A: Dave Armstrong
Professor of Science
If anyone was to demonstrate that wrestling was more science than art it might well be Choppington’s Dave Armstrong, one of the greats of British wrestling. We may have seen him described as the Newcastle Flash on posters but as far as wrestling skill goes there was nothing overtly flash, just pure skill and science. Dave Armstrong was a quality wrestler, with the legendary Lithuanian Karl Pojello describing him as “The most scientific man in an English ring."
Dave Armstrong was born in Morpeth, Northumberland, on 19th May, 1916. He lived his early life in mining country, the Northumberland village of Choppington, which gave rise to his nickname of "The Choppington Chicken," though we've no idea where the chicken bit came from.
Dave was one of the youngsters that entered the ranks of professional wrestlers in the 1930s, joining a collection of wrestlers from a previous Edwardian generation, other novices, and wrestlers from overseas. Dave was just sixteen years old when he had his first professional match towards the end of 1932.
As wrestling's popularity surged forward there was a shortage of quality contestants, and Dave Armstrong played a significant part in meeting that demand. Science wasn't often at the forefront in the All-In rings and we have little doubt that Dave was also a very hard man, demonstrated by the quality of his opponents, Douglas Clark, Karl Pojello and Jack Sherry amongst them. In fact Dave wrestled practically everyone of any note in the 1930s.
A challenger for the British heavyweight championship on a few occasions Dave never held the title. In 1933 he twice challenged Atholl Oakeley for the British title, losing in April over four rounds at Glasgow, and by two falls to one in September. He was just seventeen and eighteen years old at the time of these fights. Two more challenges, this time against Douglas Clark at Newcastle in April and June 1940 also ended unfortunately for Dave, this time on his home turf. Bert Assirati was the next champion in his sights in October, 1945 and again at Newcastle. In October 1938 he tried, but failed, to wrest the World Heavyweight Championship from American Jack Sherry at Blackburn. Newspapers reported that he was one of Sherry's toughest challengers, taking the champion 58 minutes..
Any thoughts that this great 1930s wrestler would fade away following the Second World War would fade away could be no further from the truth. Dave went on to become one of the great post war heavyweights. In December, 1951 Ernie Baldwin defeated Dave to win the British heavyweight championship. He even spent some time with a hidden identity in the guise of the masked Crusader, vanquishing villains of northern England.
Dave's career lasted until the 1960s, our last sighting of him being in 1964. Legend has it that he was the first wrestler to wear contact lenses in the ring, and family members have confirmed he wore contact lenses from an early age.
Dave's grandson, Dave Cheesman, told Heritage, "I recall visiting him in Horwich around 1977 or 78 and he was still very strong even then." He also told us that the legend that Dave Armstrong wore contact lenses in the ring is true, as he had poor eyesight from an early age, and glaucoma developed in later life.
Another of his grandchildren, Louise, told us, " I remember my granddad as being very fit and very big! I'm sure he was more than 6 ft 2!!! Even up to his death, when he was 70, he still had black hair and exercise was always part of his life."
After retiring from the ring Dave opened a masseur with a practice in Bolton. He died in 1985.
Page added 12/2/19