O: Oakeley - Odooma
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
One of the great heavyweights of the 1930's; only our countdown of Top Wrestlers of the !930s will reveal whether he was the greatest, or how close he came. In support of Atholl Oakeley are the fact that he was one of the innovators of the new style of wrestling that was so popular in Britain in the 1930s, he was a British and European heavyweight champion, and one of the country's top promoters from the early 1930s until the early 1950s.
Not bad wrestling credentials for a man whose grandfather was Charles William Oakley 4th baronet of Shrewsbury. Atholl Oakeley succeeded his cousin, whose son was pre-deceased, as the 7th baronet of Shrewsbury. Our “Years of Wrestling” series details the pivotal part played by Oakeley in the history of British wrestling.
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When Middlesbrough’s Ron Oakley moved from physical culture and body building to wrestling he acquired thousands of new fans and admiration for a body that gained him the name the “Northern Adonis,” and place on the cover of "Health and Strength" magazine in January, 1956.
This man had muscles where we didn’t know muscles existed. He turned professional in 1960, when he was twenty-four, and had already won around twenty body building titles. These included Mr Yorkshire, finalist in Mr Britain and British representative in Mr Universe.
Within a couple of years of turning professional he was in combat with the big names of the age, not just in his own middleweight division, but against much heavier men such as Billy Howes and Eric Taylor.
Around a dozen television appearances included amongst his opponents Johnny Kwango, Eddie Capelli, Peter Szakacs, Pasquale Salvo and Bert Royal, the majority of them being for Dale Martin Promotions.
Throughout the 1960s Ron remained a popular middleweight around the country. He was also an influence on other young body builders and encouraged many of them into professional wrestling. He owned and operated his own gymnasium in the St Hilda's area of Middlesbrough, the home of many successful body builders and wrestlers.
Bob Archer O’Brien
Our memories are of this veteran welterweight who was able to hold his own, and usually defeat, most of the younger wrestlers of the day. He was a popular hero of the day, with a smile that would quickly evaporate his rugged facial features.
Bob's career, which started in India, developed at home into one of Britain’s best post war welterweights. Maybe it was a lack of colour, his modest disposition or lack of good fortune but although his skill placed him alongside the likes of Dempsey, Kidd and Capelli, and way beyond certain other weltereweight superstars , Bob didn't receive the full acclaim that he deserved from the paying public. That's not to say the fans didn't respect him, they did so hugeley, and always enjoyed seeing his name on the bill, but his drawing power didn't match some of his contemporaries.
Working mostly in the south of England Bob had fans around the country thanks to the medium of television. Indeed, he was one of a handful of post war professionals who appeared on television way back in the pioneer days of both tv and our sport. On 6th January, 1947, Bob appeared on BBC television wrestling the Cambridge wrestler Charlie Law, who was to gain fame as a professional known as College Boy.
A modest, unassuming man Bob Archer O’Brien must be included in any list of post war greats. Following a wrestling career that spanned three decades he went on to become a popular referee in the days when a referee really could make or break a contest.
The Chelmsford star also bestowed two other fine wrestlers on UK audiences, his sons Bob and Chris Anthony. In 1971 he was to be seen in ring action again, coaxed back by independent promoters.
Twice holder of the British lightweight championship, for two weeks in 1991 and then from 1993 until 1998, Jimmy Ocean just edges his way into the wrestling heritage years.
A sole ITV appearance (against Ivan Trevors) and a few more on C4C and satellite channels brought him to national attention. His high flying, exciting style, and a penchant for skulduggery made him a huge favourite amongst British fans. Considered by many modern day fans to have been hugely under-rated at the time Jimmy Ocean could conceivably have been a star in the highly competitive 1960s and 1970s.
He can be seen on the left roughing up Johnny Kidd, and on the right with tag partner Ricky Knight and Sweet Sarya. Ocean and Knight made up the Superflys tag team, generally considered one of the top tag teams of the 1980s. At one time Jimmy formed frequent tag team opposition to Big Daddy and his numerous partners.
The Navaresse Lion, Heavyweight champion of Spain and 1940s world title claimant, visited Britain in 1957, 1958, 1960 and again in 1962.
He was the son of Javier Ochoa, a great Spanish wrestler who played a leading role in popularising professional wrestling to Mexico.
Opponents included Ernie Riley, Black Butcher Johnson Norman Walsh, Geoff Portz and Count Bartelli.
The poster on the left is from Victorio's 1958 visit and we thank Peter M for this, and the other items contributed to Wrestling Heritage. Overseas visitors Victorio, Texas Buddy Cody and Pedro Bengochea on one bill, as well as World champion George Kidd and British champions Dempsey and Taylor. Not to mention the top of the bill. Those were the days!
Rough and tough middleweight Frank O’Donnell used the sort of tactics that made the crow love to see him lose.
The bald dome and the flying fists were a familiar feature of wrestling halls during the 1950s and 1960s.
Born in Loughanoran, Donegal, Frank moved to Scotland in his late teens, three years of farming preparing him for a planned boxing career. Life often takes unexpected turns, and having settled in Scotland, again as a farm worker, Frank was introduced to the wrestlers George and Harry Broadfield.
Frank was encouraged to give up his boxing aspirations and take up wrestling by George and Harry, who also persuaded him to move to Yorkshire, where he lived throughout his life.
His working life was shared between his wrestling career and roadbuilder with McAlpine. Following his retirement in 1972 frank was able to use his construction and landscaping skills to good effect when he designed the Bagden Hall golf course and managed its construction. Golf was Frank’s main love following his retirement.
Frank O'Donnell passed away in 2003. When he died, aged eighty, the flag was lowered to half mast at the Dewsbury Golf Club.
Another of those colourful characters who made professional wrestling such a unique sport. A muscular light heavyweight Manchester based Odooma would enter the ring dresses in a leopardskin cloak and grass skirt. You don't get that in cricket.
Known variously as Jimmy or Juma Odooma, and sometimes simply Odooma. Worked mainly in the north and midlands for Wryton Promotions between 1962 and 1965, a popular good guy in the ring. Billed randomly from Ghana or the West Indies we suspect Manchester might have been closer to the mark.
We have confirmation of his Manchester credentials but can neither confirm or deny the press publicity that he was a runner-up in the Mr Jamaica contest, came to Britin in the late 1950s and made his professional debut in 1961. Tooma worked across the rings of northern Britain in the early to mid 1960s and then disappeared from the British wrestling scene.