K: Knutson - Korman
Wrestling Heritage A - Z
Our earliest record of Gil Knutson is in British Columbia, Canada, in March, 1934. By 1937, and into 1938, he was wrestling in Britain, facing the likes of Francis St Clair Gregory, Karl Reginsky and Benny Engblom. Gil was billed as light heavyweight champion of Norway. Except, that is, when he was Swedish, or Danish. He may well have been of Scandinavian birth but was certainly wrestling in North America prior to his tour of Britain. Numerous reports of Gil Knutson’s matches indicate he was a wrestler of some considerable skill.
An eagerly anticipated fight between two unbeaten masked wrestlers took place at the Majestic Ice Rink in Preston on 31st March, 1939. In one corner was The Wizard and his opponent was The Brown Mask Marvel. The loser would unmask.
The Wizard had appeared twice at Preston, the only times we could find him anywhere, with wins over Black Butcher Johnson and Vic Hessle. The Brown Mask Marvel was a far more familiar figure.
It was a frantic encounter with the Wizard on the offensive from the start and little defence from the Brown Mask Marvel for the first two minute. It was only when one of the Marvel’s kicks caught The Wizard in the eye that the Mask Marvel began to assert himself. The Wizard took the first fall after sixteen minutes of wrestling, this was a no rounds fight to the finish. When the match resumed The Marvel began to gain the upper hand.
In the 22nd minute a pile-driver put The Wizard down for a count of eight. As he rose to his feet the Marvel repeated the move and The Wizard was counted out.
The mask was ceremoniously removed to reveal Gil Knutson, who had been wrestling in Britain since his arrival from Canada in 1937.
After retiring from wrestling Gilman went into a career in banking, and was made Director of the Desert Empire Bank in California in 1974.
Gil Knutson died in Hawaii in 1997; he was 86 years old.
Visiting overseas wrestlers seemed to fall into one of two categories; there were the invincible ones who defeated all before them, and there were the fall guys who made the gallant Brits look good. When the twenty stones Japanese heavyweight Shozo Kobayashi arrived on our shores in October, 1968 it was quickly apparent that although he was something of a novice sent to Britain as part of his wrestling education, he was definitely placed in the first category. An opening win over Roy Bull Davis was followed by a first round knock out of Les Herberts in front of an astonished tv audience, and completed his first ten days in the country with a Royal Albert Hall destruction of John Cox. The following few months saw Shozo go on to defeat the best that we could offer, including Albert Wall, Al Hayes, Bruno Elrington (at the RAH), Tibor Szakacs (on tv), Pat Roach, Ian Campbell, and even a straight falls win over Dory Dixon.. Breaking the mould of the dastardly Orientals usually portrayed in British wrestling the fans rather took to the genial twenty-four year old. He was a popular visitor to Britain during the 1968-9 winter before going on to greater things in the USA as Strong Kobayashi
Said to be Swedish, but most likely Canadian, as it was here we find his earliest records in 1933. Kohnk was an all action blond tiger of the 1930s ring. Wrestled in Britain for about a year in 1938 and 1939 before returning to Canada where he continued wrestling until 1957. A strong swimmer, his stated ambition was to swim the English Channel.
Wrestler Tony Kolokotroni worked the independent rings of southern England in the 1960s. At other times, as Tony Ellis, he worked behind the scenes as a fight arranger on numerous films and acted on tv as a supporting role actor in programmes that included The Avengers and Coronation Street. Tony Ellis also staged wrestling shows, mainly in London, featuring big names such as Count Bartelli in aid of charities for those facing difficulties in society.
A once member of the French Foreign Legion the blonde haired German from Berlin visited Britain in the 1950s. The first visit was for a week in April 1952, with opponents Mike Marino, Bert Assirati, and Mick Casey.
Erich Koltschak returned in October 1957, the start of frequent visits during the remainder of the decade. Other than a few contests in the biggest halls of the north, Manchester's Belle Vue, Newcastle's St James Hall and Liverpool Stadium, matches were mainly in the south of England for Dale Martin Promotions.
Opponents were invariably top notch and included men of the calibre of Alan Garfield, Jack Pye, Gordon Nelson, Ray Apollon, Billy Joyce, Geoff Portz, Dara Singh and Tony Mancelli. The Italian Thunderbolt Mancelli had the distinction of unhinging a couple of Erich's teeth when they collided with his elbow.
1950s heavyweight visited Britain for a month in 1954, mainly in the south facing Mike Marino, Alf Rawlings, Don Stedman and Tony Mancelli. Worked in France as Eddy Kopoanian.
Here's a one off. Literally.
Heritage member PF1 remembered The Kopite for posterity. Just the one match in the professional ring, at the wonderful Liverpool Stadium no less, enough to make it into the A-Z. He was John Gorma who was timekeeper at the Floral Hall in Southport who had a disagreement with Count Bartelli on a Wednesday night show. Developments were made on the Friday evening when we are told Gorman pulled on a mask. PF1 tells the story: "Count Bartelli was due to fight Phil Pearson, the Kopite got in the ring with the White mask on and challenged Count Bartelli. He fought the Kopite first, after throwing him out the ring, he then beat Phil Pearson. Gorman's first name was John, he was a good friend of mine who I haven't heard from for many years. He may have done bits before this but he never really said, and never said anything after the Bartelli episode. Wrestling would be held at the Floral Hall Southport on a Wednesday evening, and most times you would get the same wrestlers on the Liverpool Stadium the following Friday night, with the locations being very close. You would find that the seconds and stewards that worked in Floral Hall Southport would also work in the Liverpool Stadium in some capacity. They had the disagreement in Southport on the Wednesday night, and two nights later Gorman was a steward in the Liverpool Stadium. Count Bartelli was on last against Phil Pearson, when Phil Pearson was making is way to the ring from the dressing room, Gorman joins him wearing a white mask he got in the ring and challenged Count Bartelli. Then things turned very nasty Count Bartelli throwing him out the ring and then he went on to beat Phil Pearson.
Middleweight of the 1960s and 1970s worked for the independent promoters mainly in the south of England.
Al Korman came to Britain, when he was just eighteen years old, at the start of his wrestling career. The Jewish heavyweight from Toronto travelled here and worked with his friend Whipper Watson between 1936 and 1939. He learnt the trade in Britain's all-in rings before taking his newly acquired skills back across the Atlantic.
Returned to Canada with the second world war looming, serving in the Royal Canadian Navy during hostilities. His career continued post war in North America until the mid 1950s, with his time shared with restaurant management in Halifax, Nova Scotia.