A: Bob Archer O'Brien, Bob Anthony, Chris Anthony

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Bob Archer O'Brien

Bob Anthony

Chris Anthony

Bob Archer O'Brien

Our memories are of Bob Archer O’Brien as a well respected and popular referee. Well, that and  television commentator Kent Walton waxing lyrically about what a great wrestler he had been; and we have no reason to doubt Kent.  Of course, there was much more to the history of this wrestling great than being a popular referee. Bob Archer O’Brien was one of a handful of post war professionals who appeared on television way back in the pioneer days of both tv and our sport. On 6th January, 1947, Bob appeared on BBC television in an exhibition wrestling match against the Cambridge wrestler Charlie Law, who was to gain fame as a professional known as College Boy. 

Robert Archer was born in Chelmsford on 12th November, 1917.  Two years later he was  enlisted in the British army where he served in India.  

Bob's career can be traced back a decade earlier. We found twenty year old Robert Archer wrestling at his local Corn Exchange in July, 1938, a supporting match to a female contest between Connie Landi and Peggy Parnell. A far cry from his twilight years refereeing in Dale Martin halls. The Chelmsford Chronicle reported that Bob had been trained by amateur wrestling champion J. Craig. We found more pre war matches  at Chelmsford, against Ginger Morsley in December, 1938 and Eddie Humphreys in March, 1939.

Following the war he established himself as one of the country’s top welterweights. He was on the bill at his local Chelmsford Corn Exchange (against Vic Coleman) “Easily the best fight of the evening...” when wrestling returned to the hall on 1st July, 1947, and was a regular favourite for years to come. 

For twenty years Bob was one of the most highly rated welterweights, around Britain and on the Continent. Maybe it was a lack of colour, his modest disposition or lack of good fortune but although his skill  placed him alongside the likes of Dempsey, Kidd and Capelli, and way beyond certain other welterweight superstars , Bob didn't receive the full acclaim that he deserved from the promoters. That's not to say the fans didn't respect him, they did so hugely, and always enjoyed seeing his name on the bill even though  his drawing power didn't match some of his contemporaries.

Bob was able to hold his own, and usually defeat, most of the wrestlers of his day. He was a popular hero of the day, with a smile that would quickly evaporate his rugged facial features. A modest, unassuming man Bob Archer O’Brien must be included in any list of post war greats. Following a wrestling career that spanned three decades he went on to become a popular referee in the days when a referee really could make or break a contest.

Thirty years after turning professional Bob disappeared from our rings in the summer of 1968, though was tempted back for occasional ring action in 1971 by independent promoters.

The Chelmsford star also bestowed two other fine wrestlers on UK audiences, his sons Bob and Chris Anthony.  Bob Archer O’Brien died on 1st November, 1975.

Forever a Teenage Idol

Bob Anthony

To the wrestling fans he was the amiable Bob Anthony who entranced them with some dazzling wrestling moves. To the family he's always been known as Tony, that's his middle name.  Born Robert  Anthony Archer in Chelmsford in 1937 to Robert and Sylvia  Archer young Tony was brought up in wartime Chelmsford by his mother and grandmother as father was fighting in the army. Father Robert was the famous and very accomplished wrestler, Bob Archer O'Brien. One of the top wrestlers of his time young Tony would travel with his father  to watch him wrestle and was motivated to follow in his footsteps.

Dad might well have known a lot about wrestling but he didn't know that since he was  ten years old  Bob had been learning to wrestle at a local club, the  Chelmsford    Wrestling and Weight Lifting Club. 

The youngster would wrestle at local carnivals and fetes, which is where we found the twelve year old at the Ipswich Fete,  Chelmsford and Maldon Carnivals in 1949 and 1950.  The Chelmsford Chronicle reported that 1,000 watched the wrestling at the Maldon carnival. It was a big surprise to father Bob when a friend commented to him that young Tony was coming on nicely with his wrestling, "What wrestling?" was the reply. As the youngster progresses he was prepared for the professional ring by Fred Bentley and  policeman, Tom Pinch. How's that for an appropriate name for a  Bobby?  

A motorbike accident could have brought an end to Bob's wrestling ambitions before he had even started. Fortunately he made a full recovery and was raring to go. By the mid 1950s he was establishing himself around southern England on bills presented by independent promoters, many of them organised by Bert Assirati's wife, Marjorie.

