B: Black Mask - Black Salem
The name Black Mask must have been used by dozens of wrestlers down the years; we find the earliest in 1934. For the most part, though, fans acknowledge one authentic Black Mask. The villainous Black Mask,complete with black leotard, was active in northern rings from 1958 until 1962, enjoying a largely undefeated run, through dropping decisions against Albert Wall, Billy Joyce and Ernest Baldwin on occasions. A celebrated, and often remembered, defeat and unmasking at the hands of Billy Joyce in May 1962 in Newcastle was remembered by Dave Sutherland,
"I worked with a chap who had been there on the night it happened and Billy Joyce was the hero for once right up to the point where George Nutall was unmasked whereupon the crowd apparently totally changed their favours."
It would appear that there were other unmaskings, but confusion surrounds Black Mask due to numerous imitators on the opposition circuit and the existence of the similarly named Mask.
Here's an interesting one. Our first Black Mask appeared in 1934. Newspapers reported a contest between Black Mask and Belgian Walter Magnee in Nottingham. In the third round the masked man voluntarily removed the mask to reveal himself as W.A.Ord, apparently “well known in Nottingham.” We have found quite a few references to W.A. Ord as an amateur as late as 1933. The now de-masked Black Mask won the contest, reportedly his first professional contest, in the fourth round. We have found no further references to W.A. Ord as a professional wrestler.
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.
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.
Page revised 22/11/19: Black Mask entry updated
13/04/19: Black Owl added