WRESTLING HERITAGE

B: Berger - Black Salem

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Paul Berger
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.

Naldo Bernardo
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.

Norman Berry
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...

Francois Berthod 
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 Roger Adams)
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.

Jim Bevin
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!"

“Angel Face” Bob Bibby.

A welterweight from Clitheroe in Lancashire active in the 1970s. Appeared on television in April, 1976, losing two falls to nil against Colin Bennett.


Bob Bibby was trained at the famous Snakepit gym in Wigan.


Billed as Angel Face, he strutted to the ring in a magnificent full length gown, armed with a hairbrush, and combing his locks provocatively. Bob told Wrestling Hertitage, "I debuted in Hull, Madley Street Baths against Pete Meridith in the early 1970s. My bouts varied, could be 1 a month to 5 a week because I was working as well and they felt like all over the place... Wolverhampton, Leeds, Bridlington, Morecambe, Aberdeen, Liverpool, Rhyl and others."


A biceps injury unfortunately cut his career short, and Bob became an artistic blacksmith in his home town.


Frank Bibby

We have found around a dozen matches for Frank Bibby between 1956 and 1960. In Nelson, working for Billy Riley, he is billed from Wigan, whilst elsewhere from Sudbury in Derbyshire. Opponents included Joe Critchley, Jack Beaumont, Jim Hart and Bill Ogden.


Jack Bice

Jack Bice, from Liskeard, Cornwall, made the transition from Cornish style wrestling to all-in style in 1934. Opponents ranged from welterweight Harold Angus to the heavier Bert Mansfield and Jack Atherton. We can find contests for Jack in 1934 and 1935, all of them in Cornwall.


Bobby Bierne

The welterweight from Roscommon in Ireland, moved to the United Kingdom in the mid 1950s, to set up home in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. We remember him as a worker for the independent promoters, often working for Jack Taylor. He did work for Joint Promotions at times and was also a referee for Devereux Promotions.


Johnny Birchall
Supporting role middleweight billed from Mansfield active in northern England from 1935 to 1939.

Russ Bishop

It wasn’t just the magnificent physique, or the hairy chest, but the superb wrestling ability that made the middleweight from Auckland, Russ Bishop, such a sensation when he came to the UK from New Zealand in 1949.


At the time New Zealand mat men, especially the lighter men, were finding it difficult to break into the business at home. The solution for many was to travel abroad, often to Australia, but sometimes much further afield.


He came along with fellow New Zealanders Ray Clarke and Bob Russell, and the three of them were accepted in Britain and became popular UK performers during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Russ was the first professional opponent of Joe D'Orazio when young Joe made his wrestling debut.


After leaving Britain to return home Russ and his fellow New Zealanders stopped off to wrestle in the United States and Mexico, doing particularly well in the latter where smaller wrestlers were appreciated.


Russ Bishop died in 2015


Harry Bison (Also known as The Zulu)

Light heavyweight Harry Bison was a tall, muscular bearded wrestler based in the Isle of Man during the 1970s. He was usually billed as The Zulu, but should not be confused with Ezzra Francis, the Manchester Zulu.


Hey, this is pro wrestling.


Harry was trained by Manx lightweight Bill Kennedy at the George Barnabus wrestling club, the lifeline for aspiring professional wrestlers on the Isle of Man in the 1970s. A dozen or so Islanders would wrestle visiting men from the mainland during the weekly summer season shows.


We met up with Harry in 1971.


We even wrote an article about him in The Wrestler magazine and would like to know what became of him.


Black Diamond
No we are not talking about the famous tag team of the 1960s and 1970s. Our Black Diamond goes back more than a decade earlier. A masked man weighing around 15stones briefly seen in the rings around 1950, with opponents that included Padvo Peltonin, Bill Coverdale, Charlie Scott and Jack Atherton. Prior to matches he would demonstrate his strength by breaking a horse shoe in two and tearing a telephone directory in half.

Black Owl
We have found a short run of just two appearances of the Black Owl prior to his unmasking. All the usual claims about his long running streak of wins were made prior to his contests against Dick Wills and Dick the Dormouse. We can find no evidence of any previous winning streak, which leads  us to believe the Black Owl was especially created for his third appearance, described as a "Mystery contest" with the well established masked man The Red Devil. Surprisingly, the publicity for the match, on 23rd February, 1940 stipulated there was no requirement for either man to unmask if defeated. Unsurprisingly controversy surrounded the ending of the match. Having gained a fall in the second round the Black Owl was knocked over the ropes and counted out. The refree declared the Red Devil the winner by a knock out. The Black Owl disputed the decision, claiming that two knowck outs were required (as was the case in some halls at the time).

The Black Owl challenged the Red Devil to a return contest, promising to unmask if beaten for a second time. The return contest took place on 21st March. It took four rounds until a decision was reached with the only submission of the match; a win for the Red Devil. The ceremonial unmasking took place to reveal the features of Jules Kiki, purportedly a Spaniard from the East End of London.

Black Salem
A name used at least twice in the post war years. A smiling Tunisian ,El Babri Lel Mamrouni Touhani, used the name and visited Britain in 1962. He was a powerful heavyweight who held the undefeated masked man Count Bartelli, to a draw. Opponents also included Tony Mancelli, Ernie Riley, Bruno Elrington, Tibor Szakacs and Jack Pye. Made his only television appearance against Digger Rowell in November 1962 at Hull. . The name resurfaced again in the 1980s as another identity for George Burgess, also known as Jamaica George, Jamaica Kid and a multitude of other names.

Reviewed 17/03/2022