It didn't take long for Tony to come to the attention of Joint Promotions. By 1958 we find him working for Dale Martin Promotions. In his early days with Dale Martin Promotions Bob was billed as Tony Archer, a name that he didn't like. Requesting a name change he was invited to Dale Martin offices in Brixton and recalled,  "I asked  to be known as Bob Anthony."  I remember Charles Mascal saying 'How about Tony Roberts?' and Les Martin saying 'Not now Charles.' "

So, Bob Anthony it was, and the boy was on his way. In October, 1960 Bob Anthony made his first appearance on television with a match against Ted Hannon at Purley. He was back on the small screen the following year with matches against Tony Charles, Mick McMichael and  Brian Trevors. An inevitable loss against Mick McManus came in April, 1962, a sure sign that the boy had made it. The men who he had seen wrestling his dad, George Kidd, Mick McManus, Jack Dempsey, were now in the opposite corner as he entered the ring.

Behind the scenes, though, there was grumbling in the ranks. Professional wrestlers were growing tired of the pay and conditions imposed by Joint Promotion members, which led to the formation of a wrestlers union, the Wrestlers Alliance,  in April 1962. It was a summer of discontent with further allegations that wrestlers involved in the union were discriminated against. Bob Anthony took the decision to leave Joint Promotions and began working once again for the independent promoters, most notably Paul Lincoln Management. This brought a new set of opponents that included newcomers Zoltan Boscik and Jon Cortez, experienced wrestlers who had already left Joint, such as Harry Fields, and visitors from overseas, Gil Cesca and Inca Peruano. It was also during this period that Bob brought into wrestling his younger brother, Chris, with the two of them making a popular tag team for Paul Lincoln, with spectacular matches against their main rivals Jon and Peter Cortez.

Trips to the Continent were a regular occurrence, with ten day trips to France as well as regular work in Spain, Belgium and Italy and further afield to Hong Kong and Thailand. On one visit to France Bob challenged Rene Ben Chemould for the World Middleweight Championship at the Palais des Sports in Paris.

This was the swinging sixties and life was good. Bob went into partnership with his wrestling pals Paul Lincoln, Al Hayes and Ray Hunter. They took ownership of The Cromwellian in South Kensington, a club and casino with an infamous past. By now a respectable venue it became the haunt of the rich and famous, and none more so than The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  Bob, who already had some experience in promoting rock bands and staging concerts at Chelmsford Town Hall, booked the acts for the Cromwellian, amongst them Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Julie Driscoll, and Brian Auger. In 1967  he moved on to open the Pantiles nightclub and restaurant. Bill Haley and his Comets, Fleetwood Mac, Georgie Fame and Elton John were amongst those who worked for Bob at the Pantiles,which he ran until it's closure on 14th July, 2007, exactly forty years to the day after he had opened it.  In 1995 Bob was presented with The Discotheque of the Year South award by  Jonathan Ross. Embryonic plans for Bob to embark on a singing career fortunately (for wrestling fans) came to nothing.

In 1965 Paul Lincoln Management merged with Dale Martin Promotions which meant Bob was back on the Joint Promotion circuit. Along with him came his Lincoln colleagues that included Al Hayes, Ray Hunter, Steve Haggetty, Bob Kirkwood, Alan Sarjeant, Dave Larsen and the rest of the Lincoln regulars. For each of them it meant a return to television exposure and matches against the big names of the time; Pallo, Logan and McManus. The Anthony brothers also continued their rivalry with the Cortez brothers whilst also taking on other established teams McManus and Pallo, Capelli and Joyce, and the Hells Angels. National exposure returned for the first time since 1962 with televised matches against  Alan Dennison, Bobby Barnes and Johnny Saint.

Most wrestling fans were oblivious to the double life of Bob Anthony. A popular, successful wrestling career would be enough for most people let alone another life as an entertainment entrepreneur. No wonder he was nicknamed The Wrestling Beatle. Fortunately for wrestling fans Bob continued to devote energy to wrestling until the early 1980s, still performing at the highest level. In October, 1980, he still had the beating of Zoltan Boscik in front of 5,000 approving fans at the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington. 

Well over a quarter of a century after turning professional Bob began to reduce his commitments. He continued to concentrate his efforts in the entertainment business until finally retiring to spend more time extending his skills of another sport, golf.

Chris Anthony

Chris Anthony was not only a skilful welterweight he was also the younger brother of Bob Anthony and son of the great Bob Archer O'Brien. Chris Anthony was born in 1940 to Robert and Sylvia Archer. Surrounded by wrestlers as a child it's hardly surprising that Chris took an interest in the sport and followed his older brother into the business.  Chris became involved in wrestling as a second for the independent promoters. He was keen to learn and older brother, Bob, was a good tutor.  Many of his earlier bouts were as Bob's tag partner against other young tag teams, most memorably Jon and Peter Cortez. Away from big brother Chris was more than capable of taking care of himself against the top wrestlers on both the independent and Joint Promotions circuits. In January 1966 he was one of the wrestlers to transfer to Joint Promotions when Paul Lincoln Management amalgamated with Dale Martin Promotions.

Page added 28/06/2019

Reviewed 06/02/2022