British wrestling history 

A: Angel - Apollo

Wrestling Heritage A-Z

The Angel (Also known as Maurice Tillet)
 Maurice Tillet was The Angel, befriended and trained by Karl Pojello and unleashed on the British wrestling public by Atholl Oakeley. Unleashed is a word we use because in a physical  sense he was certainly one of the oddest wrestlers to appear in the ring. Mind you, even though Tillet did suffer from a physical condition we have little doubt that promoter Oakeley made the most of his disfigurement, though claims that members of the public fainted when they saw him we do take with a pinch of salt.

Here's what Oakeley had to say about Maurice Tillet thirty years after he had been introduced by his friend, Karl Pojello. "No human being I had ever seen had looked like this creature, ambling along like a grotesque ape. It's overlong arms trained down by the shrunken sleeves, it's arms were thicker than a man's ankle."

Maurice Tillet suffered from acromegaly, a condition which results in the thickening of the bones and enlargement of the head and hands, "The things head was longer from forehead to chin than that of a horse," went on Oakeley.

By present day standards most would conclude that Tillet was exploited with his physical deformity used to make him a wrestling star, though no one has suggested Tillet was unhappy with being catapulted to stardom or treated unfairly. Wrestling journalist Charles Mascall presented a more balanced picture of the man, "This gentle giant was the finest of men, though, I must admit the first time I met him in the darkened passageway of a Bayswater rooming house, his appearance (he had a head the size of a horse, so publicity material often read) certainly caused me some surprise."

Oakeley introduced Tillett, now renamed The Angel, onto the British public. The advanced publicity caught the imagination of the fans, and disdain of the critics, but Angel certainly proved a sensation wherever he appeared, with huge numbers of fans turning up to see him wrestle Carl Reginsky, Bert Assirati and Bill Garnon. Angel and Sherry went to America in August, 1939, but he did return when peace resumed.

When  The Angel returned to Britain in October, 1948, Charles Mascall reported that 12,000 fans filled Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium to see him lose to Bert Assirati. Assirati got the first submission with a Boston Crab. The Angel pinned Assirati, quite an unusual occurrence, before submitting to leave Bert the winner.

Heritage member the late Allan Best told us. “He wrestled Pat Curry at King’s Hall, Belle Vue, Manchester. Curry was a good, clean fast wrestler but on the light side for handling the really big boys. Nevertheless he ran rings around Maurice but it was The Angel the punters had come to see and he obliged by applying the inevitable bear hug, a from waist-hold, using his undoubted power and letting Pat fall in a heap. Job done.”

Frank Angel
Frank Angel was another student of the Ashdown Club alongside Bert Assirati, Atholl Oakeley and Robert Cook. Amateur heavyweight champion in 1928 he turned professional in the first year of the new All-In rules being introduced, 1931.  A big, powerful man he stood 6'4" tall and weighed around 16 stones, An all-round sportsman Angel was also proficient in rugby, swimming and polo. 

Johnny Angel (Sheffield)
We include two wrestlers known by the name Johnny Angel. First on the scene was a Sheffield wrestler born John Marsden. Welterweight Johnny worked for independent promoters in the north of England during the 1960s and also worked in Spain.  Like many wrestlers he was the landlord of two public houses in later life, the Grapes and  the Captive Queen in Sheffield before retiring to Chesterfield and passing away, in January 2007, aged 76.

Johnny Angel (Also known as Johnny Carol, Undertaker Gloom) (Doncaster)
A 1980s wrestler who really knew how to work a crowd, and one who would have made it to the top in the heyday of the postwar revival according to Dwight J Ingleburgh. Johnny Angel was just fourteen years old when he turned professional. Mind you, wrestling was in his blood as he was trained by his father, Crazy Dave Adams. Like many others Johnny had dabbled in boxing before wrestling became the greater attraction. Early bouts were for Cyril Knowles and other independent promoters before moving across to Joint Promotions in 1990. A muscular, aggressive wrestler Johnny was a great villain, sometimes pulling on a mask and adopting various names, probably most memory as one of the Undertakers tag team. During his career he tussled with some of the biggest names in the business, including Jim Breaks, Ray Steele, Barry Douglas and Giant Haystacks. On numerous occasions Johnny played the part of the hero and tagged with Big Daddy to put to right the baddies of the wrestling world.   He retired from wrestling in 1996   

Mohammed Anwar
We watched this Pakistani welterweight in the northern independent rings of the 1960s against opponents such as Ray Taylor, Hamid Ali Gill and The Zulu. We remember a  capable wrestler who lacked the charisma to make him memorable. We just hope that unknowing to us he changed his name and became a superstar! We'd be interested to learn more about  him.

El Grande Apache
Chilean heavyweight, or so it was said, that made a short visit to Britain in February and March, 1962, wrestling Seamus Donlevy at the Royal Albert Hall and Josef Zaranoff on television. Other opponents included Billy Joyce, Tibor Szakacs and Joe Cornelius.
Johnny Apollo
Johnny “Greek” Apollo hailed from Athens and wrestled on both sides of the Atlantic as well as Australia. Having wrestled as an amateur in Tripolis Johnny turned professional in 1960. This was  after moving to Montreal, where he had been trained in the ways of the professional world by Tony Lanza at the Montreal YMCA. Following early success in Canada he moved on to the United States, then Australia, and eventually Europe.  He was always immaculately dressed as he entered the ring  in his velvet dressing gown.  Johnny was a popular stockily built mid heavyweight performer in British rings in the early 1960s, making his first appearances northern rings and Scotland during the winter of 1962. He  set up home in Brixton, London, and appeared in the south of England the following winter, when he also  gained national exposure by losing through a  knock-out to Bill Howes in a 1963 televised contest. He returned to television screens again during his 1965 visit, facing Welshman Tony Orford. For professional purposes we understand he changed his name from  Charialaos Tsimogiannis to Johnny Apollo. We wonder why?

Revised 5/6/2019 Billy Angus updated