British wrestling history 
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B: Burgess - Burns

Wrestling Heritage A-Z

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George Burgess (Also known as Jamaica kid, Jamaica George, Coolcat Jackson, Samson Negro, Coolcat Virgil, Zulu Warrior, Black Salem)
A man of many names who we first came across in the late 1960s on the Blackpool summer shows staged by Dominic Pye. His career was to last a quarter of a century. 

George Burgess was a popular Jamaican born heavyweight, based in Leeds,  coming to national attention in the 1970s , later to gain greater fame as the Jamaica Kid. Although a muscular  heavyweight George was a very nimble mover, and his speciality drop kick always impressed. George travelled the world and was popular in Indian rings. 

Surely a contender in any competition for the wrestler who used most names?

Brian Burke
Not many tough nuts make the transition from playing cornet in a brass band to knocking seven bells out of an opponent in the wrestling ring. A hard man and a skilful wrestler, taught by the master himself, Billy Riley in Wigan. The Rochdale welterweight   was  24 years old, with seven years amateur experience, when he made his professional debut in 1958. Within a year he was making his debut at the Royal Albert Hall against the British welterweight champion, Jack Dempsey. As both were members of the Riley gymnasium back in Lancashire it was a two hundred mile journey for the two friends to make, no doubt travelling together, along with Billy Joyce and Mel Riss on the same bill.

Ginger Burke
Ginger Burke from Tyldesley near Wigan has been a forgotten man. At the start of modern wrestling in 1930 the first lightweight champion was Harold Angus who through the decade moved up the weights.  Ginger had reputedly been a pro footballer and so may not have started wrestling until 1934. He should not be confused with 12 year old Boy Burke from Tyldesley who wrestled as a schoolboy at Preston in 1935 By 1935 Ginger Burke was being billed as the lightweight champion of Britain, a trail blazed ready for George Kidd and Johnny Saint later. During the war he still wrestled but was also a Sergeant in the Royal Engineers , if advertisements can be believed. Last sighted in 1949.

Jock Burke
Dave Sutherland brought up the subject of Jock Burke: "At St James, Newcastle, back in April 1964; The main bout was Arthur Ricardo against Jock Burke who either wrestled in his kilt or certainly arrived in the ring wearing one. I don't remember him ever appearing at Newcastle again."

That got everyone thinking, but with little success. All we came up with were matches for the independent promoters between 1959 and 1963, then a flurry of activity for Joint Promotions in 1964 before returning to the independents the following year.

Sam Burmister
At the start of 1949 world class heavyweight Sam Burmister arrived in Britain to tackle the likes of Man Mountain Bill Benny, Sandy Orford and Bomber Bates.  Sam claimed to be Jewish wrestling champion, but seemed to be equally famous for his rich baritone voice. Sam's wrestling ability took him far from his home country of Estonia, wrestling around the world in Europe, Australia and the Far East during the 1930s and 1940s.

Jim Burnett
Vancouver's Klondike Jim Burnett was the Canadian Heavyweight, and one time gold miner in South Africa, who made his way across the Atlantic in 1934. His earlier professional contests seem to have been in Britain between 1934 and 1938,  wrestling top British heavyweights such as Bert Mansfield and Bulldog Bill Garnon.  He disappeared from our rings in 1938, presumably pursuing his career back home as the prospect pf war began to loom on the horizon. Jim was back in Britain for a short time following the end of hostilities, and spent much of the following seven or eight years  here in clashes with top men Jack Pye and Dave Armstrong.  Post war, though, we shared him with the rest of the world, with Jim wrestling in South Africa, the United States and his native Canada.

Rocky Burnett
We would like more information on Rocky Burnett, for whom we have recorded matches in the early 1960s for the independent promoters against quality opposition Doctor Death, Randy Turpin, Bobo Matu, Terry O'Neill and The Mighty Chang.

Joe Burns
Killer Joe Burns was an Irish born middleweight, and one time British middleweight champion, for the independent promoters in the 1960s and 1970s. One time tag partner of Sabu the Indian, collectively known as The Karate Killers.

Page reviewed: 4/3/19