R: Max Raeger
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
(Also known as Dai Rees and Dai Jones)
Max Raeger was born in Denaby, a village in the Don Valley, Yorkshire, shortly after peace was declared in 1945. From his childhood he told us of memories of his grandfather selling ice cream from a horse drawn cart. He left Northcliffe School when in 1961 and like most young lads of the village began working down the local pit.
In the 1960s the independent promoters were mounting their fiercest challenge to date to the might of the Joint Promotions consortium. It wasn’t just Paul Lincoln Management, there were dozens of other challengers and the likes of Don Robinson, Jack Taylor, Cape Promotions, Cyril Knowles and Tony DeMarto were putting on shows every night of the week. They needed wrestlers, and if the fans were to return to their shows they needed good wrestlers.
Gymnasiums like those run by Bob Bannister in Accrington, Jack Taylor in Leicester, Andy and Bill Bryden in Ayr and Jim Stockdale in Doncaster trained up the wrestlers. But probably the most famous of them all, certainly the most colourful was the one that had been started by Charlie Glover of Barnsley. Charlie was a one time professional boxer and wrestler, a juggler, a dancer and an illusionist. Charlie rarely raised his voice, it wasn’t necessary, he objected to alcohol and believed in hard work and good manners. Charlie had died in 1959, a few years before Max came along, but his spirit lived on.
It was Charlie’s son, Brian, that suggested to Max that he should come along to the Junction gym. Learning to wrestle was not something Max had planned to do. In fact he’d only become interested as a fan a short time before. Friends invited them to join him at the wrestling at Doncaster Corn Exchange. He was initially reluctant but eventually relented and he was hooked. The sound, the excitement, the colour got to him and he was a regular fan. The man who “hooked” Max the most was Hans Streiger, another of Glover’s proteges. “My inspiration to become a professional wrestler came from the first time I saw Hans Streiger in action. His charisma and showmanship was outstanding. He could manipulate the audience with his ring psychology to any degree. I was proud to have known him both in and out of the wrestling business as we had a common interest in other things. A man's man if ever there was one.”
So, teenager Max turned up at Glover’s gym. It was there he was introduced to an assortment of characters who were to become friends, German Karl Von Kramer, American Dwight J Inglebergh, and a nomad called Pedro. None, of course were what they appeared to be, and Jack, Sam, and Gordon became good friends. Dwight, that’s Sam Betts, was one that Max singled out for a special mention, “A generous man who was willing to teach youngsters without taking liberties.” All those he met at The Junction, along with a Butcher, a Stoker and a ??? were creations of Charlie’s son, Brian. Little did the new recruit imagine that one day he would discard his own birth name and become Max Raeger the wrestler. Although he only used his family name when he wrestled in his village Max did use a couple of other names – Dai Rees very occasionally at the start of his career, and Dai Jones in the 1970s.
It wasn’t easy at The Junction gym, trainees were made to earn their stripes. In 1964 Jack Land offered to put Max on a show he was promoting at Blackpool. Max was also told to gain experience on boxing and wrestling booths, which he did. It was hard work, wrestling all day and evening, but not only was the money good it was a wonderful place to learn the showmanship of wrestling.
Max’s opponents for the independent promoters were often those he had learned with at The Junction gym - Butcher Goodman, Stoker Brooks and Pedro the Gypsy, who was later to become a regular tag partner. “Some of my happiest times in the business were when I was doing Blackpool booth shows with Pedro. After the shows we would often go to the Tower to listen to the Wurlitzer, have a pint, and watch the dancers. It was a great way to relax after doing four or five shows during the day.”
Another close friend of Max from his days working the opposition circuit was Klondyke Bill, “A real super person to know as well as to wrestle. I travelled thousands of miles with him.”
Max had a couple of long stints working for Joint Promotions, in the North of England and Scotland and meeting the likes of Honey Boy Zimba, Ivan Penzecoff and Barry Douglas. Like many others Max missed the camaraderie of working with the independent wrestlers and he always returned.
Working for independent promoters also allowed greater freedom to work where and when he wanted, with opportunities to work overseas. This was something Max was keen to do and he worked in India, Pakistan, the UAE, Germany, Zambia, Kenya, Sweden and Norway.
Max continued to wrestled until the mid 1980s, twenty-two years in which he estimated he had around 3,000 contests.
In retirement Max moved to Ireland where he bought a farm to breed shamo (Japanese poultry). He told us it was hard work, the cost of living was more expensive but the slow place of life more than made up for it.
Page added 08/08/2021