K: Kenny - Kloke
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.
Poland's Leon Ketchell. Leon Grabowski to give him his birth name, was a big man, claiming to be 7'2" tall, but that seems to be on the generous side. We find him reported in the British press from 1935 onwards, said to be a professional wrestler in Poland. He came to Britain to improve his boxing skills, going on to the United States for a short lived boxing career. Claims of seventeen fights seem unsubstantiated, with www.boxingrec.com listing only one match. His wrestling in Britain seems to have been limited to December 1936 and January, 1937.
Half Nelson Keys
Fred Keys was a prolific star of the 1930s rings, wrestling up and down the country against the likes of Len Franklin, Carver Doone, Atholl Oakeley, and Bulldog Bill Garnon, and all went down to Keys at one time or another. Admittedly, Half Nelson's results were a mixed bag, but he was definitely one of the busiest workers of the period. Acknowledged for his strength he was labelled "The Hendon Hercules," and tipped the scales at around seventeen stones. He was a significant part of the British wrestling scene from the start of the 1930 wrestling revival, with an impressive draw against Bill Garnon at Belle Vue, Manchester, in January, 1931. This was a powerful man who could beat the best of them all. the 1930s wrestling scene.
Ghalib Khan (Also known as The Great Khan)
We saw Ghalib Khan only once, an independent show in the 1960s when he defeated a bruiser (who we also never saw or heard of again) by the name of Killer John Dillinger.
Well the Killer just wasn't, but we do recall Ghalib as a muscular giant of a man with the more imposing presence of the two men in the ring. With his powerful physique it was natural his style relied heavily on strength holds; he was a very strong, which was just as well for the sake of his companions in the photograph.
We later learned that Ghalib (sometimes The Great) Khan combined his 1960s wrestling career with that of a butcher in Pearson Street, Bradford. He stood 6'5" tall, weighed around 19 stones and was immensely strong.
Ghalib Khan passed away in December, 2008, aged 84, following which his body was transported to Pakistan for burial.
Barefoot Mongolian heavyweight who visited Britain annually 1955 to 1962, probably from a Parisian base. His Royal Albert Hall victims included Portz, Hayes, Garfield and Apollon; he only lost there twice, once to Mike Marino and once when clear he wasn't returning, to Wild Ian Campbell.
Dave Sutherland recalls 1962 controversy in his televised k.o. defeat of Johnny Yearsley. James Morton recalls him being billed as The Wall of China in France. In the sixties and seventies he appeared in French movies, right. He was the featured wrestler in the BBC's 1962 Grandstand Sports Book (thanks Palais Fan). And in the same year he was the key featured wrestler in a TV Times full spread article on dancing wrestlers, in which Ski Hi Lee and Wild Ian Campbell were also photographed.
Away from the ring he appeared in a number of French language films, specialising in the role of Oriental villains
Not to be confused with a moustachioed 80s Blackpool wrestler known by the same name.
Influenced and trained by the great ken Joyce we believe Johnny Kidd had the misfortune to be born a few years too late. Had British wrestling not been removed from our television screens in 1988 we are sure that Johnny Kidd would still be one of the biggest names that would be entertaining us every Saturday afternoon. His potential was apparent from his 1981 television debut, though a succession of losses against Jim Breaks, Johnny Saint, Mick McManus, his trainer Ken Joyce and others may suggest otherwise. Losing to vastly more experienced men the agility, speed and skill were always evident. Success came only in his sixth planned appearance, a win over Blondie Barratt, quickly followed by the disappointment of the match not being broadcast. As Johnny was added to this website in 2009 he was still entertaining the public over thirty years after making his professional debut against Tony Scarlo in Salisbury. Incredibly, two years later, in 2011 Johnny made his debut in the United States when he wrestled Johnny Saint in a British rules contest. In May, 2016, Johnny announced that his fight against American Mike Quackenbush would be his last. Forty years is a long time in wrestling, and we have a lot for which to thank Johnny Kidd.
When the name Dave Kidney came to national prominence we were as surprised as anyone. Questions were asked on internet forums as to, “Who is Dave Kidney?” The question arose when, in July 2009 the BBC broadcast a documentary, "Dave Kidney Superstar,” about a 78 year old wrestling grandfather. A bit of Heritage digging discovered that Dave did have a wrestling history. Born in 1930 in Dundee Dave began his wrestling training when he was nine years old and joined the Northend Club in Dundee, the same club that trained George Kidd. Lack of entrance money did nothing to deter the youngster and he would sweep the floor and light the fire in return for his lessons. Dave turned semi professional shortly after the war, though the earliest recorded matches we have uncovered are in the 1950s. In 1959 he defeated George Allan at the Caird Hall, Dundee, to win the BWA British Featherweight Championship which he never lost. The fight was reported in the Dundee Courier. Although credible challengers were in short supply, and the weight division was not recognised by Joint Promotions, Dave did defend his title around the country: Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, London and Bradford. He worked for numerous independent promoters, including Universal Promotions, Ace Sports Promotions and Jack Casey, as well as for Joint Promotions.
Jules Kiki (Also known as The Black Owl)
When Jules Kiki descended onto the British wrestling scene in the mid 1930s he was said to be a famous Spanish bullfighter embarking on a world tour. As always with professional wrestling the truth was less romantic but no less interesting. Kiki was not Spanish but came from an East End of London family, born Moses Mercado. on 5th October, 1911. The family had migrated to Britain from Amsterdam in the 1860s, settling in Spitalfields.
George Isaac Mercado was a bookmaker known for many years as Captain Kiki until his death in 1930. Presumably this was the source of Moses’ wrestling name. Jules was a regular feature of the British wrestling scene from the mid 1930s until the late 1950s, adding muscles and poundage as the years passed. An imposing figure and reputed to be a skilful wrestler. Jules served in the Royal Air Force during the war and continued wrestling when service commitments permitted. We found him at Preston in 1940 wrestling as the Black Owl and unmasked by The Red Devil. In 1951 he sailed to South Africa where he wrestled. Around 1958 he drifted over to the independents and we last spotted him on a Paul Lincoln show in 1959.
Jules Kiki died in 1998.
Related article: On the Trail of Jules Kiki at www.wrestlingheritage.com
A combination of judo and wrestling holds from this Japanese visitor in 1957. He was considered one of the greatest judoka of all time, becoming the youngest ever 5th degree black belt in 1938, aged just eighteen. At the Royal Albert Hall he defeated Judo Al Hayes in May 1957, returning to the Kensington venue to knock out Jim Hussey the following October. Other British opponents included Vic Hessle, Alan Garfield, Black Butcher Johnson, Dai Sullivan and Tony Mancelli. He famously lost to Japanese legend Rikidozan and later claimed he had been double-crossed as the bout was planned to end in a draw. Masahiko Kimura died from lung cancer on 18th April, 1993.