WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

D: Doctor Death

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Five Dimensions of the Doctor


Paul Lincoln - Doctor Death

A Wrestler – A Man from the Land Down Under
For 1960s wrestling enthusiasts the name Paul Lincoln ranks right up there at the top. Oddreally as at face value as the wrestler Paul Lincoln was  very much a supporting player usually found well down the bill. 

Born on 3rd May, 1932, in Sydney, Australia, James McDonald Lincoln turned to wrestling after gaining a reputation as an able amateur player of  cricket and rugby. Following school he was employed in the advertising department of the St James Tobacco Company. An advertising campaign for the wrestling tournament  at the Leichardt Stadium got the youngster interested in wrestling and he joined the Sydney Police Boys Club to learn how to wrestle.

Lincoln started wrestling using the name Elmo Lincoln, a tribute to the American actor of that name who had played Tarzan in Tarzan of the Apes (1918). Our earliest discovery of young Elmo Lincoln the wrestler is at Sydney's Leichardt Stadium on 5th May, 1951, losing to Ray Greenfield by one fall to nil in a four round contest.  

Lincoln left his native Australia soon afterwards and arrived in Singapore in September, 1951 on board the Blue Funnel ship, Gorgon, and en-route to Britain. We can trace Lincoln's wrestling exploits in Singapore up to May, 1952 when he left for Europe.  Top of the bill on Lincoln's final Singapore showing was Tiger Ed Bright, a man who a few years later would be working for Paul Lincoln. Ray Hunter had already arrived in Singapore the previous November and left in August, 1951, so the the two men who were to become such close business associates and had  known each other whilst wrestling in Sydney, did not meet up in Singapore.

One month after leaving Singapore in June, 1952, Paul Lincoln was wrestling in Britain. All the earliest references we can find  are in the south of England, working for Dale Martin Promotions. Little did they realise what they were taking on. Opponents included Al Hayes, Stan Stone, Percy Pitman and Jack Dale. Just where the name Paul Lincoln came from we don't know but Paul Lincoln was now the name on the posters, except on those occasions that Elmo Lincoln had his name on the bill that is! By the following year Paul Lincoln was travelling north, working for other Joint Promotion members in northern England and Scotland.

For six years Paul Lincoln travelled the length and breadth of the country. He could be found wrestling three or four times a week, a useful and reliable addition to any bill, but never really making his mark. In 1957 he started working for the independent promoters and we can find fewer instances of his matches. Maybe Paul Lincoln had other things on his mind.

Then in 1959 Paul Lincoln disappeared.  Where could he have gone?

An Entrepreneur
On his arrival in London Paul met up with his old friend Ray Hunter. In 1956 they pooled their savings to buy a coffee bar in Old Compton Street, London, the “2 i’s.”   The name was retained from the previous owners, the Irani brothers.They opened their doors for the first time on 22nd April, 1956.  

In March 1957 Lincoln applied to  London County Council for registration as an entertainment employer. The 2 i's  was just one of the many coffee bars on Old Compton Street. Nothing special at all, until  a skiffle group called The Vipers called in for a coffee and began playing. Paul Lincoln invited them back to play in the basement on a regular basis. The coffee bar soon established itself as a home for many young entertainers, giving them the chance to display their talent to fellow customers. 

In July 1957 the Sydney Herald, reporting 400 skiffle groups in London alone, said, "Partly responsible for this craze in London are two Australians, Paul Lincoln and Ray Hunter, whose coffee bar the 2 I's, which they opened 15 months ago, in Old Compton Street, Soho, is referred to as the home of skiffle." The newspaper went on to describe the two men as former wrestlers. This, of course, was far from the truth. Both Paul Lincoln and Ray Hunter were at that time established as  regular workers for Joint Promotions,.

Things really took off for the 2i's in September, 1957, when a young singer, soon to become known to the world as Tommy Steele, was discovered whilst singing with the Vipers.  With Tommy Steele's success the 2is was catapulted into one of the most famous music venues in the country. Tommy Steele,  Cliff Richard, Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch, Brian Bennett, Tony Meehan, Jet Harris,  Wee Willie Harris, Adam Faith,  Joe Brown,  Eden Kane, Screaming Lord Sutch, Tony Sheridan,  Johnny Kidd, and Paul Gadd (Gary Glitter) all performed at the 2i's.

