P: Peltonin - Pizarro
Wrestling Heritage A - Z
See the entry for Martin Bucht
It was a long and illustrious career for George Pencheff. Born in Bulgaria he moved to Australia as a child and wore his national credentials on his dressing gown in the shape of a kangaroo. Removing the gown revealed one of the finest physiques in wrestling.
When he came to Britain in 1937, tackling the likes of Carl Reginsky, Tony Baer, Jack Pye and all the other great names of the 1930s, Pencheff was already a seasoned professional, having started out in the late 1920s.
Six thousand fans filled the Empress Stadium in London to watch George wrestle Jim Londos in a match advertised as “modernised Catch as Catch Can” style. George returned to Britain post war in 1950 and 1953.
It was a career destined to last for well over thirty years, only reaching a conclusion in 1962 following a serious injury in India. Those thirty years between times had seen George wrestle in every corner of the world – Australasia, Europe, Africa, North America and Asia against an A-Z of the world's best heavyweights. Famed for his dropkick speciality George's depth of skill went much further, enough to sustain lengthy periods as Australian and Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion between 1939 and 1957.
George Pencheff died in November, 1986
Said to be Anglo-Latvian there was never any attempt to disguise that Ivan Penzekoff was a Bolton lad. Even in his early days, working for the independents he was billed from Bolton, but oh how those independent promoters had trouble with his surname, the letters seemed endlessly interchangeable. He wasn’t Ivan Penzekoff at all, of course, he was Ronald Pennington. Nowadays deceased middleweight Ivan is fondly remembered by wrestlinf fans of the 1960s and 1970s, usually black-tighted, and with a lithe suppleness that led to his being billed as The India Rubber Man. Regular tagster, right from the very first televised match alongside Alan Colbeck; fleetingly with Sid Cooper in The Drop Outs then variously with Rann or Holton in The Riot Squad but most consistently from 1965 to 1970 alongside Tiger Ryan in The Rebels, the pair falling-out in-ring and the pairing ending.
A late seventies partnership with Johnny Czeslaw was called The Iron Curtain Duo, rather uncomfortably given Czeslaw's circumstances - and Penzy's accent! TV appearances included a surprising draw against 18 stone opponent John Cox. We and the promoters so wanted his demonic beard to conceal a true Red, but it was forever clearly stated that Penzy was from Bolton, and for once no pretence was made. Penzekoff was an ex-miner and ex-amateur boxer, trained as a pro wrestler at Horwich by Dave Armstrong, making his debut against Gentleman Jim Lewis.
On retirement from wrestling in Britain Ivan went to Canada, where he assumed the name Cedric Hathaway, and became one of the top referees for Stampede wrestling. We last found Cedric, Ivan or Ron in wrestling action in May, 1984, partnering Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith in Victoria, british Columbia, Canada.
Ivan Penzekoff died in 2002.
To be added soon
Dropkick Johnny Peters (Brighton)
Skilful, exciting, fast, Dropkick Johnny Peters had it all. Not to forget the looks which made the Brighton based matman a popular figure for many years. In the 1950s and 1960s there seemed to be an unwritten rule that wrestling fans could not utter the name Johnny Peters without the prefix of "Dropkick." Those feet were magic,and the way they threw across the ring and propelled themselves at his opponent meant that he was always Dropkick Johnny Peters.
Although London born Johnny resided in Brighton for many years, a popular figure at the Brighton Sports Stadium and venues around the country. His fast, furious and exciting style meant that his appearances were always welcomed by wrestling fans, but his popularity reached a crescendo in the early 1960s when he formed a hugely successful tag partnership with Dazzler Joe Cornelius. The style of the two wrestlers made them a natural partnership and they were one of the heavyweight pairings that helped build the popularity of tag team wrestling in Britain.
Johnny's professional career had its foundations in a successful amateur career that brought him various titles at several weights whilst serving in the forces in the Far East during World War Two. Once demobbed he turned professional and soon claimed the astonishing and unique distinction of a 12-second knockout victory over George Kidd. Ring activity and regular training soon began to build up Johnny's muscular frame and he moved up to welterweight in 1947, where he had the equally unusual but less satisfying claim to having his British Welterweight title fight with Jack Dempsey cancelled - due to rain! Consolation came in Paris in 1953 when he defeated Gilbert Le Duc to snatch the European Welterweight Championship.
