N: Neal - Nenic
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Many fans remember the 1970s middleweight from Streatham with great fondness. Ray was a promising newcomer at a time when talented new blood was becoming scarce, making a welcome addition to the wrestling scene when big men with limited ability were sadly tainting the legitimacy of the sport.
For Ray the build-up to that professional debut in the mid 1970s had been a long time in the making. It was back in 1960, when he was nineteen years old, that Ray joined a local gymnasium near his home in Wimbledon.
Whilst training he met the experienced welterweight Eddie Capelli and another youngster about to make his way in the ring, Johnny Dark. The three became good friends, and when Eddie asked Ray if he'd like to become a second at Wimbledon Palais he naturally jumped at the chance. Half a century later Ray is still amused at the thought that Eddie, a hardened wrestler and former British champion, didn't like the sight of blood.
It was another of his friends, American wrestler Ricky Starr, who arranged for Ray to train at Neil Sands gymnasium in Cheltenham, and later at Tony Scarlo's gymnasium. Eventually Ray was considered ready for the professional ring and made his debut working for the independent promoters. Another wrestling friend, Brian Maxine, encouraged Ray to go for a trial with Dale Martin Promotions. Brian introduced Ray to Mike Marino who arranged a trial for Dale Martin. Ray still remembers the aches and pains resulting from his try-out with Johnny Kincaid, but that didn't prevent the two of them becoming good friends.
Mike Marino was impressed by Ray and he was offered work for Joint Promotions. Overnight he was facing a new calibre of opponent, now wrestling the men that a few years earlier he had been watching on television - Mick McManus, Zoltan Boscik , Sid Cooper amongst so many others. Ray was loving every minute of it. Career highlight for Ray was the night he appeared at the Royal Albert Hall. The atmosphere was electrifying that night with his friend Kincaid topping the bill as the Caribbean Sunshine Boys defeated Kung Fu and Caswell Martin. Ray's big night matched him with the Brixham hard nut, Chris Bailey. Too hard on that occasion, as Bailey defeated Ray by a knockout. Ray and Chris had many tempestuous matches with honours going to both men.
By the early 1980s many of the Joint Promotion regulars were disenchanted and making the transition to the independent promoters. Ray too made that move, which again brought him into contact with other big names who had already made the crossing - Jackie Pallo, Adrian Street and The Wild Man of Borneo amongst others. They were all happy days, Ray has told us, and as a healthy 73 year old, (as we add him to the A-Z in 2014) living in Crawley, he has so many happy memories of the friends he made. There is one moment of sadness. A few years ago Ray lost all his personal wrestling memorabilia. If you have any posters or programmes with Ray on the bill please get in touch with Wrestling Heritage.
South American middleweight visitor in the winter of 1966 and often tag partner of Inca Peruano.
Mighty Canadian heavyweight from St Boniface, Manitoba, who first came to Britain in 1956, shortly after winning the Canadian Amateur Heavyweight Championship, and settled for the best part of over ten years . Master of the inside leg grapevine. He claimed the prestigious Royal Albert Hall Tournament Trophy in 1964. After a few try-outs in 1964 both in Britain and America, the end of 1965 saw the emergence of a devastating masked phenomenon in the American Outlaw, (the one-off 1964 UK trial had seen The Outlaw improbably opposing Billy Torontos). A television sensation right from his first televised defeat of Steve Viedor, the Outlaw was never beaten or unmasked, and disappeared frustratingly in 1968 after forging an occasional tag team with Kendo Nagasaki. Nelson continued wrestling stateside well into the seventies, as Mr America amongst other guises.
Life in Lancashire during the 1920s and 1930s was hard, and it produced hard men. Amongst them an accomplished catch wrestler and amateur champion Johnny Nelson. Bolton's Johnny Nelson turned professional in the mid 1930s, having been an accomplished amateur who wrestled in the British amateur lightweight championships in 1933 and 1934. One of the top 1930s Bolton wrestlers he didn't confine his appearances to northern England but travelled the country meeting the best of the lighter men. Reports suggest that Johnny was a skillful wrestling, in one report said to have held his own with Olympian Norman Morrell, whilst a rough character who lost by disqualification on occasions. War interrupted Johnny's wrestling activities from 1941 onwards, though he returned to the ring in 1946 and continued wrestling until 1950. After retiring from wrestling he continued as a trainer at the club where he had learned the sport, The Bolton United Harriers and Athletic Club. Johnny is credited with having taught fellow Boltonian Bob Sherry to wrestle.
Hungarian Janos Nemeth was an agricultural student and teenager when he left his native land during the 1956 uprising. He got a job working in the south Yorkshire coal mines before moving to Southend. James pursued the amateur wrestling career he had started in Hungary, and turned professional early in 1962. Weighing under twelve stones Janos worked for independent promoters for a couple of years, facing other promising lighter men of the independent circuit such as Zoltan Boscik, Reg Trood and Peter Rann.
The Belgian mid heavyweight visited Britain in November 1959. He obviously appreciated the British winter because he came back again in 1960 and again early in 1962.