C: Curtis - Czeslaw
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Popular light heavyweight from Rochdale in the 1960s and 1970s. Dane was a fast and athletic skilful wrestler whose skills were honed at the Wryton Stadium gym at the weekends under the tutorship of old timers like Alf Cadman.
Jan Curtis had a long amateur career. A very long and distinguished career, having first taken to the mat in 1964. It was sixteen years later, in 1980, that he turned professional, having received guidance from Mick McManus. Jan wrestled for Dale Martin Promotions for three years, during which he made television appearances against Johnny Saint and Sid Cooper, before being lured away by the amateur code once again when offered the role of coach to the Maltese Olympic Team. He stayed in the post until 1991.
One of the big names of pre war wrestling who travelled up and down the country wrestling all the big names of the time. He was a formidable heavyweight known as "His majesty of the Mat." We have been told King Curtis also had the nickname "Rosie," but we don't know why.
Long before Leon Arras he would ask " 'ow's that?" after an impressive move King Curtis would entertain fans with similar quips.
A powerful heavyweight his style led to the nickname ?The bull without horns.? Curtis was another creation of wrestler/promoter Atholl Oakeley, who did so much to popularise wrestling in Britain during the 1930s.
Oakeley used the 16 stone Londoner against all his main event me, such as Karl Pojello, Jack Sherry, Carver Doone, Norman the Butcher, Henry Irslinger and, of course, himself.
Curtis wrestled Oakeley at Lanes Club, London, in November 1931 in front of 1,000 fans. It was reported that Curtis had the better of the first two rounds but Oakeley won by the only fall in the third of the ten minute rounds. When Curtis faced Henry Irslinger at Nottingham in November, 1934,it was said to be one of Irslinger's hardest matches in Britain. Irslinger won by a fall with two and a half minutes to go, just in time as Curtis was ahead on points.Curtis liberally applied to the rules of All-In, most of his matches being violent affairs, as reported in this match at Preston in 1935. Ironically, Preston was one of the towns that refused to accept most of the violent excesses seen in many 1930s wrestling halls. "Carver Doone was leaning over the top ropes being counted out in the fifth round when Curtis rushed at him and aimed several blows at his head. The referee (Tommy the Demon) tried to break Curtis away, whereupon Curtis struck the referee under the jaw before making another attack on the helpless Doone. A scrummage followed on the floor, and when order was restored the contest was awarded to Doone, Curtis being disqualified. Curtis was booed as he left the hall and the referee received a tremendous ovation."
Along with other wrestlers that included Jack Pye, Bob Gregory, and Leo Wax he appeared in the 1936 film "All In.?
Following the end of the Second World War he returned to the ring, wrestling the likes of Bert Assirati Jack Pye and Bomber Bates, finally disappearing at the end of 1946.
Eric Kendall adopted the name Eric Cutler, and for this tough as boots Yorkshireman it was a name that fit. "You're not kidding," "Eric's son Howard told us, "Eric also worked as a bouncer at several night clubs in Sheffield after giving up the Angel pub in the village of Eckington. I was with him on several occasions when, only being 5 foot 6 inch, he took on more than one person towering above him. If he could not talk them into a calmer state, he always tried diplomacy first, but if that didn't work he wasn't frightened to get his hands dirty as they say. He was a real hard man."
Sheffield steel Eric Cutler was a bearded rule bender who looked the part even before he started wearing the black leather hood which became a trademark. Trained by Les Kellett Eric turned professional in 1959, being given a chance by Leeds promoter George de Relwyskow. In January, 1961 he was introduced to a national audience by promoter Norman Morrell who matched him against Sid Cooper in a televised contest from Preston. In the months that followed Eric was back on the television screen in matches against Jim Breaks and Jim Mellor.
After half a dozen uneventful years in which Eric learned his trade and gained respect around the halls he got his big break in the mid 1960s when he was catapulted into the role of top tv bad boy. This was when John Foley turned publican in the summer of 1966 and left a vacancy in the Black Diamonds tag team and it was Eric chosen by Abe Ginsberg to step into his shoes.
He turned out to be a perfect replacement and the Diamonds went from strength to strength with their trademark beards and black leather helmets, which in the 1960s we rated as an exciting gimmick. Tag team wrestling was an important element of wrestling in the 1960s, considered essential for a good night out to many fans. A handful of top teams captured the imagination of fans – the Royals, the Hells Angels, the White Eagles, the Jet Set and the Black Diamonds. When Wrestling Heritage counted down the Top Tag Teams the Black Diamonds were runners up, second to only the Royal Brithers and ahead of all the aforementioned teams and even ahead of McManus and Logan.
For quite a few years Eric shared his wrestling duties with his role of landlord of The Angel public house in Eckington, which he left in the summer of 1970. Eric continued to work as a club doorman on the nights he wasn't wrestling, which were not many, being a popular worker for all the Joint Promotion members.
Following his retirement Eric had only fond memories of his wrestling days, telling his family of great days travelling around the country, to Scotland and the south of England for a week at a time, and no memories happier than the times he and Abe escaped from angry fans. Those were the nights they could reassuringly tell themselves they were the bad guys. Job done!
Eric Cutler died in July, 2003.
The original and best known Polish Eagle, Cracow's Johnny Czeslaw was genuinely popular with all fans and could breath life into the dullest of opponents. We struggled to take him seriously when he played the villain's role. Weighing in around the fourteen stone mark he was well placed to face all the great names of his era which spanned twenty years from 1957.
We were always puzzled that this man that crossed the Iron Curtain failed to travel to the far north of Lancashire and Yorkshire, but we loved him nevertheless.
An occasional tagster with Ivan Penzecoff, and the most profuse of sweaters and grunters - but his vaguely gestapo-style shouts of "Schwein!" were always well received. Johnny left Poland when he was eleven years old, settling in Germany where he took up amateur, and later professional, wrestling. Whilst wrestling in Germany he was noticed by Jack Dale and invited to come over to Britain.
Blazered Johnny Czeslaw was notable for always watching as much as he could of the other bouts... or perhaps he didn't like the dressing room atmosphere? He also genuinely seemed to enjoy his wrestling.
Anyway, we all know this smiling shaven headed matman, so Wrestling Heritage is particularly pleased to post above this rarity of Czeslaw with hair.
Related article: Polish Polish in Armchair Corner on www.wrestlingheritage.com
Page reviewed: 3/4/19