C: Cooper - Corne
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Barry Cooper came onto the wrestling scene long after our interest had waned and so we would welcome more information. Coming onto the scene in the 1980s he continued to entertain fans until well into the 21st Century. Barry laid claim to the Sussex lightweight title at Hove following his win over Tony Grant on 14th December, 1987. This was the first wrestling promotion of John Fremantle. Barry remained a regular worker for Fremantle, who continued to showcase traditional British wrestling style into the 2010s. Twice winner of the Ken Joyce Trophy, in 2000 and 2014.
Cry Baby Sid Cooper used the name Norman Cooper in his early days but we have a second Norman Cooper for you. Norman Curry used the ring name Norman Cooper after training at the Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield. He'd approached Jimmy Devlin, who trained wrestlers in the stables behind the hall, and told him that he wanted to learn how to wrestle. Jimmy invited Norman along to the gym and it was the start of a friendship that is still going strong as Norman is added to the A-Z in August, 2015.
All our second Norman has in common with Bradford's Sid Cooper is a name, though Norman tells us that he didn't know Sid's real name was also Norman until the night they were travelling together between Bridlington and Aberdeen working for Relwyskow and Green Promotions. Norman was a fit and powerful six feet tall muscular heavyweight weighing fifteen stones, a hard wrestler who had no time for those with gimmicks and little skill who brought the sport into disrepute.
He was born in Kelloe, a village to the to the south-east of Durham in northern England, on 1st May, 1945. Seventy years later he still lives there. Norman's interest in wrestling started as a fan watching the wrestling on television - Johnny Czeslaw, Eric Leiderman and Honey Boy Zimba were his favourites, though he wasn't so keen on Zimba years later when Zimba lifted him high and tossed him from the ring.
As a youngster Norman had no desire to become a wrestler, though he was always a fitness fanatic and interested in sport - throwing the javelin and discus, and weightlifting, at which he excelled. When he was seventeen Norman started to learn unarmed combat, and in his early twenties was an unarmed combat instructor in the Territorial Army. It was a few years later he approached Jimmy Devlin and began to learn the professional style of wrestling. By 1971 he was considered good enough to work in front of the paying public and made his professional debut for Cyril Knowles at Whitley Bay.
Norman also gained a lot of good experience working on Ron Taylor's boxing and wrestling booth at the Newcastle Hopping Fair and the Durham Miners Gala. A wrestler can quickly learn a lot when he is wrestling six or seven matches a day in front of a demanding audience.
Norman was soon wrestling around the country for many of the biggest promoters, including Relwyskow & Green, Max Crabtree, Brian Dixon, Don Robinson, Orig Williams & Taylor-Allan. His daytime job as a long distance lorry driver proved handy as Norman would phone promoters to see if they needed any last minute substitutes in the town he happened to be sleeping that night. Life was good as far as Norman was concerned, now getting paid to wrestle some of those men he had watched on television as a boy - Adrian Street, Eric Taylor, Honey Boy Zimba and John Cox amongst them. A hard man in the ring Norman's philosophy was that it didn't look like it hurt unless it really did hurt, and although he was always the good guy in the ring he enjoyed nothing better than a good scrap.
By the late 1980s Norman was becoming disillusioned like many of the fans. True, a recurring back injury was causing some pain but it was too many unskilled men in the limelight that made him disenchanted and so he decided to hang up his boots for the last time. He still lives in Kelloe, in a house across the road from where he was born, and near to his daughter and grand daughter.
Yugoslavian born heavyweight made a three week visit to Britain for Joint Promotions in June 1962. Opponents included Albert Wall, Dave Armstrong, Jack Pye and Kiwi Kingston.
We thank Heritage member Tessa Milenkovic for sending us these photos, treasured by her grandmother who was a friend of the wrestler in the 1960s.
Gordon Corbett (Also known as The Exorcist, The Executioner, Dr Death)
Not the most well remembered, but certainly one of the most prolific wrestlers and an influential promoter of the 1960s and 1970s Gordon Corbett was a man of many guises. Like many others his first interest was boxing until he chose to take the opportunities presented by the rapidly growing popularity of professional wrestling in the early 1960s. We came across Gordon in the mid 1960s as a popular blue eyed Midlands area champion when good would overcome evil as Gordon battled the likes of Klondyke Bill and The Monster, or tag partnering Count Bartelli against undesirable pairings . When the fans weren't cheering him they could more often be heard jeering and booing Gordon on the nights he was wearing a mask and assuming a multitude of evil identities. Doctor Death, The Executioner and, most memorably The Exorcist. As The Exorcist Corbett was accompanied by his manager, Miss Jamie Barrington. He wore a boot with a raised sole, said to be necessary due to an horrific motor racing accident, which fans claimed was used illegally as they the toe cap contained hidden weights! Mostly associated with his work for the independent promoters Gordon did work for Joint Promotions, both masked and unmasked,
In 1957 when Mexican Polo Cordova made a short visit to Britain he was already an experienced grappler of almost twenty years. In January, 1957, he visited Spain, the birthplace of his parents, and made a fleeting visit to Britain, losing to Alan Garfield at the Royal Albert Hall and Mike Marino in Beckenham. Polo Cordova died in August 1975, aged 61.
Promising 1970s lightweight of the 1970s from Stoke Ferry, Norfolk, was featured in The Wrestler magazine in March 1972. His promise seemed to fizzle out and we heard no more about him
Frenchmen frequently popped across the channel to wrestle in the South of England. Some, such as Julien Morice became resident Britons, whilst others, such as Jean Corne, travelled back and forth from his home in Brittany. In fact he travelled back and forth frequently over a decade that spanned from 1959 until 1969. Fledgling promoter Paul Lincoln enticed the French middleweight to our shores in 1959, and the stylish technician remained a frequent and popular figure on the independent circuit until 1964, opposing other Lincoln regulars such as Eddie Capelli, Ken Joyce, Joe Murphy and Doctor Death. He also formed a popular and successful tag team with Judah Ischa Israel. . He was then tempted across to the Joint Promotion camp where television exposure and Royal Albert Hall appearances were part of the attraction. A Royal Albert Hall loss to McManus was followed by a win over rising star Brian Maxine. The crowning glory was a Royal Albert Hall appearance in July, 1968 in the presence of HRH Prince Philip when the French team of Jean Corne, Gil Cesca, Jacques Lageat and Bruno Asquini won the hearts of the fans against the London team of Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo, Steve Logan and Al Hayes. Later in his career Corne formed a tag team, Les Celtes, with his son Michel Falempin. He also authored a book about wrestling, “La vérité sur le catch" (The Truth About Wrestling).
Page revised 9/6/2019: Addition of Barry Cooper