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A: Mike Agusta



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Mike Agusta



Here's a local hero that got away, Mike Agusta (sometimes Augusta), known to Heritage members these days as Phil Kenyon.

The Lancashire cotton town of Accrington is famous for Accrington Stanley Football Club and the 'Accrington Pals', the nickname given to the smallest home town battalion of volunteers formed to fight in the first world war.

Then there are the wrestlers. Jack Taylor,  Ray Taylor, Ian St John, Andreas Swasjics, Bob Bannister. Not bad for a town with a population of under 40,000 in 1961.

Here's another one for you.

Accrington born Philip Kenyon took the name Mike Agusta (on some posters Augusta) when he worked for the independent promoters during the 1960s, a career that began in 1962 and ended prematurely when his work as an engineer took him in 1967 to Switzerland.

Philip was born in the Lancashire town of Accrington in 1943.

When he was 16 Philip took an interest in weight lifting and for three years he travelled to the YMCA in nearby Blackburn twice a week, a near twenty mile round trip. That was time consuming, expensive and hard going after a day at work.

In 1960 Philip discovered a gym much closer to his home in Accrington.  The gym was run by local wrestler Bob Bannister on Bridge St. Bob Bannister was another local hero. Not only did he wrestle under the implausible name of Robert Retsinnab he ran a first class training school that turned out good workers mainly for the independent promoters. He also ran shows at the St. Johns Ambulance Hall in Accrington and at Padiham Town Hall. Philip was made to feel welcome and joined the gym to continue with his weight lifting.

He soon made friends with the wrestlers at the club, Andreas Swajics, Ian St John and Don Plummer amongst them. Showing an interest in what they were doing, the wrestlers started to show Philip a few holds, which then became a few more, and before he knew it Philip was turning into a wrestler. (Okay, it probably wasn't that easy, and there were a few inevitable bumps and bruises along the way, but you get our drift).

It was a busy time for Philip, an engineering apprentice during the day, weightlifting, wrestling and night school in the evenings.

In 1962 Mike Agusta was created when Philip made his professional debut at Padiham Town Hall, defeating heavyweight villain Bob McNab via the disqualification route. The wrestlers who inspired him were some of the men he saw on tv such as Bert Royal, Jackie Pallo and Les kellett, as well as those he worked with. In this list he names Dominic Pye, Bob Sherry, a greatly under-estimated wrestler in Philip's opinion, and his good friend Andreas Swajics. Another man singled out for a special mention is the Olympian Joe Reid, who was still wrestling when Philip turned professional.  One of the highlights of his time involved in wrestling remains meeting and being taught by Joe at a session when the Accrington lads travelled to Joe's gymnasium in Leigh, where subsequently a match with Joe’s Son “The Great Marcus” was arranged. Philip also remembers travelling to train at the clubs of other wrestlers, including Bob Sherry and Grant Foderingham. These visits, organised by Bob Bannister, were a great way to learn and an opportunity to meet some of the most respected wrestlers in the business.

The name Mike Agusta was on the bills of independent promoters for only five years until he became, as we said at the outset, the one that got away. Philip had continued his career in engineering and was doing well. In 1967 he was offered a job in Switzerland. Switzerland offered delights that Accrington was unable to match, robbing British wrestling of another promising star. 

That move meant that Philip left all his wrestling memorabilia (apart from his boots, which he still has to this day) behind. Somewhere out there, possibly in someone's attic, lies a forgotten film of a match between Mike Agusta and Don Plummer at a Miners Fete, later shown at  Miners Clubs and Convalescent homes around the North.

Although his career lasted only five years Mike treasures great memories which he shares with Wrestling Heritage readers from his home in Stein am Rhein, Switzerland. He visits the United Kingdom every other year to meet up with friends at the Blackpool Reunion.

As for those boots, maybe his 7 year old Grandchild in Australia might need them someday?

Page created: 22/2/19