G: George Gregory
The Bolton Bonecrusher
(A name bestowed by wrestler Sam Rabin)
George Gregory and Tony Baer
George Gregory was one of the best. Don't take our word for it, even we are not that old. In 1962 the venerable wrestling historian Charles Mascall rated George as Britain's second best heavyweight of all time, above Ernie Baldwin, Billy Joyce and Dave Armstrong, ranking only Bert Assirati ahead of the stylish Boltonian. In world class terms Mascall placed Gregory alongside Frank Gotch and Joe Stetcher.
Reginald George Gregory was born in Bolton in 1905. He began wrestling after he had left school and started work. Each Sunday afternoon he and a group of local youths would gather together to swim and fight catch style by the banks of Rumworth Lodge near his home in Bolton. When he was seventeen years old he took up more formal training, and was Lancashire champion for six consecutive years, from welterweight to heavyweight. George’s aspirations lay far beyond Bolton and Lancashire, he was ready to travel the world.
In 1938 working class life in Bolton was researched and document in a project called Mass Observation. One of those interviewed was wrestler and market gardener, George Gregory.
The project documents that in 1929 George travelled to Australia to pursue his farming interests. Whilst there he pursued his wrestling interests and wrestled in travelling booths. He was in Australia for about a year.
On his return to Britain professional wrestling had recently been given a boost by the introduction of the new style, commonly referred to as All-In. George took advantage of the situation, learning much of the trade from the master Billy Riley. George's knowledge of Catch as Catch Can style, tutorship by Riley and a willingness to rough-it led to him becoming a star of the 1930s under both Catch and all-in rules. We find him holding Mitchell Gill to a draw shortly after turning professional early in 1933, a sign of his class.
On numerous occasions George Gregory criticised the lack of control in British wrestling during the 1930s and made more than one unsuccessful attempt to form a board of control. He was critical of promoters who allowed unskilled men to come into the business, working for a pittance, and taking work from the experienced and skilful men.
George opposed world class opponents Karl Pojello, Bert Mansfield and Jack Sherry; and was acknowledged as British heavyweight champion in some quarters from 1941. In the Mass Observation Project he had claimed that he and Douglas Clark were the only two who could legitimately claim the title but the lack of a professional body made it impossible for anyone to claim to be inconclusive champion.
Championship recognition came to an end on 27th January, 1945, when he was beaten by Bert Assirati at Belle Vue, Manchester. It was variously reported that between 6,000 and 7,500 fans witnessed Assirati take the only fall in the fourth of the six ten minute rounds they wrestled. In another match at Belle Vue, and another of his toughest, he fought Rik de Groote for the European heavyweight championship, reported in the Mass Observation Project to have wrestled for 100 minutes before the match was declared a draw.
George continued wrestling until the mid 1950s, moving well and truly into the modern era and a main eventer for the fledgling Joint Promotions.
An interesting aside we discovered whilst researching George Gregory was that for six months whilst wrestling in the 1930s he turned vegetarian. He later said the lack of meat made him feel fitter but “with less fire.”