In 2006 a plaque was unveiled at the site of the coffee bar that acknowledged it as "The birthplace of Rock 'n Roll and the Popular Music Industry."

For Paul Lincoln ownership of the 2i's and promotion of music events undoubtedly allowed him to acquire the skills of running a business and marketing entertainment products. 

Lincoln also opened an Italian restaurant in Soho and together with Ray Hunter, Bob Anthony and  Al ' Hayes he purchased The Cromwellian bar, restaurant and casino.

A Wrestling Promoter – A Merchant of Vengeance
Whilst Lincoln was making headlines as a musical promoter wrestling was still very much on his mind. 

Whilst his music ventures were going from strength to strength there was growing disillusionment in the world of wrestling. Wrestling was booming throughout the country and a number of wrestlers felt that the promoters were making good profits without paying the wrestlers their fair dues. 

Within a short time of leaving Joint Promotions Paul Lincoln was staging his own wrestling tournaments. Precisely when he started his promoting we cannot be certain, but we do have evidence of Paul Lincoln tournaments in 1959.  He gave up a regular income from Dale Martin to gamble on the unknown. 

This low key wrestler of the Dale Martin stable was to demonstrate that outside of the ring he was a man of courage and vision.  Courage and vision because Lincoln set out on a mission to change wrestling in a hostile climate. Joint Promotions were beginning to feel more secure in the confidence they now had a television contract, and Dale Martin Promotions were overwhelmingly dominant in the staging of wrestling shows in southern England. Even Atholl Oakeley had packed his bags and gone home. 

Nothing stood in the way of Dale Martin in the south and their Joint Promotions partners around the country.

Then came Lincoln.

Marketing, business acumen, known contacts in wrestling and the world of entertainment, add to that the courage of youth; it was a forceful combination that was to challenge Britain's wrestling establishment.

If he was going to go into competition with Dale Martin Lincoln was determined to do things differently. His friend and editor of Wrestling World Lou Ravelle told us he set up a swanky new office, in contrast to the more basic Dale Martin headquarters, and took to smoking large cigars.  

An early success came in 1959 when Ivan Morgan, the manager of the Granada Cinema in Woolwich agreed to allow Paul Lincoln stage a wrestling show in his cinema. The experiment was a success and a  turning point for the fledgling company when a contract was offered to promote wrestling in the largest Granada Cinemas around the country.

Within a couple of years Lincoln overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to become a serious rival of the established Dale Martin Promotions. That he promoted with such success was no accident. A shrewd business brain, creativity, innovation and a gift for publicity combined together to bring new life into the professional wrestling formula. 

The Paul Lincoln Managements wrestling product was basically the same as that of Joint Promotion shows, but Lincoln’s flair and ability to create a publicity machine that was second to none attracted new fans to the sport. Loyal fans. In 1965 The People sunday newspaper reported of one family that travelled to live wrestling shows five nights a week, but would only attend Paul Lincoln shows.

When Lincoln started his own promotion he was in urgent need of wrestlers. Veterans Bert Assirati, George Kidd and Black Butcher Johnson were working for the independent promoters and were available. But he knew the name Paul Lincoln on the posters would hardly entice the fans. Paul credited George Kidd with the idea of creating a new masked persona, Dr Death. The move was inspired. The supporting role Aussie became one of the biggest crowd pullers in the country and featured on Paul Lincoln shows most evenings. Many of Dr Death's early matches were on programmes promoted by George Kidd. 

Dale Martin Promotions were dismissive of their new competitor, and scathing of some of Lincoln's business practices. It was those practices that bring us to the vision. Paul Lincoln shows oozed colour and excitement. An array of talent was vividly described on the posters, usually with accompanying photos. Lincoln's marketing skills shone through.  An until now run of the mill Sikh wrestler was transformed into The Wild Man of Borneo, a Glaswegian became the Mighty Chang, and then there was the bowler hatted Society Boy. They were joined by colourful overseas stars Ski Hi Lee, Quasimodo, Ricky Starr and more disenchanted Joint Promotion men Al Hayes, Mike Marino. Don Stedman.  Innovation was not superficial as Lincoln nurtured his own talent to fill out the bills - Roger Green, Bob Kirkwood, Dave Larsen, Kim Kendo amongst them.

