K: Cocky Chick Knight & Ronnie Knight

Cocky Chick Knight

A Rogue Around Town

Heritage has acknowledged the life saving exploits of other wrestlers, both Jock Cameron and Arthur Jackson rescued drowning members of the public, but no one can match  Cocky Chick Knight. 

Chick rescued three people on two separate occasions and at the time of writing is being considered for public acknowledgement of his exploits in both London and Gibraltar. Whilst visiting Hammersmith Bridge to commemorate Chick’s heroic deeds you could also pop in to one of the local bars to enjoy a Chick Knight cocktail, The Haymaker created at Sam's Riverside Bar. Oh, and we must remember to mention the biography written to document his remarkable life, “London’s Loveable Villain.”

Chick Knight was born in Hammersmith on 17th February, 1903, one of the nine children of George and Mary Knight. A turbulent childhood following his mother’s premature death led to a period of homelessness before he joined  the army, lying about his age. It was in the army that Chick took up both boxing and wrestling. It was also whilst serving in Gibraltar that Chick saved his first drowning person, a fellow soldier,  for which he received an award from the Royal Humane Society. 

Having served twelve years in the army Chick was discharged around 1926 or 1927 and returned to London. A few years later, in June 1930, Chick made his second rescue. A nine year old girl had fallen into the River Thames near Hammersmith Bridge. She and a man who had attempted to rescue her were both in danger of drowning. For jumping into the water and rescuing them both Chick received a second award for from the Royal Humane Society. It is this act of bravery acknowledged by a plaque near Hammersmith Bridge. Paul Murtagh said, “Real Londoners past and present are the heart and soul of this great city. Our heritage belongs to those who made London what it is today. A plaque is a fitting tribute to a local legend.”

When he left the army Chick pursued his interest in boxing and we have found him in action at Fulham Baths in December, 1927. A dalliance with wrestling meant that for a brief period Chick boxed and wrestled simultaneously. With his last professional boxing match in July, 1936, losing to former British heavyweight champion Reggie Meen, Chick began to concentrate on wrestling professionally.

Although we strongly suspect our unverified records are correct and it was Chick Knight that wrestled Douglas Clark at Blackburn in June, 1933 and Jack Pye at Hammersmith in June of the same year we have to wait until December, 1935, for documented evidence of our first contest, a Main Event against Switzerland’s Guillame Estelles in Clapham. We have been outdone, though, by Chick’s biographer Andy Scott, who has evidence of Chick wrestling in Budapest in 1932. At the Circus Beketow, where Chick used the name Sergei Orloff, “The Russian Bear.” Heritage member Phil Lyons recorded that the tournament, which ran from 1st  September until 21st October, was won by Jaan Jaago with Sergej Orloff placed fourth, and local press reporting the tournament drew a combined audience of more than 100,000 fans, attracting many tourists to the city.

By the late 1930s Chick was a familiar figure in British rings. He was often billed as Cocky Chick Knight due to his swagger as he entered the ring.  We gave up trying to think of a top British wrestler that he failed to wrestle – Douglas Clark, George Clark, Bert Assirati, Jack Pye …. they were all there. Chick was built like a tank and appeared indestructible. Not always a gentleman but it seemed that  however much Chick broke the rules he simply could not enrage the fans to any great extent and became known as  “London's most lovable villain.”  Cocky Chick was a gift to poster writers who made the most of evocative descriptions, “He will send those shivers down your spine,” “Eighteen stones of fighting muscle,” “The Dillinger of the Mat,” “The Hammersmith Terror,” “The Flying Fortress.” You get the idea?

On 31st August, 1938 the Radio Times announced a programme of “A Demonstration of Catch-as-Catch-Can Wrestling. Chick Knight of England v Earl McCready (Heavyweight Champion of the British Empire. Commentator E.R. Voight. Referee K.J. Staunton.”

Although wrestling continued, in an albeit more limited scope, during the Second World War Chick was never too far away from our rings, mostly in northern England where the majority of shows were promoted. 

Following the war it was full steam ahead and Chick was a busy worker around the country.  The years 1952 to 1954 were largely spent travelling, with Chick visiting Singapore, Malaysia, India, Ceylon, Pakistan, South Africa and Germany.  From the mid 1950s onwards Chick, who was now in his fifties, began to slow down and drastically reduced his wrestling commitments, finally disappearing from our rings in 1958. In 1961 he took up work as a security officer at Kensington Palace, the home of Princess Margaret and the Earl of Sowden.

In 1972 a “Crocodile” Spoon warmer was purchased at a church sale in Sunbury-on Thames, and consequently auctioned. It was claimed that the item had been given as a gift to Chick Knight in appreciation for jumping from Hammersmith bridge and rescuing a drowning person from the Thames. We have been unable to verify this.

Chick Knight died on 5th June, 1967. He was just 64 years old. The Russian Bear was dead and the world seemed a less colourful place. Cheers to Chick Knight, a wrestler who trained on Guinness and Cigars.

Posh Ronnie Knight

Ronnie Knight was born Hammersmith on 1st April, 1928, the son of a labourer, Chick Knight and his wife, Lilian. Chick had left the army a year or so earlier and was pursuing an interest in boxing and wrestling. He was, of course, to go on and find success as a professional wrestler, travelling extensively and leaving Ronnie and sister Iris to be brought up mostly by their mother.

Nevertheless, Ronnie remained very close to his father and aspired to be like dad. So it was that in the 1950s "Posh" Ronnie Knight tried to emulate the success of his illustrious father.  He didn't make it, but was a familiar figure on the wrestling scene throughout the 1950s wrestling top middleweights of the day.

Our first sighting was in August, 1951, at the Marine Pavilion, Fleetwood, when Ronnie lost to Manchester's Tommy Mann. Main event was his father, Chick Knight,who lost to Francis St Clair Gregory. Following a busy period in 1951 and 1952 with opponents that included Danny Flynn, Steve Logan, Les Kellett and Cliff Beaumont. We have been unable to find any further activity until 1957. Ronnie Knight can then be found wrestling for the independent promoters 

Ronnie Knight died on 1st April, 2018, aged 90.

Page added 14/02/2021

Reviewed 10/02/2022