WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

R: Riza bey - Rocca

 

Wrestling Heritage A-Z

Ali Riza Bey
A wrestler of truly international standing the rugged and powerful Ali Riza Bey was a heavyweight star whether appearing in Europe, the Far East or Australia. Billed as Turkish he was actually Ivan Hayes-Scott. Born in 1915 he was a veteran when he first wrestled in Britain if our records are complete, as we come across him in 1954, wrestling the likes of Black Butcher Johnson, Bert Assirati, Dave Armstrong and Count Bartelli. He fell to Ray Apollon in the Royal Albert Hall international tournament of 1956, eventually won by Dennis Mitchell. For the following ten years he was to remain a near permanent feature in British rings, wrestling all the top heavyweights of the day. Adorned with tattoos it was claimed he had a new one in each country he visited, and had more than twenty-five, including a kangaroo souvenir from Australia covering his chest.

Unconfirmed newspaper reports inform us that Ali Riza Bey was born in Turkey, but spent most of his childhood living in India and Britain. Having served in the British artillery during the war he wrestled in Singapore post war, numbering the mighty King Kong amongst his opponents, before moving on to Australia in 1950.  

Ali Riza Bey died in 2002

Vasco Roberri
Here was a big man.  The Portuguese heavyweight stood 6'4”  tall and weighed twenty stones and reported to have a 20 inch neck , described by the press as “The Carnera of wrestling.” With the rapid development of British professional wrestling in the early 1930s he was one of our earliest overseas visitors, gaining quick wins over Jack Pye and King Curtis. He was back again in 1932, this time less fortunate as he went down to British heavyweight champion Athol Oakeley in Nottingham.  Science beat bulk with Oakeley taking the only fall required in the fourth round after 30 minutes 10 seconds, pinning his shoulders to the mat with a double arm scissors and body press.

Duncan Robert

1950s and 1960s worker for the independent promoters and billed as the British Featherweight Champion, the only time we have seen mention of this weight class in the professional sport.We have found him working between 1959 and 1969 with opponents that included Jimmy Devlin, Zoltan Boscik,Cliffe Milla and Roy LaRue.


Blackburn Roberts
Barnsley's Tommy Blackburn adopted the ring name Blackburn Roberts after learning the pro wrestling trade at the famous Junction Gymnasium run by Charlie Glover behind the Junction public house in Barnsley.  Like so  many of his peers, Pedro the Gypsy, Karl Von Kramer and Dwight J Ingleburgh Blackburn started out as a boxer (the Junction was primarily a boxing gym) and later turned his attention to professional wrestling.   Having turned professional in the late 1950s. Blackburn Roberts worked initially for the independent promoters before being signed up by Joint Promotions in April, 1964, and meeting high calibre opponents such as Billy Joyce, Arthur Ricardo, Billy Howes and Gordon Nelson.

Gill Roberts
Gwilym Roberts was born in Bala, Wales, in 1907. Gill Roberts wrestled in the early 1930s, though we have uncovered only two of his matches, against Black Butcher Johnson and Frenchman Rene Dupont, both in 1933. Gil was the elder sibling of his more famous wrestling brother, Stan Roberts. 


Lee Roberts
We understand Lee Roberts had a short lived wrestling career in the mid 1980s, but it was a career appreciated by Heritage member "Seconds Out." Lee was trained at the Norman Baish wrestling gym in Burton Latimer and worked for independents including All Star Promotions. Lee saw tag action with Robbie Brookside, Doc Dean, Spinner McKenzie, and John Kenny.

Bill Robertson (Also known as Enrico Pirelli)
Jim Watt the boxer, Moira Stewart the singer and wrestler Bill Robertson have something in common. They were all born eight miles north of Glasgow  in a small town called  Kirchintilloch.  

For Bill a  good amateur background led to a good professional wrestling career, though sadly restricted to north of the border. Bill turned professional in the 1960s, working mainly for the independent promoters.  He did wrestle occasionally for Joint Promotions, one of those occasions in June 1969 on a bill at the Eldorado Stadium when a young Johnny Saint came over from the opposition and defeated Iron Man Steve Logan. Work commitments prevented Bill from travelling too far south, thus limiting his opportunities with Joint Promotions. Nevertheless, a lively independent scene in 1960s and 1970s Scotland provided no shortage of opportunities to meet quality opponents and Bill proved himself one of the best, holding the Scottish welterweight championship for quite a few years. He travelled throughout Scotland, which does involve often travelling hundred of miles to contests and whilst popular everywhere he was  a particular favourite in Rothesay and in his native Glasgow. Bill worked frequently for Dale Storm's Spartan Promotions against the likes of Bruce Welch, Farmer John and Dale himself. “He was a really good worker,” recalls Dale, “very popular throughout Scotland. He regularly came  down to my gym in Mossblown village to train.” In the early 1970s Bill opened his own vending machine company, which restricted his wrestling appearances until he retired in the late 1970s.