He continued to climb through the weights to heavyweight and the record books show a drawn decision against Bert Assirati when he challenged the Islington Hercules for his British title in the independent rings. Record book opponents from George Kidd to Bert Assirati must make this popular wrestler quite unique. Whilst the British heavyweight championship remained illusive he was holder of the Southern Area Heavyweight title for many years. Johnny retired from wrestling rather abruptly in 1965 due to an ear injury. Following retirement he combined a greengrocery business with wrestling promotion. Johnny was the brother in law of French lightweight Julien Morice. Dropkick Johnny Peters. Always was and always will be. Dropkick Johnny Peters passed away on 24th May, 2011.
Johnny Peters (Thirsk)
Not to be confused with the dropkick king from Brighton this Johnny Peters was a familiar figure to wrestling fans of the North East of England in the 1970s. Johnny was from West Tanfield in North Yorkshire, Thirsk being the biggest nearest town that you've probably heard of. Blond haired Johnny was a popular middleweight of some skill having been trained by Norman Walsh, from whom he acquired skill but not temperament. A couple of televised bouts saw him lose to the Rev Michael Brooks and Barry Douglas. Later in his career Johnny filled out into a fully blown heavyweight. Three of his sons also went into the wrestling business.
Read our extended tribute for Cyril Knowles: A Gentleman of the Land, A Man of the People
Dave Phillips (Dave Jantzen)
Eighteen year old Dave Phillips, the Camberwell middleweight, was given his chance in the professional wrestling ring by independent promoter Paul Lincoln. That was in 1961 and Dave was soon swapping holds with other youngsters who were destined for future fame - Leon Fortuna, Zoltan Boscik, Johnny Williams and the like. After a couple of years he was signed up by Dale Martin Promotions and was soon receiving regular bookings throughout the south. Dave's clean, fast style made him very popular, never more so than when he made his television debut against Jackie Pallo in September, 1964. Dave lost that one, but was more fortunate in his second television outing when he beat the hard Lancastrian Colin Joynson. Dave seemed to have a promising future but in 1967 decided to pursue a teaching career and temporarily retired from wrestling to study at a teachers' training college. Four years later, having qualified as a teacher, Dave returned to the ring, this time using the name Dave Jantzen.
See the entry for Les Thornton
See the entry for Pete Lapaque
Percy Kid Pitman
The name Kid Pitman may not be familiar to most readers but he is more worthy of inclusion in the pages of Wrestling Heritage than many of those we more readily remember.
Londoner Percy Pitman was born in October, 1919 and became interested in wrestling in his early teens. He joined the John Ruskin Amateur Wrestling Club and turned professional shortly before the outbreak of war, a bout at Rochester Casino in 1938. His career was interrupted in 1939 when he was called up for service, winning a medal for bravery for his actions during World War 2. Before the war a youngster turned up at the John Ruskin who was befriended and encouraged by Percy. That youngster was Mick McManus.
Following the end of the war when both Mick and Percy returned home Percy encouraged Mick to turn professional. The two of them also went into business and started a haulage company that specialised in transporting timber. As the revival of wrestling continued in the late 1940s Percy and Mick found that wrestling took up too much time for them to also concentrate on their haulage business. So they sold their lorries and started a printing business in Peckham High Street. They specialised in printing sporting tickets, programmes and literature. Again the business was a success and outgrew the two of them, at which time they sold it to Norman Morrell.
For twenty years Percy Pitman wrestled the top names in British wrestling, retiring from the ring around 1960, becoming a proprietor of a garage in Lambeth before retiring to Staffordshire.
The Spanish middleweight made his way to Britain for the first time in January, 1960, facing the big guns of Mick McManus, Cliff Beaumont and a European middleweight championship tilt at Bolton's Bert Royal. With impressive results against our best he was surprisingly laid down to rest by Wigan's Jack Dempsey at the Royal Albert Hall. Made numerous returns to Britain during the 1960s, sometimes with brother Nino, forming a tag team facing the Cortez brothers, Hells Angels, McManus & Logan, but most notably the Royal brothers.
The lighter of the two Pizarro brothers from Valencia, renowned for speed and skill. Followed his brother Gomez to our shores in 1962, going down to World champion George Kidd on television. Made a number of return visits during the 1960s, with another high profile defeat, this time against Jackie Pallo, at the Royal Albert Hall in December 1964.