P: Pedro The Gypsy
Playing for Laughs
Pedro The Gypsy
If ever anyone deserved to be included in a series entitled Personality Parade it is Pedro the Gypsy. Here was a man who oozed personality. Whatever the shortcomings of his wrestling ability, "He never, ever learned how to go over his head. They used to try to get him to go over, but he would not go over his head. He did most of his bouts stood up, doing his comic act," said his long time friend Sam Betts. The routine of a Pedro bout became familiar to wrestling fans, but how they loved him.
Whilst most of wrestling’s larger than life characters relied on costumes or abnormal physical appearance Pedro the Gypsy’s popularity was due to no more than a zest for life, a sense of humour and facial features that made it seem inevitable that Barnsley’s Gordon Allen should be transformed into Pedro the Gypsy. In the early days Gordon was billed as a Polish Jew, Petrolinsky, but his complexion and hairstyle made the name Pedro fit like a glove.
Over the years the comedy that Pedro built into his wrestling repertoire made him one of the most popular and successful wrestlers on the independent circuit. To Pedro working for laughs was simply easier than pure wrestling. For the rest of us his work was pure genius.
It was that tremendous sense of fun that made Pedro so popular with wrestling fans. His bouts were full of laughs, and many of those we would expect to know have claimed that better known funny men were greatly influenced by Pedro. He travelled the country, often with his friends and regular opponents Karl Von Kramer, Butcher Goodman and Stoker Brooks.
He was a wrestler who was loved by fans, respected by wrestlers, trusted by promoters and (according to Pedro) told what to do by his wife. When Wrestling Heritage chatted with him it was obvious there were three loves in his life – his family, his wrestling, and life itself.
After a brief flirtation with boxing Pedro was taken to Charlie Glover’s Gym behind The Junction Pub in Barnsley. Pedro made it sound as though he had little choice. This was a set up job between Charlie and his dad who thought it would do the youngster good because, as Charlie put it, “I’ve never seen that lad do any work.” He was only twelve at the time, but Gordon soon learned about work. He was working with weights, working on the mat, increasing his bodyweight, developing strength and skill.
It was many years later that Pedro turned professional; 1956 by which time he was 33 years old. Another Barnsley wrestler Granville Lawrence was the first opponent. Pedro's career ended some thirty-six years later, when he left the ring for the final time in 1992.
Yet there was more to his life than a wrestling career that lasted almost forty years.
Two years before turning professional Gordon played double bass in a skiffle and rock band, The Rock Chords. The four lads played at pubs and clubs around south Yorkshire. They even appeared on television talent show, "Bid for Fame." Gordon also worked as a television extra and organised events such as Blackpool’s summer season “It’s A Knockout” tournaments.
Pedro the Gypsy worked exclusively for the independent promoters. He was never short of work. When we touched upon the subject of Joint Promotions and the lure of television Pedro made it clear he was never interested in working for them because he was always too busy making money. "I couldn't have worked for them," Pedro once told us. "I enjoyed myself too much and pulled too many strokes in the dressing room. They wouldn't have let me get away with it."
The decision to turn professional was an easy one for Gordon. A conventional job had no appeal, he enjoyed his wrestling and Charlie Glover told him, “Never do owt for nowt. Get summat for thi sen,” so he began to make money from the sport he loved. That first paid bout was the start of his career that took him throughout Britain and across much of Western Europe.
“They were great days, wonderful men. Butcher Goodman, I had marvellous bouts with him, Stoker Brooks, then there was Karl Krammer, Max Raeger, Sam Betts….”
Charlie Glover was obviously a great influence on Pedro. He was the man who told him to “Always remember the fans,” which Pedro certainly did.
“I loved it all,” said Pedro, “I’d do it all again.” We bet you would, and we want to be there.