We are always pleased to hear from ex wrestlers or their family members, and welcome information or photos from anyone to enhance the A-Z section.
Based in Yorkshire he made one television appearance, making little impression in a six man tag contest.
Even the widely anticipated head-butt (photo right) failed to gain the required result.
We are told he was a likeable, good natured man outside the ring but the general feeling amongst fans seemed to be lovely costume, shame about the wrestling.
If you're reading Wrestling Heritage these days Samson we'd love to hear fom you.
In the second half of the 1970s with the ever creative Max Crabtree in charge of Joint Promotions masked men seemed to spring up all over the place. Mind you, most of them were a million miles away from the likes of The Outlaw, Count Bartelli and Kendo Nagasaki. Enter the masked UFO, often accompanied by his manager Charlie McGhee. UFO seemed to have one purpose in life, and that was to lose. He lost to Big Daddy, of course. He lost, not unreasonably, to other top rated heavies such as Tibor Szakacs and Count Bartelli. Then there were the lesser heavies, losing to Honey Boy Zimba and Pete Roberts and the lighter heavies, losing to Clive Myers and Johnny Czeslaw, but then there were the much lighter men, losing to Alan Dennison, Alan Wood, Jackie Turpin and Jim Breaks. We could go on. We know of one man behind the UFO mask. Whether there were others we don't know, but can only guess that there were - it would take a pretty versatile man to lose to that range of opponents!
Our memories of Meru Ullah are of a high flying speedy merchant with a nifty dropkick. In the mid to late 1960s he was a regular opponent of other youngsters making their way in southern halls, Ray McGuire, Robby Baron, Chris Bailey. Joe Queseck and Johnny Williams. The boy was good, his amateur credentials from the London YMCA shining through. It was the competitive element of amateur wrestling that attracted Meru Ullah, and as an eighteen year old his objective was to wrestle in the Olympic Games. Fate intervened and priorities changed for the youngster. Like so many Wrestling Heritage readers first impressions of professional wrestling came through television.
"On one Saturday like millions of others I watched wrestling on T V . Listening to the legend Kent Walton. I was so impressed with the wrestlers performances, their agility, balance and timing, I felt a calling to the sport."
When Meru Ullah saw a live show advertised locally he went along. He got chatting to some of the wrestlers on the bill and told them of his amateur experience and professional ambitions. Mike Marino, Les Kellett, and Steve Logan each offered the same advice, and that was to go along to the Brixton Road offices of Dale Martin Promotions and tell them of his ambitions. The result was a trial and subsequent aches and pains when Chris Bailey and Masambula demonstrated the difference between a good professional and a good amateur. Undeterred, Meru Ullah was given a chance in the professional ring and was soon impressing fans on Dale Martin shows and throughout the south.
It wasn't just the fans he impressed,. Northern promoter Arthur Wright signed up the youngster to work in the north and midlands for Wryton Promotions. Travelling further afield brought new opponents that included Kevin Conneally, Alan Dennison, Mick McMichael and Johnny Saint. Saint, who had recently made the transition from the opposition to Joint Promotions was a particularly regular opponent, and was to become one of the greatest influences on Meru Ullah, others being Steve Logan, Jackie Pallo, Alan Dennison and Les Kellett.
It was with Wryton Promotions that Meru Ullah began taking part in more tag matches. He didn't settle on any one regular partner, but could often be seen tagging with Bobo Matu or Jim Moser.
A career milestone, and acknowledged highlight, came in April 1969 with a Royal Albert Hall loss to Robby Baron. Another special moment must have been the following October when he made his television debut against Johnny Saint.
Everything looked very promising for the youngster and then he suddenly disappeared from our rings. As with so many of our favourites his disppearence was a mystery. For almost forty years that is. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology Meru Ullah has been in touch with Wrestling Heritage to conclude his story.
