Al Brown (Also known as John Brown, Frank Sparks)
Some people said that the popular Manchester welterweight Al Brown often had a puzzled look on his face. We don't know why he should because when he was inside the wrestling ring he certainly knew what he was doing. Universal agreement in the early sixties was that eleven stone Brown was one of the most under-rated of wrestlers, with The Wrestler magazine even declaring him the equal of champion Jack Dempsey. His geographical restrictions to the rings of the midlands, north and Scotland may well have limited his national acclaim, but Southern fans did get to share his considerable talent in around a dozen televised contests. Most notable of all was his televised odd fall victory over John Foley, hastily followed in the memory stakes when he was KO'd by Cliff Belshaw whilst leading by a fall. Other television opponents included the skilful Spaniard Vincente Castella, Abe Ginsberg and Ken Cadman.
Away from television he is remembered for narrowly losing to Jim Breaks in a title clash and a series of tough contests against the Wigan champion Jack Dempsey. Al turned to wrestling following a successful amateur boxing career. He joined the army aged eighteen, largely to have the chance to pursure his love of boxing, but whilst serving met up with the wrestler Johnny Eagles. When he left the army Al joined Manchester YMCA where he learned to wrestle in the evenings whilst working as a railway engineer. He turned professional two years later, losing to Martin Conroy at Hanley. Over the next ten years he met all the top welterweights and showed himself to be the equal of anyone.
Al and the family moved to South Africa in 1970 where he continued to wrestle for another year before taking up refereeing and finally retiring from the ring in 1974.
"Harlem" Jimmy Brown
America's Jimmy Brown was born in New York in 1934 and came to Europe when he was in the American Armed Forces, based in Frankfurt. He was a master of many sports with a physique to match. Jimmy later moved to Paris and consequently worked on the continent before making his first visit to Britain in 1958 for Joint Promotions. His muscular physique made him a popular figure amongst fans. High calibre opponents included Ernest Baldwin, Ernie Riley, Alan Garfield, Eric Taylor, and Gordon Nelson. He was back in Britain in 1962 on Paul Lincoln shows against the likes of Don Mendoza, Doctor Death and Don Stedman Jimmy Brown’s highlight was probably a 1962 victory over Johnny Yearsley at the Royal Albert Hall. Heritage member Tom H remembers him, "He was billed as, the coloured junior heavyweight champion of the world, I've never seen anyone do the flying head scissors as good as this man." Tragedy struck in 1965 when Jimmy Brown was killed in a car crash in France.
Judo John Brown
Dudley's Judo John Brown was trained by Alan "Tarantula" Turner. Worked for the independent promoters in the 1970s and 1980s, and continued involvement in the sport following his retirement as a referee and trainer of young hopefuls.
The Brown Mask has been
unmasked twice. First time was by Reg Williams, and second time by
Adrian Pollard who brought this short lived masked man to our
attention. A run of just twelve wins was brought to an end by
Reg at Altrincham on 3rd December, 1956. Beneath the mask? Billy
Joyce of Wigan. Yes, that was a surprise to us too.
Brown Mask's run
of twelve victories included a win over light heavyweight champion
Ernie Riley. Just why Billy Joyce pulled on a mask in the first
place, and why he was unmasked after just a dozen matches, will
remain one of wrestlings mysteries.
The Brown Masked Marvel
A myriad of Masked Marvels have appeared in British wrestling rings, none of them career masked men. Yet we find only one Brown Masked Marvel, of whom the American magazine, The Ring, reported in March, 1938, " … a supporting bout saw the "Brown Masked Marvel," a hooded light heavy, take two straight from Jack Atherton of Lancashire . . .”
We came across him in Preston in November, 1937, wrestling Vic Hessle and said to be "The Unknown! The Unbeaten." We then uncovered another dozen or so matches, up to September, 1939. All of them were in Lancashire, all unbeaten, which makes us suspect that a tough Lancashire wrestler was beneath the mask.
The hyperbole increased with each appearance: “The Unknown! The Unbeaten. The fastest wrestler in the world. Challenges any wrestler at his weight. His speed and anticipation is astonishing. Has appeared at all the principal halls in England and on the Continent. Clean, clever and good.”
Scotland’s 19 stone, and six feet plus, Robert Bruce was originally from Musselburgh,Edinburgh.
After leaving grammar school Robert (his real name was John Young) trained as an accountant before giving it up in search of a more glamorous career, as a night club bouncer! Maybe it was this real life experience that got him the part of a bouncer in the film "A Clockwork Orange."
