B: Berger - Bevin
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Swiss heavyweight champion Paul Berger was born on 11 February, 1923, in the lakeside town of Thun.
Paul Berger turned professional in 1948, visited the UK in the during the winter of 1954-1955 and again in 1956, including a one fall apiece drawn encounter with Rebel Ray Hunter at the Royal Albert Hall in London, a good result considering Ray Hunter was an Albert Hall favourite who was at the peak of his career.
Paul wrestled around Europe and in the late 1950s worked in the United States. He was also a major promotional force in Germany, and founder of the Association of German Professional Wrestlers (VDB).
With a career that had spanned more than twenty years Paul Berger retired from professional wrestling in 1969. He died on 13th January, 1992, aged 69.
A short duration visit by Italian Naldo Bernardo for Dale Martin Promotions in January, 1955. Opponents included Johnny Kwango, Johnny Peters, and Judo Al Hayes.
A name known to wrestling fans, but mostly as a promoter, working initially for Norman Morrell and then heading Twentieth Century Promotions. Yet we can add Norman to our A-Z of wrestlers, using both his own name and that of the masked Great Bula (not to be confused with the original Bula, Charlie Scott).
Hillbilly Bert (Also known as Bert Ellam)
A regular on Independent shows in the North and Midlands in 60s & 70s. Six foot four, sixteen stone, dressed in dungarees, a whisp of hay in his mouth and a stone jar of "moonshine" in his hand. He always wrestled barefooted, too.
Bert was an amiable guy with a ready smile and took on the likes of Streiger, Cassidy, Topham, Bert Nuttall, Big Bill Blake, Bill Coverdale and a clutch of masked heavyweights. He did not demonstrate the complete repertoire of wrestling moves but was a likeable good guy and enjoyed a lot of supprt from the younger generation.
He was another graduate of the Black Panther gym in Manchester and popular with the lads. Bert retired to a houseboat on the Norfolk Broads but, unfortunately, he died at a comparatively early age and the pallbearers at his funeral were Ian "Mad Dog" Wilson, Peter Lindberg, Eddie Rose, Danny Clough, Alec Burton and Mark Wayne. One of the good guys...
French heavyweight champion made short visits to Britain in 1931, 1932 and 1933.A skilled wrestler he defeated Atholl Oakeley by a single submission at the Victoria Hall, Nottingham on 4th December, 1933.
Steve Best (Also known as RogerAdams)
We've said it before, and we'll say it a hundred times again. There was just so much wrestling talent in the 1960s and 1970s, it was so difficult to stand out in the crowd, that good men were lost but to all but the more ardent fans. Such was the case with Bradford's Steve Best. We saw him in the sixties, and enjoyed him as much as anyone, but he remained the Johnny Saint that never was. A class act indeed, a fast and skilful technician, popular welterweight Steve Best combined wrestling and teaching careers. Trained by Ernest Baldwin he made his professional debut in 1964 whilst still a university student. A television debut against Jim Elder in September 1965 was good enough to earn a seccond tv outing against none other than World lightweight champion George Kidd. Steve lost, of course, but it was the foundation of a successful tv career against more than twenty opponents including Mick McManus, another inevitable loss. As well as being a successful solo performer Steve Best formed a popular tag team with Johnny Saint, known as “The Elite.”
Ted Betley (Also known as Ted Beckley)
When it comes to the genuine article amongst the old timers the name Ted Betley is right up there alongside the names of Billy Riley, Billy Chambers and Billy Joyce. Immersed in catch as catch can wrestler from his youth Ted turned to professional wrestling whilst serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Twenty year old Ted began to squeeze wrestling bouts into his wartime commitments as promoters in the major towns and cities kept the business going to maintain a climate of normality during the hostilities. Early opponents, often at Belle Vue in Manchester, included Norman Thomas, Val Cerino, Bert Mansfield and Bill Ogden. Following the war Ted's career upped a gear or two and he could be seen around Britain, though mostly the midlands, northern England and Scotland against other post war shooters Billy Joyce, Count Bartelli and Jack Beaumont. Those in the know testify that when it came to shooting Ted could hold his own with any of them. Ted continued wrestling until the early 1960s, his name often associated with a northern England version of Dr Death, but we have not had this confirmed by anyone with first hand knowledge. However, it is as an inspirational trainer of a new generation of wrestling stars for Ted he is mostly celebrated. Based at his Warrington gymnasium Ted Betley was responsible for creating international wrestling stars Dynamite Kid, Davey "British Bulldog" Smith and Wonderboy Steve Wright. Claims made by others that he trained Dave “Fit” Finlay are erroneous. Highly respected in the wrestling world Ted turned down an invitation to move to Japan and teach his wrestling skills. Instead, at the age of 59, he dold his grocery business, locked up the gym for the last time and moved to Port Erin in the Isle of Man where he lived until his death, aged 79, in February 2001. Promoters frequently distorted Ted's surname to Beckley.
One of the grand old men of wrestling Leigh's Jim Bevin turned professional in 1949, worked mainly in the north for the independent promoters regularly until the mid 1960s and must have been in his sixties when he made his last appearance.
Eddie Rose told us, "Ian Wilson and myself were on a bill with them and Ian reckoned their aggregate age at that time was 128 years!!"
In the later years many of Jim's matches were against another veteran, his brother in law, Joe Reid. Sam Betts (Dwight J Ingleburgh) Joe and Jim very well, "Into the 1960s when they were both getting on in years they were capable of regularly putting on entertaining eight round draws."
Another ex wrestler, Mike Agusta, told us: "I always saw Jim entering the ring with his flat cap (called a ratter in the north). He would then hand it over to his second and begin to wrestle.His fights with Joe Reid were extremely entertaining and to say the least very fast, even in their late fifties and early sixties!"
Page revised 13/04/19: Francois Berthod added