Many fans of the 1960s will remember reading of the exploits of Whipper Watson in those American magazines that arrived in our shops weeks after their publication. He was another of those larger than life characters that existed in the same distant world as other greats such as Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino, Freddie Blassie and Gene Kiniski. Most of us were probably ignorant of the fact that this American superstar had spent his formative professional wrestling years learning his trade in the All-In rings of Great Britain.
Canadian by birth as William Potts, born in Toronto, he was brought to Britain in July 1936 by Harry Joyce (father of Doug and Ken), and during his first week faced Tony Baer, Tony Mancelli and Al Korman. His specialism Irish Whip move quickly led to Billy Watson becoming Whipper Watson. Billy wrestled his way around Britain for four years until shortly after war was declared in September, 1939. He returned to Canada to become one of North America's most popular wrestlers and National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Champion. Whipper Watson retired in 1971, and died at his home in Florida on 4th February, 1990.
Nearly forty years after his famous wrestling dad, Whipper Billy Watson, had toured Britain, twenty one year old Billy Watson Jr came to Britain during the winter of 1970-71. Like his father young Billy came to Britain with little experience and gained a knowledge of the business that was to serve him well during a lengthy career. Billy Jr was born Phil Potts, but the family had long ago legally changed their name to Watson.
He was much lighter than his father, barely a middleweight, facing newcomers such as Steve Young and Tony St Clair as well as more experienced opponents that included Jackie Pallo and Colin Joynson.
Tagged with fellow Canadian Red Pollard who visited Britain around the same time. His tour ended suddenly at the end of January, resulting in his planned main event contest against Mick McManus at the Royal Albert Hall being cancelled.
Leo Wax was an Australian boxer with around 130 professional fights to his credit, having boxed in Australia, New Zealand, USA, Denmark and Sweden before arriving in Britain as a boxer in 1929. It clearly suited him because he stayed here. With 67 boxing matches in Britain alone he was a well known name to British wrestling fans. As he neared his thirtieth birthday and wresting booming in Britain Leo became interested in the sport and by 1934 was mostly familiar to wrestling fans, with Jack Dale and Mario Magisti regular opponents. Along with more famous wrestling personalities Jack Pye, Bob Gregory, and King Curtis he appeared in the 1936 film "All In. After finishing with wrestling we have been told Leo managed a night club in London. In 1938, fourteen years after leaving his home in New South Wales, Leo returned for one last boxing match. One match too far as he was knocked out in the first round by Jack Wilson. Following the Second World War Leo settled in Sweden.
Present day fans simply could not believe what it was like back in the 1960s and 1970s. In Greater Manchester alone there could be as many as half a dozen shows taking place on the same night, wrestlers often jumping in a car to work on two or three shows a night.
Not all shows were in the big venues like Belle Vue, the Free Trades Hall and the Houldsworth Hall, but in just about every working man's club, social club, even school hall.
One of those busy, and popular wrestlers from those days was young Mark Wayne of Eccles, a trainee from the Hollywood AWC and contemporary of Eddie Rose,Pete Lindbergh, Ian Wilson and Bob Francini.
When the Hollywood Club closed down Mark's career almost came to a premature end, until he was taken on by Jack Atherton for training at the Wryton Stadium. The Sunday morning sessions at Wryton Stadium, with old timers like Alf Cadman showing him the ropes led a progression from the independent halls to Joint Promotions in the summer of 1969, and regular work from Jack Atherton and Best Wryton Promotions.
Mark was a very popular welterweight, nicknamed Prince Charming by his colleagues. He gained a lot of work in the early 1970,s but his promising career was cut short by injuries sustained in a road accident. He left wrestling to concentrate on a singing career on the clubs circuit.
Arpi Weber (known outside the UK as Arpad Weber) made just the one visit to Britain, in 1971.
The Hungarian, born in Budapest, accompanied the already familiar Josef Molnar as one half of the Hungarian Horsemen tag team, defeating the Black Diamonds at the Royal Albert Hall.
On television Weber drew with both Tony Charles and Barry Douglas, the latter result suggesting the promoters were willing to give little away to the Budapest born heavyweight. Arpi wrestled in Europe, Mexico, the Unted States (known as El Toreo Europeo) and Japan.
Following his retirement he promoted in Germany and later, Hungary.
Born on 9th September, 1942, Arpi Weber died of a heart attack on 2nd August, 2010.
The English Channel is narrow enough for wrestlers of the Heritage Years to cross in either direction sometimes for as few as one or two matches.
French wrestler Gil Wehrle visited the United Kingdom in April 1971 to face, and dutifully lose to, Tony Charles at the Royal Albert Hall.
With a background in judo and karate Scotland's Bruce Welch turned to wrestling and made his professional debut aged twenty-four.
He dropped his family name of Bryden in favour of one of his musical heroes, Bruce Welch of the Shadows. He began his career as a middleweight, debuting against Salford's Fred Woolley, and increased to light heavyweight as time passed.
The highlight of his career was a bout against his other hero Andy Robin in Ayr, at a Charity Fund Raiser for a child who required treatment abroad (photo shows Bruce feeling the effects of the Andy Robin Powerlock). Bruce lost by two falls to one!
Being an ex-miner Bruce was a strong as an ox, with a muscular, well trimmed body. He helped run Spartan Promotions for a number of years and trained a stable of young, up and coming stars, at a Gym run in conjunction with Dale Storm. It produced some of the best grapplers in all weight divisions to come out of Scotland!
Most of his time now is spent in his beloved garden and presenting a weekly local radio programme. Sadly, the years have taken their toll, and bad knees are his curse of all the bumps he took whilst giving the enjoyment value to many, over twenty year career. He was not known for a speciality move or hold but had a varied knowledge of the a wide range of moves.Bruce worked mostly for the Independent Promoters but did have spells with Joint Promotions under both Max Crabtree and Jack Atherton.
The programme is streamed and can be heard around the world by following the link on the radio station's home page. Ayr Hospitals Relay Radio was born 28 November 1953 when broadcasts began with football commentaries from Somerset Park, the home to Ayr United Football Club.
Fast and clever 1970s Tyneside wrestler working for the independent promoters in his trademark white gown and trunks. Wrestled with Ken Williams or Brian Walker as The Vulcans tag team.