from agricultural stock, having learnt the ropes on his
father's farm. Tony Elsdon was a popular welterweight who debuted
around 1964. As a youngster Tony watched the wrestling at St James
Hall in Newcastle, where his favourite, and the man who inspired him
to start wrestling was Norman Walsh.
in Northallerton he learned his wrestling trade at the St Lukes
wrestling club in Middlesbrough alongside Ian Gilmour, Les Prest and
Dicky Swales. Working at the time on his father's farm meant that
Tony was already very fit and strong.
orgins lay in the days nurses
at the club had
a course of wrestling as a treatment for violent patients. The
club was run along well disciplined lines. Members were presented
with a membership card, badge and a handbook containing a strict set
of rules that were adhered to strictly.
attendance, reliability, a dress code and respect for other members
and property were required or membership was revoked, requiring the
return of the badge, membership card and handbook. It was good
preparation for the youngsters to take up responsible roles in the
members put on professional style shows for local charities. They
didn't have a ring and simply placed mats on the concrete floor. They
quickly learned how to fall correctly! Occasionally guest trainer at
St Lukes was that childhood hero Norman Walsh.
shows enabled Tony to get a couple of hundred bouts under his
belt before turning professional. He was a skilful welterweight who
worked regularly for Joint Promotions. Future success was
limited by his bouts restricted to the local North East and
Yorkshire, opponents that included Frank Robb, Peter Preston and Jim
commitments also had to share their time not just with farming but
also Tony as a Special Police Constable, a volunteer force that
performed duties at football matches, demonstrations, manhunts and
wherever else extra manpower was required .
half a dozen years of promise he seemed to abruptly disappear around
1970 to concentrate on his agricultural work with a large farm at
Appleton Wiske, near Northallerton. We would very much like to
receive further information about Tony.
Ken Else (Also known as Kennet Earlsa, Kangaroo Kid)
Another of those wrestlers who really knew the business but never made it to the big time. In Ken’s case this might have been because he spent so much of his career tearing around the world, with Australia being a favourite haunt of his. Indeed Stockport’s Ken spent much of his professional life living in Australia, where he not only wrestled but also promoted and trained youngsters. Seeing him in the ring fans were of no doubt that here was a man with considerable skill. He was one of those wrestlers that didn’t actually break the rules but was never a true blue eye. Promoters occasionally added an international hue to his Cheshire credentials by re-arranging the letters and introducing the Austrian Kennet Earlsa. At times Ken could be seen in the role of manager of Hans Streiger, a friend since their schooldays. Ken's professional career began in 1954, making his debut against Hanley's John Hall after being trained by Charlie Glover and working on Micky Kylie's fairground booth. His interest in wrestling had been sparked as a boy when he watched the wrestling at the Ardwick Stadium and Belle Vue in Manchester, Jack Pye was a favourite.
For more than ten years Ken was a part time wrestler, driving lorries when not in the ring. He emigrated to Australia in 1966, returning to Britain temporarily in 1968 and permanently in 2010.
We have just a handful of matches for independent promoters in 1957 and 1958 for this masked man. Catching our attention was that one of his opponents was Bobby Palmer, who went on to become a very successful referee and MC for Dale martin Promotions. Heritage member Main Mask added: “Not many masked Wrestlers in the lower weights were around in the 1950's! But for some Months in 1958 a masked Middleweight Clad from top to toe all in green suddenly appeared in our rings-EMERALD PHANTOM! If you were a 'purist' wrestling follower then this mystery man's skilful scientific style was right up your street! In order to perpetuate the run of this type of masked man-the promoters decided to stipulate that hooded wrestlers like this PHANTOM would only have to UNMASK if they were beaten by two straight falls!”
The Emperor (1950s)
Most memories of a masked Emperor go back no further than Big Bill Bromley donning the mask in the 1980s. A quarter of a century earlier, in 1959, a young promoter called Paul Lincoln presented a masked Emperor, reputed to weigh 20 stones (but Lincoln did tend to have a way with statistics). In true Lincoln codology the man behind the mask was said to be a successful business executive needing to hide his identity. Whatever his success elsewhere it was not to replicated in the wrestling ring and the late 1950s masked Emperor failed to make an impression. The Emperor returned in the 1980s; see the entry for Bill Bromley.
The Flying Finn who took Canadian citizenship wrestled in Britain in 1937 and 1938. This was near the beginning of a long career that reached in to the early 1960s in the United States and Canada using the name Paavo Katonen. Engblom had a reputation as a genuine shoot wrestler who could be hard to work with. He wrestled the best of 1930s lighter heavyweights, including a World Light Heavyweight Championship match with Benny Sherman at belle Vue, Manchester. In the 1950s the Finn took up promoting wrestling and boxing, and also trained many young boxers and wrestlers at his gymnasium in Phoenix, Arizona.
Ben Engblom died in January, 1999
Bobby England could be seen flying around the rings of southern
independent shows in the 1970s. Like many others Tunbridge Wells born
Bobby turned to wrestling after watching the sport at his local hall
and then joining a gymnasium, the Teen and Twenty Club, to lift
weights. At the club he met up with a group of wrestlers and accepted
their invitation to join them and learn the rudiments of
professional wrestling. From the gymnasium he graduated to working
the fairground booths, and became one of the regulars taking on
challengers for Mickey Kylie in the West Country. His professional
debut came along in August 1968, a home town promotion in Tunbridge
Wells facing the colourful sounding Sabu Perera. Bobby continued
wrestling after moving to Brighton but work commitments restricted
his appearances and led to his retirement in the late 1970s.
