S: Hans Streiger, Count Bauer, The Masked Count
Also known as Clarke Mellor, Count Bauer, The Masked Count
The Teutonic Terror of Derbyshire
It's a name that evokes vivid memories and arouses strong emotions. The passage of time can play tricks; it can enhance the memories and enliven the emotions. For those who saw Hans Streiger live that is not the case. The only predictable thing about a Hans Streiger match was the unpredictability. Here was a man who made an indelible mark on the memory; embellishments are not required by the passage of time. Once seen, never forgotten seems a fairly accurate assessment.
In days when the use of foreign objects were just about unheard of Dave Sutherland told us of a 1960s night in Newcastle, "I saw Streiger three times and on the first occasion, against Francis Sullivan, he produced a piece of pumice stone from somewhere and began using it on Sullivan's forehead whilst on the referee's blind side. He then hurled it towards the balcony."
Promoter Graham Brook told us that Streiger was an intimidating character, "I think that Hans Streiger was the most fearsome wrestler whom I ever saw in my days as a fan. He never did anything that I recall to make himself look foolish, lived up to the image outside of the ring and never seemed to back down."
"Streiger really did project the personality that he had. There was very little showman in this guy," recalled Ron Historyo. "I saw him many times and cannot remember him ever acting unaware while someone rolled him up for a winning pin. I never saw him submit or fail to beat the count even from a sort of 'out of the ring accident.' His biggest crime for me was to see him disqualified too quickly and not give the fans the value of a longer fight."
Streiger was born Clark Mellor in Hayfield, Derbyshire, a village three miles from New Mills, the town with which most wrestling fans associate him and he later lived. Precisely when he was born is unclear as even official documents show conflicting dates ranging from the end of 1932 to the end of 1934, the most likely date 20th December, 1933.
Neighbours said that until his later years when he became involved in an unfortunate dispute over the right of way near to his cottage he was a popular and respected member of the local community. There were recollections of him driving a horse and cart around town, usually loaded with children. His funeral service was packed with locals and shops in Hayfield displayed his photo in their windows. We also heard of his love for animals, owning dogs, cats, horses and a mynah bird infamous for the use of unasvoury language.
Boxing was Clark Mellor's first sport, in the booths and as a professional with around thirty matches in all. In November, 1955, the Belper Chronicle announced Clark had appointed a new manager following six fights, in which he had won three by knockout and lost three on disqualification. A sign of things to come.
The move to professional wrestler overlapped with Clark Mellor's boxing career by around a year. He boxed and wrestled on the fairgrounds booths. Sam Betts (Dwight J Ingleburgh) told us of one occasion he was working on Matt Moran's booth with Clark. Clark turned up with a broken hand in a cast. When Moran told him he wanted him to wrestle Clark cut off the plaster and went into the ring.
Our earliest professional wrestling finding is in May, 1957 using the name Hans Schrager against Jack Jefferson at Cheetham Public Hall. For the first year or two he wrestled for the independent promoters in the small halls and clubs of north west England. According to that defender of British morality and truth, The People newspaper, and who are we to question them, Clark's first pro match was on a tournament in aid of Jewish charities, hence the requirement for him to adopt the persona of a Nazi wrestling champion. Needless to say The People were doing nothing to enhance the reputation of Clark Mellor or professional wrestling. Amongst the regular early opponents were included Jim Foy, Jack Jeffries and Henri Pierlot. By 1960 Clark, now Hans Streiger, was wrestling further afield, making frequent appearances for Devereux Promotions at Wimbledon Palais.
Heritage member Palais Fan remembers watching Streiger at the Wimbledon Palais, "For me, the person who played the role of the foreign heel the best, will always be Hans Streiger. I was lucky enough to see him relatively early in his career and he was so convincing. If he hadn't been such a genuine tough guy, he wouldn't have made it through the crowd, the spectators used to get so angry with him."
A short lived masked man, of German origin it was claimed, worked for independent promotions in the early 1960s, capitalising on the success of long time career heavyweight Count Bartelli. He changed his name to The Masked Count, still alluding to the famous masked man. Wrestler Paul Mitchell revealed the man beneath the mask was, uou guessed it, Hans Streiger.
In February, 1961, Streiger was signed up by Joint Promotions, mostly in the north and midlands, but making his southern England Dale Martin debut in March. The likes of Robinson, Bartelli, Mitchell and Two Rivers were now in the opposite corner. Hans Streiger was destined to become a regular opponent for Two Rivers for more than a decade, "He was a perfect foil for Billy Two Rivers and must simply have sold to that chop," recalled Ron Historyo. Graham Brooks did witness a variation of the usual ending one night at the Granby Halls, Leicester, "It was one fall apiece and Two Rivers went into his wardance routine with a flurry of chops which normally led to a knockout. I saw it many times with the likes of Joynson, Yearsley, Sharon, Arras etc but Streiger had to be different. On the canvas, felled by Two Rivers' chops, he managed to punch Two Rivers between the legs which caused referee Harry Yardley to disqualify him."
In June, 1961, came the first television appearance, a win over Dean Stockton. We can only think Hans Streiger was on his best behaviour that day. A dozen more television bookings came his way over the next sixteen years. Not an enormous number but more than we expected to find due to his flitting to and fro between Joint Promotions and the independents, not to mention that temperament.
Few were rougher and tougher than Hans Streiger. Against villains Ian Campbell, Roy Bull Davis and Jim Hussey Hans Streiger could manage to get himself disqualified. Not German, and we have doubts about the hair colour, but many claimed the hardness was for real. Streiger was a villain of the old school, compared by many to Jack Pye, the blueprint of the dirty wrestlers.
Often on Heritage us old cynics have commented on the usual twenty odd minutes of any wrestling match, irrespective of the duration or number of rounds. One exception was a match between Hans Streiger and Billy Howes at Streatham Baths in March 1961. For forty-eight minutes, "Forty eight sensational minutes" reported the local press as they slammed each other toe to toe before the referee declared a draw.
We will end with a few comments by those who knew him best, fellow wrestlers.
Jack Cassidy: "As strong as a lion and as fit as a butcher's dog."
Paul Mitchell, "Streiger was an enigma. The nice guy driving kids on his horse drawn cart in Hayfield is a far cry from the unliked guardian of right of way in his railway cottage. He constantly pushed the patience of Joint's promoters, played one off against the other, did a labour club show in Manchester when working for Joint, and roughed up a continental after being warned precisely not to do so."
Eddie Rose: "Hans Streiger was legendary amongst wrestlers for his tough uncompromising attitude to everyone. He was very professional to work with. I think he felt a responsibility towards smaller men when he wrestled with them."
Maybe Clark Mellor wasn't as temperamental and unpredictable as we thought. Maybe just a man with very strong beliefs who was willing to stand by them.
Hans Streiger died on 1st May 2002.
Page added 20/12/2020