R: Rabin - Rasmussen
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Those who saw London's East ender Harry Rabin in action described him as a "pure wrestler." Fans were promised a miniature Jack Sherry, and the accolades were verified when we spoke to Lou Ravelle, Harry's last opponent in the ring. Harry's amateur credentials were first rate, earning him a place as first reserve as lightweight in the 1934 Empire Games.
Later that year Harry turned professional with unlikely backers. Harry was a proud socialist who trained at the Stepney Workers Sports Club. His professional wrestling career was reported in the sports pages of the Socialist Worker newspaper, which championed Harry as the Workers Champion. Harry frequently appeared wrestling at the Workers Gala Days organised by the socialist movement in the 1930s. He even travelled to Paris to compete as Britain's only representative in the Anti-Fascist Sports Festival.
In the late 1930s Harry won a world welterweight championship tournament at Lanes Club in London. Following a dispute with the promoters regarding payment for the contest he travelled to Australia, arriving in Cairns on the liner Strathmore, on 20th May, 1938. Travelling with Harry was the New Zealand heavyweight, George Modrich, on his return home.
Larger than life is a term attributed to many wrestlers. When we were told the following story about Harry by an ex wrestler we were sceptical, until we found evidence in the book ?The Merchant Seamen's War? by Tony Lane. On his return from Australia to Britain Harry survived the sinking of his vessel by torpedo but ended up in France. In Marseilles he joined the French Foreign Legion and was posted to Algiers. At the time of the Anglo-American invasion he deserted and was signed on as a crew member of the troop ship Ormonde.
Back in Britain he continued wrestling, and is listed as World Middleweight Champion in 1952. Lou Ravelle told us of the tragic end to Harry's career in June, 1953, when the two of them wrestled each other at Perterborough in a show to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. During the match Harry collapsed. He was carried to the dressing room where he died. The following Saturday Al Hayes drive Lew to the inquest where a judgement of death by natural causes was declared.
Sam rabin (Sam radnor, The Cat)
Sam Rabin's background was interesting to say the least. He was not just an accomplished wrestler, but a highly acclaimed artist whose paintings sold at Christies auction house.
Sam Rabinovitch was born in Manchester on 20th June, 1903, to Russian born parents Sarah and Jacob Rabinovitch, a hat and cap designer.
As he grew up in Manchester young Sam dreamed of being the strongest man in the world, emulating his heroes Sandow and Hackenschmidt. His father was scornful of such ideas but was quick to sing the praises of his son as a naturally talented artist. Indeed he was, and at ten years old Sam won a diploma for art. He did what any young artist would do! He bought himself some muscle building equipment.
Just 11 years old Sam was the youngest ever student enrolled to the Manchester Municipal School of Arts. Four years later Same won a scholarship to study at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. He moved to London and celebrated by joining a wrestling club, the Ashdown Club in Islington where he trained under the tutorship of George MacKenzie, and alongside Bert Assirati, Bill Garnon and Atholl Oakeley.He subsequently went on to Paris where he was greatly influenced by Charles Despiau, the sculptor.
Selected for the 1928 Olympic Games he won a bronze medal in Amsterdam. Controversy surrounded the opening of the games when Queen Wilhelmina arranged a visit to Norway, against her Government's wishes, and was the first Head of State unavailable to open the Games.
In the years that followed various rumours persisted explaining the Queen's non-appearance. The release of official papers eventually revealed Queen Wilhelmina postponed her return from Norway because she was aggrieved that she had not been consulted on the precise date of the opening ceremony.
Controversy aside the Olympic Games went ahead with great success; 1928 being the first year that women were allowed to participate in track and field athletics, the austerity of the post war years having passed whilst the depression of the 1930s, Hitler's political interference and post world war 2 boycotts remained into the future.
