K: Kelly - Kemp
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Brother of Peter Kelly in the older generation of the respected Kelly wrestling family. The wrestling world was robbed of John when he died at far too early an age. We would welcome further information.
For a quarter of a century Peter Kelly was a popular figure in the wrestling rings of Britain during the 1960s, 70s and early 1980s. After four years in the amateur ranks he turned professional in the late 1950s for the independent promoters with opponents including other rising stars Jon Cortez, Adrian Street, Zoltan Boscik and Tony Skarlo. A worker in both independent and Joint Promotion rings he appeared on the televised bill from Brighton in 1965 when the BBC tentatively entered the realms of televised wrestling, though it appears his bout against Tony Grazi was not broadcast. Was finally introduced to television viewers in 1973, losing to Robby Baron at Walthamstow. In British rings Peter was mostly seen in the north and midlands, though his wrestling commitments took him further afield to France, Spain, Zambia, Kenya and South Africa. Regular tag partners included Tony Skarlo, son Steve and Tony Kelly, who was unrelated.
The younger generation of the Kelly family continued the proud traditions of Peter and John in the 1970s and 1980s. From such a famous wrestling family it seemed likely that Steve would take to the sport and he turned professional when he was just sixteen years old, making a big impression on fans with his enthusiasm and agility. Mind you, other sports did tempt Steve as he was also a talented soccer player and enjoyed motor racing. Highly respected by his colleagues Steve was usually the hero of the rings, but could turn on the heat by breaking the rules on occasions. Trained by Peter Kelly and the original Cockney Kid, Tony Skarlo, Steve tagged with both Peter and his mentor.
Although similar in weight to Peter kelly Steve towered over the older generation, nearing six feet tall. He is remembered for superb bouts with Tony's son, Dino Skarlo and with other notable opponents that included Jackie Pallo, Ricky Starr and Adrian Street. Steve made a handful of appearances on ITV's World of Sport and also appeared on Jackie Pallo's televised recording of 1989 (shown on cable and ITV) against Clive Myers and Dino Skarlo. A 1977 Royal Albert Hall clash with Superstar Sanders at the Royal Albert Hall was one of the highlights of his career.
The bright lights of Birmingham were a far cry from the relative quiet of County Mayo where Tony was born. Like many before him Tony made the crossing across the Irish Sea in his late teens and he was soon learning the wrestling trade at the club of Grant Foderingham, the Black Panther, and under the tutorship of Jack Taylor in Leicester. Tony's association with Jack Taylor led to a meeting with Lew Phillips the Digbeth promoter, and eventually Tony moved to Birmingham, working firstly for Lew Phillips and then signed by Joint Promotions in 1971. Tony's career extended into the early 1980s, but by then home was calling and Tony returned to live in Dublin.
Leicester born Neil Kemp was one of those whose entry to the wrestling fraternity was as much through good fortune as good management. In the early 1960s a resident of Leicester was wrestler/promoter Jack Taylor. Professional wrestling in Britain was flourishing at the time and Jack was putting on wrestling tournaments around the country most nights of the week. In 1962 Neil met and made friends with Jack and his brother Doug one night when he was watching the wrestling at the Granby Halls, a huge venue in Leicester where Jack promoted every Saturday evening.
Neil went along to Jack's gym on the London Road where he began training alongside other Taylor hopefuls Mick Collins and Taffy Jenkins. Jack was a believer that once a youngster knew the basics the best place to continue to learn was in the ring, matched with others of similar ability or those with the experience to help the youngster along the road. A year or so after meeting Jack Neil was introduced into the professional ring for the first time using his family name Neil Kemp, which later became Naughty Neil Kemp. Soon he was travelling around the country facing other Taylor regulars Mick Collins, Taffy Jenkins, Lord Snooty Monk, and Roger LaDaire.
Highlights included winning a ten-man knock-out trophy, and defeating Jim McLaren at Buxton for the independent promoters version of the Scottish welterweight belt.
Apart from Jack Taylor Neil worked for other independent promoters, including Cyril Knowles. By that time Neil had moved to Yorkshire and it was then that "real life" got in the way. Neil's new wife was concerned about his safety in the ring and so he decided to pack it in, retiring in 1972, having been in the business around ten years.
Neil moved to Spain with happy memories of his time in the ring "I loved that period of my life and I made a lot of good friends, like George Kidd, Alan Colbeck, Les Kellett, Jackie Pallo (whose capes I sometimes wore), Giant Haystacks, Leon Arras and the like.