WRESTLING HERITAGE

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D: Alan Dennison


Chameleon


Alan Dennison

Chameleon was one of the names used by Barnsley's Alan Manterfield in the 1940s, but could equally have applied to Bradford's Alan Dennison, a man of contrasting styles. Starting out as a good guy his physique was more suited to the role he  adopted in the early 1960s of a rumbustious hard man who would inevitably lose his temper with bulging eyes and snarling of championship calibre. A one strap leotard, studied belt and leather wristbands were the trademark of his ring attire,  confirmation for the fans that here was a man who was up to no good, "Leather was obviously a sign of villainous intention," remembered Powerlock. Frank Thomas recalled a poster proclaiming Dennison was "Possessed by the devil."  Yet suddenly in the early 1970s Alan saw the light once again, made a conversion of which St Paul would have been proud,  and the rule bending villain became a squeaky clean sportsman. It was a transformation that some fans found hard to believe.

In 1977 when I witnessed the unpredictable rule bender suddenly do the most unpredictable thing of all, turning down a decision against young Mike Jordan and taking the microphone to praise his opponent it was a very different character from the one I had seen many times before. On one occasion the M.C. was faced with the task of announcing that the advertised champion was unable to appear, "Ladies and Gentlemen, replacing ...... this evening will be Alan Dennison." The crowd almost lifted the roof as they made it quite clear that champion or  no champion they much preferred to watch Alan Dennison. Shortly afterwards Alan entered the ring amidst a thousand boos.  Following that mach I interviewed Alan and, as was often the case, found that he was nothing at all like his ring persona. He  was a gentle man who talked at length about his family and his desire to help young people.

Although the style changed Alan consistently gave value for money. In the 1960s The Dennisons team of Alan and Syd Cooper antagonised fans, especially when matched against the blue-eyed teams like the Royal Brothers and the White Eagles. When Cooper moved South it could have been the end, but his place was admirably taken by Hooker Ted Heath, the perfect replacement.  Whatever the style there was never any doubting the strength of the man with the bulging muscles who had started out as a body builder. The Strongman nickname was appropriate this Mighty Atom who made use of his strength to overcome opponents. 

Allan Fawbert Dennison was born on 25th June, 1929, making him a late starter as a pro wrestler,  nearing his thirtieth birthday when  he joined the paid ranks at Grantham,  on 27th September, 1958. His opponent was fellow Bradfordian Don Branch, a man who he must have known well. The local newspaper reported that Alan made his professional debut in "fine style" and held his own in a down to earth battle, refusing to concede anything, until an unfortunate back injury forved his retirement. We have been told, without confirmation, that Alan had wrestled professionally a year earlier, using the name Young Sandow.

After turning professional Alan soon became a familiar face to the television fans, making the first of over 100 television appearances in 1960. It is a remarkable achievement, quite likely bettered only by Mick McManus and Bert Royal, that Alan appeared on television every single year from 1960 until 1984, the year of his untimely death. One of his most memorable appearances, (how do you pick one from so many?) was the knock out loss against Mick McManus in the 1966 Cup Final spectacular. His matches against McManus were always turbulent affairs, another memorable one being a McManus victory, of course, at the Royal Albert Hall. Another long discussed match was one of many against Jackie Pallo. Pallo won the match but in a "slight" disagreement following the announcement Alan had the last word and the fans cheered as Pallo was carried back to the dressing room.

One of the most memorable moments in Alan's career was in July, 1968, the night that he and fifteen other wrestlers were introduced to H.R.H. The Duke of Edinburgh when he attended his second wrestling tournament at the Royal Albert Hall.

Championship success in professional wrestling was an indication of a wrestler's status in the eyes of the promoters. With his clean cut image established Alan was crowned British welterweight champion on three occasions, the title see-sawing between Jim Breaks and himself between 1980 and 1983.

A gentle and kind man Alan’s place in the nation’s heart was demonstrated when his untimely death was announced on the national television news. TV viewers were shocked to hear that he had collapsed and died at the Floral Hall, Southport on 27th June, 1984 following a match with Dave Duran. It was reported that ambulancemen tried to revive him for fifteen minutes prior to his death on the way to hospital.

Page added 20/10/2019