British wrestling history 

M: Mancelli - Manelli

Wrestling Heritage A-Z

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Tony Mancelli (Also known as Tony Bailey)
Most readers recall Tony Mancelli as one of the finest referees of the sixties, a man who helped bring credibility and respect to the sport.  Only those of more mature years remember Mancelli as one of the country’s most popular heavyweights, universally known as the Blackfriars Thunderbolt, a name which accurately reflected his all-action style.  Born in South London, where he lived for most of his life, Tony was a friend of Tony Scarlo's father and Tony told us that his father and friend Tony began taking him to the wrestling when he was about five years old.

Tony turned professional in the 1930s All-In days, and was a regular at Lanes Club, a historically signifcant venue in the history of British professional wrestling.  As early as 1932 Tony could be seen regularly working  against the likes of Jack Pye, Bert Mansfield, Bob Gregory and Tony Baer. In fact Tony faced just about every heavyweight of note, not just in London and the south but extensively throughout the country. When Whipper Watson came to Britain in 1937 Tony featured in a series of exciting contests with the Canadian around the country.

During the war years Tony served in the Royal Air Force but continued to wrestle whenever possible, and during the years of hostility won "The Ring" allied service championship.   When wrestling emerged from the war years and re-invented itself Mancelli’s style fulfilled the requirements of the new Mountevans rules and he was soon established as one of the country’s most popular and successful heavyweights. A long time holder of the Southern Area Heavyweight title  Mancelli met all the national and visiting international stars in a career that lasted from before the Second World war until the 1960s, and onwwards as one of Dale Martin Promotions main referees. 

Unknown to many wrestling fans Tony did have a second sporting interest and was a successful stock car racer.

Brian Manelli
Watching the wrestling on his parents tiny black and white set in the early 1960s generated a passion for a sport that he knew he wanted to be his life. For Brian Manelli the dream came true, though his was not one of those names that would appear top of the bill and be known by all and sundry. 

Born in Chertsey, Surrey and brought up in Orpington Brian was nineteen years old when he stepped into the professional ring for the first time. That was back in 1964 in Leysdown, a coastal village on the east side of the Isle of Sheppey, and fans cheered as the MC introduced, "The Anglo Italian Glamour Boy, Brian Manelli."

Most of Brian's life was spent working in the south of England, not just wrestling, but putting on his own shows under the name Phoenix Promotions. 

Towards the end of  his career a night at the theatre inspired Brian to pull on a mask and create the Villainous persona of The Phantom. Away from the ring Brian was a kitchen and bathroom designer, with many television and film personalities amongst his customers.

Brian Manelli died, just 68 years of age, on February 5th, 2013.