Long before the name British Bulldog became marketing hype for American promoters the wrestling fans of Britain enjoyed their own, more authentic, pedigree bulldog. Admittedly the Bulldog tag was attached in the latter part of Colin Joynson's career but the characteristics of guts, energy, determination and tenacity were apparent in young Joynson's ring style from the early years.
Our memories and admiration of the Bulldog go back to when he was, so to speak, a mere pup of the ring. The youthful Colin Joynson of those days was a high flying young welterweight in regular tussles with those other northern newcomers Terry Downs, Al Brown, Roy St Clair, Johnny Eagles and more established professionals that included Romeo Joe Critchley, Jim Mellor and Tommy Mann.
In those days the boy could fly. Goodness, could he fly. There were few faster and we saw no one go higher, as promoter Jack Atherton discovered on the night he docked money from Colin's pay after he sprung so high that his foot caught, and shattered, one of the ring lights, covering the mat in glass.
As he matured and graduated through the weights Colin lost little of the speed, none of the energy, became even more gutsy and added to this dynamic cocktail a good dash of strength and more effective use of submission holds. We can think of few others, if any, whose physical development allowed them to provide credible opposition for such a disparate array of stars as George Kidd, Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, Steve Logan, Jon Guil Don, Big Daddy and kendo Nagasaki. This man really did meet them all.
Towards the end of Colin's career television commentator Kent Walton never failed to remind viewers that Colin was known in Germany as "The Pocket Tank." We can only assume that the name was meant as a compliment but think British Bulldog was a more elegant way of conveying the same sentiments.
The increased poundage, power and energy enabled Colin Joynson's career to evolve over the years from the fresh faced speed merchant of the sixties to an exciting warhorse, sorry Bulldog, of the eighties. Even at the very end of his career, a televised World Mid Heavyweight challenge for Marty Jones' championship belt, Colin was as exciting, entertaining and totally professional as at any other time in his professional life.
The word professional surfaces fairly quickly whenever thoughts turn to Colin Joynson. He was, and still is, the ultimate professional. Colin was always protective of the image of professional wrestling, and was not afraid to stand up to whoever he felt may harm the credibility of the sport or bring the business into disrepute. He remains so to this day, twenty odd years after leaving the ring, and whilst willing to discuss the sport in a mature, honest way remains protective of the wrestling heritage in which he played such an important part. And rightly so.
The guts, determination and courage that made Colin Joynson a star of the ring are no pre-fabricated ring image but an extension of his out of ring personality. We found innumerable examples of those qualities manifesting themselves throughout his life. Colin was the one who faced the promoters to express the concerns that others were too timid to raise. This led to him being sacked by certain promoters on more than one occasion, and then being re-instated a few weeks later, or the same day in one case!
Determination and courage again when, as a pub landlord, he took on the might of Britain's largest brewery in a legal battle that was finally concluded in the European Court of Justice.
Then there was the time he drove home from a match against Keith Martinelli, with his leg broken! Another opportunity for Colin's lovely wife, Helen, to give him one of those despairing looks and words of "advice" in the way that only a northern woman can!
Most significantly of all was the courage and determination demonstrated when illness resulted in the loss of Colin's leg. With a determination that none of us can imagine Colin overcame the obstacles to get his life back to as near normal as possible. Colin emphasised the value of the wrestling fraternity who "Got behind me at the time. I had messages of support from wrestlers all over the world, it was incredible. In wrestling you are part of one big family."
This is not the place to discuss whether Colin's gutsy personality is the result of inheritance or environment but it does seem reasonable to conclude that much of his ring style was influenced by the man who trained him all those years ago and remains a good friend until this day.
Jim Hussey had been working the rings of Britain for two decades when he took teenager Colin under his wing and trained him in the ways of the wrestling world. He did a good job, of that there is no doubt, and Colin only had a couple of matches for the independent promoters before he was signed up by Wryton Promotions and moved across to Joint Promotion rings.
Once again young Colin didn't leave his career progression to chance. Call it self-assurance, the confidence of youth, or just downright cheek, but after those two independent shows Colin approached Yorkshire promoter Ted Beresford and announced he was ready for work. Ted arranged a trial with Wryton Promotions confident that forty-five minutes on the mat with Martin Conroy would either end him or mend him.
Following the trial Colin went home and waited for the verdict. He didn't wait long, because two weeks later he was matched with Bobby Steel at Neath. Those forty-five minutes led to twenty eight years in the professional wrestling ring. For the following three years Colin worked throughout the midlands and northern England, mostly for Wryton Promotions but also for Bill Best and Jack Atherton.
National exposure came in 1963 with a television debut against Terry Downs, followed by matches against Linde Caulder and Shem Singh. The boy did well. So well in fact that Dale Martin Promotions didn't just bring him south, they brought him south to make a Royal Albert Hall debut against Jackie Pallo in the main event of June, 1964. It was to be the first of seven Royal Albert Hall bookings.
By 1965 Colin was travelling south on a regular basis and was established as a national figure on the British wrestling scene. The quality of television opponents offers evidence of the youngster's growing stature - George Kidd, Johnny Kwango,N'Boa the Snakeman and Steve Logan being amongst the half a dozen he faced on tv in 1965. As readers will be aware this was to be no fleeting success; but few may realise that Colin Joynson appeared on British television for eighteen consecutive years from 1963 until 1980, and was rated 32 in the Wrestling Heritage Top 200 TV Wrestlers, with seventy televised contests. Such a high position is all the more remarkable when we take into account Colin's frequent overseas visits.
In the world of wrestling Colin was one of Britain's greatest exports. He wrestled in the German tournaments for many summers, and the Joynson family would set up home in one of the German cities from April until September. Colin was also well known in Belgium and France, and joined Billy Robinson, Johnny Eagles, Barry Douglas, John Lees and Tony Charles in the British offensive into Japanese rings in 1970, returning again the following year.
Wherever he wrestled it was always important to Colin that he did a good job. For him it wasn't the winning, nor just the taking part, but making sure that the fans went home happy. When facing the biggest names in the business Colin was destined to mostly come off second best. There were exceptions, though, and the ever appreciative fans were more than happy to see Colin gaining the decision (and we are talking falls or KO wins) over Jimmy Lewis, Vic Faulkner, Johnny Kwango, Quasimodo, Tony Charles, Steve Logan, Johnny Saint, Tony St Clair and Marty Jones, which demonstrates that the big names didn't always come out on top.
Two particularly satisfying nights for Colin Joynson fans must have been in two endurance tournaments. On 5th September, 1970, at Hanley, he KO'd Vic Faulkner, gained the only fall required over Steve Logan and was then disqualified in his contest with Alan Wood. On 16th September, 1972 fate dealt another cruel blow. Colin defeated Marty Jones and Rollerball Rocco by the odd fall before being KO'd by Bobby Barnes.
Many readers will remember Colin's tag partnership with Steve Haggetty. As fans we may have booed them, but we remember them with fondness. Read our tribute to these two Dangermen in the Armchair Corner Much Ado About Nothing.
Whilst justifiably proud of the part he played for the best part of three decades Colin makes no claims to have been any sort of wrestling superstar. His name may not be the first to spring to mind when discussing wrestling, but genuine fans know how much the business relied on men such as Colin. As we have commented on many occasions, without his kind there would have been no Mick McManus's, Jackie Pallo's or Kendo Nagasaki's of the wrestling world. In the professional wrestling ring the saying of cream rising to the top rarely rang true. The biggest names in wrestling relied on wrestlers like Colin to find success. The generosity of this talented wrestler allowed others to shine, and as such he was truly part of wrestlings elite.