The roster of wrestlers working for Paul Lincoln at any one time was small, no more than a couple of dozen regulars at the most. Yet his permutations of those men was magical, drawing back the crowds week after week.

Fifty plus years after the event former Paul Lincoln wrestler Bob Kirkwood remains loyal and fond of his late friend. He explained to us why he thought Lincoln was the greatest wrestling promoter of them all. The innovation and the ingenuity were essential but Paul Lincoln had another quality that Bob had not seen in any other promoter. He explained that every wrestler on a Paul Lincoln show was made to feel important. A couple of youngsters opening the show in a run of the mill opener would be told that their calm preliminary match was essential for creating anticipation for the excitement to follow. "Everyone was made to feel like a star," said Bob, "We were all part of the Paul Lincoln family."

Lincoln's promotional skills were perhaps seen at their finest in the rivalry of the masked men Dr Death and The White Angel. Lincoln created a rival for his own evil Dr Death. It was a carefully crafted feud of good and evil that became known to most people in the land, wrestling fans or not. Remarkably all of this was achieved without the aid of television  because as a rival to the Joint Promotions organisation there was no chance whatsoever of Dr Death or the White Angel ever wrestling on television.

The quality of the shows plus Lincoln’s flair for publicity gained him a reputation that not only attracted the paying public but also the eye of the television executives.  In the Autumn of 1963 Lincoln was in serious talks with ITV to promote the soon to be introduced Wednesday evening tv shows, but negotiations fell through at the last minute and the contract went to Joint Promotions. Lincoln's business colleague and friend Bob Anthoay told us that the poaching of Ricky Starr by Joint Promotions was the deciding factor in Joint Promotions retaining the contract. There was further disappointment in 1965 when it seemed likely that the BBC were going to present regular wrestling shows but again it came to nothing.

At the end of 1965 an arrangement was reached with Hurst Park Syndicate, the parent company of Dale Martin Promotions, that established a new company, Paul Lincoln Promotions, as a subsidiary of Hurst Park. Lincoln, Ray  Hunter and Al Hayes  were Directors of the new company. To all intents and purposes the rivalry with Dale Martin was over and the two companies worked in harmony. Although the days of his greatest influence were now behind him, Paul Lincoln was to be remembered, and will continue to be so, as one of the most influential figures in British wrestling. He may not have broken the tv monopoly, but Paul Lincoln changed the face of British wrestling. A man of courage and vision.

THE Wrestler, Not Just Any Wrestler. Enter Doctor Death
Way back in 2010 Wrestling Heritage nominated Dr Death the number one masked man of all time. Over a decade later it's an opinion we still believe was the right one. He wasn't the first masked man by many years, he wasn't the most long lived and he almost certainly was not the most skilled masked man. Yet he was arguably the most famous masked heavyweight of the 1960s. A blueprint for many hooded terrors that were to follow. Even without the aid of television Doctor Death was a household name, familiar to many with little or no interest in professional wrestling.
Count Bartelli had been around for a decade and a half without really capturing the imagination of the fans, The Ghoulish Bomber Bates had a limited success, Scorpions, and Masks of varied colours had been and gone, Kendo Nagasaki was an original and the one who could seriously challenge our assertion. None could match the charisma of Dr Death, a wrestling personality despite the absence of visible facial features.
Consistently billed as the mystery man from Hollywood USA, here was a wrestler who could use blindside skulduggery and torment his opponents with punishing nerve holds to bring the fans to a frenzy. Fans speculated about the identity of the masked man – a famous business man said some, a disfigured car crash victim, an errant struck off medical doctor, even a member of the Royal Family. 