In 1973 he moved to Italy, where he and his wife Janice, began promoting wrestling in Rimini, Cattolica and Riccioni (they are now approaching their 41st wedding anniversary)
In 1974 he returned to the UK and studied Time and Motion at Manchester Polytechnic. His studies led to a career in management initially as a work study manager and ending up as an international Production Director with responsibility for clothing companies in Sri Lanka, Mexico, Israel and Cairo. In March 2007 Meru and business partner Peter Wikes, appeared on the Dragon's Den television series, pitching for investment in their invention of a riding mirror. Like most contestants, they failed to convince the Dragons to part with their cash.
Meru Ullah retired at the age of 58, but not one to remain idle four years later he has been appointed as a management consultant by Royal Mail in Warrington on a part time basis for twelve months helping the World Class Mail team implement Gemba Kaizen within the organisation. Gemba Kaizen is a Japanese based management philosophy focusing on the improvement of effective, low cost, no-friction productivity in the workplace.
We may only have enjoyed Meru Ullah's presence in our rings for a relatively short time, but memories last, and just like the fans he has may happy times to remember. Following his wrestling career he went on to find success in the business world, but Meru Ullah did impress upon us, "All I can say is I loved the art and it has given me confidence all my life".
Decades before the name was taken up by the Americans British wrestling fans booed and jeered The Undertaker, a villain of the independent circuit in the 1960s.. A bearded, fearsome looking character, dressed in frock coat and top hat as the stereotypical undertaker of days gone by, would walk unhurriedly to the ring to the accompaniment of the Funeral March. With him was an equally sombre companion and aid. On their shoulders they carried a coffin, albeit one that did look decidedly on the small side. The coffin would be ceremoniously lifted into the ring and propped against the corner post. The aid would produce a tape measure and attempt to “measure up” the opponent, obviously without success. Gestures and words, drowned by the jeers of the crowd, indicated to the opponent where he was going to end up. Of course, he never did, despite the aid pushing the coffin back into the ring at opportune moments for The Undertaker to try once again to get the luckless wrestler inside.
Two masked men, top hated and black jacketed, emerged on to the mid sixties independent circuit, billed from Chicago.
They were so-called brothers Jonathan and Nathaniel, The Undertakers. It goes without saying they were villains of the first order, and unlike most masked men seem not to have a perfect record.
During the early and mid 1960s they were regulars on the independent circuit but were amongst the few masked wrestlers, Doctor Death being another, to transfer to the Joint Promotions circuit.
The Undertakers became regular figures on the bills of Bill Best and Wryton Promotions.
Top Masked Wrestlers' identities are revealed only in the Wrestling Heritage countdown "Hooded Heydays".
|The Romford lightweight, known as the Pocket Hercules was a regular worker on the British wrestling circuit of the 1940s and 1950s until forced into retirement with a recurrent back injury. |
He started his professional wrestling career in the early 1930s, a worker in the All-In rings swapping holds with the likes of Harold Angus,Doulas the Turk and Tiger Tasker. The poster advertises a 1935 match opposing Tiger de Lisle.
It was Fred Unwin's weightlifting club to which a young fellah called Mick McManus turned up and was advised by Fred to go and join an amaterur wrestling club.
Despite being southern based and working mainly in southern England Fred travelled far and wide, with matches in the north of England not being infrequent in those days long before the construction of the motorway system.
Fred's career continued in the post war years, now facing the top men of the welterweight division: Jack Dempsey, Eddie Capelli and Carlton Smith, Mick McManus and Harry Fields.
Retired from wrestling in 1954.
Would you buy a used car off this man? Maybe, because wrestler John Ure combined his wrestling career with that of car salesman. Born of Scottish parents, the muscular heavyweight from Halifax, a regular trainer with weights, turned professional in 1961.
He was nineteen years old at the time and his debut in November 1961, saw him lose to Don Branch at Grantham.
John was trained by fellow Halifax grappler, Bob Sweeney. It wasn't just an interest in wrestling that brought the two together. It was also a mutual interest in physical culture and healthy living. These interests brought them together outside thr ring also, and John and Bob opened a chain of health studios.
