WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

B: Bobby Barnes


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Bobby Barnes


Bobby Barnes was one of those colourful characters of post second world war British wrestling that is so fondly remembered by fans when they discuss the old days some twenty years into the twenty-first century. His on-going celebrity status helped, no doubt, by the availability of quite a few of his matches on the internet.

Oh, how the peacock strutted his stuff. 
 
All he needed to do was pose in the ring, sneer at the crowd and arrogance simply seeped from Bobby Barnes’ pores. There he stood in all his glory, and the fans booed and jeered. This was just the start of the ritual as he carefully removed his gold coloured gown,  comb his hair and receive more jeers from the fans. Adrian Pollard recalled "He took at least three minutes before Bobby was ready for his bout. The Gear had to be painstakingly folded with precision."

Yet it wasn't always that way. There are three significant phases to the development of the Bobby Barnes persona. Our earliest sighting of Bobby Barnes comes in July, 1958. A supporting role naturally, with an opponent of none other than Mick McManus. In those days Mick was also very much a support player but a much more experienced wrestler who had lost the British welterweight title to Jack Dempsey only two months earlier. Other early opponents included Jackie Pallo, Jack Cunningham and Bob Archer O'Brien.

Bobby hadn't long ago turned professional following training at the Symbic Wrestling Club under the guidance of John Harris. In November, 1960 he left Joint Promotions to work for the independents, returning to the Joint fold in january, 1962. In those days Bobby was one of the good guys, a blue eye as they became known. One Heritage member who saw Bobby wrestle during this time was Ballymoss, "I can remember Bobby Barnes when he was very much a blue eye and he did not make much impression. This changed when he adopted a more aggressive style, and of course went on to form a highly successful partnership with Adrian Street. He seemed to improve with age and never failed to make an impression. A really great wrestler and entertainer."

Bobby developed his wrestling persona. Not for him outright villainy and brute force but subtle underhand tactics and an arrogance that guaranteed jeers before the match even started. 

This was only the start. Numerous ad-hoc tag partnerships evaporated and were replaced in 1967 with a pairing with Welshman Adrian Street. They were no Hells Angels to begin with. Bad boys yes, but to begin with each kept their own unique styles and dressed quite differently, unlike many tag pairings. It didn't last long. By the end of the year Street's flamboyancy had become contagious. Blond hair, colourful capes and their methodical slow-motion removal was all part of the routine, as was a new name, The Hells Angels. Owner of  a ladies hairdressing salon (at least that's what Kent Walton told us) Bobby became famous for his blond locks, of which he took great care. Each year seemed to see Bobby’s hair grow longer and blonder, his cloaks and boots more colourful. Colour television was made for this pair.

Graham Bawden was another fan: "Bobby Barnes proved in his early career, that he didn’t need any gimmicks. He was a great wrestler. Then came the transformation with Adrian Street, and The Hells Angels had arrived. Fantastic tag team, with genuine wrestling skills. Bobby Barnes, mixed it with the finest wrestlers in his time."

Whether or not Bobby felt entirely comfortable with his more flamboyant personality has been the speculation of comments through the years. We do know that when the tag pairing split due to Street leaving Joint Promotions Bobby changed his image once again. He developed a harder edge, cut the locks and even grew a moustache. Our fondest memories are of the 1970s era blond bombshell, but whatever the style Bobby Barnes always worth watching, as Bill Smith commented:  "When ever I saw him Bobby was always in an entertaining match up.He was one of the chaps who you got value for money from. Never boring,never dull,always entertaining."

Bobby remained working for Joint Promotions until the late 1980s, then joined the independent circuit and continued working into the 1990s.

Unlike many wrestlers Bobby can be credited with working nationally in all parts of the country, travelling hundreds of miles each week. He was also well known to armchair fans, making over eighty televised appearances between 1965 and 1988. His opponent in that last televised contest was Robbie Brookside, a man who hadn't been born at the time Bobby had made his debut. By then Bobby was "Mr Wonderful."

To us, he always was.

Page added: 22/08/2021