spinning him for over 30 seconds before placing him back down on his feet and then drop kicking him, sending him through the ropes for a k.o. I once was watching Nagasaki and Barratt in tag team action on Blackpool's Central Pier. An old Scottish lady sitting next to me was getting surprisingly unhappy with Kendo's tactics and at one point after he had been thrown from the ring, she left her seat and went up to him and said in her Scottish drawl "Kendo, yerrrr no a wrrestlerrr, yerrr just a dirty ------ - --------" I will leave it to the imagination what she did actually say, but it made me laugh, and i bet he did too under the mask. I also remember a great match in Bolton between Marty Jones and Fit Finlay. Jones finished the match by twice hoisting Finlay high in the air and then just dropping him to the canvas, leading to Finlay injuring his knee allowing jones a single leg boston submission for the win. It was the sheer height from which jones was able to lift up Finlay that was awesome. It was the best finish to a fight i can ever remember seeing.
Going back to Kendo, I was once in the front row at Bolton Town Hall with a girlfriend and again, Nags was thrown from the ring landing virtually in her lap. As he struggled to regain his feet he lashed out and virtually back elbowed my girlfriend, she just managed to get her head out of the way. MC that night was Mitzi Mueller who came over and asked if she was ok, and also stated that Nags could get a little nasty when riled - something of an understatement in my view !!
Landmark heavyweight villain and real-life culture vulture, gap-toothed Alan Garfield was billed variously from Sydney and London. With hopes of representing Britain in weightlifting dashed by the cancellation of the 1940 Helsinki Olympics, he assumed this matinee idol’s name after the war and became a major attraction due largely to the originality of his in-ring outrageousness and his transatlantic jaunts where he hammed up the typical English gentleman stereotype and won titles in tag partnered by Karl Von Schober and later Oliver Windrush.
Alan Garfield remains a great favourite of many Heritage site Members and the exploration of his career has been one of the most enlightening of the internet age.
With a 90% win rate at his 1954 to 1962 peak, the Alan Garfield of his final ten years that we remember was a fine vintage wine - thought too fine by Kent Walton and excluded from television post-1965. He lost almost every later bout by falls or disqualification but won the hearts and admiration of all discerning fans through the precision performance he gave us every time.
In 2011 Jop supplied the photo on the right of Alan Garfield as the bearded Candian lumberjack, Yukon Rex, during his early sixties tour of the Cape.
"Alan Garfield on Film" is a discussion thread opened within the Heritage People section on 19.9.2009, view the forum here.
Read our extended tribute: The Turbulent Trailblazer
You wouldn’t get many Gargantuas in a quarter, but we’ll give you two.
The first is the German heavyweight Kurt Zehe who was brought to the UK by promoter Atholl Oakeley in his attempt to revive the all-in style following the war.
Posters claimed he towered eight feet four inches above his opponents and weighing 50 stones. That may have been something of an exaggeration but the boy was certainly big., and reputed to have stood at 7 feet 2 inches.
A huge amount of national publicity led up to Gargantua's 1952 contest against former champion boxer Jack Doyle. When the German arrived in London photos of Zehe lifting Doreen Oakeley, wife of Atholl, were published not just in Britain but in newspapers around the world. Promoter Atholl Oakely hoped the bout would re-stablish him as the country's top promoter, but it proved such a huge anti climax that it did nothing for the reputation of Oakley or the all-in style.
He found more capable heavyweights like Bert Assirati, and tall ones like Primo Carnera, a tougher proposition.
Nevertheless, whatever the size of the opponent Zehe's stature made it very difficult for promoters to find convincing opponents - see him in the photo above towering over one of our big heavyweights, Strangler Ed Bright, in their 1952 encounter at the Royal Albert Hall.
Zehe went on to work regularly in the film world.
The second Gargantua was the less exotic sounding Jim Moran, from Leeds, who also towered over most opponents, but at a more realistic 6’7”. and weighing twenty-one stones.
Moran created quite a buzz around the wrestling world when he first appeared in the ring, it having been a very long time since anyone quite so tall had been seen.
He was one of the many who the knowledgeable Kent Walton told millions of viewer he knew nothing because the man refused to talk to him whilst all readers of The Wrestler knew he was Jim Moran of Leeds.
Whilst Moran had some skill his robotic style did little to create a free-flowing contest. The crowds liked him, though, or at least liked to boo him, and at the end of the sixties and early seventies he was a regular feature on British bills. On occasions used the name Hombre Montana and for a brief period in 1971 was another Black Mask, though it's hard to understand how his identity could have been much of a secret.