B: Brokau - Browers
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
A busy worker around the UK between 1933 and 1945, we have only one post war record. Reports make reference to his dreaded speciality "The Crucifix Hold" though our record of his wins show little evidence of it being put to effect!
Fritz "Red" Brokau was said to be a German-Canadian, though we have knowledge if this is true. He continued working in Britain throughout the second world war, which would cast serious doubt on his Germanic lineage. Following his retirement in the mid 1940s Red Brokau we have been told settled in Manchester, which seems a more realistic proposition.
The name re-surfaced once again in the 1980s.
Bill Bromley (Emperor, Bill Freeman, Big Bertha, Colossus)
Standing over six feet tall Bill Bromley was an imposing figure. He begn appearing on Dale Martin bills in the south during the late 1970s and was a busy worker gaining some short term success in the 1980s. He used a variety of names: Bill Bromley, Bill Freeman Big Bertha, Masked Emperor and The Colossus. He made half a dozen or so television appearances during 1981 and 1982, notably remembered for partnering Giant Haystacks against Big Daddy and Jim Moser televised from Derby in October, 1982. Other tv opponents included Wayne Bridges and John Elijah. As The Emperor he made a further two television appearances, in 1985, against Drew McDonald and Pat Roach. Highlights of his career included Royal Albert Hall appearances against John Elijah and Pat Roach.
When heavyweight Lee Bronson joined the professional ranks in the early 1970s he seemed to be everywhere. If anyone was destined for the top it was Lee. The credentials were good, distinguished amateur career at South London's United Club and son of old campaigner Norman the Butcher; the image was good, a fan's favourite if ever there was one, and a collection of early wins over established names. He achieved nationwide prominence going down to Iron Man Steve Logan in his television debut in November 1975. In subsequent tv bouts the matchmakers made it no easier for Lee, with opponents including Mike Marino, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki. With wins over Johnny Yearsley and Pat Roach, and a no contest decision against Wayne Bridges we were still convinced Lee had that star quality. It was something of a surprise, therefore, when Bronson was thrown to the lions, so to speak, and matched with Bill Robinson on television when the Lancashire heavyweight returned home from America. Another of wrestling’s mysteries. We fans wanted to watch Robinson against an established heavyweight like Albert Wall or Gwyn Davies, not dampen the rising star. Lee bronson had all the talent we craved in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but matchmakers and time connived together to prevent the fulfilment of that initial promise.
Related articles : Manchester to Minnesota in Armchair Corner on www.wrestlingheritage.com
Stoker Brookes (Petty Officer Brookes)
Bearded, muscular and tattooed Barnsley's Ronnie Brookes looked the part. He was one of Charlie Glover's lads, learning boxing and wrestling at Charlie's Junction Gym in Barnsley alongside Dwight J Ingleburgh, Pedro the Gypsy, Max Raeger and the rest of Charlie's troupe. With a boxing background Stoker was one of those rough and tumble wrestlers who usually worked within the rules but could never be described as a clean shaven hero. Let's just call it a robust style. Very robust. He was a reliable worker for the prominent opposition promoters of the late fifties, sixties and seventies. We watched him in the 1960s and (much as he planned) would never have guessed the real life personality behind this robust wrestling persona. A farm worker and miner would have been believable enough, but the precision of a signwriter and water colour artist would certainly have surprised us. In later years Ronnie put his artist skills to the benefit of the community when he tutored twice weekly at Age Concern art classes. Ronnie was also a member of the “Raggy Lads,” a social group of working class men. Stoker Brookes died in January 2008.
Ed “Strangler” Brooks
Professional wrestling was never sophisticated or too far distanced from bad taste. So, how about Bradford's 1930 villain Strangler Brook, whose dressing gown displayed an image of a man hanging from the gallows. Not bad enough? How about his habit of taking a mouthful of water and spurting it into his opponents face. Unsurprisingly, reports suggest his wrestling style was not exactly sophisticated either, punching and biting appeared to be favourite forms of offence.
George Brooks of Huddersfield is a bit of a mystery. The only book on 1930s wrestling (Blue Blood on the Mat) makes no mention of him but does mention the more famous Harry Brooks, also of Huddersfield.
Searching the newspaper archives he is only mentioned a few times, all between September 1934 and February 1935, and all matches within a 20 mile radius of Birmingham. This is odd, but not proof of a short career in a restricted area as the archives are not complete.
