Z: Zabo - Zasse
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Imagine a heavyweight toughie whose hair looked like there was a constant electric current passing through his body and your image of Venezuelan baddie won’t be far from wrong. The occasional, and often more frequent scratch, bite and punch were all part of the artillery used by the 1960s heavyweight as he hurtled towards frequent disqualification. He was known as “The Wrestling Gypsy,” partly because of his appearance and partly because each year he returned to Venezuela from his travels to help his brother in law on the family farm, or so we were told. Zabo began his wrestling career in the USA, known as The Elephant Boy, a creation of wrestling promoter Jack Pfefer. At other times he was known as The Wildman of Borneo, but should not be confused with the more widely known Wildman featured in letter W. Following his wrestling career Zabo, real name Bill Oliva, was ordained a Catholic Priest. Zando Zabo died on 6th February, 2008.
Friends called him “Fluff,” mum called him Ken, but to the wrestling fans of the 1950s and 1960s Tony Zale was “The Bearded Marvel.” The Wigan light heavyweight abandoned his real name of Ken Baldwin and adopted that of the more glamorous sounding former world boxing champion. A graduate of Billy Riley's Wigan gymnasium, which speaks volumes, learning the business alongside Francis Sullivan, Ernie Riley, Mel Riss and Roy Wood. In a career that spanned two decades Zale was a regular worker for Paul Lincoln Management and numerous other independent promoters. Sometime tag partner of Max Crabtree he made the crossing to Joint Promotions and a couple of television appearances against Jean Morandi and Frank O’Donnell. Back home in Wigan Tony owned the “Room at the The Top Beat Club,” advertised locally as a “Pseudo Bohemian Coffee House.”
Visiting Portuguese heavyweight, often billed from Cuba, was something of a classy touch with his scientific style when he hit British shores on a regular basis between 1958 and 1962. Zamboa wrestled all around the world, reputedly speaking Portuguese, Spanish, French and English.
See the entry for Joachim LaBarba
The Russian strongman appeared on the Dale Martin scene in the early fifties and stayed around until 1970, going about his wrestling business in a very serious way. His skill attracted the admiration of many, but he lacked the charisma to gain the popularity acquired by others of his generation. A sixten-stone plus heavyweight who could hold his own against the best that Britain and the world had to offer, as exemplified in a 1965 televised classic from Wallasey in which he only went down narrowly in the eighth round to Billy Robinson. His 1963 victory over Tibor Szakacs in the final of the 1963 Fairfield Hall knock-out tournament is illustrative of the Russian’s standing; as was his selection as one of only two opponents of American Luther Lindsay on the latter’s visit to Britain (th other was Mike Marino). In 1964 he had feuded on the small screen with European champion Billy Howes, the honours shared, and that same year at the Royal Albert Hall he defeated the French Heavyweight Champion, André Bollet. On the final night’s wrestling before the closedown for refurbishment of the Wimbledon Palais, it was Zaranoff who emerged victorious in an 8-man ko tournament defeating Bruno Elrington in the grand final. Later he would tag occasionally alongside Johnny Czeslaw. Born in Russia Josef left his homeland shortly after the Second World War; he travelled throughout the world but always returned to his UK home, where he was a stalwart of the 1950s and 1960s wrestling scene. In retirement, he became Landlord of The Captain’s Locker in Solihull.
Ivan Zarynoff (Great Zarynoff, Red Zarynoff)
There was a Zarynoff years before the Joe Zaranoff we all liked. Ivan Zarynoff was said to be a technical wrestler who specialized in nerve pressure techniques. Posters proclaimed him the world's strongest man, but we have yet to find any evidence of immense strength or wrestling skill. Reports we have read suggest a rough, tough man with little regard to the rules, and in the 1930s that was saying something. Nonetheless a regular feature of British wrestling bills in pre war Britain.
Armando Zarpanalian (Josef Zarba)
“Our man Zorba” proclaimed the Adverts for Greek Armando Zarpanalian, though he was sometimes billed as French and he may well have been based in that land off Britain’s shore! A skilful middleweight he unsuccessfully challenged Bert Royal for the World Middleweight title at Belle Vue. His solitary British television appearance was in 1969 when he partnered Vassilios Mantopolous in a Cup Final day loss to McManus and Logan.
The variously spelt 6'2" Pole visited UK mid-sixties at a time when wrestlers from his country were in short supply and seemed rather exotic. He had actualy escaped the Iron Curtain and was based in Paris. When Dale Martin Promotions selected the best that they could offer to appear before the HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh in May 1963 (still considered by many to be wrestling’s greatest night) the Polish mid heavyweight was right there on the bill. Zarzecki opened the second half of the tournament with an unsuccessful challenge of Billy Howes for the latter’s European mid heavyweight title. Zarzecki, as suggested here, was a skilful mid heavyweight who wrestled within the rules but was not afraid to use some hard, offensive power moves should the occasion demand. After his departure and a brief pause, his title of The Polish Eagle was "borrowed" by compatriot Johnny Czeslaw.
Alexander Zass may well be a man you know, but probably not for his wrestling exploits. Alexander Zass was the "Man of Iron" from Russia, born in Vilnius (now Lithuania) but at the time of his birth in 1888 part of the Russian Empire. Before his wrestling matches Zass would invite all comers to punch him in the stomach. When those who tried had made no impact a large coal hammer would be brought to the ring, but that too had no effect as it was pounded into his stomach. After all that the wrestling match that followed must have seemed something of an anti-climax. Reports suggest that the Russian's lack of experience showed in the ring, leaving him to rely on his enormous strength, modestly described as the strongest man in the world. Yet Zass's 1930s wrestling appearances were only part of the story. It is for his strong man appearances that Zass is mostly remembered. The Russian had been well known for many years in Britain's music halls as Samson, bending iron bars, breaking chains by expanding his chest, and driving nails through pieces of wood by the palm of his hands.It has been said that Zass was a wrestler in the first place before concentrating on his strongman act and then making money with the growing popularity of wrestling in Britain. Zass lived in Britain until his death in 1962.