J: Klondyke Jake

Klondyke Jake

In 1971 BBC television devoted an entire fifty minute documentary to the lives and careers of Klondyke Bill and Klondyke Jake. They were described as “A right pair of villains” but the programme demonstrated just how different they were in real life, just a couple of loveable big men earning an honest crust. It gave them enormous exposure but did nothing to enhance their image of skulduggery.

The giant from Fairbanks, Alaska, anything from 23 stones to 40 stones according to the hype, was no more Alaskan than the fake fur hat and jacket he wore as he went through his nightly ritual. Barry Hawkins had been born in Birmingham in 1936. That’s a long way from Alaska.

Klondyke Jake appeared in the independent rings in the mid 1960s. Opponents were naturally the good guys of the day that included Jim Moser, Pat Curry, Gordon Corbett, Orig Williams and Bob Bell. Jake did what he did best; anger the crowd before doing the decent thing and allowing them to go home happy by getting himself disqualified or losing to the shining knight. It was in tag matches, though, that the really memorable moments occurred.

In wrestling deception he was the younger brother of Klondyke Bill. Whilst both enjoyable and value for money wrestlers in their own right it was as a twosome that they really made an impression. Jake couldn’t match the meanness of big brother, that was not his role, but he could create the heat. Not unexpectedly Jake would do much of the heavy work in the match, taunting the crowd with the swiftly withdrawn opportunity to let Bill into the ring. Dale Storm, who employed Klondyke Jake on his Spartan Promotion shows, told us Barry was both a lovely, lovely man and a smashing ring technician. He could take an audience up to fever-pitch by doing very little, the true mark of a good villain.”

Working for the independents Klondyke Jake travelled around Europe, including Sweden and Germany.

Although overshadowed by Bill in stature and notoriety it was arguably Jake that had the greatest influence on British wrestling. It was Jake that went on to become a successful independent promoter, acknowledged as a fair and reliable boss, and nurture dozens of young wrestlers. One of them was Tony “Banger” Walsh who told the Coventry Telegraph that it was his friendship with Klondyke Jake that led to him becoming a wrestler. 

It was Jake, not his big brother, that was taken on by Joint Promotions. This led to greater recognition as he appeared on television wrestling Count Bartelli, Tibor Szakacs, John Kowalski and Romany Riley. When the subject was raised on the Talk Wrestling Forum of wrestlers that never won a match the name Klondyke Jake was suggested. Although infrequently, this certainly was not the case (Jake’s role was not one to win), and enthusiast SaxonWolf reminded us that Jake had pulled off a surprising win against Count Bartelli at London’s Royal Albert Hall. This prompted promoter Graham Brooks to tell us: “I recall Jake telling me about his encounter with Bartelli …... It was Mike Judd's idea for Jake to go over and, according to Jake, Bartelli did everything short of getting on his knees and begging to try to persuade Judd to change his decision.” Such is the incredible world of professional wrestling.

With the end of television wrestling in 1988 attendances went into long term decline. Klondyke Jake continued for a few more years and we spotted him last in 1993. He’d done more than enough and fans had much to thank him for.

Klondyke Jake died on 27th June, 2022.

Page added 27/06/2022