After a promising start, and a couple of television appearances against Norman Walsh and Ken Cadman the popular Yorkshireman disappeared from the scene in 1964. His early retirement, little more than two years after turning professional, was around the same time that John sold his interest in the health studio business to partner Bob Sweeney and invested in a new venture, launderettes. At the time of writing (April 2011) John is alive and well, living in Florida.
The bushy bearded French Canadian Paul Vachon stormed into Britain in September, 1964, knocking out both Dazzler Joe Cornelius and Gerry de Jaegar on the same night before coming in second to Peter Maivia in an eight man knock out tournament at the Colston Hall Bristol.
Almost half a century later those fans who watched the unruly Canadian on grainy black and white television screens have full colour memories of the self-styled butcher of Montreal. 1960s fan Beancounter told us:
"The bout which stands out in my mind was the occasion he was billed in the 'T V Times' to wrestle Francis Sullivan. However, on the day Joe Cornelius was substituted and won 2 - 1. The final fall was effected by the considerably lighter Cornelius lifting up Vachon and executing a perfect body slam and cross press. "
Right from the start of his British visit, if eighteen months in the country constitutes a visit, Butcher Paul was a top of the bill performer. Maybe as one of thirteen children Paul was used to fighting his way to the top.
John Shelvey said:
"He went in with just about any heavyweight available at that time. Among those he hooked up with were Cornelius, Campbell, Billy Joyce, Kumuli, Lees, Pierlot, Portz, Rawlings, Reagan, Streiger, Szakacs, Veidor, Wall, to name a few of the 'home' boys and Gordienko, Kuti, Maivia, Kingston, Napolitano, Simonovitch, Manousakis, and Nelson to name some of the 'visitors.' "
Whilst victories over most of the top heavyweights are easily found throughout his record, losses via the disqualification route are in equal abundance, including his Royal Albert Hall debut against Gordon Nelson. Fortune was no kinder on subsequent Royal Albert Hall outings against Joe Cornelius, Billy Two Rivers and Jan Wilko.
To dwell on such misfortune does the Canadian an injustice as we were genuinely surprised when reviewing his record at the consistent quality of his opponent during his time in Britain. On his eventual return to Canada Paul formed a successful tag team with his brother, Mad Dog Maurice Vachon. and the pair twice won the AWA World heavyweight title. In 2008 Paul was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Cauliflower Alley Club.
“In this sphere he found himself outweighed, inexperienced and pretty well up against it. However the streak of dogged persistence that runs through him kept him at it until after months of training he was clashing with the best. But for the Australian tour …. he might have been in the top ten British wrestlers, but Rugby naturally had first call.”____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Promoter Max Crabtree made use of the latter's name when his son Steve, having already been billed as Greg Gable, turned into Greg Valentine.
Tall, slim, blond haired, and agile Greg was popular with female fans. Greg did have the physique, looks and skill to have established himself in an earlier era even without the family credentials.
But any of us oldies expecting to see Greg the Hammer would have been bitterly disappointed.
Sign in or sign up now to read Members Only articles: The Evolution of TV's Finest
Johnny "Legs" Valentine was, like so many others, nurtured by Jack Taylor at his Leicestershire gymnasium to take his place in the independent promoters' rings of the 1960s. Jack gave the twenty-three year old his chance to enter the professional ranks and in 1961 he was touring the country tackling the likes of Butcher Goodman, Mick Collins and Leno Larazzi. John lived in the village of Newbold Vernon, Leicestershire, and continued wrestling until into the 1970s. A teenage interest in politics continued throughout his life, serving as a local councillor and standing as a candidate in Parliamentary elections. An organiser of charity events over many years and involvement in the jazz club which he ran at Newbold Verdon Working Mens' Club, led to Johnny receiving the Mayor's Award for Outstanding Services in the Borough of Hinckley and Bosworth. Following a long battle with lung cancer Legs Valentine passed away on 29th December, 2011. He was 73 years old.
Another of the Crabtree clan and son of Max Crabtree. Spencer Crabtree joined brother Greg in the wrestling world and, unsurprisingly found himself a frequent tag partner of uncle Shirley, the Big Daddy.