WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

E: Johnny Eagles

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Johnny Eagles


Only one wrestler entered the ring with a geisha girl on each arm. Yes, and an eagle on his chest, a tiger and a couple of soldiers. The wrestler was Johnny Eagles, the popular Mancunian welterweight whose body was covered with a dozen tattoos, geisha girls included. Apart from those tattoos Eagles was known for a rather snazzy range in dressing gowns, and some lightning speed dropkicks.

Born in Manchester on 19th July 1934 with the name  Roy Boyd, he was destined to become one of the most popular and successful 1960s wrestlers, cheered on by fans as he was robbed yet again by the dastardly McManus and Pallo. Such injustices were not always the order of the day, of course, because Johnny won far more matches than he lost, against the top welterweights and middleweights of the day.
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During his national service Johnny found an interest in wrestling, and after leaving the army he began to learn the professional style  under the watchful eye of Dick the  Dormouse, the Plymouth wrestler who had long since set up home in Manchester as referee and promoter at Belle Vue.

We find Johnny wrestling for the independent promoters in 1959 having made a professional debut  losing to Ray Kimba  at Hyde Town Hall which we have been unable to confirm. Early opponents on the opposition circuit included  other youngsters like Terry Nyland, experienced  Fred Woolley,  a Doctor Death and Lord Bertie Topham.

The transition to Joint Promotions came at the start of 1962, with a television debut against Abe Ginsberg in September of the same year. It was the first of around forty television matches, making him one of the most recognisable and popular figures in British wrestling.

Making his debut at the Royal Albert Hall in November, 1962, the Kensington Post said no welterweight had made a greater impact in southern arenas and then went on to describe his surprise win over his French opponent Marcel Manneveau.
Johnny was an imposing figure in the ring, a combination of athleticism, skill and looks.  During the 1960s his speed would bewilder opponents, making  him  one of the most popular figures in British wrestling, especially facing up to villains McManus and Pallo in singles contests or the dastardly Dennisons and Black Diamonds  as one half of the White Eagles tag team.  It was as a member of the White Eagles tag team, formed at the start of 1964 with Yorkshireman Terry Jowett,  that many fans most fondly remember Johnny.

Wrestling took Johnny around Europe, Africa and America, requiring Roy Wood to step in as a very able substitute White Eagle. It was a shock for British fans at the end of 1971 when Johnny's travels robbed them permanently of his skills and he announced he was moving to the United States. In January, 1971, we found him debuting at the Monroe Civic Arena in Louisiana, tagging with Grizzly Smith.

In the United States Johnny was billed as "The Man of a Thousand Holds," said to know every wrestling hold and the counter for each. Wrestling fancy, of course, but we are told that Johnny's technical British style made a refreshing change and he was very popular in Oklahoma, the Pacific North West and  Tennessee. For a time Johnny wrestled as Johnny Marlin, the alleged English cousin of popular Americans Tommy and  Eddie Marlin.

We appeal to our American readers  for more information about Johnny and his American career.

Johnny Eagles  died on May 12th 1999, aged just 64.

Page added 19/07/2020