With nine competitors in the freestyle middleweight competition Sam Rabinovitch was one of the fortunate seven who were drawn a bye into the second round. Sam progressed through the competition until he was denied a silver medal, and awarded bronze, following a seven minute defeat by Canadian Donald Stockton.
Following his Olympic success Sam pursued his artistic career, commissioned by architect Charles Holden to carve West Wind, one of eight personifications of the four winds for the headquarters of the London Underground (left), two decorative winged masks, The Past and The Future, for the Daily Telegraph building in Fleet Street.
Like most artists Sam found there was little money to be made as an artist and following a dabble with boxing he turned to boxing (as sparring partner for Len Harvey) and professional wrestling.
We wonder where he got the idea there was money to be made in wrestling?
With all-in wrestling rapidly gaining popularity there was a need for new talent, and Sam proved a perfect recruit. He turned professional and shortened his name to Rabin, also using the names Sam Radnor and The Cat. By 1932 Sam was travelling up and down the country facing the likes of Billy Riley, Jack Pye, Karl Pojello, Henri Letailleur, George Gregory, Norman the Butcher, and just about every big name in British wrestling. The Portsmouth Evening News reported,
"The bout between Rene Morris and Sam Rabin was an example of the more classical possibilities of the sport.The Adonis-like Hebrew Rabin gets to work with all the grace of a champion of old Olympia."
Three quarters of a century later the name Sam Rabin is rarely remembered amongst wrestling fans, an injustice according to historian Allan Best, who refers to him as "The Forgotten Genius of wrestling."
Erstwhile French and European lightweight champion Jean Rabut visited Britain in the early 1960s.
Opponents included the welterweights big three of McManus, Pallo and Dempsey, alongside a Royal Albert Hall victory over Bernard Murray, which a decade later was said by Bernard to be one of his most memorable contests.
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Max Raeger (dai Rees)
Many of the names you read about here at Wrestling Heritage tell us they owe so much to Charlie Glover and his gym behind The Junction Public House in Barnsley.
Well, Max Raeger is yet another. As a teenager he was there learning the business from the old hands Dai Sullivan, Dwight J Ingleburgh, Karl Von Kramer, Pedro the Gypsy and the rest of the Yorkshire lads that made The Junction their second home.
“My inspiration to become a professional wrestler came from the first time I saw Hans Streiger in action. His charisma and showmanship was outstanding. He could manipulate the audience with his ring psychology to any degree. I was proud to have known him both in and out of the wrestling business as we had a common interest in other things. A man's man if ever there was one."
Max was a Yorkshire lad with Irish roots, born in the Denaby area of Doncaster in 1945, with memories of his grandfather who sold ice cream from his horse drawn cart. Max left Northclffe School in 1961 and when he was 19 years old he began working on the boxing and wrestling booths. It was hard work, wrestling as many as five or six times a day, but the money was good and the experience prepared Max for life as a professional wrestler. When he turned professional in 1964 it was initially for the independent promoters. Early opponents included Butcher Goodman, Stoker Brooks and Pedro the Gypsy, who was later to become a regular tag partner. “Some of my happiest times in the business were when I was doing Blackpool shows with Pedro.After the shows we would often go to the tower to listen to the Wurlitzer being played, have a pint, and watch the dancers. It was a great way to relax after doing 4or 5 shows during the day”
When Max caught the attention of George de Relwyskow he was signed up by Joint Promotions and became a regular worker throughout the north of England and Scotland meeting the likes of Honey Boy Zimba, Ivan Penzecoff and Barry Douglas. Max's career was to span twenty-two years, taking in over three thousand contests. Much of the time Max wrestled overseas, working in India, Pakistan, the UAE, Germany, Zambia, Kenya, Sweden and Norway.
Following his retirement in 1986 Max bought a farm in the West of Ireland, where he lives with his wife, horses and the Japanese game poultry which he breeds.
