and European heavyweight champion visited Britain for the first time
in 1951 and returned just about every year until 1962, with wins over
top class opposition such as Joe Cornelius, Frank Manto and Mike Marino.
Here was a man who knew every rule in the book, and a good few more
besides it seems. Always associated with Italy, he was born in Genoa,
Mario actually lived in Belgium, where his family owned an ice cream
A few wrestlers had the charisma to charm the fans as soon as they entered the ring. That was the case when we saw Bobo Matu bounce energetically into the ring to wrestle Casey Pye. We first came across Bolton's Bobo Matu in the mid 1960s and by then he had more than half a dozen years under his belt, having turned professional in 1959.
Straight away we could see that here was a man with an effervescent character who would bob, weave and smile his way around the ring; and the fans loved him. The professional career followed a grounding in the amateur sport at the Bolton Harriers Amateur Wrestling Club.
As to his family heritage of the pacific islands we cannot confirm. Although we can say that his real name suggests more links to friendly Lancashire than the Friendly Isles! We have uncovered an advertisement from 1958 with Bobo wrestling under his family name against Henri Pierlot. Whatever, he had a radiant personality that made him a popular wrestler around the rings of Britain. A popular wrestler but a man who could look after himself, according to those who crossed him in the ring.
In January, 1962, having worked for the main independent promoters Bobo was signed up to work for Joint Promotions, where he found himself with a new class of opponent including Billy Howes, Gerry de Jaegar, Les kellett and Billy Joyce.
The highlight came on 11th April, 1962, when he appeared at the Royal Albert Hall for the first time, losing to Bradford's Eric Taylor. This was a relatively rare venture south, most of Bobo’s career being spent working in the north and midlands for Wryton Promotions. 1962 was also the year, in March, when Bobo made his television debut against Bert Royal.
All of this was a few years before we came across Bobo in our local ring. Work for the independent promoters meant that Bobo was absent from television for six years. Return he did, a little bit heavier when he faced Honey Boy Zimba. Bobo and Zimba were to go on to form a regular tag team partnership. In all Bobo Matu appeared on television a dozen times, with opponents including Billy Joyce, Kendo Nagasaki and Andy Robin.
Bobo Matu remained a regular throughout British rings until the mid 1980s, but by then wrestling commitments were competing for his time with television and film parts, as well as running a scrap metal business in Bolton, and he gradually slipped away.
Magnificent Maurice (Also known as Colonel Brody)
The name may not have been an original, and we should not confuse this gentleman with the extrovert we read about in those 1960s American magazines that eventually made their way into our newsagents.
In the 1980s the British version of Magnificent Maurice was an impressive figure as he stood shaven headed. moustachioed and totooed centre ring. Here was a man who knew how to upset the punters; not just by disregarding the rules but by his ring presence and camp gimmick. Strutting around the ring, taunting his opponent and jeering at the audience, let alone his rule bending tendencies, led to him being hated by fans throughout the world.
Steve Regal (William Regal) praises the colourful character who was his first professional opponent. The villainous heavyweight was solid northern. His name was Shaun Arnott, a bricklayer by trade, and he went on to wrestling reincarnation as Colonel Brody, the shaven headed bad boy of the 1980s heavyweight scene.
Whilst the shaven head and the handlebar moustache remained the same the distinguished military figure of Colonel Brody was a stark contrast with the camp Magnificent Maurice, but none the more popular.
We think we are safe to say that back in the 1960s most wrestling fans knew very little about the distant land of Peru. They did know a powerful man with long black curly hair who went by the name Gomez Maximiliano, or Ernesto Conde Maximiliiano to give him his family name. By the time he set foot in Britain, his first visit being in 1961, he had left Peru and set up home in Spain.
It was from here that he made his annual 1960s jaunts to Britain to rough it with our top heavyweights, almost always for Dale Martin Promotions. A sturdy sixteen stoner, with his long straggly hair reaching halfway down his back, Maximiliano was a colourful addition to British rings. By the end of 1961 he was known to television fans and had beaten Johnny Yearsley at the Royal Albert Hall. No one was safe – Earl Maynard, Gordon Nelson and Joe Cornelius all went down to the wild Peruvian on occasions; though promoters used him increasingly as target practice for domestic talent from 1965 onwards.
Visits to Britain were often alongside appearances in the major tournaments held in Austria and Germany. Gomez Maximiliano was last seen wrestling in Britain in 1967. We are told he moved to Vienna where he lived until his death.