D: Delmee - Denney
Stylish European mid heavyweight champion in the 1950s made a short visit to Britain in January and February, 1954. Top class opponents included Vic Hessle, Jack Beaumont and a defeat by Mike Marino at the Royal Albert Hall.
Mancunian Tiger Delmonte wrestled mostly for Wryton Promotions from the mid 1960s; he was the one who carried a tiger's head as his lucky charm.
Born in Jamaica on 27 October, 1932, Tiger's first combat sport was boxing; he fought 23 professional fights between 1953 and 1956 under the name Del Willis. In the 1960s he took up wrestling and learned the trade at Grant Foderingham's gym and at the Failsworth Amateur Wrestling Club under the guidance of Billy Robinson and alongside Johnny Saint.
He moved to the independents around 1971 and disappeared from our radar until turning up back on Joint shows in the mid 1970s.
Kendo Nagasakai held a fascination, he executed that mystique so well.
I got behind him one night accidently coming out of Belle Vue in his MG with Gillette. We went the same way, down Hyde Road skirting Manchester on the Mancunian Way and through Salford on the A57. It was a long time before he took the mask off. It was by chance that I pulled up along side him at Traffic Lights in Eccles to turn off.
My three mates were in hysterics at the situation. "He's just another bloke" one said, "what are you so excited about?" This happened long before mask skirmishes with Crabtree. We were going for just the one pint and Fish and Chips, Great night, I was probably 17.
Mike DeMain was one of those fans who managed to get work as a second at a local hall and used it as a springboard to meeting up with wrestlers such as Mal Kirk who helped prepare him for his transition from second to professional wrestler.
National service intervened and delayed entry to the professional ranks until the mid 1960s.
When the opportunity came Mike established himself as a popular middleweight on the independent circuit, particularly working for ACE Sports Promotions and other members of the British Wrestling Alliance.
He tagged with Yugoslavian Milan Prica as the FBI team, and more notably with Sue Brittain, the two of them holding the BWA mixed tag title.
He sneaked in and was featured in the last ever issue of The Wrestler (October 1972); a nice bit of timing. Mike continued wrestling until the 1990s (seen above in a match against Harry Monk).
Tony DeMarto was the Italian Thunderbolt and a name that went all the way back to the 1930s. Here was a man who had shared a ring with the likes of Mario Magisti and Tommy Rigby. Walthamstow based Tony retired and went into the catering business and promoting wrestling in London and around Southern England during the 1960s. He was well respected as a fair promoter by all those who worked for him.
Reputedly of Russian birth Johnny Demchuck lived and worked mainly in the United States. In 1937, when he was 25, Johnny came over to the United Kingdom as professional wrestling was booming and stayed until shortly before the outbreak of war. He was a frequent opponent of young Canadian Whipper Watson as well as domestic talent that included Jack Pye, Harry Brooks, Bert Mansfield and Tony Baer.
Johnny Demchuck continued working in North America after the war in both Canada and the United States. Whist working for Stu Hart's Calgary promotion in 1959 he was an opponent of a fledgling Ian Campbell.
Whilst still working at the age of 49 tragedy struck on 19th June, 1962 in the Memorial Hall, Victoria, British Columbia. Twenty minutes into a bout whilst gripped in a hammer-lock by British wrestler Oliver Winrush (known to UK fans as Ramon Napolitano), Demchuck suffered a fatal heart attack. He was pronounded dead on arrival at the hospital.
Greek born and Australian domiciled Leo Demetral arrived in Britain in the autumn of 1949 and established himself as a permanent figure in British wrestling for many years to come. During the winter of 1949 he seemed to be a weekly resident at Belle Vue, facing Francis St Clair Gregory, Chick Knight, Ray St Bernard and others.
Demetral, his birth name was Stathis Nicolaou, was already an international star when he arrived in Britain, having worked extensively in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States and Canada. He had moved to Australia whilst a youth and during World War 2 he served in the Royal Australian Air Force, teaching unarmed combat and paratrropers how to land.
When Joint Promotions were formed in 1952 he appeared regularly on their bills, mainly in the north, until 1955. We then lose contact with his career until 1959 when he reappeared in the south on shows of fellow Australian promoter Paul Lincoln. He retired from wrestling in 1962 and became a masseur on a cruise liner. Leo Demetral died 1966 aged 53.
Many fans remember Mike Demitre as an authoritative referee who could deal with any situation. Refereeing was his second career as over a quarter of a century earlier Demitre was a well respected and very capable professional wrestler going back to the mid 1930s facing the likes of Cab Cashford, Tony Baer, Stan Roberts and George Boganski.
More than capable in fact, many have testified to Demitre being one of the greatest shoot wrestlers of his time. His litheness, technical skill and looks made him a popular figure both pre and post second world war. Born in Greece in 1907 much of Michael Demetri's youth was spent living in Montreal, Canada, learning as he watched American greats like Strangler Lewis and Jimmy Londos.
He made his professional debut in Canada, working in Canada and the United States before travelling to Britain during the 1934-5 winter. Mike established himself as one of the top all-in wrestlers of the 1930s, working around Britain and France. It was in Paris, in 1939, that Mike defeated Hungarian Stanislaus Karolyi to win the European Junior heavyweight championship. It was around the same time that Mike appeared on BBC television demonstrating wrestling to the few thousands that owned television sets in those pre war days.
It's surprising to see Mike referred to as “The Old Maestro” as early as the late 1940s. In 1949 a win over The Farmer at Morecambe saw Demitre crowned world junior heavyweight champion., a title he retained until losing it to Mike Marino. Demitre continued wrestling until the mid 1960s, when he took up refereeing.
Mike Demitre died in 1989.
A sturdy heavyweight from Doncaster trained by Dai Sullivan. Worked for the independent promoters during the 1960s, mostly in the north and midlands.
Wigan’s Jack Dempsey must be included in any list of wrestling greats.
Read our extended tribute to Jack Dempsey Shining Stars: The Wigan Peer
Towards the end of the 1970s there was a brief career for Wigan's middleweight, Mike Dempsey, mostly noted for being the son of the former welterweight champion, Jack Dempsey.
Ever see a bout that did not look arranged?
Early 1970's at Kings Hall, Belle Vue. Don Vines beat the hell out of Gwyn Davies using foreign objects to gouge at the eyes. Not much came back and Vines was disqualified. Davies looked bad at the back of the hall afterwards.
Pavillion Gardens Buxton, Hans Streiger did a similar number on Shirley Crabtree. Vines and Streiger were real tough men.
Again at Belle Vue I saw Gargantua (James Moran) really handle Shirley Crabtree. I think he hurt him with a boston and would not break the hold. He was disqualified but it took a long time to clear the ring.
Nothing tame about these bouts and here they are still in my memory.
Bradford welterweight trained by Bernard Murray and Alan Dennison. Made his debut towards the end of 1962, but seemed to have disappeared by a year later.