There may have been confusion between George and Harry Brooks, but appearances on the same bill proves they were not the same man
He was said to be a skilled wrestler, praised in reports of his defeats of the Iron Duke, Dave Armstrong and Len Franklin.
Huddersfield's Harry Brooks was one of the big names of both the pre and post war wrestling scenes a beneficiary of his tutors Douglas Clark and Billy Riley. Harry's career began right at the start of the introduction of the All-In rules in 1930. Said to be tall, dark and handsome he was nonetheless a Heavyweight ruffian rather than a textbook stylist. His style gained him the nickname of the “Huddersfield Hurricane,” though he was allowed the honour of Northern England Heavyweight Champion. Harry had some epic battles against the legendary Bert Assirati, not to mention other greats such as Bulldog Bill Garnon, Wild Tarzan and Dave Armstrong. Naturally Harry served in the forces during the Second World War, in the Royal Air Force. He wrestled whenever leave allowed and was billed as Sergeant Brooks of the R.A.F. He was one of the first wrestlers to appear on television, facing Anaconda in a match on the BBC in 1947. Harry retired from wrestling in 1951.
Rev Michael Brooks
Illusion may have been an essential part of professional wrestling, but Michael Brooks was no illusion; he was a genuine Methodist minister. His wrestling experience began as a twelve year old in the lake district where he wrestled Cumberland and Westmorland style in the Lakeland sports. He took up freestyle wrestling as a fourteen year old when he joined Lancaster Lads Club. The church came later. He had a few bouts for the independent promoters before his church work took him to South Africa. The Morecambe born middleweight combined church work with wrestling in South Africa. He claimed (and we can hardly doubt the word of a man of the cloth) to have held the Middleweight championship of Namibia for seven years. On his return visits to Britain he combined his ministry work with wrestling, saying that the wrestling helped him make contact with people otherwise out of the reach of a Methodist Minister. Wrestling Heritage member 1978 Kid has reported that Michael took early retirement from the ministry due to arthritis, and died suddenly on 7th March, 2000, aged 64.
Richie Brooks (Golden Apollon)
Bath's Richie Brooks certainly made his mark on the British wrestling scene. He may only have gained national exposure on television in 1985, but he made more than twenty further appearances over the following three years until wrestling disappeared from our screens, and would most likely have still been one of today's big names if things had turned out different for the sport. Seen at his best defeating villains such as Peter Kaye and Black Jack Mulligan, and stylists such as Steve Grey; at his worst partnering Big Daddy. A stocky middleweight, he stood only 5'6" tall, Richie's all action style made him a popular addition to any bill.
We would welcome information about Saxon Brooks who was active in the 1980s with opponents including Alan Kilby, Alan Dennison, Jim Breaks and Johnny South. A tall six footer from Nottingham he defeated Dave Lawrence and lost to Alan Kilby in his two televised matches.
Robbie Brookside (Golden Apollon)
There are only a handful of wrestlers listed in the Heritage A-Z with whom modern day fans can associate. Robbie Brookside is one of those few, because when we added him to the A-Z in 2011 he was still one of the top wrestling stars in Britain, working regularly throughout the country and overseas.
Very few in the business persisted with wrestling during the leanest of years. Robbie did, and emerged in the twenty first century as not just a survivor, but a top star.
Sixteen year old Robbie Brookside turned professional in 1982, and became one of the most successful and popular wrestlers of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. His age and agility made him an immediate success on the show of Bobby Barron and Brian Dixon, and the impact was replicated as soon as he appeared on television, both in singles bouts and as one of the Liverpool Lads Tag Team, remembered for great matches against Kendo Nagasaki and Blondie Barratt.
It is a tribute to Robbie that he continued to work in the wrestling business during the dark years following the removal of wrestling from British television screens. His skill has taken him across the world, with tours of the USA, Japan, Mexico, Europe and the Middle East.
1951 visitor to the UK with opponents that included Mike Marino, Black Butcher Johnson, and Vic Hessle,
Jan Brouwers was a classy Belgium wrestler who was Heavy Middlweight Champion of his country on his first visit in the 1950s. He made later visits, going up the weight divisions in his later years, but always retaining a classical style of wrestling that was appreciated by the purist fans.
Page revised 9/5/18: Addition of Ed Strangler Brooks, George Brooks and Saxon Brooks.