Ragnor the Viking (David Cross, Ox Brody, The North Man)
Heavily tattooed and well endowed in the facial hair department the variously named 1970s/80s heavyweight villain from Merseyside worked for both the independent and Joint Promotions. A massive man who usually towered over his opponents Ragnor was an imposing figure in the ring. Ragnor would challenge opponents to an "Axe match" in which each contestant carried an axe; and we wonder why we went off wrestling! Following a grounding on the independent circuit Dave Cross made the transition to Joint Promotions, where he made television appearances, in various guises, against Wayne Bridges, Tiger Gil Singh and Ray Steele. Ragnor wrestled extensively in Germany, Austria and South Africa, using the name Dave Viking. He liked Germany and, Gernot Freiberger tells us,.moved to Germany as an organic farmer, and part time street entertainer.
Eddie Burton learned the business at the St Lukes Club and at the gymnasium at the Alexander Pub, Middlesbrough, working for independent promoters in the 1970s as Guy Rainer. An electrician by trade Guy Rainer retired from wrestling in his mid twenties.
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Dave Ramsden (reggie ramsden)
Young Yorkshireman Dave Ramsden, from Ossett,was trained by former British heavyweight champion Ernest Baldwin at his gymnasium in Tingley, Yorkshire. Dave turned professional in January 1966 and was to remain a busy yet unspectacular worker on the Joint Promotions circuit for a dozen years before disappearing towards the end of 1978.
Many of his earliest matches were against fellow Yorkshireman Mike James (Mick Jackson) but by the end of the year he was opposing a greater range of more experienced opponents such as Peter Preston, Sid Cooper and Ted Heath. He worked mainly in the north of England and Scotland for all the Joint Promotions companies.
A frequent worker for Relwyskow and Green Promotions meant that Dave often worked in Scotland, a tag partner of Andy Robin and a member of the Eldorado All Star Wrestling team , captained by Andy Robin and largely populated by Yorkshiremen (Ian Gilmour, Mick McMichael, Jim Mckenzie and Alan Bardouille were also in the team at the time). During his career he wrestled most of the bigger names in the lighter weight divisions: Jim Breaks, Mick McManus, Zoltan Boscik, Vic Faulkner, even Jimmy Savile. We cold find record of only one television appearance, which surprised us; losing to Jackie Robinson by the odd fall in a match broadcast in July 1975. Towards the end of his career promoters gave him the name of Reggie Ramsden. Maybe it was his actual name. Apologies offered. Sorry to Reggie's everywhere, but the boy deserved better.
Memories of Peter Rann are that of the ultimate professional. Here was a man who wrestled well, usually stayed just inside the rules, but had a hard, aggressive style that made fans turn up to see him lose.
They were usually disappointed because Peter Rann was a very accomplished wrestler, just missing out on the top run behind the likes of Mick McManus and Jackie TV Pallo.
He was always billed from Camden Town, though actually born in Doncaster and moved to London as a child. He turned professional in 1951 after training at the Foresters AWC, Kensington.
When it came to choosing our Shining Stars we have so many favourites that it seems almost unfair to be excluding others by including some.
In the end we surprised ourselves with our choice of the Camden Town henchman and night-club bouncer himself in our extended feature.
We remember Leif Rasmussed as the blond heavyweight from Copenhagen who was dubbed the "King of the Vikings" when he visited Britain in 1954 and returned for an extensive tour of southern England during the winter months of 1964- 1965.
Heritage member Gernot Freiberger reinded us that reality was that the Nordic Viking was Austrian, born in Vienna, with the birth name of Franz Vorhemus, famous throughout Austria and Germany and worldwide with his extensive travelling.
A six year amateur career led to a professional debut when he was eighteen years old. A liberal interpretation of the rules meant that the King of the Vikings was not exactly cheered by the fans, and disqualification losses were not unknown.
Amongst losses against the best of the natives he was able to claim a surprising Royal Albert Hall win over Steve Veidor. Leif Rasmussen was one of the many colourful characters who graced British and European rings in the 1950s and 1960s.