S; Docker Don Stedman
Master of Skulduggery
Docker Don Stedman
Decades after the event it's all a matter of heart. We acknowledge the genius of George Kidd; the tenacity of Billy Joyce; the creative genius of Adrian Street. But most important of all there are those who just drained us of emotion. For us there was Wild Angus and Alan Garfield, You will have your own candidates, but for many there was Docker Don Stedman.
Palais Fan: "We saw a lot of Docker Don on Devereaux bills at the Wimbledon Palais, from 1954 to 1968. He appeared there around 50 times and usually played the tough, stocky strongman to perfection. He had a lot of disqualifications to his name but provided great entertainment. His opponents included other Palais regulars like Tony Mancelli, Alan Garfield, Sean Regan and Big Bruno Elrington. He was the kind of villain that the crowd loved to hate."
Ray Hulm: "One of my earliest and best wrestling memories is Don Stedman taking on Bert Assirati at Walthamstow. Stedman."
Docker Don Stedman was born in March, 1930, in Bermondsey. An interest in amateur boxing and wrestling laid the foundations for a life as a professional wrestler. We found 19 year old Don back in 1949 wrestling Mike Marino. The "Italian Champion" was reported to be extended. With Stedman having taken the lead with a fall in the first round it took Marino to the last minute of the last round to win by a knock out.
In the 1950s Don was a regular main eventer, "Built like a battleship" and defeating many of the top names, including Mike Marino, Mike Demitre, Norman Walsh and Geoff Portz. "Built like a battleship" made grandson John smile, "Haha built like a battleship, he built me a battleship and a trawler. I remember a loving grandad who spent hours in his shed building his grand kids high quality remote control boats/airplanes which I still have to this day."
1950s reports tell of a fine wrestler. Always big, eighteen stones aged twenty, always a villain, yes; but a man who knew the business and could swap holds when he wanted to do. "On his best behaviour" Docker Don "beat Alf Cadman, replacing his usual brute force with fine wrestling."
Another memory from Palais Fan, who saw Docker Don many times at the Wimbledon Palais, "In the ring he appeared square shaped, like some rugby players or a professional strongman or, come to think of it, a London docker! He developed a rough, tough, aggressive hardman persona."
The "Docker Don" label was one we questioned when Heritage was launched in 2007. We were reassured by grandson John that he believed Docker Don had followed in his father's footsteps working at Bermondsey Docks.
In January, 1959, with independent promoters such as Paul Lincoln, George Kidd, Max Crabtree and Jack Taylor raising the competitive heat on Joint Promotions Dock Don began working for the independent promoters. It was on one of these shows that James Morton recalled: "One of the best heels I saw was on Paul Lincoln shows and that was Don Stedman. I remember seeing him with Black Butcher Johnson who was by then getting on a bit. T he Butcher fell badly early on. Stedman spent a lot of time making sure he had enough time to recover and get up."
For six years Don Stedman was a central figure for the independent promoters, one of the old guard who brought credibility to Paul Lincoln shwos as the Australian promoter challenged the might of Joint Promotions. When Dale Martin devoured Paul Lincoln Management in 1966 Don returned to Joint Promotions. He remained around for quite a few years, made half a dozen televised appearances, and was one of the semi-finalists in the tournament to decide a Southern England Heavyweight Champion eventually claimed by Judo Al Hayes.
But things were not quite the same . Some of the magic had gone and with an abundance of heavyweight baddies around he couldn't find a unique niche. By the early 1970s Docker Don was in the twilight years of his career. In 1973 he made the move back to the independent promoters, our last sighting being in January, 1976, partnering Tarantula in a tag match against Terry Rudge and Eric Sands.
Don Stedman died in 2008.