K: Ketchell - Kiki
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
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 (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.
Iska Khan (Ripper Raven)
Said to have been Mongolian, but Blackpool was closer to the truth for the 1960s/70s fearsome headed (apart from a pony tail) heavyweight. John Raven was was a very believable Iska Khan, from Fleetwood in Lancashire. Working for Joint Promotions he assumed the name Ripper Raven, and was good heavyweight toughie. In half a dozen or so televised contests in the 1980s he was matched with quality opponents that included Andy Robin and Tiger Gil Singh.
“I worked with Ripper Raven in his previous existence as Iska Khan from Mongolia - and very good he looked, too. He was accompanied into the ring by a beautiful oriental girl second. As we know, all was not quite as it seemed. Iska was a local lad and he told me the girl was on loan from a Chinese restaurant in Blackpool.
He described to me his trips as a deep sea trawlerman; both of them. He said the first one was so horrendous, to Icelandic waters that he felt he had to try again but the second trip was worse than the first. So he stuck to wrestling and became a real crowd pleaser both as the exotic Khan and as General Ripper Raven. Wrestling's gain and Bird Eye's loss.”
Kid Hawaii was born in Belgium before moving to California whilst young. He took American citizenship and returned to Europe to pursue his wrestling career. Kid Hawaii made a short tour of Britain in 1972, losing to Tibor Szakacs at the Royal Albert Hall in November 1972.
Read our extended tribute in Personality Parade: A Very Peculiar Phenomenon
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.
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