Tarzan John England
Long before "Mr Muscles" posed for the fans there was an earlier Johnny England in British rings, Tarzan England. His reign was brief, 1950 and 1951, leaving us to wonder whether or not he changed his identity and went on to greater things. Tarzan England. Matches were mainly in the north of England and Scotland, with opponents including Ron Jackson, Jim Hussey,Norman Walsh, Bill Verna and Ken Davies.
Johnny “Mr Muscles” England
A shooting star with high impact but vanishing as quickly as he appeared. Johnny England created a minor sensation when he first appeared on television. His arrogant nature, tendency to sneer at the fans and predisposition to punctuate bouts with displays of his physique antagonised those who had paid their hard earned cash. And they loved every minute of it. Those who knew him testified to what a nice man he was, but his wrestling personae of the mouthy big head was one he carried off to perfection. Fans did admire his wrestling skill, and an ability to outwit far more experienced opponents. His prominence seemed short lived, but he did continue in the wrestling business long after leaving Joint Promotions.
The alleged Heavyweight Champ of Switzerland (sometimes France) weighed 17 stones and first appeared in British rings from 1934 to 1937. He worked as an engineer in London and met the biggest names of the time, including Jack Sherry, Karl Pojello, Mitchell Gill and Bill Garnon, with mixed results. One report tells of Estelles succumbing to a fall in the first round of a one fall match against Cordite Conroy. Protests from the crowd were so great that the match was allowed to continue as a three fall contest with Estelles coming out the winner.
The young welterweight started out with Paul Lincoln promotions in his native south Wales in 1960. With a bit more experience he began appearing throughout the country and was working for other independent promoters by the mid sixties. We wonder what happened to him, possibly a change of name?
We would like to learn more about this wrestler from South Wales who turned professional in the late 1930s and wrestled until 1950, seemingly every week at Blackpool. Posters proclaimed him as a former international rugby player and one of the best heavyweights from Wales.
Jackie "Glitterboy" Evans.
Originating from Gloucestershire, Jackie learned the business the hard way, working the fairground boxing and wrestling booths for the first three years before joining the ranks of Associated Promotions based in Bristol, working the west country. Later signings with several other promoters took him further afield, eventually taking him to most venues in the British Isles. He became a firm favourite in several holiday camps during the early seventies.
His flamboyant persona in the ring of blonde hair, brightly coloured gowns, face glitter and make-up, made him a popular commodity for any promoter during the glam rock years. Jackie finally hung up his boots at the end of the seventies, having spent twelve years in the game, and re-trained as a Back Specialist, working now from his home town of Andover in Hampshire.
Pete Evans started wrestling at Birmingham Amateur Wrestling Club in 1963/64 when he was 19 years old. Whilst learning to wrestle amateur style he would go along to the Embassy Sportsdrome in Walford Road, Sparkbrook to watch professional wrestling presented by promoter Conrad Davies.
Pete was hooked and quickly acquired the the appetite to become a pro wrestler. He was taught the professional techniques by Coventry's Prince Barnu (Freddie Barnes) and Birmingham's John Clarke. Pete's first paid bout was in one of the wrestling booths run by Ronnie Taylors at Hearsall Common, Coventry, in 1967.
A short time afterwards he made his indoor professional debut. It was for promoter Cyril Knowles, at the Dudley Hippodrome, on 16th April 1967, against George Leddington of Stafford. Against the odds for a newcomer Pete won that pro debut, by 2 falls to 1 in 5 rounds.
He bought a wrestling ring (from Sucha Singh) in the late 1970’s and started promoting shows along with ‘The Badger’ (Barry Potter) and also wrestling as well for other promoters including Lew Phillips (ex boxing promoter), Vic Kendrick, Jack Taylor and Ronnie Taylor on fair ground.
Martin Conroy,who was then the matchmaker of Wryton Promotions. signed Pete up for Joint Promotions It was Martin that gave Pete his nickname of ‘The Balsall Heath Basher’. Pete and Pat Roach grew up in the same area of Birmingham and were business associates in the scrap business as well as working together in the ring.
Pete trained many young aspiring wrestlers, ladies and gents alike, in a career that lasted 35 years. To this day Pete runs a scrap metal/clearance business in the Birmingham Area and maintains an interest in wrestling through the ex wrestlers associations and has attended several reunions in recent years. And reading Wrestling Heritage of course!
It’s not unknown for a sportsman to turn to wrestling as a second career. That was the case for the burly 1960s heavyweight Sam Evans. Sam was known to rugby followers as a player for Hull Kingston Rovers and Wakefield Trinity before turning to wrestling in 1962. His background also included a six year stint in the Household cavalry, which led to him standing guard at Buckingham Palace and performing duties at the state opening of Parliament and trooping the colour. Tall, muscular, and broad shouldered the bearded heavyweight Sam Evans appeared, and indeed was, something of a giant as he leaned over the top rope to interact with the ringside fans. That interaction normally consisted of mutual abuse as Sam's style was not one that appealed to the purist! The initial interest aroused by his fame as a professional rugby player was sustained when he showed that he had the natural ability to succeed in the rough and tumble world of professional wrestling. His professional debut, in 1963 against Bob McDonald, led to a disqualification defeat, which must be quite a distinction for a first outing. At Belle Vue, Manchester, Sam even managed to get himself disqualified against the villainous Italian, Pietro Capello, in itself quite an achievement! Within a short time Sam was appearing regularly in northern rings against top men such as Les Kellett, Albert Wall and Dave Armstrong. In the mid 1960s Sam fell from the limelight, working for the independent promoters, until re-emerging onto the Joint Promotions circuit in 1970.
The Executioner has been a frequent name for masked men from the 1950s onwards, with the name most often associated with Birmingham wrestler Gordon Corbett in the 1970s.