K: Kenny - Kerschitz
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
The first time we saw Liverpool's John Kenny in the ring he must have been a professional for no more than a few months. It was the summer of 1973 and he was unfortunately injured in a bout with another newcomer, Mark Rocco. In the years that followed we always enjoyed watching John in action, a good humoured wrestler who always seemed to give his best. He never made it to the top rung amongst the McManuss and Pallos, but such was the standard of wrestling in those days that such a statement should not be taken as criticism of a very talented middleweight. John Kenny had some cracking matches with Kevin Conneally, Eddie Rose, Catweazle, Paul Mitchell and other Northern regulars in both independent and Joint Promotion rings. His career extended more than two decades and after retiring from wrestling John could still be seen officiating as a referee, and well into the twenty-first century could be found training youngsters.
Talk of tough old timers and one name that will eventually surface is that of Birmingham's Alf Kent. An all action heavyweight who laid claim to the Midland Area Heavyweight Title Alf appeared in our wrestling rings around 1950. One of his early opponents was fellow Brummie Max Ward, who later succeeded Alf as Midlands champion. Opposition included the biggest names of the day: Jules Kiki, Count Bartelli, Bill Howes and Mike Marino. Alf's wrestling career was brought to an abrupt and premature ending when he suffered a mild heart attack and was advised to retire. Life couldn't be so mundane for Alf and his devotion to the sport prevented him from fading away. Alf joined the ranks of wrestling referees, and is remembered by Heritage member Dave Fletcher who saw Alf as the resident referee at The Atlas in Stetchford, Birmingham, in the late 50's and early 60's, “As great an entertainer as the wrestlers.”
Alf's influence in the business continued as he introduced boxer Randolph Turpin t wrestling and trained one of the top heavyweights of post war years, Bomber Pat Roach.
Alf Kent passed away in 1975.
Heritage member Phil Kenyon remembers Norman Kenworthy training at Bob Bannister's gymnasium in Accrington alongside Ian St John, Andreas Svajics, Don Plummer and Phil himself. Norman came from Padiham, near Burnley. Norman was a stocky 15 stone heavyweight who worked for the independent promoters in the 1960s, sometimes wearing a mask.
Bristol’s Jeff Kerry was trained by Roy Harley (who wrestled as Peter Falcon) alongside Danny and Peter Collins and the man who was to become his tag partner, Richie Brooks. He was a popular worker towards the end of the Heritage years in the 1980s, making half a dozen or so television appearances in 1986 and 1987.
Felix made the first of many visits to Britain in 1950, and returned frequently until 1960 Our earliest discovery was Felix Kerschitz wrestling Bernard Coward (Spike O’Reilly) in Chelmsford on 7th February, 1950. Felix, billed as Czechoslovakian, was credited with the European heavyweight title – said to have won it in an open tournament in Vienna in 1949.
His visits to Britain tended to be lengthy affairs of ten to twelve weeks, sometimes longer, though he may well have made side visits back to the Continent. He was here in the spring of 1950, 1951, 1952, almost all of 1953 and 1954, and back again in the springs of 1958, 1959, and 1960. Most matches were in the north of England. He wrestled all the top heavyweights of the 1950s, beating most of them, but often ending up on the wrong end of a disqualification decision.
Heritage member Bernard Hughes has first hand memories of Felix, “One night, Norman Walsh came to pick me up from my house to go to the wrestling at St James Hall. I invited him in. He said that he had Flo (his wife) and Felix in the car, ‘ You should have seen my mother's face when she saw this huge man filling the doorway. Felix Kerschitz came in and spoke to my mother very gently. Surprising for such a big man. This was before the superheavy boys were around and he was a natural 17 stone then. “
Bernard saw Ernie Baldwin (billed as the British Heavyweight Champion) wrestle Felix for the European Title at Newcastle on 28 February, 1953. It was a two fall fight and the final score on that night was 1-0 to Felix, thereby retaining the title. In a non title fight on 28th March, 1953 Felix won 2-1.
On 24th March, 1953, promoter George DeRelwyskow elevated Felix to World heavyweight champion. He defended his (presumably lesser known variant of the) title against Yorkshireman Ernest Baldwin. Over two thousand Dundee fans fans witnessed Baldwin submit twice to lose two to one in the seventh round.
Bernard remembers that Felix Kerschitz was not a particularly inspiring wrestler , very hard working , strong but not full of holds. Baldwin, after the first fight said that Kerschitz was the strongest man that he had fought. We read a report of Felix demonstrating his enormous strength one night in New Brighton when, with one arm, he lifted three fully grown men (a total of 38 stones) and carried them twice around the ring.
In the mid 1950s Felix Kerschitz promoted tournaments in Austria and Germany.