British wrestling history 

L: Maurice LaRue

Maurice LaRue

Majestic Magnificence

Our memories of Maurice LaRue tell us that if honours were given for posing and preening this man would have championship belts galore. The blond Australian bombshell strutted his stuff in a way that was guaranteed to enrage the fans on the way towards his frequent disqualification. We waited impatiently for La Rue’s pre match routine to end and the wrestling to begin. Yet when the bell rang for the first round little changed and the already hostile fans became even more enraged as Maurice preferred to pose rather than wrestle.

The year was 1970 and Maurice La Rue was working in Britain, recently arrived from Australia.

His last recorded appearance in Australia was on January 11, 1970 on Brisbane TV, a loss to Dominic DeNucci.  He  arrived in Britain in May, 1970. Early matches were for Dale Martin Promotions and promoters seemed unsure exactly where to place him. We find him wrestling Jackie Pallo at the beginning of May, an odd pairing of prima donnas in which Maurice must have outweighed Mr TV Pallo by a couple of stones. Johnny Kwango was another early opponent and then we find him against tough northern heavy Jim Hussey. From welterweight Vic Faulkner to heavyweight Ray Glendenning with McManus, Czeslaw, Logan, Masambula, Zimba,  Tibor, Marino, Viedor, Wall, Nagasaki and Andy Robin in between there was certainly variety for Maurice LaRue. The visit lasted for nine months with our last sighting in January,1971.

We were told that Maurice LaRue was a former Australian light heavyweight champion, but the title did not exist at the time, and we saw little evidence of the skills of a champion as he was over-reliant on skulduggery, which led to the disqualification exit when we saw him wrestling Les Kellett, Judo Al Hayes and Pete Roberts.  Remember, though that this was professional wrestling; a world where wins usually counted for little and every character had a role to play. It was a role that Maurice LaRue played well. The publicity claimed that he was also a lifeguard in Sydney, which turns out to be more wrestling codology. As for the claim that he had twice wrestled for Her Majesty the Queen, well, we don’t need to ask her. Nonsense of course.

Graham Brooks also remembers watching Maurice LaRue: “Maurice La Rue made a huge impact upon me. His colourful costume, his arrogant strut, his preening and disregard for the audience. Fantastic! The first time I saw him was at The Gaiety Theatre, Rhyl, on a Wryton show. His opponent was Terry O'Neil, and O'Neil was the blue eye. The second time I saw La Rue was in a tag match at The kings Hall, Belle Vue, Manchester. La Rue was partnered by Steve Haggetty and they fought  a twenty minute time limit draw against Tony St.Clair and Johnny Eagles. The show was the final one of the year before Belle Vue gave its Kings Hall space over to Bertram Mills circus for the Christmas period. The circus ring had already been set up with the wrestling ring inside it so this meant that the wrestlers were further away from the punters than usual and I recall La Rue particularly using the extra performance space this allowed him to create mayhem.”

In Australia Maurice La Rue had started out in the early 1960s, known as Murphy the Surfie and Murphy the Magnificent.  To his mum he was Norman.

The man behind the hair colouring was Norman Lowndes, born in Manchester on 3rd July,1936. The family emigrated to Australia whilst Norman was a boy. He learned to wrestle at Hal Morgan’s gym, making his debut in 1963.  Ed Lock told us, “Norman Lowndes began wrestling in the licensed clubs of Sydney, Australia as Murphy the Surfie. He retained the Surfie moniker when he made the step up for Jim Barnett's World Championship Wrestling promotion in Australia but was renamed as Murphy the Magnificent in 1969.”

Graeme Cameron took up the story: "In 1969 his talent was recognised by American manager/wrestler Gary Hart, who was matchmaker at the time. His name was changed to Murphy the Magnificent and a string of victories over local wrestlers including Spike Robson, Bill Rawlings and Earl Black followed. He was then elevated up the card into tag team matches, partnering well known Americans. Most of these were still losses, but he seemed to be getting somewhere. Hart became his 'manager' and the pair even challenged champions Tex McKenzie and Billy White Wolf for the tag title, albeit unsuccessfully."

Shortly after working in Britain Norman went to the USA. Graeme Cameron again provides the details: “As Sir Norman Frederick Charles III, he was one half of The Royal Kangaroos in North America with partner Lord Jonathon Boyd. The team stayed together for 7 years and were very successful, particularly in the Pacific Northwest and Stampede promotions. When the team broke up, he returned to Stampede, where he won the tag team title again with a new partner and the British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight title, which he dropped to future legend Brett Hart. In his autobiography, Hart credits Norman teaching him how to work an entertaining match without taking a lot of bumps.

He had a final in the Gulf Coast promotion (Alabama) in the early Eighties where he was Southern Junior Heavyweight champion. My favourite, piece of trivia about him is that he regularly attended the annual Gulf Coast reunion, where he sang Country and Western duets and recited poetry with former World Womens' Champion, Penny Banner."
January 1971 wasn’t the last that British fans saw of Norman Lowndes. He returned in 1981 to work for Max Crabtree. There was no sign of Maurice LaRue. This time he was under a very different guise with the name Wild Red Berry (not to be confused with the American wrestler of the same name).  Again there was a wide range of opponents during a tour that lasted a whole year but inevitably his fate went the same way as many others as he became a Big Daddy fall guy.

Following his retirement he settled into a well earned retirement in Florida.

Norman Lowndes died of cancer on 22nd  August, 2019, aged 83.

Page revised: 03/02/2020

Page added: 24/08/2019