A: Bob Abbott
Basford’s Italian Hearthrob
Brian Abbott was born on 11th March, 1941. As a teenager he took an interest in physical culture and by his mid teens was entering competitions near his home of Basford, a suburb of Nottingham. His parents were mine hosts of a public house in Basford, The Raven. It was in his mid teens he met Jack Taylor, a professional wrestler with a gymnasium where he trained dozens of youngsters. Taylor was to become a huge influence on Brian and his career.
Within a few years, under Taylor’s guidance, Brian had made his entry into the professional wrestling ring. We find him working for promoter Taylor in 1960 with opponents Frankie Price, Linde Caulder and Bobby Barnes. Within a year he was engaged by other independent promoters, including Lew Phillips and the Australian Paul Lincoln. It wasn’t the name Abbott on the bill, however, but something far more exotic.
The publicity machinery of the time proclaimed the credentials of an Italian hearthrob who wasn't quite what he appeared, but then this was wrestling! Brian Abbott was transformed into an Anglo Italian mid heavyweight who was claimed to be the equal of Mike Marino, Leno Larazzi.
In the 1960s Brian learned his trade on the independent circuit. Not just as Leno Larazzi but also under the guise of a masked man who was to become one of the country’s top tag teams. A friend and fellow wrestler from the same area of Nottingham, Basford, Wally Severn, wrestled as one half of a masked tag team, The Undertakers. Wally sadly died in 1967, he was only 46. Brian was already friends with the other half of the Undertakers, known otherwise as wrestler Vince Apollo. Vince was Undertaker Jonathan and Brian Abbott assumed the role of Undertaker Nathaniel. Exactly when Brian assumed the role we cannot be precise. Wally had already retired and moved to Great Yarmouth before his death, and so we calculate Brian must have taken over no more than a couple of years after the Undertakers 1964 debut.
Entering the hall slowly, of course, they meandered mournfully to the ring, each dressed in morning coat, white shirt and tie, black tights, with a top hat firmly placed on the black mask that concealed their faces. Once in the ring the tempo remained decidedly slow, with the painstakingly slow removal of the outer garments, meticulously folded and handed to the second for safekeeping. The fans would jeer and boo whilst the opponents, inevitably a couple of young good guys, watched their antics in bemusement.
The Undertakers were main event performers for the independents until 1971 when they were signed up by Joint Promotions, working mainly for Wryton Promotions. Their earlier success was repeated, though they were never rewarded with a television bout. They wrestled just about all the top tag teams of the time, including the Royal Brothers, Black Diamonds, Saints and Judokas. Like all good masked men they promised to unmask if beaten; unless the defeat was by disqualification. Defeat inevitably came their way, though invariably by disqualification.
When not wrestling as one of the Undertakers Brian continued to work unmasked. No longer Anglo Italian Leno Larazzi he was now the more prosaic Brian, Bob or Mick Abbott.
Brian left the Undertakers tag partnership in 1976, though the name continued with others in the role.
Here at Heritage it’s all about the memories, and we end with a fond memory of member Frank Thomas: “Saw Bob Abbott many times at Liverpool Stadium, as himself and as an "Undertaker." For some reason he was always billed as "Mick Abbott" in Liverpool, had a losing streak to match that of Black Jack Mulligan! Then saw him beat Bill Clark. I congratulated him, and he said "Broke my 100% record kid," shook my hand, before leaving ringside. Another one without whom the stars wouldn’t have been able to shine!!”
Brian Abbott died in October, 2003, aged 61.
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