R: Robb - Roberts
Wrestling Heritage A-Z
Wrestling Heritage has always celebrated the rich wrestling tradition of the north east of England. Dicky Swales, Jim Stockdale, Jim Devlin, Sean McNeill, Les Prest, Jim McCormack and Lord Bertie Sinclair amongst others are remembered here. Yet, one who had just as much success is one that we know far less about. Frank Robb is one of those names that most wrestling fans of the 1960s will remember, but have little knowledge of this man who wrestled the best in the business. That’s the thing with wrestling, as we constantly remind our readers. There were the stars, and then there were those that allowed the stars to shine.
Frank Robb is in the latter group. The lorry driver from Newcastle turned professional around 1957. We find him working for Norman Morrell in 1957 against Dicky Swales, who ten years later he told Russell Plummer was still his most rugged opponent (The Wrestler, March 1968). Bernard Murray, Ted Hannon, Al Miquet and Jim Breaks were opponents around that time. In the years that followed Frank faced most of the big names. Always the bridesmaid never the bride its seemed, a role that Heritage readers appreciate as one of the most important in professional wrestling.
See the entry for Robby Baron
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..
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.
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.
Eddie Rose remembers his good friend:
A good nature and scientific style made Llew Roberts a popular figure in the north and midlands for many years. Llew was a good class middleweight in the 60s and 70s, originally from Criccieth in North Wales but based in Crewe. He was also an expert photographer and took many of the photos that illustrated articles in RINGSPORT, some of which he has passed on to me. Llew first entered the ring as a very raw but enthusiastic debutant and got a serious beating from the unflinching Jack Lang; cuts,blood, and stiches. Lang did not give him a drink of water. After that, Llew made friends with Alec Burton and came up to Manchester to train at Panther's gym where I first met him. Over the next couple of years he applied himself and became much more competent in the ring, well able to look after himself against the likes of Jack Lang. Being from Crewe and in wrestling, he made friends with Count Bartelli and they became close mates over the years. He had given me a couple of good photos of Bartelli including one of his memorial stone in Crewe. Llew wrestled for Independent promoters at first, like Jack Oatley, Jack Cassidy, Unique Promotions and for the very good Potteries promoter, John Ford. With a good word in the right ear, Llew transferred over to Joint Promotions (mainly Wryton) and worked with most of the welterweights and middleweights of the time. The one black spot on his career was a nasty head injury during a bout with ray Steele that put him in hospital for some time with severe concussion.
Judo Pete Roberts (Super Destroyer)
Whilst younger fans refer to him as the Super Destroyer for those of the author’s age 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 of his credentials. 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 a 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. Although a regular worker through the sixties and seventies Roberts was, without doubt, the prophet without honour in his own country. In those days he was overshadowed by the likes of Marino, Howes and Portz. Recognition came later in life after a highly successful tour of Japan, from which he returned with the name Super Destroyer.
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 Robert’s talent and now belatedly add our tribute to the great Pete 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.