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P: Dirty Dominic Pye

The Prince of Darkness

Dirty Dominic Pye

Imagine a life as the son of a monarch and spending much of adulthood waiting to assume the crown. Okay, just one of our readers will really empathise. Our subject is not the famous royal, but the heavyweight villain, Dirty Dominic Pye. The mere mention of the name will have brought back vivid memories for those who saw him even just the once. A tiny smile as we remember his luckless opponent finally losing his temper and tying Dominic’s hair to the ropes. Oh, how he snarled. Then more of a smile as Dominic is remembered jumping nimbly over the top rope only to catch his toe in the middle strand and find himself dangling upside down. It was a well-arranged performance but enjoyed over and over again.

Dirty Dominic Pye was the son of the one of wrestling’s greatest post war exponents, the uncrowned King of the Mat, Jack Pye.  Like that famous parallel heir apparent Dominic was not content at spending his professional life in the shadows of his famous parent, but carved a niche of his own in his chosen career. Fans of the 1950s and 1960s remember Dominic Pye and the accompanying frenzy as he barnstormed his way around the rings of Britain and the world. If Jack Pye was the Uncrowned King of the mat then Dominic was most certainly the Prince of Darkness. 

Dominic admirably continued the family tradition as a fine purveyor of mat mayhem. The trademark black tights and brightly coloured cape were similar to those worn by his dad. The unruly jet black hair and the body language as he prowled around the ring, snarling at his opponent and verbally abusing ringsiders, meant that Dominic could easily have been mistaken for a young Jack Pye, though Dominic kept his boyhood features and never developed Jack’s craggy facial appearance. 

Verbal abuse was a Dominic trademark. He would punish and taunt his opponent, prematurely, of course as his  own demise was merely seconds away. Between rounds the abuse would be directed against the fans, who were more than willing to return the compliments.

Dominic’s extremely aggressive style should not have disguised the fact that here was a man who could wrestle and came from a family background with a great wrestling heritage. Dominic’s father had been a Lancashire miner before moving to Doncaster in search of work in the early 1920s. He learned  Lancashire catch-as-catch-can style, a hard, submission style of wrestling which was to provide one of the foundation stones of the modern professional style. With Harry Dominic Pye  coming into the world on 28th June, 1928, four years after the move to Yorkshire, Jack was always looking for ways to supplement the family income. An extension of his leisure pursuit into the world of professional wrestling seemed a logical step. Knowledgeable wrestlers they may have been but both Dominic and Jack had showmanship written through them like a stick of Blackpool rock.

Jack wasn’t the only one to influence the young Dominic. As a youngster he was immersed (in the way that only Northern families seem able to immerse themselves) by his uncles Tommy, Harry and Frank (Bully). Family life was dominated by the wrestling business. 

The family set up a small training area in their modern semi-detached home and young Dominic would enjoy being thrown around the mat by both family members and other wrestlers who came along to make use of the facilities. Occasionally Dominic would be allowed to go with his dad to the local gym in Thorne, where the youngster was again the centre of attention amongst the big men as they went about their training routines. 

It was hardly surprising, therefore, that Dominic began to share in the wrestling business. In his early twenties Dominic took up the business professionally and became a regular member of the Pye family troupe that enraged fans night after night across the country. Within a year or two of turning professional Dominic was appearing regularly at great venues such as Belle Vue, Liverpool Stadium and Earls Court, tangling with many of the big names in British wrestling. In 1952 The Liverpool Echo described Dominic as Britain’s brightest prospect with a magnificent physique.

Dominic carved his own niche in the wrestling business, and arguably greater notoriety than his famous dad. As if fans couldn’t get enough of them the promoters would frequently put on tournaments with the Pye family team, a permutation of any three or four out of the five, taking on teams of all-comers. 

Throughout the 1950s Dominic wrestled the best on offer. Count Bartelli, Bill Howes, Bill Joyce, Dennis Mitchell, Sandy Orford, Vic Hessle, Dave Armstrong, and just about every big name found themselves in the opposing corner. A feud with Man Mountain Bill Benny frequently saw bouts ending in chaos and bloodshed, with one or the other getting themselves disqualified by breaking just one rule too many. In 1955 Dominic wrestled in California, USA.

Now living in Blackpool Dominic began working alongside Jack at their wrestling school. Many young men remained forever grateful to Dominic for giving them their start on highly acclaimed international careers, amongst them Jock Cameron, Wild Angus and Rex Strong.  

Apart from passing on to his son the rudiments of the wrestling trade Jack also passed on to Dominic a great deal of common sense, or nouse, as Jack would have been more likely to say. Jack instilled in Dominic the need for a second income on which to rely in the event of injury or retirement. Maybe that was the reason why, in 1959, at the height of his career, with the promise of even better days ahead, Dominic left Joint Promotions to join the independents as both a wrestler and promoter at the Central and South Piers. Throughout the 1960s Dominic would put on shows three times a week in the seaside resort. The publicity campaign of handbills liberally distributed along the promenade, often by mini skirted girls,  on the morning of the afternoon shows may not have been sophisticated but was certainly effective. Dominic was a regular attraction, of course, and he even enticed the established Barnsley heavyweight Harry Bennett to move to Blackpool and assume the role of his brother as Crafty Casey Pye.

Although he had a reputation as a very hard man in his native Blackpool opponents of the ring tell of Dominic as a “light worker” who was easy to work with. Rex Strong told us that Dominic was a joy to work with except for one occasion in Darwen, Lancashire. Dominic was the promoter that night and gave Rex an unusually hard time until part way through the match when he began to smile. All was explained when Dominic whispered to Rex that he’d remembered where he had put the takings. Dwight J Inglebergh told us of a night he was on with Dominic  at Morecambe. A fan  threw a bottle at Dominic, It missed him and hit Dwight who finished up in Lancaster infirmary where he received eight stitches in his forehead. The  next day Dwight was on with Dominic again in Blackpool, stitches and all. Dwight said,  "Dominic cradled me through the bout. I worked with Dominic dozens of times nation wide and on his own promotions. He always paid  top money.” 

Father Jack was well established in the management of a couple of night clubs in Blackpool. People from throughout Lancashire would go for a night out in Blackpool to “Jack Pye’s Club.” Dominic became heavily involved in the running of the clubs alongside his father. He also set up another business venture, that of second hand furniture dealer, as well as wrestling and promoting. If idle hands do the work of the devil then Dominic must have been nearing sainthood.

Wrestling commitments continued throughout the 1960s, but were now limited to Northern England and became less frequent as the decade wore on. Around 1970 rumour had it that Dominic had donned a mask and was continuing his rule bending ways under the name King Evil. Whilst that can’t be confirmed the source of the information was adamant that it was true. We don’t know, but would like  to think the Prince of Darkness finally became a King. Once seen Dominic was never forgotten. There really was only one Dirty Dominic Pye, the prince of darkness.

In a tragic shooting accident Dominic  died  on 27 February 1979.  He was aged 50.

Page added 01/04/2007

Revised 26/06/2019