H: Jim Hussey
wrestlers equivalent of Desert Island Discs for many Northern fans Jim
Hussey would be an absolute certainty in their eight must haves. Never
mind the fact that his aggression overshadowed his wrestling ability, or
that he was a hard core villain, there will always be a place for Jim
Hussey in the hearts of wrestling fans. He would bully and torment his
opponent, pummel away at any physical weakness, and the fans would jeer
him like they jeered no other in a career that spanned more than thirty
Wrestling enthusiast John Shelvey has told us he was mesmerised by Jumping Jim, the wrestler known as "Mr 5x5" when he saw him as a youngster.
"As a youngster I looked at Jim and recognised him as a tough son of a B.
We couldn't agree more with John's sentiments. Admittedly not in the Albert Wall, Billy Robinson, Gwyn Davies skills class but in the fifties and sixties there was such depth of talent that those in the second tier were still stars. When it came to value for money and giving the crowds what they wanted Jumping Jim was every bit first tier. A first class performer as far as the fans were concerned they knew exactly what to expect and Jim never let them down. Good grief he was rough. We remember watching him tear into Mike Marino, and if that wasn't for real then it again is a sign of just how good this man was in the ring.
The indomitable spirit that made Jim Hussey a star of the wrestling scene for three decades was apparent from a young age. Living in the Collyhurst area of Manchester just a couple of miles north of the city centre Jim attended Abbott Street school. Jim excelled at swimming, winning his first medal when he was just six years old and going on to captain the school's team, aged twelve, when they won the England Schoolboys Championship. As was usual at the time Jim left school aged fourteen and began work as an electrician's assistance.
His wrestling career began during the Second World War, wrestling the likes of Bert Mansfield, Bert Assirati and Jack Pye. Jim rose rapidly through the ranks and was considered a top prospect within a couple of years of turning pro; a 1945 match against Robert McDonald advertised as "The Match of the Century." Pure hype, of course, but a sign of his rapidly growing status. The same year a poster advertising Jim against Ernest Baldwin described him as "The 21 year old marvel who is certainly a match for the best." Not to mention the elusive Northern Area championship. Right up to his retirement Jim was billed as Northern Area Heavyweight champion. Over the years fans have discussed from where or when this belt materialised, and were there any defences. We still can't solve that mystery, but have found a reference to Jim as Northern Area champion as early as October, 1947.
Heritage member Beancounter recalled, "Jim was one of those wrestlers whose name it was always good to see on any programme as you knew that value for your money was guaranteed. He was a genuinely skillful matman, built almost square, very powerful and weighing around sixteen and a half stone; but with the athletic ability to execute the perfect drop-kick. It was a great pity that on many occasions he was used as the fall guy for visiting foreign 'celebs' (That giant Frenchman springs to mind). One has only to compare him to the significantly inferior heavyweights of the mid to late 1970's onwards to appreciate what a Gem we had in 'The Golden Age' of the 1960's and early 1970's. "
It wasn't just the fans that could rely on Jumping Jim.
Beancounter's reference to Jim being used as a "fall guy" refers to promoters relying on Jim when a safe pair of hands was needed to guide a novice or unknown overseas visitor. So it was Jim called up for the debut of Jean Ferre (Andre the Giant) in Britain and guide a young Kendo Nagasaki through his first professional match. Opponents relied on him for making sure they looked good, whatever their shortcomings.
In the Spring of 2011 Wrestling Heritage was contacted by the care home in which Jim was residing. Consequently we travelled to Mannchester to visit Jim. Clearly very weak, having suffered a fall earlier in the week Jim showed the redoubtable spirit that saw him face all the top heavyweights of post-war British wrestling. We were pleased to be able to enlighten everyone further with tales of the great man's importance. A small gift was made on behalf of all Wrestling Heritage fans, and best wishes conveyed under the watchful eyes of Bulldog Colin Joynson and Mark Rollerball Rocco looking down from their photos dotted around the room.
Five months later Jim passed away. Despite his age fans and colleagues were shocked by the news, Heritage member Dave Sutherland writing, " I think one thing that wrestling fans from the golden era are agreed upon and that was that Jim Hussey was not only a wonderful villain but he was also a very, very good wrestler. This was certainly something that the enthusiasts picked up on as I have seen Jim go from arch – enemy one week, while matched against a blue-eyed, to everyone’s hero when up against someone who could be more villainous than he. RIP Jim."
We feel it fitting to end this tribute with a message we received from a close friend and colleague of Jim's, Tony St Clair.
´Tony St Clair asks "Do you remember when Jimmy´.................."
When Mark (Rocco) called me to tell me his father had passed away I was just about to go and pick Mick McMichael up from Hannover airport as he was coming with Wendy, his wife, to stay with us for a couple of days. I knew as soon as I heard Mark's voice something was wrong, but the news about Jimmy hit me like a hammer regardless.
After I had met my guests I told them the bad news and it also shocked them. Mick was a great pupil of the master of pulling ribs on other wrestlers,and even though he was a long way behind Jimmy, hed learnt well from the master.
After our wives went to bed that night I opened a bottle of whisky, poured us both a drink and then we started talking about our times with Jimmy. He was THE master of playing jokes on his fellow workers, far too many to remember them all, but we were in hysterics as Mick recalled how driving home in the Dale & Martin van they stopped to get Fish & Chips and Sammy King made the mistake of asking Jimmy to get him some and gave him a Pound note. At that time you could 8 times for a pound and thats what he got. Or the day they stopped for coffee on the way to a show and Harry Wright, M.C and brother of the promoter, left his coat unattended. When he put it on the waitress came and asked him to put the knives,folkes,salt & pepper pots that he had stolen back on the table, Jimmy had informed her that he couldn,t help it as he was a cleptomaniac (of course Jimmy had put them there while he wasn't looking)
I was once wrestling at a Theatre in Rhyl on the stage where I was getting beaten up by Colin Joynson when everybody in the crowd started laughing,and as I looked up Jimmy,who had put a 12 foot ladder behind the curtain, was poking his head with a clowns hat on out of the curtains. That was Jimmy.
But the same man was one of the true greats of our time. Mr 5 By 5 was his nickname, it was said he could do a dropkick and land back on his feet !!! He was the first man to wrestle Andre the Giant on T.V the logic being that he would make Andre look even bigger, and two weeks later when George Kidd´s opponent refused to wrestle him in Dundee Jimmy offered to take his place. George said ´Jimmy , look at the size of you against me, the crowd wont accept it´to which Jimmy replied ´We´ll make first to 5 falls and I´ll give you 3 start´
I will never ever forget the heat when in the 7 round George won by 5 falls to 4 - what a performer !!!!
He also looked after me when I first started wrestling, telling Max Crabtree to put us on together. Max told I was too green to go on with someone of his quality but Jimmy just said it would be o.k in his words he would ´Take care of me ´
Mind you I paid for it, when ever we travelled together I had to pick him up at home,- ´You have to pass right by me ´he would say REGARDLESS of where we were going !!.
Jimmy for all his jokes was a caring,sensitive man who thought the world of his family, just like his son, Mark, and if it makes him feel any better at this dreadfull time I can only tell you that I am only one of the many who loved and will miss your father - a Giant of a man.