A Promoter's Dream......
Whenever wrestling fans re-live their memories of the good old days it doesn't take long before the name Barry Douglas crops up. Little wonder. During a career that spanned six decades, and covered the length and breadth of the UK and much of the world Barry Douglas certainly touched the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of wrestling fans.
Hearts and minds also of fellow wrestlers who clearly demonstrated their respect and fondness for Barry at the 2009 and 2010 Leeds Reunion.
If one event unites the memories of both fans and wrestlers it must be a match that took place in January, 1979. Thirty years later everyone remembers Barry at his best in a humdinger of a bout against the mighty John Quinn, televised for the nation's delight from Wolverhampton Civic Hall.
Fans remember it as the match when he laid in to Quinn with a ferociousness rarely seen by any opponent. Yes, they really did believe this was the day when it just might come good for Burly Barry.
Colleagues remember it as the time that Barry almost made even themselves believe it was for real after all!
If any one match was a tribute to a great worker then this would be the one. It was Barry receiving the payback due for years of loyalty, reliability and sheer hard graft. These qualities may be less well regarded these days, but they were (and still are) the qualities that made Barry a true ambassador of the sport, and a promoters dream.
Those aren't our words, but belong to one ex wrestler and promoter, Tarzan Boy Darren, and echoed by another, Gil Singh. Their judgement was based on the fact that Barry wrestled the lot. From Johnny Saint (on the S4C Reslo shows) to Giant Haystacks, and just about everyone else of any importance in between. Barry could be relied upon to put on a good show to please the punters whatever the requirement. A new lad who could do with testing? Send for Barry. Unknown overseas visitor who needs a bit of looking after? Barry will do the job. A stiff worker who could do with a bit of help making it flow? Barry could do that.
Newcomers to the business looked up to Barry. They knew they could learn a lot from him, and they did. Mind you, more than one remembers the time he got just a bit too clever for his own good, "If any youngster got a bit too big headed he'd grab their left leg, pull it over his right shoulder and fold them in half till their breath went."
Colleagues respect for Barry never prevented them from having a smile at his expense. All good natured, of course, and a sign of their affection for the man.
"Ask Barry about his sandwiches," we were told. Sandwiches? Apparently Barry's sandwiches were legendary amongst the wrestling fraternity. Wherever they were travelling to, and for however long, Barry would take sandwiches for the duration. We are sure that any suggestion that three days supplies of sandwiches for a trip to Scotland could have anything to do with Barry's Yorkshire blood causing him to take care of his money are wide of the mark!.
Sandwiches without crisps, apparently. Johnny Angel remembers a journey back from one venue when Barry asked for two of his crisps to put in his sandwich! We cannot quote Johnny's reply! Tarzan Boy Darren, visiting Barry when he was seriously ill in hospital enquired, "Hey, Barry, how are they going to get your sandwiches down that drip?"
We were quickly reassured that any comments about Barry's meanness were in good humour, as here was a very generous man. Generous in the kindness and consideration he gave to people. Gil Singh said, "Barry put me in for my first foreign trip, to Germany in 1974. It was the making of my career and opened the door for me to wrestle around the world." One fan who watched the wrestling at Leeds Town Hall from 1969 until it moved to The Astoria Ballroom in Roundhay in the early 1980s, was Ann, who recalled, "I was fortunate to meet Barry at a gala a few years ago where he was refereeing. Not only did he take time to speak I was very surprised he realised that we had met before."
The high esteem in which colleagues hold Barry seems all the more surprising when we remember his family ties. Barry is proud of his families wrestling heritage, and rightly so. But having a granddad who was a double Olympic medal winner, uncle who was a top promoter, and dad a referee did him no favours at all. In the early days there were a few lads (fingers pointed towards Wigan) who tried to make life difficult for the promoter's nephew, but Barry held his own and soon everyone acknowledged that Barry's achievements were a result of his own talent and hard work, nothing else.
Those achievements can be matched by few, if any, others. His was a career that spanned six decades, starting in 1959 and ending in the early years of the twenty-first century; and then he started refereeing!
His was a career that saw him appear on television no fewer than fifty seven times. That first television outing, November 1961 against Bill Rawlings, was reported in The Wrestler magazine, "Barry more than held his own against a much more experienced opponent and eventually ran out the winner by two falls to one." Thirty seven years later and Barry was still going strong, outlasting televised wrestling and going down to Ray Steel in one of the last shows.
Barry was known throughout the world,wrestling regularly in France, Belgium and Spain, becoming one of the biggest names in the huge German tournaments and one of the first British wrestlers to work in Japan, alongside Billy Robinson, Johnny Eagles and Colin Joynson. Barry was undoubtedly one of British wrestling's great ambassadors.