S: Jim Stockdale
Here's a local hero of immense proportions. Not in size; his stocky frame was no more than 15 stones. Jim Stockdale was an immense presence in terms of the number of people he influenced and his impact on professional wrestling in the north of England.
Local hero? He was a local legend to those who knew him.
By day Jim Stockdale was a plumber in his hometown of Stockton on Tees. By night he was Gentleman Jim Stockdale, entertaining wrestling fans both under his own name and that of the villainous masked man The Blue Angel.
Amongst the many wrestlers who were influenced by Jim were Jimmy “Boy” Devlin, Jim McCormack, Tommy Stones and Arthur Openshaw, all of whom he trained at his Apollo gymnasium which was situated at the old gas works in Stockton, now the Co Op undertakers. It was hard going at the Apollo we have been told. Jim was a hard taskmaster who instilled strict discipline into his trainees, teaching them to wrestle on mats that covered the concrete floor. Jimmy Devlin admired the man who took him under his wing in 1959. Gentleman Jim's rules had an immediate and long lasting impact on the Boy Devlin, with smoking and alcoholic drinking no longer allowed a place in his life.
Another man who wouldn't have gone far in wrestling without Jim Stockdale was Scarborough promoter Don Robinson. We have documented Robinson's importance to professional wrestling in our series Men of Courage and Vision. Yet Robinson did not have any wrestling background and turned to Jim Stockdale to teach him not only how to wrestle but also inside knowledge of wrestling management. Robinson owes a great deal to Jim Stockdale.
One of the highlights of Jim's wrestling career came on November 12th, 1955, when he was the plucky local boy who narrowly lost by a KO decision to Mike Marino at the New St James Hall, Newcastle.
The following January and another highlight when Jim wrestled Cyril Morris on a televised show from Lime Grove Baths, though whether or not his match was broadcast we cannot confirm.
Opponents during a career which spanned the best part of two decades, from the early fifties to the end of the 1960s also included well known names such as Steve Viedor, Dai Sullivan, Johnny Kwango and Bobby Graham.
At the time, of course, fans were unaware there was another side to Gentleman Jim. There was no shortage of masked wrestlers on the independent shows of the 1960s. One that stood out from the crowd was the villainous Blue Angel, and beneath the mask was Jim Stockdale. Even before he entered the ring fans were in no doubt that here was a scoundrel of the first order.
The costume and body language conveyed the message of skulduggery as he moved little by little towards the ring. A sombre, scruffy, full length cloak made the heavyweight easy to place in the first class villain division. If that wasn’t enough there was always the bell that he rang out aloud like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. For good measure The Blue Angel would drag his leg, allegedly the result of an horrific accident that had somehow resulted in the acquisition of superhuman powers. Fans would jeer him as he unhurriedly made his way towards the ring and the forlorn figure would stop to return the compliment with a snarl.
The poster on the left shows Jim doubling up for promoter Don Robinson to wrestle twice on one night.
In 1968 Jim and his family left the North East and moved to Immingham in Lincolnshire where his wrestling career continued for a few years more. As years passed by Jim’s fame moved into a new sphere as he left behind the world of wrestling to become the owner of champion pigeons! Mary died in 1997. Jim moved to a nursing home and survived his wife by eleven years.
JimStockdale died on 4th December, 2018.