WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

S: Johnny Stead

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Johnny Stead

Johnny Stead came from the Manningham area of Bradford and in wrestling terms he was a class act. That's according to Heritage member Bernard Hughes, and Bernard's word is good enough for us, Bernard recalls, "The best fight and certainly the most enjoyable for me was the 15 round draw at Newcastle for the world lightweight title between the holder George Kidd and the British title holder Johnny Stead. Just 15 rounds of great holds and fast counters. One pin fall each."


Johnny was a first class amateur. In 1936 he was part of the Olympic wrestling team trained by Harold Angus alongside Norman Morrell, Raymond Cazeaux and Arthur Thompson. Although the latter three all took part in the Olympic Games Johnny Stead did not.


The experience would, though, cement a long standing connection between Johnny and Norman Morrell. Following the Second World War when Johnny turned professional and Morrell was a wrestling promoter it was for Morrell that Johnny mostly worked.


By 1949 Johnny had established himself as a well respected lightweight, working mostly in northern England and Scotland for promoter Norman Morrell against the likes of Tiger Woods, George Kidd and Alan Colbeck. It was Wakefield's Colbeck that Johnny outclassed on 28th October, 1950 at the St James Hall, Newcastle, to take the British lightweight championship. This was Johnny's second bid for the title, having failed a few weeks earlier when he challenged Colbeck in a title match on 29th August in Wakefield.


Save for an eleven month period beginning April, 1953, when Eric Sands took the title, Johnny Stead regained the belt and was to remain in the dominant force on the domestic lightweight scene until the mid 1950s. In the summer of 1955 newspapers reported that Johnny Stead had been forced into early returement due to a serious leg injury.