M: Mann - Manning
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Londoner Tommy Mann was always associated with his adopted home of Manchester, the city in which he lived for most of his adult life until his untimely death aged just fifty. He was a rugged, all action wrestler who knew all the holds in the book and a few more besides. He was arguably the modern era's greatest British middleweight champion.
Tommy began his wrestling career in the rowdy rings of the 1930s, a regular worker for promoter Atholl Oakeley, amongst others. The outbreak of war, during which he reached the rank of Sergeant Major, naturally delayed his career development and he was only to reach his peak following the outbreak of peace.
His remarkable success started to reach a climax in 1952, when he beat the great Jack Dale to become the first holder of the Lord Mountevans British middleweight title.
It was a roller coaster championship career from then on, until Tommy vacated the title in 1963 due to injury. The 1952 victory was set to be the first of his eight reigns as British champion. Fans of the time still recall his memorable bouts with Scotland's Chic Purvey.
In addition to national success Tommy was twice holder of the World middleweight title, between 1954 and 1955 and again from 1961 until retirement. A stocky, thick necked man he looked more the part of pro wrestler than that of his "other job," proprietor of a highly rated Italian restaurant in his Manchester home town.
Like many others of the time Tommy's success as a wrestler found him work in the wider world of entertainment, He appeared in films and television as a stuntman and also cropped up regularly on popular television shows that included the Benny Hill Show, the Mike and Bernie Winters show, numerous drama series and television commercials. Tommy appeared in the Benny Hill 1969 Christmas tv special. He complimented Benny on how quickly he learnt wrestling holds during fourteen days of rehearsals, not hurting himself at all. Until Benny tripped over a cable and sprained his ankle. Following his death a television advertisement for a furniture company was removed to avoid unnecessary distress to Tommy's family.
At the time of his death Coronation Street producer, Harry Kershaw, said "Walking along Deansgate with Tommy was like taking part in a royal procession. Everyone knew him, from matrons in mink coats to tramps, and he was Tommy to them all."
The black jackets worn by the stocky, unruly Marcel Mannevau (he was the one with the moustache) and tag partner, Claude Gessat , as they swaggered towards the ring gave a far from subtle hint about their wrestling style. The two Frenchmen were disliked by the British fans from their first venture across the English channel at the invitation of independent promoter Paul Lincoln to later 1960s bouts in Joint Promotion rings. Inevitably promoters lined up a range of popular teams such as Ken Joyce and Eddie Capelli, with whom they had many tussles, and the Cortez brothers. British fans couldn't be bothered with the linguistic niceties of translating their "Les Blousons Noirs" name and knew them as The French Teddy Boys.
Wakefield heavyweight trained by Ernie Baldwin turned professional in 1962 and was seen around northern rings until 1967.