Joe Robinson  (Newcastle)
We have earlier Joe Robinson's listed but another Joe hit the rings in the 1970s. The long hair and beard made the choice of a name for Joe's tag pairing with the even longer haired Pip Alvison an easy choice, they were The Hippies.  Newcastle's Joe Robinson trained at the gymnasium belonging to the Hardwick Hall Gymnasium in Sedgefield alongside Farmer's Boy Pete Ross and  Pip Alvison.  Joe, from Newburn, midway between Newcastle and Gateshead, had his early experience in the fairground booth of Ron Taylor, turning professional in the late 1960s.  A mid heavyweight standing six feet tall Joe's wrestling career lasted about ten years. When he wasn't wrestling Joe could be found in his day job, he was a school teacher.

Spike Robson (Also known as Martin Robson)
In the late 1950s and first half of the 1960s Salford's Lionel “Spike” Robson worked the rings of the northern independent promoters. Mostly seems to have been billed as Spike, but we did see him a few times as Martin Robson. A good technical wrestler  Spike was in the unfortunate position of being the man opposing Jack Beaumont the night Jack died of a heart attack.. Beaumont was leaving the ring following his victory when he collapsed and died at ringside. The Coroner returned a verdict of death by natural causes and said, “I am glad to make it known as publicly as possible that there is nothing to cause Robson any misgivings at all as to whether he had anything to do with his death.”

Prior to wrestling Spike had a sporting background as a rugby league player for Salford and Swinton. In 1965 Spike emigrated to Australia, where he carved out a successful career and we hear his technical ability was appreciated against usually larger, gimmicky Australian and American opponents. 

Ed Lock saw Spike wrestle in Sydney and was impressed by his technical ability, sometimes seen in action with his friend, fellow Salfordian Arthur Openshaw, “I found both Openshaw and Robson to be very skilful, talented, technical wrestlers, who never put in a bad performance. While both wrestlers were cast as preliminary matmen I was always happy to see Arthur and Spike on Sydney Stadium events and on the World Championship Wrestling TV shows. I was just a boy in 1966 so I couldn’t attend the licensed club shows but I am aware that Openshaw and Robson achieved main event status on that circuit.”

We turn to Australian member Graeme Cameron to take up the story.

Spike Robson worked on the club circuit and for WCW from 1966 to 1974, with a brief comeback in 1977. He did his duty many times on TV against many big names from America.

He made his stadium debut in January, 1966 with a loss to the bigger Johnny Boyd (future tag team partner of Maurice LaRue in The Royal Kangaroos).  He followed this in March with wins over Arthur Openshaw and Alan Pinfold in catchweight bouts . Because of his relatively small size he was often used in the opening match on stadium cards in catchweight matches against lighter men such as Ken Medlin and those named above which provided a fast-paced and entertaining opening to proceedings. He actually has a decent win record in these matches.

On the club circuit he was one of the top group of wrestlers. He was also one of the twelve wrestlers who broke away from Hal Morgan to form their own promotion when Morgan wouldn't increase their match payments.

I had the pleasure of meeting Spike at Libnan Ayoub's DVD launch. Despite being 84 years old at the time, he didn't look any older than the blow up photo of himself from 40 years ago. I still maintain he must have a portrait in the attic which ages while he remains the same.

Antonio Rocca
Maybe we were just naive. No we weren't, we were wrestling fans, and the promoters of the day benefited from our generous nature by knowing that when we watched one of our home grown boys with a name similar to a famous American we might just think we were watching the real thing. Well, Paul Lincoln's Anglo-Italian Antonio Rocca had only a couple of letters difference from  the American Antonino Rocca, but we were ready to believe. Deep down we knew it wasn't true. But our own Antonio Rocca was a very popular light heavyweight of the 1960s. We were told, and it may be true, that he was born in Foggia, Italy, that he came to the UK in 1956 and found his way into wrestling after working in promoter Paul Lincoln’s café.   Okay, the last bit is definitely believable. Antonio Rocca turned professional in 1961 as one of the Lincoln boys, regularly tussling with other Lincoln youngsters Ray McGuire, Bob Anthony and the Cortez brothers. He transferred to Joint at the time of the 1966 merger with Dale Martin, quickly establishing himself as a force in the light heavyweight division.. His fast, skilful style made him popular with television fans throughout the country and particularly in the south where he mainly worked.

Rocca seemed to disappear from our rings towards the end of the 1960s. Ed Lock confirmed that he wrestled in Australia, along with Arthur Openshaw, in 1970, often partnering Prince Curtis Iaukea or Spiros Arion.

Paul Mitchell confirmed that the Antonio was injured on a show at Wryton Stadium and did little wrestling following that.

10/08/2019 Frank Robb moved to Personality Parade, Pete Roberts moved to Personality Parade