C: Pete Curry
A Gentle Man and a Gentleman
We have such fond memories of Pat Curry (as we always knew him in those days), going back more than fifty years. A night of fireworks when he partnered Terry McDonald in an electrifying clash against the Pyes on a charity show in aid of Preston Lions. The night we thought, as we naively did in those days, that he had the better of the Monster and the mask might just be removed. Some chance! A hard fought match against Commonwealth champion Count Bartelli. And how could we possibly have known all those years ago that when he went at it hammer and tongs with Wild Angus Campbell the two of them shared a friendship going back many years. Later in his career we were able to enjoy Pete from the comfort of our armchairs as he became a television regular with memorable contests against Kendo Nagasaki and Yasu Fuji amongst more than a dozen others. We are left with the memories, but what memories Pete has left us.
Peter Viller was born in Islington in 1934, one of six children born to Joseph and Sarah. Father Joseph was an asphalter, a trade that was to be taken up by Peter himself. In 1939 the family were still living in Islington.
A good rugby player it was wrestling in which he made his name and he trained at the Bolton Harriers Amateur Wrestling Club. He dropped his family name in favour of Pat Curry.
He was given his first professional contest by Danny Flynn. Not that his later fans would have recognised him because on that occasion, and only on that one occasion, he was dressed as a Mexican, Pancho Villa, and beat a long time friend of his, Angus Campbell, who was disqualified.
Peter told the story of the time his mother went to watch him wrestling Angus. She knew Angus well as he was a frequent visitor to their home. No more though. After seeing Angus’ antics in the ring she vowed that he would not visit the family home again!
Subsequent to that debut he was billed as Pat Curry of Vancouver, Canada. On occasions promoters even threw in a Pacific Coast Heavyweight Title for good measure. No doubt those independent promoters were hoping to cash in on the memories of fans of the original Pat Curry who had visited British shores some years earlier. Such thoughts should not diminish memories of a young, energetic, all-action golden boy who engaged in raucous bouts against the villains of the day. To our mind the independent promoters of the 1960s made the greatest use of Pete’s assets; he was at his most exciting as he went about giving the villains the beating that we fans expected.
In 1969 Wryton Promotions began a big drive to attract new names from the independent promoters. It was a damaging blow as they signed up some of the biggest names on the independent circuit, not just Pat Curry but Johnny Saint, Al Marquette, Paul Mitchell, Angus and Jock Campbell, and Henri Pierlot.
The energy and skill were still there but, as we have said so many times we felt Joint Promotions failed to capitalise on their new asset; and he did not receive the push many Northern fans thought he deserved. That’s not to take anything away from Pat, by now re-named Pete, he certainly had his moments, mixing it with the very best – Wall, Davies, Howes, Nagasaki and the like.
When we told Pete our opinion he refused to take the bait:
“Joint Promotions were the best to work for. They phoned me and asked if I'd work for them. It was the best move I made.”
We can understand this; after all he did remain a regular worker for Joint Promotions for many years, though never relinquished his daytime trade as an asphalter, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, not to mention numerous uncles and brothers.
His all-action style suited Kendo Nagasaki, a frequent early seventies opponents, to provide some exhilarating bouts. He even donned a mask, took the name Red Devil, and was ceremoniously unmasked after being knocked out by Nagasaki at Nelson in October, 1970.
National exposure came through fifteen televised contests, meeting some of the best heavyweights around at the time, including Albert Wall, Kendo Nagasaki, Count Bartelli, Gwyn Davies, Steve Veidor and Peter Roberts.
We steered hesitantly onto the subject of a September, 1972 televised bout with Shirley Crabtree, who had only recently returned to Joint Promotion rings. It was Pete's third time on television, and promoter Norman Morrell’s opportunity to steer Crabtree from oblivion to stardom. The promoter’s strategy was for Crabtree to score a series of quick victories over established heavyweights. It was a strategy regular fans were to tire of in a matter of weeks. The ultimate professional Pete played his part and Crabtree knocked him out in the first round. We need not have worried about bringing the subject up. Pete was philosophical about the contest, the result was a fact. He would be no more critical than to smile and say that Shirley wasn't very mobile and was over-used by brother Max.
Many wrestlers name the Liverpool Stadium as a memorable venue, usually because of the hostility of the fans; but Pete had been a favourite amongst the Liverpool audience from the first time he stepped into the huge ring in that cavernous Merseyside venue in June, 1969, losing on that occasion to the big Welshman Gwyn Davies.
Pete returned to Liverpool on more than thirty occasions. Billy Best Promotions capitalised on his popularity by seemingly matching him at the hall with many villains on their books - Kendo Nagasaki, Gargantua, Wild Angus, Harry Bennett, Shirley Crabtree, Hans Streiger, The Destroyer, Bobby Barnes, Johnny South, Steve Haggetty and Abe Ginsberg to name but a selection.
Occasionally he was able to demonstrate his technical ability when matched with Albert Wall, Tibor Szakacs, Wayne Bridges, and John Lees. The bout with Bridges was a surprisingly bad tempered affair with Pat taking the victor's role following the disqualification of Bridges. There was no doubt about the fans allegiance in September, 1975, when Pete defeated Giant Haystacks at the hall, though the big man gained revenge a few weeks later when he defeated Pat and Roy St Clair in a handicap match. Whoever the opponent the Liverpool fans always got behind Pete Curry..
Pete waited patiently for championship honours to come his way. It was 1978, and Pete was back working for the independent promoters, mostly Brian Dixon. There was one obvious venue for his championship challenge, Liverpool Stadium. The opponent was Hans Streiger, a more dastardly opponent it would be hard to imagine.
We could imagine no other result.
Starved of championship matches for many years it is, therefore, little wonder that the crowd erupted with such energy when Pete Curry stood centre ring with arms held high as he acknowledged the endorsement of the fans. The partisan Merseyside crowd were going wild because “our kid” had just defeated one of the wrestlers they loved to hate, Hans Streiger, to take the European heavyweight championship.
The Wrestling Heritage eye witness on that occasion, The 1978 Kid, remembers it well:
“That European title victory in February 1978 was my first ever night of live wrestling; what a triumphal occasion to start with. The victory was a very popular one as Hans Streiger was playing the part of the evil, cheating German!”
It's a night that the victor also remembered well, and with understandable satisfaction. Of the many momentous milestones in his wrestling career this was the one that Pete picked out as his greatest moment.
Pete's career came to an end in 1984. After twenty years in the business it was probably a wise move to get out whilst on top, as they say, but things may well have turned out different were it not for the result of a match in March, 1984. On 2nd March Mighty John Quinn put his title up for grabs against Pete at Hindley. Quinn took the hard fought, bruising contest. The fans were disappointed and Pete decided the time was right to act on the decision he had put off making for some time.
A couple of days after Peter's death his son told some of his father's friends he would be going "for a pint" in memory of his dad that evening and they were welcome to join him. Around sixty turned up!
Pete Curry died on 17th July, 2019.
Page revised 27/07/2019