Wrestler Al Marshall told Wrestling Heritage: “It was a photo of Paul as Doctor Death that I saw when I was a very small boy that made me want to go and watch a wrestling show. I pestered mum and dad for weeks before they relented and dad took me along. I was determined that I too would become a wrestler."

In the first half of the 1960s Dr Death could be seen in nightly battles of good versus evil alongside Lincoln good guys Ray Hunter, Judo Al Hayes, Dave Larsen and Mike Marino. The greatest moment of glory that cemented his success for all time came in April, 1962, when the promotional genius of Lincoln brought together the much anticipated showdown between Dr Death and The White Angel. Heritage has a first hand report of the epic encounter from enthusiast Tony, "The bout lasted amazingly into the fifteenth round. The White Angel took the lead through an early pin-fall and several times virtually had Doctor Death's mask wrentched from his head. Finally, after an amazing energy-sapping bout the White Angel failed to beat the count after a body slam. The place was in uproar. The famous white mask now discoloured with blood was slowly removed to reveal the White Angel as........'Judo Al Hayes'."

A cup was ceremoniously awarded to the victorious Dr Death. In 2021 Wrestling Heritage can reveal it bore the inscription "Soho Waiters Race, 1957."

Such was the success of Dr Death that imitators were inevitable. One of them, Ted Beech, was a decent copycat and worked the role for the independents in the north of England at the same time as Lincoln. Another, his friend Don Robinson, pulled on the hood with Lincoln's blessing. In a rare moment of imitation being the most sincere form of flattery even Joint Promotions member Norman Morrell copied the Dr Death persona  in his own halls for a time in 1963. As time went on the name was used indiscriminately by promoters and became devalued to the point of worthlesness. As wrestler Harry Monk told us when he pulled on the Dr Death mask, "We all became Dr Death one day."

None of them matched the original Dr Death.

There was even a Brother Death.  For those with a half-full outlook the creation of Brother Death was a touch of creative genius. From a half-empty perspective it's a sign of just how low a promoter could stoop. Brother Death was a short lived invention of promoter Jack Taylor to fill the void left by Dr Death. 

The real mystery was not the identity of the wrestler, those with sufficient interest could have found his name revealed in The Sunday Mirror newspaper of 6th November, 1960 and again in The People in July 1965. "Unmasked!" Proclaimed the Mirror. Once confronted Lincoln admitted to their reporter and accompanying photographer he was Dr Death and told them he wore the mask because he was shy and thought he didn't have a wrestler's face.

The real mystery was how a wrestler of limited ability who had been around for a few years without making much impression could become the most notorious masked man of his day.

The answer was simple. Dr Death Paul Lincoln may not have been the greatest wrestler of all time but he was arguably the country's greatest wrestling promoter. A promoter in the real sense of the world, not just a man who hired halls, put up posters and sold tickets but a man who could creatively weave a small group of workers in seemingly endless permutations to attract the enthusiasts week after week.

The Twilight Years
When Paul Lincoln Managements merged with Joint Promotions in 1966 the good Doctor naturally made the transition, even stepping into the Royal Albert Hall ring to ovecome Johnny Czeslaw. Could this final moment of glory have been part of the merger negotiations we wonder? 

With his promotional business no longer under his control Paul Lincoln moved on and the original Dr Death disppeared from our rings apart from a few matches in 1969 for Dale Martin and the 1970s for Don Robinson. 

Paul  Lincoln returned to Australia for a few years in the 1970s, reportedly to run a hotel. Grame Cameron has told us that Lincoln was a very active wrestler in 1975. He made three appearances on George Gardiner bills, twice as Paul Lincoln, partnering Rasputing against Lebanese brothers Andreas and John Saade. On another occasion he dusted off the Dr Death outfit for a match against Andreas Saade.

Paul Lincoln also appeared on the club circuit and made three TV appearances as the  villainous major MacDonald Lincoln, a haughty British military officer. 

On his return to Britain Paul Lincoln moved to Scarborough and worked for his friend Don Robinson. He later returned to live in Southampton and joined his companions and friends each year at the British Wrestlers Reunion.

Paul Lincoln died on Tuesday 11th January, 2011.

Paged added 11/07/2021