R: Pete Roberts
Judo Pete Roberts
Also known as Super Destroyer
While younger fans refer to him as the Super Destroyer for older fans he will always be, quite simply, Judo Pete Roberts. He was the goodest of the good guys, in his early days wearing a judo outfit to remind us he was Judo Pete. By the 1980s he was one of the best on the block, a man who could not just wrestle but develop a story to create a credible match with the entire range of opponents.
Years later we can think of no other wrestler for whom it has been said by fellow professionals so many times that here was one of the most underrated wrestlers in Britain. Underrated by the fans maybe, but not by colleagues. One former wrestler, who posts as Norfolk Snake, said, “Pete Roberts was a terrific wrestler and I think reached his peak towards the end of TV wrestling. His bouts with all the heavyweights were great. I don't really know how anyone could question his greatness. A recent interview out there with Marty Jones and Tony St Clair both extol his virtues. Marty actually goes on to say he was one of the greatest of his era. That's a compliment if ever.”
Pete turned professional in 1960. Initially he worked for Joint Promotions before transferring to the independent promotions in 1964. Ron Historyo discovered him in 1965 working, and eventually unmasked, as The Saint. He was soon back with Joint Promotions. In 1968 he wrestled on television for the first time, the first of more than one hundred appearances.
Although a regular worker through the sixties and seventies Roberts was something of a prophet without honour in his own country. In those days he was overshadowed by the likes of Marino, Howes and Portz. There was never any doubt about his skill or ability to work with any opponent. What was missing was a spark that captured the imagination of fans. He was one of the best, but not head and shoulders above the rest.
Things changed dramatically in the 1980s. Recognition came after a highly successful tour of Japan, from which he returned and was branded Super Destroyer by promoter Max Crabtree. It was a bold move that proved very successful. Pete’s bouts with the likes of Marty Jones, Kendo Nagasaki and Wayne Bridges were now the matches that had fans talking on the way home.
Pete's rivalry with Wayne Bridges is one of our fondest 1980s memories. Pete battled his way to challenge for Bridges’ World Heavyweight Championship and his guile and agility needled Bridges who turned nasty. The pair feuded nationwide, and in one of their televised bouts, where Roberts had surprisingly won by two straight falls, an irate Bridges grabbed the mike to remonstrate angrily: “Who have you ever beaten, Roberts?”. To which the judo star replied with the now immortal riposte: “I’ve just beaten you, Bridges!”
Maybe we are too late, but let us now acknowledge that we too failed to recognise his talent and now belatedly add our tribute to the great Pete Roberts.