H: Harrison - Hassouini
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
See the entry for Ron Clarke
In March, 1931, when Jack Harrison lost to Billy Riley on the first All-In Wrestling show at the Winter Gardens, Southport, he was billed as Northern Counties Middleweight Champion, another of those mysterious regional titles that seemed to come and go through thin air. Usually billed from Wigan, we have found alternative hometowns of Bury, Stoke on Trent and Tyneside. Accounts tell of a tough wrestler described on occasions as “Wild Jack.” Only in the surreal reality of pro wrestling could we find the erstwhile Northern Middleweight Champion billed as “Light Heavyweight Champion of the World” in 1935, a few weeks later defending the “British Junior Lightweight Championship,” and later in the same year “holder of a light heavyweight championship belt given by the West Houghton Nursing Association.” All wrestling codology, of course, but a clear indication that this busy worker of the 1930s was an accomplished wrestler.
No, not the film star. This Rex Harrison was from Doncaster, Yorkshire. Rex was a well known figure amongst wrestling enthusiasts of the 1940s and 1950s. He was trained by Doncaster's Chic Booth at Chic' gym in Balby, Doncaster. Rex wrestled extensively throughout the world thanks to his “day job” as a crew member of the HMS Orion. Mixed it with the big names like Count Bartelli and Billy Joyce.
Bernard Hughes told us, "I remember Rex Harrison,a heavyweight, wrestling at Newcastle in the early 1950's. I once asked Norman Walsh why Rex's legs appeared to be much less well developed than his upper body. The answer was that Rex had been in the merchant navy for many years and had done lots of bodybuilding exercises at sea.This meant that it was much easier to do presses etc on a bench rather than squats or other standing leg work."
Londoner Ron Harrison turned professional shortly before the outbreak of world war 2, and it was to be a career that lasted more than twenty years. One of the craftsmen of the ring Ron was well respected amongst fellow wrestlers. In the 1940s Ron was a lightweight, though over the years his weight increased to put him towards the top end of the light heavyweight division. Ron had a reputation as a calm, evenly tempered wrestler who would not become ruffled whatever the provocation. Opponents included just about everyone - Kidd, McManus, Logan, Dorazio, Howes, Hussey the very best in the business. Ron travelled extensively throughout the country and further afield to India and the Far East. He continued wrestling until the early 1960s, attracted to the opposition to work for Paul Lincoln Management. Ron passed away in 2001, aged 88.
Founder member of the Black Knights tag team with Honey Boy Zimba, Ezzard Hart was a sixties mid-heavyweight from St Andrews, Barbados and on the way up when he sadly passed away after illness in 1971. Hart was the first black wrestler in Britain to dye his hair blond, fashioned after the famous American wrestler, Sweet Daddy Siki. Ezzard was a versatile wrestler who, until he stepped into the ring, fans were unsure whether he would be wrestling clean or dirty. Falling naturally in the mid heavyweight division he was comfortably matched with the fastest and cleverest of middleweights to the roughest and toughest of heavyweights. Like so many others his in-ring experience began in another ring, that of the schoolboy boxer. Ezzard had a swagger that some would call arrogance and a hard edge that would always prevent him from being a fans' favourite. None of that could detract from his not inconsiderable skill and fans knew that here was a man who knew the business. But they still booed him! Despite his illness fans were genuinely shocked when his untimely death was announced in September 1971
The journey from school to coal pit to wrestling ring was a well trodden one by the young men of Wigan, and it was one that Jim Hart chose to take. After learning the trade alongside Ernie Riley, Karel Istaz, Billy Joyce, and Jack Dempsey, trainer Billy Riley unleashed the latest of his boys on an unsuspecting wrestling public. For the next decade the young light heavyweight gained a reputation as a highly respected, more than capable worker who failed to catch the imagination of the public. As soon as the opportunity arose Jim gave up his job in the pits and took over a grocery shop, (in the street where Billy Joyce lived) which he ran with his wife, Margaret. Jim appeared on television eleven times in the early 1960s. After retiring from wrestling Jimmy took over management of the Monaco Ballroom in Hindley, venue of many a wrestling event.
Not a lot to report, maybe others can add more. Nick Hart was a wrestler from Kirby Sandall, a village near Doncaster. We have found a handful of contests all in Doncaster, between 1938 and 1940. Most notable opponents were Johnny Summers and Tommy Pye.
"Norman Hart was a very hard man," according to one of his contemporaries, Jimmy Boy Devlin, who has nothing but praise for his deaf mute colleague and friend. Heavyweight Norman, who worked the 1950s and 1960s rings of the North East, came from Stockton on Tees and was trained by Jim Stockdale. Norman's career was curtailed when he emigrated to Australia where he pursued his involvement in wrestling by opening a gymnasium and training youngsters for the professional ring.
A young looking Roy Hart was featured in the last ever issue of The Wrestler magazine in October 1972. Roy was a lightweight from Norwich who trained with his friend, Robin Howard. We wonder what became of him?
Abdul Kadar Hassouini (Abdul Kader)
Moroccan born lightweight based in France made two short visits to Britain, the first in the 1960s. During his 1977 tour he unsuccessfully challenged Johnny Saint in a World Lightweight championship clash that was televised from Maidstone.