British wrestling history 

B: Baines -Bandele

Wrestling Heritage A-Z

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Jesse Baines
A low key lightweight, “The wrestling pitman” from Burnley who we have found wrestling in Lancashire in 1937 and 1938.  We found only a dozen or so matches, mostly with little to note, but one match at Preston drew our attention. Jesse was matched against the highly rated Olympian Joe Reid and was reported to have proved a surprisingly hard opponent who handed out to Reid an unusual amount of punishment in a match described as wild from the start.

Laszlo Bajko (also known as Bajko Laszlo)
We have seen both variants of the name, probably arising from Hungarian names normally being written with the surname followed by the given name, which is often reversed when translated to English. Laszlo was based in Yorkshire in the second half of the 1950s. In 1957 we found him working on a Norman Morrell bill at Bradford against Don Branch and again for Morrell against Dicky Swales, Brian Trevors and Fred Woolley, and  Chic Purvey. He also worked for Dale Martin Promotions with opponents that  included Jackie Pallo, Ken Joyce and Bob Archer O'Brien. In October, 1959 he went over to the independent promoters, where he was billed as European welterweight champion.There was a brief moment of fame for the young wrestler in 1963 when he was featured in the Pathe News (remember them?) wrestling Jack Taylor, considered  newsworthy because the referee was a vicar, the Rev Reginald Thompson.

Rough House Baker     
George Baker was a very busy worker throughout the 1930s, wrestling around the country against the big names like Iron Duke, Jack Pye and Jack Atheron. George was usually billed as Rough House Baker,and it didn't take too much detective work to uncover how he came about the name. Even in the hotheaded days of 1930s George Baker could rouse the ire of the crowd. Advertised as a man who didn't like referees, it didn't take fans (or the referee) long to discover why. In one match alone, he threw a stool at his opponent, assaulted the referee, pulled the loudspeaker socket from the wall and tore it to bits. On one occasion refereed George DeRelwyskow did manage to subdue the Rough House with a right punch to the jaw which knocked the wrestler out cold. In a bout in which he was thrown from the ring by Harry Pye returned carrying a club, intent on causing damage. The club was removed from his possession before going on to defeat Pye bt two falls to one. No George Kidd then.

Con Balasis (Also known as The Red Shadow)
Con Balasis was born in Greece in 1918, moving to Australia in his youth and acquiring Australian citizenship. He wrestled in Australia during the 1930s and later began to travel to Asia. He was a particular favourite in Singapore during the second half of the 1940s. Mind you, an earlier visit to Singapore had not been quite so fortunate. During the war when he was sailing to India his ship docked in Singapore. Balasis was detained and spent the following three years interned in two Japanese prisoner of war camps, Sime Road and the notorious Changi. It was in one of the internment camps that Con met his wife, Marguerite, for whom he used to steal rice.  

In 1947, in Singapore, Con Balasis  wrestled Jeff Conda for the "British Empire Zone Championship of the Far East." Jeff Conda, of course, went on to become masked man Count Bartelli on his return to Britain. Maybe it was mixing with the many British wrestlers who worked in Singapore following the end of the second world war that encouraged Balasis to try his luck in Britain. 

In November, 1948 when promoter Atholl Oakeley promoted a wrestling spectacular at Earls Court with Bert Assirati and The Angel main eventing  Con Balasis wrestled on the supporting programme. With this being a promotion where Oakeley put on the biggest names  available it is a sign of the significance of Con Balasis in the post war heavyweight scene. He remained a familiar figure in Britain for the remainder of the 1940s. Despite being a regular main eventer Balasis sometimes resorted to donning a mask and calling himself The Red Shadow until he  was ceremoniously unmasked by Mike Demitre in 1949.

With thanks to the friends and son of Con Balasis.

Ernest Baldwin
Tingley's Ernest Baldwin was a national cycling champion in his teenage days and a member of the Tingley Road Club. Eventually wrestling came to the forefront of his sporting interests, which also included football and swimming. Ernie learned his wrestling from the Olympic wrestling representative Henry Inman. 

When Britain's top post war heavyweights are considered the name Ernest Baldwin is sure to crop up. He was a frequent heavyweight campaigner from the 1940s to 1960s , British champion at times no less, before turning his hand to refereeing. Ernest Baldwin turned professional in 1939, when he lost to the Farmer (George Broadfield) in Leeds, and took  up the sport full time in 1947 following his wartime service.  For a short period in the 1940s Baldwin was one of many wrestlers who donned a mask and became the Masked Marvel. 

In 1952 with the formation of Joint Promotions Ernest won a heavyweight tournament to gain recognition as the first Lord Mountevans heavyweight champion, a title he was to hold on and off  throughout the 1950s. Three times during his career Baldwin was recognised as British heavyweight champion. The photo shows Ernie attempting to pin Ron Jackson during one of the elimination contests of the open heavyweight championship tournament. 

His career would have been even more illustrious, and no doubt longer, had it not been dogged by injury, twice breaking his leg and once suffering from pneumonia, each time keeping him out of action for many months. Ernest wrestled the best on offer, including an unsuccessful championship tilt with  world title holder Lou Thesz when he visited Britain in 1957.  A second broken leg in May 1961, during a match against Billy Joyce in Newcastle,  ended his wrestling career, but did not prevent Ernest going on to become one of the country's top referees.

Mike Bandele
Apart from a handful of showings on Dale Martin promotions in the summer of 1969 our only knowledge of Mike Bandele comes from his unexpected inclusion in “The Who's Who of Wrestling,” (published 1971). The book claimed he was the Nigerian middleweight champion  and owner of an electrical store in Lagos. 

Page revised 10/3/19: Addition of Jesse Baines