P: George Pencheff

Wrestling Heritage A - Z

George Pencheff
Remembered by Graeme Cameron

It was a long and illustrious career for George Pencheff. Of  Bulgarian birth but moving to Australia as a child he wore his national credentials on his dressing gown in the shape of a kangaroo. Removing the gown revealed one of the finest physiques in wrestling.  

By the time George Pencheff made his first UK appearance in 1937, he had already established himself in Australia as one of the top three wrestlers of that decade and toured California and Quebec. Emigrating from Bulgaria as a boy, he made his pro wrestling debut in 1929 and quickly established himself as one of the top wrestlers in Australia

Six thousand fans filled the Empress Stadium in London to watch George wrestle Jim Londos  in a match advertised as “modernised Catch as Catch Can” style.   George returned to Britain post war in 1950 and 1953.

During the Thirties he had numerous battles with Fred Atkins and Australian heavyweight champion Tom Lurich, the latter often for the title. After six years of trying, he finally garnered the title from Lurich in 1939 in Sydney. He retained this title for an amazing 17 years, finally losing it to Baron Von Heczey in 1957 in Adelaide.  It would be fair to say he defended the title infrequently,  in part because of the war and later, his penchant for globe trotting.

He continued to headline through the Forties against the likes of Atkins, Chief Little Wolf and Olympian Eddie Scarf. In 1950, the travel bug bit and Pencheff became something of a globe trotter appearing in UK, France, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore and all over the USA and Canada. He featured in main events in many places, often as the foil for a bigger name but sometime in his own right. He and Heritage member Panteleon  Manlalapig, were twice the main event in Honolulu

He was known for his fast-paced style featuring rapid-fire dropkicks. The original Jack Claybourne named Pencheff as a favourite opponent with whom he engaged in dropkick contests. Legend Jim Londos was another frequent opponent and he worked many big names included Whipper Billy Watson , Dara Singh,  Canada's Earl McCready and Danny McShain to name a few.

His 35 year career ended in 1964 when he suffered a serious injury against Tarlock Singh in India. He made some appearances as a referee after that but perhaps his most enduring legacy is that he had a hand in founding Police Boys Clubs in Australia. Generations of amateur and pro wrestlers have got their start in these clubs and still do so today.  What could be a greater influence than that?

George Pencheff died on November 29, 1986.

A true legend of Australian pro wrestling

Page added 29/11/2020