British wrestling history 

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G: Georgieff - Giant Haystacks

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Ivanov Georgieff (Assan Georgieff)

Assen Ivanov Georgieff was a giant of a man who claimed to stand seven feet tall. Georgieff worked in Britain during the first half of the 1950s, known as Ivanov on Dale Martin promotions and Assan when working for the northern promoters.  The Bulgarian had been around European rings for around twenty years. Opponents included Dave Armstrong, Ray Hunter, Dai Sullivan and Francis St Clair Gregory.

Claude Gessat

The black jackets worn by the fiery Claude Gessat and tag partner, Marcel Mannevau (the one with the moustache), as they swaggered towards the ring gave a far from subtle hint about their wrestling style.

The two Frenchmen were disliked by the British fans from their first venture across the English channel at the invitation of independent promoter Paul Lincoln.

Lincoln challenged the stronghold of the mighty Joint Promotions in the first half of the 1960s by carefully crafting wrestling bills from a fairly small stable of veteran wrestlers, novices and imported stars. Gessat and Mannevau were part of that appealing cocktail as they faced the good guys Kirkwood, Marino, Larsen and so on.

Like many others Joint Promotions belated realised the qualities of the French pair and brought them over to their rings.  

British fans, or the promoters,  couldn't be bothered with the linguistic niceties of translating their "Les Blousons Noirs" name and  the two villains became collectively known as The French Teddy Boys.

Gaston Ghevaert

French heavyweight champion brought to Britain by promoter Atholl Oakeley and spent most of 1935 working in Britain, opponents including top Britons Bulldog Bill Garnon, Ray St Bernard and George Gregory as well as international opposition Rik De Groote and Guillame Estelles. Following the Second World War Oakeley brought the French wrestler back  to wrestle in the World Heavyweight Championship tournament held at Harringay in 1947.  Gheveart beat Jim Foy  in the opening round, Francis St Clair Gregory in the quarter final, and lost to Bert Assirati in the semi final; each of them one fall contests.

The Ghoul

A masked man to put fear into any children in the audience, advertised as “The Most Sensational Wrestler of all Time.” He weighed around twenty stones, and wore a white mask from behind which appeared a sinister grin. The Ghoul appeared on the British wrestling scene post-war, certainly no later than 1948, and his reputation spread to the USA and Australia. Behind the mask was a skilful wrestler, who was a crowd hero when he wrestled as himself, which was often. To discover his identity you will need to delve into the Wrestling Heritage Top 20 Masked Men.

Witnessing the heroic opponent almost defeat the masked man the screaming fans would await the inevitable, which was the delivery of the Ghoul’s fearsome “Guillotine Garrotte,” a rabbit punch which would result in the luckless opponent losing consciousness and slumping to the canvas to be counted out.

Fortunately for the opponent the Ghoul was able to administer the blow again, in some apparently subtly different way, which resulted in the revival of the hapless victim. The original Ghoul is said to have removed the mask for the last time in 1958, but The Ghoul persona continued, just as successfully, just as big, and just as frightening until around 1970.

For much of the time during this period the man under the mask was Bill Coverdale. The name was revived for a short time in 1984 with Tiny Callaghan beneath the mask.

Read our extended tribute Unmasked ..... Again

Giant Haystacks

A man, as they say, who will need no introduction to the majority of our readers. The long straggly hair, beard that gave just a hint of a face beneath, distinctive costume, and those huge boots are all images etched on the memory of wrestling fans. All remember him ambling around the ring, defying gravity as he leaned over the top rope to abuse the fans, and then grabbing  his luckless opponent and tossing him to the canvas.

Coming onto the scene in the early 1970s Haystacks, initially billed as Haystacks Calhoun, was to become a wrestler with one of the most enduring reputations of all time. Forty years later ask any member of the British public to name old-time wrestlers and Haystacks would be in the top half dozen 

For a man of such size, weighing over forty stones, Haystacks was surprisingly nimble and took part in many memorable, enjoyable, but definitely not scientific, contests. A feud with Big Daddy in 1977 was part of the Crabtree short-lived seventies revival. The feud was repeated around 1982, and the two were still facing each other into the 1990s, by which time most fans had lost interest.

David Mantell remembers: “There were some notable angles, in '84-ish several Haystacks brutalisations brought Daddy to the ring in protest, including one incident where Stax brutally juiced Brian Crabtree and then threatened "I'll do the same to your brother!" Also a 2-week Haystacks's Wrecking Crew vs Daddy's All-Stars series in '85.”

With British wrestling nearing extinction in the mid 1990s Haystacks started working in the USA, where he was known as the Loch Ness Monster.  It might have been the start of a new chapter in his life had fate not cruelly intervened. Haystacks was diagnosed with cancer and returned home to die on 29th November, 1998.

Haystacks was born Martin Ruane on 10th October, 1946, in Camberwell, London, to Irish parents. The family move to Salford shortly afterwards where he lived for his adult life.