In 1961 when he was eighteen years old he invaded the land of the sassenach and moved to London. He trained at the United Amateur Wrestling Club having been spotted by Pasquale Salvo, and was active on Dale Martin bills from 1967 to 1971.
Early bouts saw him billed as Robert the Bruce, the brave hearted Scottish warrior. Despite some skill, and roughening up his style, he never reached the top spot before engaging in a 1972 short tour of New Zealand from which he never seemed to return. In New Zealand he became a celebrated wrestler and stuntman.
Retiring from wrestling in 1977 he opened New Zealand's first talent and theatrical agency. He was a supporter of the native Maoris, and vice-patron of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Robert Bruce passed away on 2nd March, 2009.
A name not often remembered, but George Bryan of Leeds was a true pioneer. On the day usually acknowledged as the launch day of British all-in wrestling, 15th December, 1930, George Bryan was in action. Not at the London or Manchester shows celebrated so often, but in a Doncaster show promoted by Harold Angus. Bryan defeated another Leeds wrestler, Tom McDermot, by two falls to nil in five minutes thirty seconds. He was to remain a stalwart, low key player in British wrestling until the early 1940s.
Trained by veteran Norman Carter Lincoln's Dave Bryson came to our attention in 1967. The boy was popular and he was everywhere. Well, everywhere around the Midlands with the odd jaunt northwards.
Opponents included Kendo Nagasaki, Barry Douglas, Mal Kirk, Les Kellett; most of the mid heavies and heavyweights in the north.
Two of wrestling's mysteries surround Dave Bryson. What was it with the gloves he wore? Was there some medical reason or just one of wrestling's most subtle gimmicks? Secondly, after three years why did he disappear as quickly as he arrived?
Bad boy of the late 1980s, sometimes tag partner of Fit Finlay, who we have been told was his step father, being the son of Princess Paula. Made one television appearance, an August 1988 match with Danny Collins. A good, hard wrestler according to colleague Keith Myatt.
Martin Bucht (Also known as Padvo Peltonin)
The blond giant, heavyweight Martin Bucht was born in Estonia but by the early 1930s was living in Australia and was billed as Pacific Coast Heavyweight Champion. He is mostly associated with his frequent appearances in the all-in rings of the 1930s, He came to Britain in the mid 1930s and wrestled around the country with many appearances at the Blackfriars Ring. He continued wrestling in Britain until 1950, and took part in the 1947 World Heavyweight Tournament at Harringay Stadium.
French heavyweight made regular visits to Britain between 1946 and 1950. Brother of Rene Bukovac.
The French mid heavyweight, and one time European champion, visited Britain in the 1950s with a 1950 victory over Ernest Baldwin at Belle Vue, Manchester. Brother of Ray Bukovac.
The Bulk (Also known as The Incredible Bulk)
We will just settle for Bulk, being of an age the Incredible tag just didn't see authentic; not that we would wish to disrespect a most likely decent man earning a bit of money within the context of the time. With the novelty of perhaps weighing in even heavier than Giant Haystacks at his peak, 42-stones The Bulk represented one of many eighties lows in professional wrestling. He made a ring appearance at a Wembley Extravaganza and then challenged Big Daddy in Gloucester.
By the time of his sole tv appearance this poor young chap had still not mastered the role he had hastily been engaged to fill, that of a villainous foil to Big Daddy. Now maskless, he moved slowly around the ring, forgetful of what to do. Then he stomped up and down but faced the wrong direction and it looked ridiculous.
Even his opponent was guiding him as to what to do, and an improvised early finish was sensibly arranged, and the completely bewildered Bulk was ushered away to the dressing rooms. Even the programmes said he had limitations and weak spots, even the promoters said he was grotesque. Wrestling Heritage does not blame the wrestler. Who can blame someone for seeking a moment of glory and earning a honest crust? Yet we ask, how could the administrators have brought the sport into such pitiful disrepute?
George looked like his name: five foot eight and seventeen stone of fast moving aggressive bad temper in the ring. Worked for both Joint Promotions and Independent promoters in the 50s & 60s. Featured in bouts with Dennis and Jack Keegan, Jack Beaumont, Bill Coverdale, Jack Cassidy and was one of Billy Two Rivers first opponents in the UK. He had a series of bouts with another Red Indian, Chief Thunderbird who was based in Levenshulme Manchester that used to draw good crowds at local shows.
George ran into health problems in his early middle age and died suddenly in the early 70s. Unheralded but a good, solid heavyweight who could give and take with the best of them.